Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives has issued a call for more volunteer headstone transcribers.
The free-to-access online repository of crowdsourced Irish genealogy records and photos relies on volunteers not only to submit material but also to help prepare that material for a live, searchable environment where other researchers can find it.
So, while some volunteers are tripping over the ancient remains of grave markers and getting rained on as they photograph headstone after headstone, others are needed to transcribe the names, dates and other details captured in those photographs. The transcribers don't get wet or bruised, and they can be based anywhere in the world.
Christina Hunt, who co-ordinates the online archive, told Irish Genealogy News that she's often asked why IGP Archives transcribes the photographs. "Search engines can't read the headstone inscriptions in the images," she explains. "They can only read text. So we have to present them with the words and names that researchers might be searching in a text format rather than a visual format."
The process of getting the volunteer-donated headstone photos online works like this:
The volunteer photographer submits the photos. Christina crops and enhances them as best she can, adding contrast to make the inscriptions stand out. She numbers each photo and then prepares a folder, ready to be sent to a transcriber. An example of a set of photos waiting to be done can be viewed here – Galway Bohermore waiting.
Christina then sends a volunteer transcriber a photo set. "If a volunteer is more comfortable with more recent, easier-to-read stones, I try to give them those," she says. "If they like a challenge, I send an older set. Very quickly, though, transcribers get a feel for the kind of wording used in headstones, and this helps."
The transcriber uses a text pad or Word.doc program, working from headstone image to headstone image. It helps to work with two pages open on the screen at the same time (or even to work from two open devices), but otherwise basic computer skills are all that's required.
"I would say our best transcribers have some curiosity," says Christina. "If they aren't sure of a month or placename, they may do some Googling or check a death index online. On the main practicalities, when a word or line can't be read we use dots to indicate missing words, and we use pipes '|' to show a new line on the headstone." Here's a finished text file as an example: Kilkenny Bennettsbridge text.
The transcriber's finalised text file is then emailed back to Christina, who adds details of both the photographer and transcriber, plus headings and links to the photo menu page before uploading the files to the IGP Archive website.
If you think you could spare a bit of time for some occasional transcription work, get in touch with Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org. You'd be contributing to a great cause – one that's been helping researchers all round the globe for many years – and one that's absolutely reliant on volunteers.