Researching local and family history

*note: this was originally posted in May. Our Digital Dinah Craik team has since discovered countless other interesting facts and sources in our research. We’ll have to do another post!

The previous post about transcribing and encoding Dinah Craik’s letters to her daughter Dorothy ended by mentioning the usefulness of the details discovered by digging into local history and genealogical sources. Below are a few of the interesting facts found during my research and, when applicable, how they were useful to our project as a whole.

—The Ancestry website, which bills itself as “the world’s largest online family history resource—including historical records, photos, stories, family trees and a collaborative community of millions,” includes many essential historical public records that are particularly useful when researching a topic from the 19th and early 20th centuries. England and Scotland kept especially good Census and Birth, Death, and Marriage records.

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Transcribing Victorian handwriting

My introduction to the Digital Dinah Craik project was in the Winter 2015 Digitizing Victorian Women Writers class. Below are my early thoughts on the challenges — and fun — in transcribing and encoding the letters of Dinah Craik to her daughter Dorothy:

Our ENG607 class completed and submitted the TEI markups of our Dinah Craik letters a few days ago. It’s been a fascinating project. Some surprises and lessons learned in the process:

  • Most of us in the class found transcribing the letters to be much more challenging and time intensive than we have first thought it would be.
  • It was an enormous help to work with partners (and other classmates) to decipher the sometimes obscure, often challenging handwriting, words and names. This is definitely an instance where collaboration felt not just helpful, but necessary.
  • Working collaboratively was not only rewarding—it meant that we were all able to do a better job on our projects by doing better, more complete transcriptions—but also surprisingly fun.

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