Transcribing the Letters

Transcription Guidelines

Every effort was taken to transcribe the content of letters as accurately as possible. Students were asked to retain the paragraph structure of the original letters. However, they modified spelling and abbreviations, along with capitalization and punctuation, to make the letters easier to read and search. Students used empty brackets to indicate when a word was not readable [...] and a question mark following a word in brackets [...?] to indicate that they were uncertain about the transcription. Students also used  brackets when expanding an abbreviated word, placing added letters in brackets, e.g. H[erreshoff].

Students' Reflections on the Transcription Process

The process of transcribing old documents scared me at the beginning because I did not know if I could even read what was written. As time went by, it became easier and was quite enjoyable. The best part about it is that you are the first person to gain the information hidden within the text. The first letter I transcribed gave indications of a family feud occurring over a piece of property within the family. The letter was a drama of sorts, but it also makes you want to continue just to find out what happened next. The process may be daunting at first, but is now one of my favorite activities for class.

I thought being able to look at and read old letters was fascinating. I learned that it takes a lot longer than I initially thought to get through even a short note. And, even when I did finish reading a letter, there were still a lot of questions about who the people referenced in the letter actually were. Reading even one letter could open up another small mystery we had to solve, or it could give us a piece to a larger puzzle to understanding the Herreshoffs.

For me, the transcription process has been hard.  I do not normally write in cursive and do not normally read in cursive so for me this project is time consuming.  Although it is time consuming, I enjoy the project.  I enjoy challenging myself and seeing how many words I can figure out and how many I cannot.  I also enjoy learning about the people, places, and things in the letters because to me, there are interesting information and stories being unfolded because of these people, places, and things.

Read the Letters