Sunday, December 27, 2009

Getting Ready for the New Year and the New Term

This week, this hiatus between Christmas and New Year's, I'm doing a little preparation for the new term at the University of North Florida, mainly for my grant project on the family structure of St. Augustine, Florida, from 1783 through 1820, the "Second Spanish Period." I have collected a bunch of journal articles and am beginning to read them (and weed them) for relevance to the project. Some involve background information on family life of the period, particularly in Spain, where many of the St. Augustine colonists originally came from, and continued to be from, throughout all the time of Spanish colonization of the town beginning with its founding in 1565. I had not suspected how many of the townspeople had migrated in from Mexico or the Spanish South American colonies as well, including Indians and African slaves.

This week, probably tomorrow, I am going to the Jacksonville Public Library main branch to look at microfilms of the East Florida Papers, my major source for information about the people of St. Augustine at the time, and to test the idea which we have been discussing on the Transitional Genealogists Forum, that of taking photographs of a frame of microfilm as displayed on the microfilm reader screen. Digitizing can sometimes enhance the readability of a document in one way: I have found that even scanning a paper copy of a document can bring out even a tiny bit more of the writing on the document which does not show up well on the copy itself. That is how I discovered the birthplace of my 4x-great-grandfather. If this method of photographing the microfilm frames on the screen works, it will make the project even easier, as I will be able to do a lot of the transcription work on these St. Augustine documents at home.

I have a dandy little piece of freeware that I found on the web, called Transcript. It presents the user with a divided screen, at the top of which is displayed the document you want to transcribe, and in the bottom half is a work area where you do your transcription. I have used it on some of the older Spanish documents I transcribed for my paleography classes, and which I have been using also to keep up my skills. It is a terrific software for the task. I love practical things, and this software is practical! Genealogists and family historians will also find it useful for transcribing wills, inventories, letters, and other original documents.

It is also time for me to plan my schedule of research trips to St. Augustine and Gainesville (day trips) to the archives there, and a three- or four-day trip to Tallahassee to research at the State Archive, probably over spring break. And, if I can swing it, perhaps a research trip to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., which houses the originals of the East Florida Papers.

It is going to be a busy year.


Bill West said...

Hmm. Going to have to look into that Transcript
program. Sounds like you have a lot of exciting
work ahead of you in 2010, cuz!


Ben W. Brumfield said...

Thank you for posting the link to Transcript.

I wish I'd known about it several years ago when I was starting to transcribe my great-great grandmother's diaries. I ended up building my own web-based system instead.

It looks like Transcript has some really neat controls over image resolution, which solves the problem of different cameras/scanners nicely.