Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Project Completion

Saturday evening I transcribed the last of the letters my grandparents wrote to each other from 1917 to 1927, a few family letters, a couple telegrams, a few post cards and a letter from the Detroit Civil Service Commission offering my grandfather a job. Who would have thought my grandpa's dream job was an Ed Norton* job.

While I still have proofreading to do, I am so relieved to be finished with the transcription end of it.

The Stats
486 images transcribed into 90 documents. My grandfather was a prolific correspondent. It's too bad grandma's letters to him were destroyed (by him) while he was in Europe during the Great War. However, I have a handful of letters she wrote to him when he took the Engineer in Tunnels & Foundations job in Detroit. All during his assignment in France during WWI, he said he wanted to work in sewers, and he got his wish in a big way on the water intake tunnel in Detroit.

What was one of the most astonishing things I read? Someone referred to my not quite two-year-old father as beautiful. I've seen the photos and he was pretty darn cute! What was not so surprising? That my dad was a terror as a two year old. Makes me think my younger daughter came by it honestly.

What was the most frustrating thing? How they wrote the letters. Often a single sheet of paper was folded in half and page one would be the front "cover"; page two would be the back "cover," page three would be written crosswise on the right side of the inside of the folded page and page 4 would be written on the left side. Grandma's sister Bessie had her own take on it. The paper would be folded in half and page one would be on the front "cover" and page two would take up the whole of the inside and page three would be the back "cover." The next most frustrating thing would be the handwriting. Most of the time you couldn't tell the difference in my grandfather's writing between me we one or are! They all looked the same. Most of the time the context would bail me out.

I couldn't have done this without this wonderful program, which I have mentioned before, but will mention it again. The program is called Transcript and it is freeware. Click here to go to the website to download it. I now use it for transcribing newspaper articles, obituaries, marriage announcements, letters, etc. It's a wonderful thing.

*In case the reader is too young to remember The Honeymooners, Ed Norton was Ralph Kramden's (Jackie Gleason) sidekick. Ed was a New York City sewer worker. He was brilliantly played by Art Carney.
Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. Congratulations on completing this project! There are days when I am quite certain I will never be done. As for the folded letters each of my family members had their own folding method too. And then, when all the lines were filled they started writing around in the margins and twisting the paper this way and that to use as little paper as possible, occasionally writing over what they'd started with!

  2. I have some pre-civil war and civil war era letters where they ran out of paper and cross wrote. They are SO hard to read.

  3. My transcription woe is that my Uncle Ralph used the thinnest paper possible and then wrote on both sides --- and tried to cover every bit of paper from side to side, top to bottom. A bear cat to read. Good thing his handwriting was good, though his punctuation left something to be desired.

    Congats on a project completed.

  4. My grandfather used an x as a period. My grandmother used a -. Made me absolutely crazy.

  5. Congrats on finishing your project. I recently discovered Transcript and have fallen in love with it. I just hope I can stick with the transcribing the way you have. It's sooo tedious (but very rewarding in the end).