Categories for Interviews

Transcriber Interview: Scribe of Poland

As a part of our celebration of the fifth anniversary of community sourced transcription here at the PWD, we reached out to one of transcribers, Scribe of Poland (SofP), to ask her about her experience transcribing documents for the project. Hailing from northeastern Ohio, Scribe of Poland is an active and prolific transcriber.

PWD: How did you discover the PWD?

SofP: My interest in crowd-sourcing began when I was working on my family tree. To return the favor for data I garnered from FamilySearch, I started indexing and reviewing genealogical data for that group. My curiosity led me to search for other groups who were transcribing historical records and I found PWD.

PWD: What motivated you to volunteer as a transcriber?

SofP: Transcribing is a far better hobby than gaming or watching television. It gives me a chance to employ my skills, and enrich my love of language, history, and civics, and carry out a mission to allow others to access information. When transcribing a document I generally search for other information on the subject matter and learn more about our country’s rich heritage.

PWD: Is there a specific document(s) you transcribed and found particularly interesting or memorable?

SofP: The most memorable is General Washington’s acceptance to become the Reserve Commander of the troops in 1798. McHenry writes on the eve of the acceptance that Washington is probably going to agree with provisions, but, he will be giving up the happiness that he enjoys in the “charming shades” of Mt. Vernon. Washington, now 66, who would die 17 months later, knows that his country needs his leadership and will again choose service to country over all else.

PWD: What is the most rewarding part of transcribing for this project?

SofP: We are providing free, searchable text for documents that were obscure before the advent of the digital age and crowd-sourcing volunteerism. It is also most important that we “translate” this beautiful penmanship into printed form. As our society moves away from teaching cursive script, these documents will appear as hieroglyphics to future generations.

PWD: How has transcribing for the PWD changed your perspective on the Early Republic?

SofP: I think more about the involvement of Native and African Americans in the Early Republic. The Native Americans must have been frightened by the intrusion. Through the Treaties and the writings of James Seagrove, appointed by Washington as an agent to live among the Creek tribes, we learn more of the negotiations for a peaceful resolve between the Native Americans and the settlers. The documents also define the contributions of Native and African Americans patriots. How many people know of the great spy, James Armistead Lafayette, or Crispus Attucks, who was killed during the Boston Tea Party, or the other slaves that fought and worked to create a great Republic, while they were living under oppression? These records will give people a greater perspective of their patriotism and their sacrifice.

PWD: Can you briefly discuss your background with respect to historical transcription?

SofP: I am a retired medical writer and editor. I spent years deciphering the cryptic handwriting of doctors. My vocation trained me for my avocation of transcribing. Additionally, historical transcription and research is in my genes. My great aunt, Elizabeth Bethel, worked for the War Department and one of her duties was to compile the War Departments Collection of Civil War Records. Through our volunteerism, we continue the important mission to document American history, making it readily available for the masses.

If Scribe of Poland’s account of transcribing for the PWD inspired you to transcribe, take a moment to read through our guidelines and sign up to become a transcription associate. You will be doing important work by adding to the historical record, and you never know what you will read!