3 Replies Latest reply on Jun 2, 2020 11:07 AM by National Archives Catalog

    Complex Tables


      The transcribing guide indicates that tables should begin with something like, "[column headings:" followed by a list of the column headings.


      However, sometimes there are sub-columns under the primary column headings.  How should these be indicated?


      Here is an example column heading from a page:


        Species   |  First Seen   | Peak Numbers  |   Last Seen   |                Production                     |

      Common Name | Number | Date | Number } Date | Number | Date | Number Colonies | Total # Nests | Total Young |


      Here's a link to the record containing this table,  https://catalog.archives.gov/id/25800239   the table is in image 19.


      I've seen tables more complex than this with multiple levels of sub-columns.  So far I've been avoiding them, not knowing how to handle them.

        • Re: Complex Tables

          Sorry, my example gets wrapped around so that it's difficult to visualize.


          Under the primary column heading, "Production", there are three sub-columns, "Number Colonies", "Total # Nests", and "Total Young".

          • Re: Complex Tables
            National Archives Catalog Scout

            Tables can be very complicated.  It is good that you are are using the vertical lines | to indicate columns. 


            The work of transcription in the National Archives Catalog is to increase searchability.  The catalog search engine isn't concerned with the spacing and layout but rather is focused on the words.  Keeping that in mind, we recommend the following


            - Unless it is a very simple table, do not try replicate the layout

            - Use vertical lines | to indicate different columns across the row 

            - Add description in brackets [ ] to describe any details that are important for someone to understand about the table

            - In some cases transcribing the table may be nearly impossible.  For these tables, please capture the column and row headings in the transcription.  This work will still help researchers.



            Community Manager, National Archives Catalog

            3 people found this helpful
            • Re: Complex Tables
              Meredith Doviak Adventurer

              Hi Gordon,


              Thank you for your great question. You are right that these complex tables are quite difficult to transcribe, especially as the text becomes wrapped in the transcription box. There is no right or wrong way to handle these, but you will often hear us say that the most important piece is to capture the words, and ensure that the transcription is as readable as possible for the next person.


              Here are two possible ways to transcribe this particular page (image 19) from https://catalog.archives.gov/id/25800239/19/public?contributionType=transcription :


              I . Water and Marsh Birds:

              (1) Species. Common Name: White Pelican || (2) First Seen. Number: 250 | Date: 9/15 || (3) Peak Numbers: Number 250 | Date: 9/15 || (4) Last Seen: Number: 8 | Date: 12/28 || (5) Production. [blank] || (6) Total: Estimated Number: 250


              (1) Species. Common Name: Farallon Cormorant || ...


              Alternatively, a transcription like this might make the information more readable, even though it loses the table format:


              I. Water and Marsh Birds

              (1) Species. Common Name: White Pelican

              (2) First Seen. Number: 250 | Date: 9/15

              (3) Peak Numbers. Number: 250 | Date: 9/15

              (4) Last Seen. Number: 8 | Date: 12/28

              (5) Production: [blank]

              (6) Total. Estimated Number: 250


              (1) Species | Common Name: Farallon Cormorant



              Feel free to use either of these formats, or transcribe in a way that might make the most sense to you and future readers.

              Either way, these are quite complex and do require a bit of effort! Thank you for your work transcribing these records, and for your great question.




              Community Manager, National Archives Catalog

              5 people found this helpful