New England's Hidden Histories actively seeks volunteers to help us with the transcription of the records of Congregational Churches and Congregationalists from early New England. Transcription is a tried and true method to make 18th-century manuscript records accessible for the widest possible audience. Further, transcription can increase the discoverability of digital objects by allowing searches to look within the text of the transcription.
The Congregational Library & Archives needs help with transcribing, editing, and formatting — a number of different skill sets. Some documents are appropriate for beginning transcribers, others for those with more experience. The transcription process is thus open to all volunteers regardless of current skill or experience levels.
Getting Started as a Transcription Volunteer
Getting Started as a Proofreader or Editor
What might I discover?
Transcribing church records involves lists of births, deaths, and baptisms, but it also encompasses the records of pastoral meetings, church councils, and disciplinary cases. Local disputes contested in the records sometimes reveal the seedbeds of national change, such as in the case of the troubled conscience of one deacon in Byfield, Mass:
In 1781, Deacon Colman's conscience was disturbed. He was certain that given the choice, the pastor's African servant, Violet, would, like the colonists in the newly born nation, prefer to be free. The pastor, Rev. Moses Parsons, claimed that Violet did not wish to be freed, especially in such troublous times. Using the prestige of his office, Deacon Colman took his concerns door to door in the town of Byfield. Furthermore, he went to Violet directly and asked her himself if she would like to be freed.
But Deacon Colman's questions did not produce the effect he had desired. He was brought up on charges of "Injurious Treatment and Abuse of the Pastor." In response, he filed a counter-charge against Rev. Parsons for the crime of "man-stealing". It was left to the church council to decide whether the pastor could "justly be call'd a Thief" — especially in light of the deacon's new evidence, that Rev. Parsons had secretly planned to sell Violet for a sizeable sum…
Frequently, fascinating encounters such as the controversy in Byfield crop up in the records of early New England churches. As a Volunteer Transcriber, there is no telling what you may be the first to uncover in the records of New England's Hidden Histories.