Blog

7 Problems to Expect when You're Transcribing Historical Data and How to Avoid Them

by Dan Howlett, Emily Meyers
2022-04-11

So you want to start transcribing data from historical documents? The task seems easy! However, there are quite a few issues that can pop up which can create problems for other parts of the project. Below are some of the expected errors our transcribers on Death By Numbers frequently run into and some tips on how to handle them. The job may sound intimidating with all the potential pitfalls, but we have suggested solutions from all the tips and tricks our team has picked up over the past few months.


A Parish By Any Other Name

by Megan Brett, Jessica Otis
2022-03-28

The Bill of Mortality from Christmas week in 1664 reports that three people died in the parish of St Foster. But fifty years later, there were happily no Christmas deaths in the parish of St Vedast—or rather, the parish of “St Vedast alias Foster.” Because the parish of St Vedast is the parish of St Foster. Welcome to the complex world of early modern parish names. Given that our sources were published over the course of centuries, it’s hardly surprising that the names of some of the parishes in the bills changed over time.


"Within the Bills": EEBO and the Early Modern London Metropolis

by Jessica Otis
2022-03-14

One of the more helpful digital databases for the study of early modern history is Early English Books Online (EEBO), which contains images of most of the surviving books printed in England between 1473 and 1700. It builds upon the cataloging work of 19th-century bibliographers and began its life as a collection of microfilm in the late 1930s and 1940s before being digitized at the turn of the twenty-first century.1 Because its focus is on books rather than broadsides or bills, EEBO only contains a small fraction of the early modern Bills of Mortality but a keyword search for the bills still turns up almost 500 results.


Parishes and Extra-Parochial Places

by Jessica Otis
2022-02-28

The main organizational unit behind the London Bills of Mortality is the parish: a religious administrative unit usually consisting of one or more churches, their associated staff, and all Christians living within the geographical bounds of the parish. The parish clergy christened, married, and buried their parishioners and—starting in the sixteenth century—the parish clerk kept a register of those events. The burial numbers would eventually form the basis of the bills, with christenings added later.