Digging Deep in the Archives: Transcribing Accounts

As we have a lot of account style records coming up now I thought it would be worthwhile updating the guidance to cover some of the recurring features of these types of documents. There are a few things that are specific to this style of record that I don’t think I covered in my initial guidance so hopefully I can set out a few more tips here. The general guidance can be found via the main Skell Valley Project page so do check over those if you haven’t done one in a while.

We need the data you are giving us to be very flexible, we will be using your transcriptions in our catalogues which take on a variety of forms. The catalogue will exist on line for the public, on a database we use in our offices, and in paper format in the searchroom. The online version needs to be versatile enough to be readable on a variety of screens and devices. This means the information we present needs to be in the most basic possible form so that it doesn’t get muddled or lose context if viewed through a different medium or devise. We need to be prepared for researchers printing out pages, copying text, and for other websites taking the data and reusing it. If we add spaces and try to replicate columns there is no guarantee that this will display the same for everyone. The text therefore needs to be as close to a standard paragraph as possible.

This is what the same catalogue page looks like on three different devices/websites:

  • Tables should always be transcribed as solid paragraph lists of text with no additional spaces or any attempts to replicate columns or the shape of the table. This is because we need the data to be clearly laid out and adding additional spaces can make the text harder to follow. No context will be lost by altering the layout of the data slightly, as long as we make sure to keep everything in the same order. We never need to try and make the numbers sit in a column or sit away from the words, they should follow on as a part of the sentence so the reader can read the words and numbers together as one, continuous line of text.


Mollard Grainge & Aldfield

March 7th Recd of Sampson Appleby Half a year’s Rent due Michs last – 72-10-0

Recd of Andrew Metcalf – do – 10-0-0

20th Recd of Elizth Morris – do – 6-0-0

As you can see from the above example, all of the data is clearly laid out and the numbers relate to each section of the text, without needing to be divided by columns or spaced out with additional tabs. This allows for much greater flexibility in our catalogue and ensures there can be no confusion or corruption of the data.

  • To transcribe the money columns of these tables we will need to fill in some of the 0 figures to make the amounts clearer. The original author sometimes uses a “ symbol to show that there is nothing a column. This is because leaving a column blank could look like an error and leaves the record open to being doctored later, so scribes often used a symbol or pen flourish to mark off a column as empty. To show this in the transcription we can exchange these symbols for a 0.

  • Where all three denominations are used we do not need to include the Li, S, D symbols as it is clear which figure is which from the standardised formation of the numbers. This means you can ignore the L, S and D at the top of the column entirely as adding them into the transcription will cause confusion. They will not sit in the right place in the text and will be misleading.

  • The date column should be fairly straight forward. Each date should relate to an item on the list, but not every item will have its own date entry. If an item does not have a date that means it shares the last date mentioned. You don’t need to show this, it will be clear from your transcription. So you can transcribe each item as suggested in the original guidance, just as a flat list of information, with or without a date as necessary.


May 8th By Peter Hutton a Poor assessment – 2-7-10

By Thomas Wilkinson a Constable Do – 2-1-0

10th By Francis Iles for Mason Work at Peter Hutton’s – 0-13-9

  • Where there is a total at the bottom of the page you do not need to show the line drawn over it. If the original document says either ‘carried over’ or ‘total’ you do not need to add anything, just write everything as it is, on a new line of its own. If there is no explanatory text at all you can add [total] before the number by way of explanation.


Quick Fences etc – on the new allotments upon the

Moor as Pr Acct

Carried over £414-7-2


May 12th By Robert Ellin a year’s Rent due Lady Day last – 11-0-0

[Total] £2696-5-0 1/2

  • Where items have been grouped together so two or more lines in the main text section relate to just one line in the money section and a large open bracket has been used to group them, we need to show this without trying to use the bracket symbol. From what I have seen from looking WYL150/Z/139 I think these brackets are only used when one continuous item runs over two lines on the page and the author wanted to show they were part of the same item. The text itself is, in fact, one continuous sentence. I think if you read the text you should find that it makes sense for the sum of money to appear at the end of the final line encompassed by the bracket. From what I have seen there is no benefit to showing this bracket at all. If you find an example that you think needs to include the bracket please let me know before sending your transcription back, otherwise you can ignore it and continue as usual. I will reassess this advice for future documents if they do not seem to follow the same pattern.


April 2d By Mrs Humphreys Half a year’s annuity due at

Lady Day last – 50-0-0


April 30th By Thomas Leyland for Nails, Hinges, Staples

and other Smiths Work and Hardware – 3-19-5

  • For these account books, unlike letters and other documents, you can start a new Word document for each page/image. This is not the usual way of transcribing and generally I would not advise it but for these specific records it will make the transcriptions much easier to keep track of.

  • If you think something in your pages might need looking at and treating differently, flag it up before sending your transcription in. There are sometimes things that need special attention and we have set ways to denote most things that are likely to crop up.