Help Us Uncover Documents’ Hidden Information

A handwritten, nineteenth century document
A handwritten, nineteenth century document
Image courtesy of the Filson Historical Society.

Ellen Kenton McGaughey Wallace kept a series of diaries in the 19th century containing information that people today would like to know. In them, she wrote about her neighbors; the enslaved people on her farm; local news, such as an 1856 slave uprising in Hopkinsville; and her own thoughts and feelings, which changed from pro-Union to pro-Confederacy during the Civil War.

“Historians, genealogists and others would greatly benefit from what is in the diaries, but until someone transcribes them the information is not easily accessible,” said Louise Jones, director of research experience at the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS), which houses the diaries.

To address this need, KHS is asking for the public’s help in transcribing the diaries and other similar types of documents. Wallace’s diaries, along with Emilie Todd Helm’s scrapbook, a family Bible and a Civil War soldier’s diary, are posted on a transcription website so anyone anywhere can work with them.

Once transcribers complete a document, KHS will review the text to ensure it is accurate, and then make it available online to everyone through its Digital Collections or the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.

The documents are all part of the Nineteenth Century Digital Cooperative (NCDC) project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and hosted by KHS. While transcription is part of the project, the ultimate goal is to lay the groundwork for future online historical research of the 19th century.

 

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