HCA 13/53

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MarineLives is collaborating with Dr Benjamin Redding of the University of Warwick History department to offer facilitated skills training to Warwick students. Contact Dr Redding to learn more.
Graduate and undergraduate experience of volunteering with MarineLives
Katherine Parker

Katherine Parker was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh. She has now completed her dissertation entitled “Toward a more ‘perfect knowledge': British geographic knowledge and South Seas exploration in the eighteenth century. She participated in the MarineLives Ph.D. forum in 2013, and the MarineLives summer programme in 2014:

"On summer research trips to London in 2011 and 2012, I had looked at a few HCA documents and knew that the cases recorded in them offered rich material for social, economic, and naval history. Over the course of several skype meetings, I and other PhD students got to give our opinions about the proposed platform and methodology for transcription. Working with a team created a strong community aspect to the project from the beginning; I have always been impressed by the inclusiveness and openness that drives MarineLives. Also, it was refreshing to have my opinion valued as a PhD student, as sometimes that stage in one’s education is isolating and transitional—you are not yet qualified as an expert, but also not unknowledgeable about certain fields.

The value MarineLives placed on the voices of the PhD forum made me want to participate further, even though the works being transcribed were not strictly within the chronological bounds of my dissertation project. Thus, when the summer transcription project was created, I jumped at the opportunity to use paleographic and transcription skills I had gained after a year in London archives on a Social Sciences Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (2013-14).

Writing styles change over time, just like clothing and furniture styles. Thus, the letters inscribed within HCA volumes from the mid-seventeenth century posed a challenge for me, as I am used to the fluid, upright cursive (often written by a trained scribe or clerk) of the mid-eighteenth-century Admiralty. I came to enjoy the challenge of squinting at the digital pages in front of me, willing the words to make sense, filling in paragraphs slowly until suddenly they all made sense."



Thomas Davies

Thomas Davies was a third year history undergraduate student studying at Bath Spa University. In the summer of 2014, Thomas was a member of a four person virtual team of volunteers transcribing Admiralty Court witness statements from 1658 to 1660, facilitated by Dr. Philip Hnatkovich in Pennsylvania:

"MarineLives created a Bath Spa student section that helped me significantly, showing templates of letters and the different forms they have. This allowed me to tackle the many different writing styles the clerks used. Once I was able to distinguish between letters more clearly with considerable practise, I found I could transcribe enough of the page to get a good idea of what was being said in the documents. Then, I could alter words that did not fit within the context of the deposition, or using the context as a guideline as to what certain words should be.

The biggest challenge I faced in the transcription itself was becoming accustomed to the peculiar writing and distinguishing letters. Some letters look very similar, such as f’s and s’s, r’s and c’s not to mention t’s and l’s. I began transcribing effectively by taking it slow and working out the letters individually instead of looking at the word as a whole as we do with modern writing. I found this approach to be very effective.

HCA 13/53 is a volume of witness statements or depositions submitted in the English High Court of Admiralty in the years 1637 and 1638 from a series of English High Court of Admiralty Deposition Books. The original manuscripts are held at the National Archives, Kew, England.
HCA 13/53 has over 500 folios.

In autumn 2017 and spring 2018 we will be working together with current graduates and second and final year undergraduate members of the University of Warwick History department to make a start on transcribing this volume.

We also welcome non-university based volunteers from all occupations and will give you the same training and facilitation our Warwick graduate and undergraduate volunteers will be receiving. Our volunteers have included former merchant sailors, teachers, archivists, homemakers and web designers.

Please contact us to learn more about working as a volunteer to transcribe HCA 13/53.

This Volume currently contains 185 pages.

Pages in this volume

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