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As part of our World War I commemoration, we recently invited the public to help transcribe written accounts of World War I soldiers and their first experiences in battles. This series contains remarkable and moving accounts of war through unit histories, station lists, operations reports, messages, and more. 

 

Of the 2,409 records in the series, 6,652 pages were transcribed by our citizen volunteers. We were especially moved by the descriptions of the battlefield by the soldiers who experienced the war first hand, and wanted to find a way to capture their experiences.

 

Now that the transcriptions are nearly complete, we are excited to share how this work transcribing has unlocked the stories within these records, and ensured these soldier’s voices are heard.

 

By performing a "search within" these records in the Catalog, we can now search for events, battlefield conditions, or even emotions that soldiers wrote about within their accounts. For example:

 

 

The word “artillery” can be found in 523 records in this series

“About 4 PM we moved forward to canal under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. Were relieved next morning.”

Transcribed by citizen archivist Ndlund

 

The word “afraid” can be found in 23 records in this series

“I was afraid that we would never reach our objective with one man alive but we only had 4  killed and two wounded all it takes is nerve”

Transcribed by citizen archivist LibrarianDiva

 

Ready to give it a try? Here’s how to search within a series:

 

From the Details section of the series description in the Catalog, click on the blue box: “Search within this series”

 

In the top left search box, remove the wildcard symbols *.* and replace it with the word you would like to search.:

 

 

Click on the magnifying glass or press “enter” on your keyboard to start your search. See your results!

 

 

Give it a try, and let us know what you find within these records! You could try searching for “trench,” or “Verdun,”  or even “pigeon.” Have you discovered something interesting or unexpected? How else could you use this feature in you research?

 

There are a few more records in this series that can still be transcribed! Help us finish up these last few records to make these stirring accounts fully accessible.  Get Started Transcribing!

Looking for some transcription work to do?

We have a group of really easy records to transcribe and we'd love your help.

 

Help us transcribe index cards of Naturalization Records.  These index cards have just a few lines of text on them and they are addictive - we bet you can't do just one.

 

New to Transcription for the National Archives? Learn how to get started.

Get started transcribing Indexes to Naturalization Records.

This blog post is an excerpt from the National Archives Catalog Newsletter. If you'd like to receive the newsletter - please subscribe.

 

Last week we celebrated Public Service Recognition Week with our annual Archivist’s Achievement Awards ceremony. This event provides the opportunity to recognize volunteers and staff of the National Archives for their passion and dedication to serving the mission of the National Archives and the American people. This year, we were proud to present a special award to one of our most dedicated and enthusiastic Citizen Archivists: Alex Smith. 

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Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero (center), presents Alex Smith (right) with the Citizen Archivist Award at the 2017 Archivist’s Achievement Awards Ceremony. Photo by Jeff Reed.

We first met Alex in 2015, when the Susquehanna University registrar was preparing to retire and looking for a meaningful way to spend his newly found free time. He read about the National Archives’ Citizen Archivist transcription project and discovered a way to volunteer and, according to Smith, do “something that matters for an organization as important as the National Archives.”

In the first eighteen months of his virtual volunteer work, Mr. Smith made a remarkable 11,100+ transcription contributions to the National Archives Catalog. Several times a week he logs into the Catalog and searches for his next record to transcribe. He often employs a serendipitous method to find the next record. For example, while searching for and transcribing telegrams, he reads about prohibition agents that leads him to search for prohibition. He’s inspired by the books he reads in his leisure – searching for public figures in the catalog such as Sherman Adams, John Bricker, Meade Alcorn, and Ann Whitman.

Alex Smith is not only a diligent citizen archivist and transcriber, he also is an evangelist and cheerleader for records in the National Archives, sharing the stories he’s found with friends. He is full of excitement when he discovers the intriguing, heroic and even the mundane within our records – he finds “happy surprises” within routine and seemingly dry records. Always a storyteller, he recounts what he has discovered while transcribing and has inspired others to become citizen archivists as well.

We were thrilled to welcome Alex to the National Archives and present him with this year’s Citizen Archivist award. We even got to spend some time showing him around the National Archives at College Park and talking about our favorite records.

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National Archives Catalog Community Managers Suzanne Isaacs (left) and Meredith Doviak (right) with Alex Smith.  Mr. Smith is holding a 19th century example of a wooden box used for the storage of records.

 

Alex shared, “If it weren't for the Archives, I'd be having a much duller time, so I really am grateful for the imaginative ways you have allowed us civilians to take part in your extraordinary work.”

We consider ourselves the lucky ones to have such dedicated volunteers. Will you join us as a Citizen Archivist?