Church Records Transcription Project

You are invited to help us with an unusual challenge.

In the summer of 2011 the New England's Hidden Histories project unearthed an extraordinary find: over three hundred colonial-era conversion narratives from a Congregational church in Middleboro, Massachusetts. These are incredibly rare and important documents. The narratives, often called "relations", are first-person accounts of religious experiences, written by people seeking membership in their local church.

Most often prospective members told their stories to their minister, who wrote them down and presented them to the rest of the congregation. The Middleboro relations are an exception. They are written in each individual's own hand, and include men and women as well as Native Americans and African Americans. They provide a rare opportunity to "hear" the voices of ordinary eighteenth-century people describing a deeply personal experience.

The relations are short, about a page or two long, and would be even more valuable to researchers if they were transcribed and electronically searchable. The process is quite simple and open to all volunteers — scholars, students, and anyone who likes a good historical puzzle.

 

Getting Started

  • Contact our transcription coordinator, Helen Gelinas, at ghgel@aol.com and request a relation. Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience with historic documents, and we will send you a high quality digital image to work with.
  • Complete editorial instructions are available on the guidelines reference page. Please follow these carefully.
  • Once you have completed a transcription, email it to Helen. Your transcription will be sent to a checker who will then return the work to you for correction. The corrected version will then be sent to the project editor who will perform a final check.
  • If you are already an experienced transcriber we can put you to work right away as a proofreader or editor. Please contact Helen if you are interested in serving in this capacity.