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Title page from the Royal Order of June 26, 1741 includes a border around a text block of thetitle and printing information and an emblem of a lion rampant under a crown.
Royal Order of June 26, 1741 concerning payment of annuities by the city of Zaragoza in compliance with the regulations on this matter, approved and ratified on October 9, 1734.

Volunteer Transcribers Needed for Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents

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Today’s guest post is from Carlyn Grace Osborn, a Digital Collections Specialist from the Signal blog team and a By the People community manager.

Would you like to uncover centuries of data yet to be discovered by researchers? Are you ready to challenge your linguistic skills? If so, the Library of Congress needs you!

The By the People crowdsourced transcription program has a unique opportunity for digital volunteers to transcribe tens of thousands of historical legal documents in Spanish, Catalan, or Latin. “Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents” is a way for students, educators, and history-lovers around the world to engage with the Library and to make digital collections more discoverable and accessible for all.

Originally released in February 2020 in partnership with the Law Library of Congress, Herencia has drawn thousands of volunteer transcribers looking for ways to practice reading and transcribing Spanish, Catalan, or Latin, to learn about historical laws and statutes, and to make it easier for everyone to read centuries-old documents. These laws, statutes, briefs, and more from the 15th to 19th centuries touch on nearly every aspect of life – including state, church, and personal history. Aside from English language titles and short descriptions, few details about the texts, individuals, and significant historical moments documented within the collection have been cataloged. Names, places, geographical regions, and other details that would be of interest to scholars are still waiting to be unlocked through volunteer transcription.

Screenshot of By the People transcription tool showing an original document from 1724 from the Herencia collection on the left with completed volunteer transcription on the right.
A volunteer transcription of a page from “Brief on behalf María Ana Gallarz, a widow, versus Miguel Puig Sasme, concerning a gift executed by Francisco Oller Peña on behalf her sister Margarita Xinals Oller.” September 6, 1724.

Over 7,000 pages of these historical legal documents have completed transcriptions and we’re looking for people around the world to help us with the other 23,000! Here’s how you can get involved:

Dive right in

Herencia is entirely online at crowd.loc.gov, so you can access it from anywhere using a web browser. Everyone is welcome to transcribe Library of Congress documents and you do not need to register to contribute. However, if you create an account, you’ll then be able to also review the transcriptions of other Herencia volunteers and see what items you’ve worked on. We especially need help with reviewing transcriptions. Many documents are transcribed, but fewer have made it through the review process to completion. Register by creating a username and password here.

Support available in Spanish

While familiarity with Spanish, Catalan, or Latin is not required to transcribe these materials, for Spanish speakers and readers, there are transcription instructions in Spanish. Bienvenido a By the People gives an overview of the program and Cómo Transcribir, Cómo Revisar, & Cómo Etiquetar provide detailed instructions on transcribing and reviewing the materials in this campaign.

In 2020, our Law Library colleagues also published a blog post designed to assist Spanish speakers with Herencia – Únete para mejorar el acceso a documentos jurídicos de España con la campaña Herencia.

Opportunities for students

By the People offers high school and college students (and other life-long learners) a wonderful opportunity to fulfill service-learning hours by using a few self-reporting tools directly on the site. Our platform does not track volunteer time, so if you require documentation of your service, make sure you register for an account. You can download an official letter documenting your registration as a volunteer and your number of contributions directly from your profile page.

Your profile also tracks the number of actions you take overall, as well as the date and time you submitted or reviewed transcriptions in the last 6 months. We also provide a log sheet template that may be useful if you need to track your own hours. Please note that By the People staff cannot sign-off on your hours, so please take advantage of our self-reporting tools.

Stay in touch with us!

If you want to keep up to date with By the People and follow along for more Herencia updates, you can subscribe to our Crowdsourcing newsletter. Let us know what you think or ask questions about By the People on our discussion forum in History Hub or via our Ask a Librarian form.

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