Research projects for Spring 2020

Can you help us with transcribing some records?

The best sources for historical research are original records. One of the earliest steps in any research project is to transcribe relevant records so that they can be easily and repeatedly consulted, and so that search engines can track text containing key words. Once transcribed, these records are of continuing value, and are available for use in a variety of projects.

Over the years, Society volunteers have transcribed a variety of records, and we would now like to encourage members to make use of some of their enforced leisure to help with further transcription. We are hoping for volunteers for one existing and one new project, which are explained below.

You can help if you have a computer and access to popular spreadsheet or word processing software (e.g. Excel and Word). The ambit of each project is explained below. You can do as little or as much as you like. The project coordinators will explain what information needs to be transcribe, and provide templates where appropriate.

If you would like to take part but are not yet a member, please contact projects@stalbanshistory.org.

Society minute book transcription project

Extract from circular to SAHAAS members addressing concerns over excavations at Verulamium, 1931

As well as the history of St Albans, we’re interested in the history of the Society, particularly in our 175th Anniversary year. Fortunately, several members have already helped to transcribe the Society’s minutes for the 1845-1915 period, which has proved very helpful for researchers working on the 175th Anniversary project. We now wish to extend the project to cover 1916-39, the period that includes the Wheelers’ excavations at Verulamium.

How will it work?

If you can spare some time over the next few weeks, we’ll provide you with:

  • scans of pages from the minute books via email for you to transcribe using a suitable word processor (like Microsoft Word or Google Docs);
  • a simple Word template that can be used in any popular word processing programme – most are compatible;
  • some hints on how to deal with common issues, such as when records are partially indecipherable.

For more details email projects@stalbanshistory.org.

St Julian’s research project

Are you bored of finding things to do while self-isolating? Would you like to make a contribution to help our research? If so we would love to have your help in transcribing an 18th century account book.

A small group of members are transcribing the detailed household accounts written in two volumes dating from 1738-1785 of a Mrs Ashurst who was a tenant living in St Julian’s Mansion, Watling Street until her death in 1785. St Julian’s was her country house. The books give a fascinating background to daily life in the mid-18th century, specifically St Albans. She did have another house in London so some of her purchases may be for there.

Most of the pages are for purchases of food commodities e.g., meat, fish, tea, flour, sugar etc. Some are for heating and cleaning materials. Some of the accounts are for wages of servants and payments to tradespeople etc. Already we are noticing that she bought enormous amounts of food at a time, especially meat and she seems to go through an awful lot of mops!

How will it work?

You will need to be familiar with Excel. The research team plan to transcribe the data digitally so that purchases may be analysed. Each page of the account book has been photographed and allocated a filename according to a description of what has been purchased. Each page usually has two columns. Spelling is not standard but her writing is quite easy to decipher. We are not yet sure whether the outcome will be a publication or just a database but whatever it is it will be a valuable contribution to 18th century research.

There is an awful lot of transcribing to do so the more people we have to help the merrier. If you are interested and familiar with Excel, please contact Sandy Norman at sandyanorman@gmail.com if you would like to help.

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