Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why were these documents selected?

    Documents were chosen for the National Archives Transcription Pilot Project based on quality of scan and type of document. Selection was limited to documents already available as digital copies in our online catalog. We did not choose the most famous documents because it is likely a transcription for these documents would already be available from another source. We are aware of transcriptions for a few documents we have selected and we intend to use these transcriptions to compare with transcriptions already available.

  2. How is the difficulty level determined?

    The difficulty level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) is assigned based on the following:

    1. quality of the original document
    2. quality of the digitized copy
    3. legibility of the hand writing
    4. length of document

    For example, a document with no cursive writing or only a few lines of hand writing is considered a beginner level document. A 10-page document or a hand-written note with ink fading severely would be in the advanced category.

  3. Where can I learn more about the document I'm working on?

    Select the link to the National Archives Identifier to see the document in our online catalog. In the catalog, you will find information for each document selected, including record group, series, scope and content, and physical location of the document.

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  4. Do I need to log in to transcribe?

    No, the system will save your work every time you click on the save button. Currently there are no login features for the National Archives Transcription Pilot.

  5. Who do I contact if I have difficulties transcribing the document?

    We encourage you to utilize the "comment" feature to discuss any concern or issue you may have with the document. If you would like to contact a National Archives staff member directly, please email to and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

  6. Can I suggest a document?

    Yes, you can suggest documents for transcription from the records held at the National Archives. We encourage you to look in our online catalog to suggest documents. Please send us your suggestions by email to and provide information such as the title of the document and the National Archives Identifier (also know as the ARC ID).

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  7. What do I do if I find a mistake in the transcription?

    You can correct any error you see in a transcript with the following steps:

    1. Click on the Transcription tab under the document image
    2. Edit the portion of transcript you want
    3. Save the transcript depending on whether you think it’s a completed work or not
    4. The change is displayed and visible to everyone else
  8. Can I save an incomplete transcription?

    Yes, you can choose to Save as Incomplete if you think the transcription is not finished. The system will then display the transcription as a work in progress. You and other transcribers can go back to complete the transcription at any time.

  9. Can I restore a previous version of a transcript?

    If you accidentally deleted some transcription text and did not save it, don’t worry. Simply refresh the transcription page and you will get the text from last time it’s saved. Otherwise, please comment on the page beginning with the notation [NARA-Request] and let us know why the transcription text should get reverted back to previous version.

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  10. What do I do if I see spam included in the Transcription Field?

    If you see a Transcription page with spam text, please make a comment beginning with [Spam] to notify us there is a spam problem. We will restore the transcription back to the version before it got spammed.

  11. Where can I learn more about reading handwriting?

    There are various resources about handwriting reading skills available online. A few of the web sites that may be useful are:

  12. Since this is a pilot project, are other projects in the works?

    Yes, the National Archives is working on creating online opportunities for the public to get involved as citizen archivists. If you have any suggestions, please email us at . We would love to hear your ideas for improving the transcription process as well as other citizen archivist tools.

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