It is always unsatisfying when transcribing a document to not be able to determine a word, phrase, or name. In July, I was working on a document when I came across a name that I could not decipher. After showing the name to the CWGK team, we were all stumped. So, what now? Do we just let this person fall back into the depths of history? I was disgruntled by our defeat.
After a discussion of what to do, we found our solution: social media. I am not a native Kentuckian (though some of my co-workers are), but I thought, who better to look at these signatures than people with ties to the Commonwealth? Who knows–maybe a signature could be a long-lost family member.
Social media users, such as those on Facebook and Twitter, put on their thinking caps and came to our rescue. Every Monday the Kentucky Historical Society post an image of a signature from one of the CWGK documents using the hashtag #MysteryMonday and ask our social media followers to help us decipher the name. In our first week one we discovered the name with ease, and I began to hope this process would open up more doors— I wasn’t wrong.
On August 13, 2018, we posted a signature that I NEVER thought would be determined. In less than one hour, the Kenton County Public Library swooped in and named our mystery person. Who knew success would taste this sweet? Well, I got a little too excited, because over the next three weeks, CWGK and social media were left without resolution. This, as it turned out, would be our longest streak without a name.
But wait! On September 10, one of our Facebook followers ended up identifying a signature that we had already deemed unrecognizable. Not only did Mr. Bigwood give us the name in the 1860 census record (this is where we check the names; every signature has to be corroborated by a primary source), but he gave us historical context. He stated that “This is old Germanic script. You can tell because of the distinctive ‘H’ which looks like it has been tilted on its side (the third letter), and the distinctive ‘a’ which immediately follows it. The signature reads “Johannes Dolle.” His insight has helped our researchers to look at names a bit differently in the transcribing stage.
Over the course of the last six months, with the help of social media, CWGK has discovered 16 out of the 23 names published online. Not too shabby!
As we approach the New Year, we are making some changes! First, we will be replacing the #MondayMystery to #TuesdayTranscription. We do this to keep true to the type of work the CWGK team conducts. And we wanted to have a hashtag (#) that would be unique to our postings. We look forward to starting 2019 with a clear perspective. Take a minute and click through our map to look at the locations where we traveled together on Mondays during 2018.
Don’t forget to follow The Kentucky Historical Society on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with #TuesdayTranscription and other CWGK projects.