OPC logo
for Transcribing and Submitting Parish Records
to the the OPC Project

We all have differing amounts of time to do transcription work, however, every little bit helps providing it can all be married together in the end product. Your work will be of immense help to those living locally and more so to those at a distance from their area of interest. Through the medium of the Internet we have access to literally millions of images of records on-line. But we still depend on transcription to effectively share and search for records. A transcript is NOT a primary source. The data has been transcribed from photographic copies of original records and is subject to human error, both in the present and also in the period in which it was initially recorded.

When we transcribe it's helpful to do so with some uniformity and guidelines. These pages outline a transcription style and templates for contributions to our OPC Project database.

General Rules

  1. Only work for 1 – 2 hours before taking a break!
  2. Poor handwriting, faded, or near illegible entries will need more time spent on them so have patience don't be tempted to rush.
  3. Write what you see and not what you think. Transcribe faithfully... errors, misspellings, and all. Don't fix names, dates, etc. If in doubt, think "as is".
  4. Be careful to interpret handwriting correctly as some letters can look similar. In these cases, look at handwriting of the same letters in other words before making a decision and even ask for a second opinion. You are recording what is there not what you think should be there.
  5. Make all editorial comments in a way that it easy to tell it's your's and not from the document. Keep these to a minimum. It is sometimes useful to transcribe information that was struck out or added. It is often useful to indicate that something was very difficult to make out. It is useful to indicate that a word is cut off by a missing or blocked portion.
  6. Abbreviations should be used with caution. (It is advised to use the standard Chapman County Codes for county names. If the source uses abbreviations do not try to expand them except in some cases of placenames. No surname or forename should be abbreviated unless found as such in the source.

Transcription Columns

The minimum information to transcribe is SURNAME, FORENAMES, PLACE, DATE, SOURCE.

The record source reference which should be placed in the top row of every transcription template, other fields of information are placed in columns on the template.

Surname: Always put the surname in the column designated on the transcription form even if the source sequence is different. It is best to transcribe the surname in capitals to avoid any misinterpretation.

An occupation can often be written with a capital letter or spelt in such a way as to appear to be a surname. E.g. James Stanton Taylor or Jeremiah Scott Collier. Be guided by the information given in other entries in the source, local occupations, family names which appear frequently, and by possibly checking other sources. If still in doubt, it is best to enter all possibilities with question marks.

Surnames commencing with Mc Mac should be transcribed as given in the source but put in capitals. Those beginning O should be followed by an apostrophe eg. O'Hara.

Names of peers should be given firstly by place in the surname column followed by title and forename (if given) in its column. E.g. Argyll Duchess of, Margaret or Sandwich Earl of, John

Forenames Always put the forename(s) in the column designated on the form even if the source sequence is different. Watch the sequence used in the source document for entering names on the page and beware confusion of surnames and forenames as you will find many forenames which are taken from surnames: eg. Marwood Johnson, Wilson Brown, Paul Christopher

Titles such as Mr, Miss, Doctor, Reverend, Colonel, Sir, Esquire, Junior could be abbreviated and be placed in brackets ( ) after the forenames if so wished – also honours (letters after a person's name.)

Only use abbreviations if these have been used in the original document. Do not attempt to expand them but write exactly as they appear. There can be mistakes made on abbreviated names such as Edw – this could be Edward, Edwin, or Edwina. Latin names, as in R.C. records and early registers, should not be converted. Do beware names such as Duke, Prince, Major – these can be forenames and not titles!

Places: Transcribe the entries as they have been written. When the place name was written down it may have been one not known to the writer, was dictated in an unfamiliar regional accent, was copied from poor handwriting, or he was semi-literate, so something approximate was written down according to his understanding.

However, it is usually acceptable to use a standard spelling throughout for local place names as long as it is the full form which may have been abbreviated by the writer, or where he has been inconsistent in his use or spelling. Eg. Guisbro' = Guisborough Bury St Ed = Bury St Edmunds B.G. = Bethnal Green Witton -Le -Wear – sometimes with or without hyphens. Make sure you are consistent throughout and enter your standardisation with a note of explanation on the top sheet.

Where a section of a place name is illegible use ... to denote the unreadable section; you may have local knowledge as to what you "think" the place may be.

Directional place names, as in West Scrafton can be transcribed as W. Scrafton, but remember to be consistent and use this method for all. The same applies to descriptive words such as Little, Great which could be written as Lt Gt

Dates: It is recommended that the day is recorded first; the month in name (abbreviated to its first 3 letters) followed by the year. This method overcomes any confusion, especially for overseas researchers, and is convenient for converting dates in Quaker records also. As to England & Wales, prior to 1 Jan 1752, for the months January, February and March (to 25th), it is recommended that the year is recorded in both the old and modern form as it is important to keep to the correct notation: e.g. 16 Jan 1741 = 16 Jan 1741/2 24 Mar 1729 = 24 Mar 1729/30 19 Feb 1699 = 19 Feb 1699/1700.

Around 1752 months are sometimeswritten as, for example "8ber". Not August as we might expect, but October - the 8th month of the old Julian Calendar. You see this for Sept 7ber, Oct 8ber, Nov 9ber, and Dec 10ber or Xber.

Dates in the original documents may not be valid e.g. 30 February, but it is more important to lead the user to the entry in the original document than to facilitate sorting and date calculation.

Our templates split critical dates into day, month and year which are entered into into separate columns Please also remember to use numbers for the day, month & year fields, which standardises the data - however our scripts do recognize standard month abbreviations (Jan, Feb, Mar etc) if that is what you prefer to use. Whatever you do don't use the Microsoft Excel Date formatting as it doesn't work for 19th century and earlier dates, nor does it convert to CSV format properly.

Ages Where an age is less than a year, you may find months, weeks, days or even hours written after the number unit. These can be abbreviated by using m w d h or mths wks dys hrs . If the age is expressed in fractions write it as such. Those ages described as 'about ... years' can be transcribed by number only, or c. meaning circa: 'more than .... years' can have a + after the number. In most cases, it is best to transcribe 'as seen'

Further Reading

Templates and other useful documents for OPCs and transcribers.

Please use these templates wherever possible as it seriously reduces the work involved in uploading to the web site. However, if you have a lot of transcriptions in a different format, we can in most cases write scripts to read them into the database - please don't do a lot of conversion work before speaking to us first - and most important don't be deterred from contributing them!

Please remember that the transcriptions are converted to CSV format, which removes all formatting, for uploading to the web site. For this reason, please do not use commas inside the spreadsheet fields, as this makes the conversions manually intensive. Also please do not leave blank lines in the spreadsheets - this again slows the upload process as each one has to be manually removed.

If you have any questions about the templates, or the database upload procedure, please don't hesitate to contact the OPC coordinator for alternative template formats.

WinREG, a Windows based utility recommended for entering Baptism, Marriage and Burial information from church registers for the FreeREG project, produces files in an acceptable format for our database. This ultility also includes a file viewer useful with digital images. The utility can be downloaded from FreeREG

Alternatively spreadsheet formats are available here: