A couple of weeks ago in our first tutorial post we covered how to classify pages. Knowing what kinds of documents are in each file is a fundamental step in organizing this material for research. Classifying pages is also important in streamlining the marking and transcription work that you will do on Measuring the ANZACs. We have about 150 different fields of information that can be collected from the forms. Knowing what type of page you are working on helps us present you with a smaller list of things to mark.
Even then, we still face some challenges. We discovered about 30 different versions of the Attestation form that vary slightly in terms of the questions asked. Just today one of our citizen scientists, Zanna640, discovered a version of the History Sheet we hadn’t seen before. It seemed to have fewer fields, but also some different ones, than the ones we were used to.
Lets look at the basics of marking by looking at a death notification, which has the fewest fields to mark and transcribe. There are two different types of death notifications you’ll see, depending on whether someone died in service, or many years after. The example we’ll use here is a notification of a death in the field.
Before we go onto the details of marking, why are we collecting this information on a separate form? For people who died in service the information confirms what we have on the History Sheet, or adds the information if, for some reason, the information on the History sheet doesn’t get picked up. One of the fundamental principles of research is to build in redundancy for important information so you don’t lose it (you’ll sometimes notice that surveys ask you both your age and your birthdate. This is the same principle in action).
For the majority of men who died after service, the death notification lets us narrow down their search for their death certificates. One of the important research questions the research team is addressing is “how did your health in early life affect your lifespan (if you survived the war)?” Getting the death dates allows us to know how long these men lived, and then makes it easier for us to request death certificates to find out what people died of.
Here’s the form. We recognize it as a death notification because the text at the top says “Report of Death of a Soldier”.
Once it has been marked as a death notification this helps us narrow down what fields there are on the page. Thus, the workflow of Classifying pages, Marking, and Transcribing has an order which is important in making your job easier, and our data better. In this case there are only a few fields on the page — the possible fields you can mark are shown on the right hand side of the page.
Now you look at the page for where is a last name. In this case the last name is not explicitly and separately present as a question. It’s combined with the first name. But as a citizen scientist you know that when you see “OneName, TwoName” with a comma in between the first item in the list is the last name. So you draw one box around that, and another around the first name.
The Service No is again not there as an explicit question. Here it’s recorded as Regiment No. This is another of our challenges in Measuring the ANZACs, that the same concept is sometimes referred to by different words and we have to rely on you, to recognize the similarity in the concepts despite the difference in words.
“Place of Death” is not on the form as such, but this is a death notification and there is a “Place” question, so we mark that as “Place of Death.” Similarly with Date of Death. On this form you won’t find a Next of Kin. On the post-service death notifications you will.
And there it is, our marked up death notification. Now you’re ready to start transcribing (if you like), or move onto marking another page. In conclusion, marking is an important part of our process by helping us get the correct data into the correct places. It asks that you, our citizen scientist collaborators, recognize the places where a concept from the field list matches an item on the page even if the text is not exactly the same. Most of the time we know you’ll get it right, but the occasional mistakes will not matter because multiple people are marking, and when you transcribe we check again by asking is this a “Bad Mark”.
In future tutorials we’ll look at the more complex marking required for History Sheets and Attestations.