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Instructions for Transcribers

Cuban Liberation Army 1895-1898 Data Base Project



ding How to transcribe:


Using Microsoft Excel® (the prefered method):

  1. Since all the contributed transcriptions will be merged into the same database, it is very important that the same format be used by all. Please follow the instructions to the letter. If you are a new volunteer please e-mail the results after you have completed the first page so that we may check for any problems before continuing.

  2. Please transcribe the entries using Microsoft Excel® following the template shown in the Sample below. If you do not have Microsoft Excel®, you can use any other spreadsheet program as long as I can read it in Microsoft Excel (for example you can save your spreadsheet in comma delimited value format - please be sure to send me a test file before doing a lot of work). You can also use any word processing program - but please see the format instructions below.

  3. Please follow the following instructions exactly (see the sample transcription at the bottom of the page):

    • Use the template shown in the sample at the bottom of the page. It is not necessary to title the columns unless you feel it helps you (I will erase the column titles when I merge your contribution into the data base).

    • Do NOT use any accents (we don't want to sort "á" separately from "a").

    • Do NOT use the word "y" ("and") in front of the 2nd Surname (we don't want to sort on this letter).

    • Do NOT use dieresis/umlaut (two dots) over a "u". Write "Aguero" rather than "Agüero".

    • DO use the letter "ñ". You can enter it by holding down the "ALT" key and entering the sequence "164" on the numeric pad at the end of your keyboard (if this doesn't work try "0241").

    • Use one row of cells for each entry.

    • If there is no data to be entered in a cell, just leave the cell blank.

    • If the entry says "idem" or "id." DO NOT type the word "idem". The word "idem" means "same as above". Please go up the column until you find the first real (non "idem") data and type that data in. (when the data gets sorted "idem" won't mean much).

    • Do not enter the data from the last three archive reference number columns ("libro, folio, número"), nor the remarks ("observaciones") shown on the extreme right column of some names.

    • Enter the date of entry as 5-Abr-97. Use the first 3-letters of the Spanish month (don’t translate the month names - use "Ene, Feb, Mar, Abr, May, Jun, Jul, Ago, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dic"). You do not need to enter any leading zeroes (such as 01 for 1).

    • In the Column titled "Corps ID" please enter our code number assigned to the corresponding Regimental Unit. These can be found on our List of Regiments

      If the first group of soldiers on the first page of your set does not have a unit name, please ask us and we will search the prior page and let you know the Regiment.

      If you find a Regiment or other Corps organization which is not on our list let us know and we will assign an ID code number to it.

    • One of the nice things about using Excel®, is that once you have typed data in a cell it tries to automatically fill out the same information on the next cell down the column. This can help save some time. Also you can copy and paste data if the same data such as Corps ID is repeated for a long series of names. Be aware, however, that this feature can work against you - If you have typed the name "Jose Antonio" and you next try to type the name "Jose", Excel will add the "Antonio" automatically and you must go back and manually erase it. Be alert to this behavior to avoid errors.

Using a Word Processor:

  1. Please refer to the sample transcription at the bottom of this page.

  2. Do not use any fancy fonts, bold lettering, underlines, superscripts or subscripts. We need a plain text file in order to import it into the database.

  3. Don't try to enter the data into a word processor table format. We need plain text!

  4. Type the entries one line to each soldier. Don't insert any blank lines.

  5. Use the same format rules for each data field as described for Excel® above.

  6. Separate each data field within each line by means of a single comma. If there is no data for a column, just enter the comma separator (the data base requires every line to have the same number of columns - every line should therefore end up with exactly 8 commas separating the 9 columns, no more and no less).

ding How to send in your completed transcription


  • Please save your work under the following file name:

    • Xnnnnn.xls  (if an Excel® spread sheet), or
      Xnnnnn.txt  (if a word processor text file - be sure to save as a plain text ".txt" file)


      • "X"; is the first letter of the surnames you are transcribing.
        "nnnnn"; is the number of the first soldier entry on the page.


    Thus if Sargent Ballate, in the sample at the bottom of the page, was the first name on the page, the Excel® file should be called B5309.xls and the word processor file should be called B5309.txt. This will help keep our heads straight when we start receiving files from many different volunteers.

  • After you have completed each page, please e-mail them to both of the following addresses:

    Please put the file name in the "Subject:" of the message, so we wont miss it.

  • Please DO NOT mail the transcription to the CUBA-L list.

    We will check the format, convert it to database format and post it on the web as soon as possible.

ding A few last notes:

  • Work at your own pace. If you are unable to continue for any reason, please let us know as soon as possible so we can reassign the remaining work to another volunteer.

  • The data will be posted at the following URL:

  • We plan to post the names of all volunteers unless you tell us not to. Please let us know if you prefer to remain anonymous.

    Thank you on behalf of all people interested in Cuban Genealogy!

      • Maria de la Torre & Ed Elizondo

ding Sample Transcription

Original Data:

Cuartel General del General en Jefe


Ballate Mantecon, Manuel

Bernardo, Concepcion

Sargento 1o








Brizuela, Ismael











Excel® Transcription:


Surname 1

Surname 2





Date of Entry

Corps ID







Sargento 1o






Sargento 1o





Word Processor Transcription:

5309,Ballate,Mantecon,Manuel,Bernardo,Concepcion,Sargento 1o,20-Abr-95,C-HQ
5310,Brizuela,,Ismael,,,Sargento 1o,12-Jun-95,C-HQ

(notice the same number of commas, 8 in each line)


Please note:

  • Surname 1 =first surname listed
  • Surname 2 =second surname (if present) (always appears before the comma in the original list)
  • Name(s) =given name(s) (include initials if any) (always appears after the comma)
  • Father =Father's first name (first name listed - before the comma)
  • Mother =Mother's first name (after the comma)
    (if only one name is listed take your best guess - if it ends in "o" it's usually the Father's, if it ends in "a" it's usually the Mother's).
  • Grado =rank (do not translate and do not enter "idem"). Enter the Sargeant ranks as "Sargento 1o" and "Sargento 2o" Don't use superscripts.
  • Date =date of entry into War (type as dd-Mon-yy)
  • Corps ID =our code corresponding to the Regiment which appears as a section heading above the group of names. Get the code from our Regiment List, or ask us if you can't find it.)

ding Questions and Answers

We received a few questions and thought it might help if we posted the questions and answers.

First let me explain that I am going to take your Excel spreadsheet and convert it to a comma delimited text file, very similar to the "word processor" transcription shown on the instructions. I just think that using Excel makes things easier keeping the information aligned in the right columns, facilitating copying repetitive information such as regiment names, and preventing people from using fancy fonts (the software requires plain text).

Here is the first batch of questions and answers:

  1. On the sample Excel transcription, under "rank" you have "Sargento" and "1o" on different lines. Could they be on one line?

    A: The database software requires all the data pertaining to each soldier to be on a single line. (In the example the data wrapped to fit the screen). It doesn't matter if the text wraps around in an Excel cell - it all straightens out when I convert it to text. Don't use the "Enter" key to generate two lines in a cell though!

    BTW - The "o" is really a superscript and extremely difficult to read - I originally thought it was an "a" and referred to "Sargento de 1a Clase" (Sergeant First Class), but I guess it is probably "Sargento de 1o Grado" (Sergeant of First Degree) - Please do not use superscripts, just enter it as "Sargento 1o" or "Sargento 2o" using the letter "o", not the number "0"

  2. I understand that we should send in the first page we complete to check for problems but should we send in every other page we complete AS we complete them or only when we have completed our whole remaining nine or so pages?

    A: After I check the first page, you can do whatever you prefer. I prefer to receive large files since I have to process each file individually, but you can send one page at a time or send one or more files each containing several pages. You can even break in the middle of a page if you like - it's up to you . I'm just going to merge it all into one big file for each letter of the alphabet. The reason for requesting a test page is that I did not want someone to go through all the work to transcribe 700 names and do it in an incompatible way due to some misunderstanding of my instructions. I can do a lot of batch corrections with my program editor but I can't correct all the possible errors.

  3. And if we send them in as a nine page block should it have nine different file names or just one?

    A: Either is OK. Always use a different name for each file, regardless of the number of pages. Always use the first letter and number of the first soldier in the first page of the batch as the file name - this will hopefully keep the file names unique and make the files easier to merge into the main data base.

    Please DO NOT send the same information more than once. This will just confuse us and can lead to errors. If you spot an error at a later time just send us an e-mail mentioning the soldier number and error and we will fix it in the master data base.

  4. Will you inform us if our first page is OK? (or not!)

    A: Yes, I will notify each volunteer individually as I get the transcriptions and check them.

  5. Do you want us to enclose each "cell" (that is, a name or a rank or a date, whatever) in a frame, or I think Excel calls it a "border", or do you want just plain text, all aligned neatly?

    A: Plain text please - it's all going to be converted to plain text anyway. Alignment within the cell doesn't matter, just let it free flow and wrap (select the entire spreadsheet and turn on text wrap under "format ->cell ->alignment). Don't try to make it neat within a cell.

  6. Will you inform all of the volunteers personally if there are any updates to the instructions or the list of regiments, etc.?

    A: Good idea, I just made a batch mailing list so I can notify the volunteers directly (this way I won't clutter up the CUBA-L list with administrative stuff). I'm sure I'll have to make clarifications as questions like these come up. I had to add 2 new regiment names as I was transcribing the data from an appendix. I also found that some entries in this appendix did not have an assigned regiment so I put "M" for "miscellaneous" as a placeholder so I can go back later and try to fix it if I can find additional data.

  7. On my list I have for example - Aguilera (ó Aguila) Mariano - I guess ó means "or". How do you want us to deal with this?

    A: There are two ways to deal with this - one is to enter it the same as the original (except leave out the accent). Another one would be to make two entries, one under each surname but indicating the alternate form also. That way a search would find it under either surname. In this instance, I think it is better to do two lines as follows:

    9999,Aguilera (o Aguila),.,Mariano....(etc)
    9999,Aguila (o Aguilera),.,Mariano....(etc)

  8. How should we show the superscript letters? I don't seem to be able to make them in Excel.

    A: Don't use superscripts - use "1o" for "1o". After we are all done, I can, with my editor, globally restore the superscripts in the html language.

  9. A few of my names have the day part of the date missing. For example, one has only Abril 95. How should we indicate that?

    A: Just substitute a "?" for any missing data as follows: "?-Abr-95".

  10. Are there any clues you can throw our way as to whether a parent's name is male or female? I think that if it ends in o it's probably male and if it ends in a it's probably female. Is that a reliable assumption? A person can also look at the other names on his or her list and if the name in question appears as one of a pair (i.e. both the mother and father's names are given) it will be apparent whether it's male or female. As a last resort (rather than guessing) Maria doesn't seem to mind answering questions.

    A: Yes, that is the general rule and fairly reliable. Ed or Maria will be glad to answer questions.

  11. What should we do if we aren't sure of the spelling of a name? I have number 286 which looks like Leoncio Arias but I'm not 100% sure and hate to guess.

    A: Send us an e-mail mentioning the number - we may be able to decipher it by consulting a better copy or the original book. Just make a note of the problem and send it to me in an e-mail so we can try to fix it later.

  12. What should we do if we think there is an possible error in the original? For example, my number 78 says - Alfonso Madan, Pedro with the comma after the Madan. Could this guy's first surname be Alfonso?

    A: Yes, Alfonso can also be a surname. I am sure we will find real errors, but let's minimize creating new ones - Try to make an effort to transcribe it exactly as written. We have already found several soldiers with female names. I have never heard of female soldiers in this war but there might have been nurses, etc.

  13. You have probably read about the regiment I found that wasn't on your list. It was Cuartel General del Deparamento Occidental, which includes soldiers numbered 73 through 87. Maria said to make up a code and I figured W-HQ was probably appropriate. Did I guess right?

    A: Yes, you decoded my system! - Just let me know if you invent a new code so I can remember to add it to the list.

  14. I hope that people aren't typing "idem". I know you mentioned it but it wouldn't hurt to emphasize how to deal with it.

    So far nobody has done this. "idem" and "id." means "same as above". Obviously you don't want to use these expressions if the data is to be re-sorted. You may have noted that the original entries are not in exact alphabetical order, even within the same unit. One of the real benefits of doing an electronic transcription like this is that you can sort all the names alphabetically. The software is currently set up to do this automatically which is why it takes a few seconds to show names in the grid.

  15. When I enter dates, they behave funny - some align to the left in the cell and some align to the right of the cell. What's happening and what can I do about it?.

    A: What's happening is that Excel is recognizing the date you are typing in as a real date (rather than text), but only when the months use the same abbreviation as in English. The dates with Spanish months such as 15-Ene-95 are not recognized and are handled as text. When I export the Excel data to a comma delimited file for the database both get converted to text so it really doesn't matter. If it really bothers you, you can stop Excel from doing this by selecting the "Date" column (or the entire spreadsheet) and in the menu "Format"->"Cell"->"Number" select "Text". You have to do this BEFORE you enter any data, however. If you try doing this after you have entered data, the English dates will be converted to a serial number corresponding to days elapsed from January 1900 (1904 for the Mac - don't ask me why). If you accidentally do this, just go to the "Edit" menu and select "Undo Cell Formatting" to get your dates back.

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Instructions for Transcribers - Updated 08-Jun-2007

Copyright © 2007-2013 - Ed Elizondo
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