23 April 2013

Transcripts, Extracts and Abstracts

Like many genealogists I have found myself from time to time transcribing handwritten documents which are difficult to read and often are either in another language or contain unusual abbreviations of words. I have up until now used my own methods to record when I have edited the transcription to provide clarity.

For example, in my research of my wife's Huguenot ancestors in London the French Church records often have the abbreviation tem. short for temoin in french or witness in english. I have recorded these in my transcriptions as temoin with no indication of the abbreviation. I now understand this to be poor transcription practice.


At this year's Who Do You Think You Are Live in February I found an amazing book called Understanding Documents for Genealogy and Local History by Bruce Durie. The very first section of the first part of the book deals in detail with the process of transcription and how you record what you find so others can fully understand the transcription. The aim of a transcription is to "record exactly what the text in the manuscript says, with all its faults and imperfections retained". The most faithful transcription of a document is what is known as a "full diplomatic transcription" where every feature of the script has been captured including unusual spellings and capitalisations. The next further stage in the process of transcription is the "semi-diplomatic transcription" where the "transcriber makes changes in the interest of understanding" but "indicates what has been done so a later reader can check ... it"

The manuscript below is part of the Will of John Rondeau, Weaver of Spitalfields, Middlesex dated  4 June 1740 (TNA – PROB 11 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury and related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers)/703 (Browne Quire Numbers: 161 - 202) Img. Ref. 239/232). John died on the 20th June 1740 and was my wife's great (x7) grandfather. Below the manuscript is the section transcribed in semi-diplomatic transcription (as I understand it).



1. ^John Rondeau^ In the Name of God Amen
2. I John Rondeau of the parish of Spittlefields[1] in the County of Middlesex a
3. Weaver being in perfect health of body and of sound and disposing
4. mind and memory praise be Almighty God for the same But
5. considering the certainty of Death and the uncertainty of the time
6. thereof I ^therefore^ make and declare this my last Will and Testament in
7. manner and fform[2] following vizt.[3] ffirst[4] and Principally my Soul
8. I recommend into the hands of almighty God my Creator hoping
9. and assuredly believing through the Merits Death and Passion
10. of my dear Saviour and Redeemer Christ Jesus to inherit Life
11. Eternal My body I commit to the Earth from where it came
12. in hopes of a Joyfull[5] Resurrection and to be decently interred
13. at the Discretion of my Executors hereinafter named and as
14. touching and concerning all such temporal Estate wherewith

[1] Spitalfields
[2] form
[3] vizt. short for videlicet is usually read aloud as "that is", "namely", or "to wit"
[4] first
[5] joyful



I have found a number of templates for extracting and abstracting information from sources - what has been the most helpful template for you?