Civil War Widows’ Pension Digitization Project At The National Archives; YouTube Embedded 5 Minute Video On How The Project Is Done; Very Touching Footage

Hi Everyone!

National Archives LogoIn my various readings I happened to come across that there is a YouTube video from the National Archives that gives some insight into how the National Archives is going about digitizing the Civil War Widows’ Pension documents they have in their possession with the help of many volunteers.

Here is the embedded video that is worth looking at.  I think you will like it and be touched by what is going on with this project.  It is nice the National Archives made this so we can become aware of their activities.  Please read my comments that follow the embedded video:

For many of us, we have volunteered to digitize genealogical materials.  If done through FamilySearch we digitize and index documents that are in fact already in digitized form.  We receive a file that contains images.  We fill in the blanks on what we read from the image into an Excel Template form and we send the material back when we have completed that particular file.

The YouTube video from the National Archives about the Civil War Widows’ Digitization Project gives us an entirely different view of how a digitization project appears when you are actually working with the original paper documents.

You will hear from the volunteers as well as the coordinator of the project from the National Archives.   You will hear about the papers that are found in the paper envelopes.  Some are paper-clipped together requiring special processes to un-clip without damaging the paper.  Some of the paper pieces had been glued together requiring assistance of the National Archives Conservator to separate without damaging the paper.  Some of the pages are in pieces also requiring the Conservator to re-assemble without further damaging in preparation for digitization.

There are 1.28 million case files.  Volunteers are completing about 30,000 case files per year.  The volunteers are logging in a total of about 700 hours per month.   If you do the math, it will take these volunteers and many more generations to come about 42 years to complete the digitization process for all of these case files!

The National Archives coordinator noted facing such a daunting task that “You have to start somewhere!”

It is a very touching 5 minute video that is well put together.  The files represent the real lives of real people and the suffering and the deaths that are described in materials the volunteers read through.  You can really tell that the volunteers really love what they are doing.

For many of us we have advanced our own research by accessing online, indexed material.  That material often got there through the hard work of volunteers transcribing and digitizing.  One particular volunteer in the video expressed her need to contribute her time and energy as a measure of “giving back” because so much of her genealogical online success was due to volunteers digitizing genealogical materials.

I hope you enjoyed the video!

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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