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1850 Slave Transcribing Help
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You will use a spreadsheet template to transcribe the 1850 Slave Schedule. Excel or MSWorks templates are available for IBM compatible PCs, and Excel or Clarisworks/Appleworks are available for MAC users. Your Census Project State Coordinator will need to know what spreadsheet software and which version you have and whether you have an IBM-type PC or a MAC. Email your Census Project State Coordinator if you did not receive a spreadsheet template with your assignment notification.  Alternate email for templates:

You MUST use the correct census year template for the year you are transcribing because the columns vary for each census year. The template columns should match the columns on the census page from which you are transcribing.

How to Enter the 1850 Slave Data into the Spreadsheet Template

Each schedule page will have a left and right set of columns. Each set of columns has 42 lines. NOT all of the information may be filled out.

The spreadsheet template will have columns and column headings for each of the columns in the 1850 Slave Schedule and will include the Page# and Line# columns.

All the information is to be entered exactly as recorded by the enumerator, except when the enumerator used "ditto", ditto marks ( " ), or the word "do". In this case, please enter the information that the ditto mark represents.

At the top of your spreadsheet template you will enter:

  • Census Year
  • Microfilm Reel # - The 1850 Microfilm Reel numbers all start with M432- followed by another number. Check the Assignment Web Pages to verify the film number of your transcription.
  • State
  • County or Parish
  • District, City, Town, or any other named area division
  • Enumerator's Name
  • Your name/email as the transcriber
  • Your proofreader's name/email
  • The source of your census material (CD, microfilm, etc.)

Printed at the top of the census page is:
Slave Inhabitants in ________, in the county of ________, state of ________ enumerated by me on ____ day of ________ 1850, ________ asst. Marshall.

The Division or District you will enter is named after "Slave Inhabitants". Not all censuses have Division or District entered and some are unreadable. If the District changes, insert an extra row between the transcription lines and enter the information just as you see it recorded on the schedule page.

When you complete the transcription of a Division/District, we recommend that you send it to your proofreader so it can be placed online as soon as possible.

If you haven't found a proofreader yet, please read the Proofreading Decisions, and then visit the Proofreaders Exchange and sign up now.

When your transcription has been proofread,
follow the Submission Instructions.

There may be more than one number on each census page. The numbers may be stamped or handwritten. If there is a stamped number, enter it in the Page# column on your spreadsheet template.

Sometimes only every other page has the stamped number, and in this case add an "a" immediately following the page number for the stamped page. Then on the following unstamped page, use the same page number as the previous stamped page except add a "b" immediately following the page number.

    Transcription Example:    First Page: 438a
    Second page: 438b

If you find two stamped page numbers on a census, (1) check the State/Year Index to see which number was used, or (2) if transcribing from the SK Publication book or CD, follow the numbering used in the SK Publication Index or CD.

A handwritten page number, in addition to the stamped page number, may have been written on each census page by the photographers who microfilmed the census. Do not be concerned if these handwritten page numbers are not in order.  If an additional page number is there, enter it in the Remarks column of the first name on the page that does not already have a Remark.

    Transcription Example:  Handwritten page # 1

Many early censuses do not have line numbers, but you will enter line numbers on the spreadsheet template as if they did. Begin each new page with Line# 1  if no line numbers are written on the census. Line numbering will help you keep track of your transcription progress and later on it will help researchers looking up your transcription on a census.

Names may appear on the census as "John Doe", but you will enter the last name (Doe) in the "Last Name" column of your spreadsheet and the first name (John) will be entered into the "First Name" column.

  • Do not abbreviate a name if the enumerator wrote out the entire name and do not spell out the full name when he abbreviated it. If you see Wm, enter Wm. If you see William, enter William.

  • Do not correct the enumerator's spelling errors. Even if it is your own family and the name is terribly mispelled, enter it exactly as it appears on the census.
  • When the enumerator used "ditto", ditto marks ( " ), or the word "do", please enter the name that the ditto mark represents. See example dittos marks the enumerator may have used.
  • If a name was abbreviated, and the final letter is a little raised, add an apostrophe in place of the omitted letters in the name.

      Transcription Example:  Thos -  you would enter: Tho's
  • Questionable letters in a name should be indicated by an asterisk * and you may want to put a note in the Remarks field of that line to note that some letters are hard to read or unreadable.

      Transcription Example - LAST NAME: D*e     FIRST NAME: Jo*n
  • Titles (ie: Jr., Sr., Dr.) are to be entered at the end of the person's first name(s).

      Transcription Example - LAST NAME: Doe     FIRST NAME: John Sr.
  • Enter NS (no surname) *ONLY* for names such as:
    • Brother Ignatius
    • Sister Mary
    • American Indian Names (Running Doe)
    • Servants (John A man of color)
    * Look closely for surname ditto marks before you use NS. See these examples.

Enter the number seen. If the number is unreadable or marked through, make a note of it in the Remarks field of your spreadsheet template.

Enter what is written in here.

Enter the age seen. IF you can not read the age or if there is no age listed, enter the letter "U" and add a note in the Remarks field about it not being there or being unreadable.

The ages for the infants should be entered just as the enumerator wrote them. If the enumerator wrote a fraction, such as 4/12 (representing four months), enter the fraction. If he wrote mos. or months after the number or fraction, then type that same information. If your spreadsheet software insists on converting the fraction ages to a date or something else, simply type an apostrophe ( ' ) immediately before the fraction to force the spreadsheet to treat the following information as text.

    Example:  '4/12

Enter what is listed. Should be either B (black) or M (mulatto).

Enter what you see.

This means how many were set FREE. Enter what you see.

This may have a number or may have the word written in. Enter what you see on your census.

Template Tips

The Remarks column
It is the right-most column on your template. Please use the remarks field to enter everything on the census that needs to be brought to the attention of a researcher or any other information you feel is important. (ie: any additional writing on the census; if a name is hard to read or unreadable; a disruption in the numbering sequence; etc.) If the comment you want to make is too long for the Remarks field, type your information on a separate worksheet if your software has multiple worksheets, or in a separate file and reference the page and line number so researchers will know what line you are referring to. When you submit your census transcription to the Census Project, you can include the extra comments file at that same time. If you do not have a Remarks column on your template, you may insert one on the right of the other columns.

How to Freeze the Template Column Headers
Using Excel, you can freeze the column headings of the first page, and several of the left columns. The frozen areas will remain visible while the entered data scrolls underneath the headers and off the screen. It is much easier to enter the census information when you can see the column header and row name for the line you are entering.

  • To freeze the top horizontal header rows, select the row below where you want the split to occur.

  • To freeze the left vertical columns, select the column to the right of where you want the split to occur.

  • To freeze both the horizontal headers, and the vertical columns click the cell below and to the right of where you want the split to appear.

    Note: If you move the top census information block off the screen before you do step 2, it will leave more screen room for the rows you are entering. To do this, use the horizontal scroll bar and the up/down triangle pointer buttons at the top and bottom of the scroll bar and scroll so that you see only the column header at the top of the screen and not the 6 or 7 rows that contain the census info.

  • On the menu-bar, click "Window".
    On the "Window" drop-down menu list, click "Freeze Panes".

  • Later if you want to undo the frozen panes:
    On the menu-bar, click "Window".
    On the "Window" drop-down menu list, click "Unfreeze Panes".

To make a backup copy of your census file, after finishing for the day and saving the file to your hard drive, do a "File, SAVE AS" and save it somewhere else on your computer OR on a diskette. If the file gets too big for a diskette, use a ZIP Program to zip it so that it will fit onto the disk. Better to be safe than to lose all of your hard work from a computer problem.

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