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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 6, Number 10
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
May 7, 2014


Author's Notes

In this issue we discuss publishing a genealogy transcription. Even though it is very time consuming, I enjoy transcribing genealogy materials. It definitely helps to be familiar with the general area as well as the family names. It takes lots of patience and persistance, but it pays off in the end.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at jimd@mountainpress.com. As always, we enjoy hearing the comments after each newsletter.

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press




To publish or not to publish, that is the question. We never go out on workshops that someone does not come up to me and ask, “How can I publish a book?” They do not always mean a genealogy book or even one on history. I had this happen this weekend as I ventured down to Huntsville, Alabama for a workshop. A couple were interested in the book publishing process. If you are publishing a genealogical book, there are several things to think about as you go through the process.

If you are transcribing material for publication, first and foremost, how familiar are you with the names of the area being written about? Names are crucial in genealogy as that is what everyone is looking for in the material. Before you start, if you are not that familiar with the area be sure and study a number of other books about the area such as the general history and Goodspeed’s Biographical series, if one exists. You also need to be familiar with the genealogy materials published for this area. Often times, the area has been published before at least in census records, marriages, deaths, etc. Reviewing the material already published will at least help you become familiar with the way names are spelled correctly or even incorrectly.

You have to remember, however, that families often chose to spell their names different from the accepted way of spelling. My motto in this case is to spell it like I see it and then let the reader decide if this is correct or not. This situation is what has caused us to start publishing CDs with the original material when it can be easily converted to pdf format so that you can compare the originals to the transcription. If the reader does not like the way I spell it, then they can go back to the original and see how it was done in that document.

Secondly, in publishing genealogical material it is a good idea to have a team of readers who are also familiar with the area to re-read the material after you transcribe. This helps with consistency in the materials. A name might be misspelled every time. Don’t try to correct it each time, just make a note somewhere that this name is consistently spelled this way. I have been transcribing some Fincastle County, Virginia records and they consistently spell “Kentucky” as “Kentuckey”. I know this is not correct today, but in the 18th century, they might have thought this was the correct spelling. I have also been transcribing a Wythe County, Virginia piece where the clerk wrote a name as “M. Smith” for over two hundred pages until finally he said what he meant “Messersmith”. In the foreword, I made comments on this instead of going back to change each of them.

In working on a transcription, you might want to enlist the aid of the local historical or genealogical society to help with the proofing of the final. In fact, it might be best to consult them first to find out if someone else has transcribed this material already. Even if the material has already been transcribed, you may interpret names differently and can still add value. In the above mentioned Fincastle materials, that material has been transcribed by someone else. I grew up in the area in question and have worked with most of these folks all of my life. There are many areas where we interpret the names differently and present the material in a different fashion. These are deed records and down deep in the deed often is the name of a neighbor that was left out since you had to look for these names. I include these names in the index, so these “lost souls” will be found at last.

I hope some of you will try your hand at transcription of original material. It is one of the most rewarding adventures you will ever undertake.

Happy Hunting!



CDs with Original Material Included



Washington County, TN Records - CD


Coffee County, TN Marriage Records - CD


Tazewell County, VA Birth Records - CD


Berkeley County, WV Births - CD


Greene County, TN 1805 Tax List - CD


Ocoee Land District Maps - CD


All CDs



If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.