If you have found some unexpected free time on your hands, why not become a digital detective and use it to decipher handwriting, old diaries and more
We all know that Jane loved to write letters, and wrote many throughout her life to her family and friends about dancing, shopping, and news about her neighbours.
This letter was written by a Jane, however, it was written over 170 years ago by Jane Everett and not Jane Austen. Jane Everett was born in 1827 ten years after Jane died, and was also known as Jennie. She was also the second girl born into the family and was especially close to her elder sister Elizabeth, just as Jane was.
She starts the letter, ‘Dear Sister Elizabeth, I am sitting in this little room all alone, this bright sunny morning.. and goes on to talk about how cold the weather had been, and how she had become acquainted with two friends who brought their sister to visit. She continues with.. it was pleasant to see someone once more from the busy world and learn a little of the news of the day”.
The Newbury Digital Project
The Newberry is a research library in Chicago, and through a crowdsourcing project have scanned historical handwritten letters and diaries into their website. They are asking for people to help record the contents of these documents for future generations to easily search and read.
You can jump right in to the Manuscripts straight away, and there is no need to sign up. Just click on a topic that interests you, choose a set of letters and click through. The hand written letter it will appear at the top of your screen and you simply type in what you see below. If you want to leave halfway through, you simply save it and someone else can continue your work.
They have produced guidelines on their transcription practices to give you an idea of what is needed.
About the Everett Family
A large portion of this project is for the Everett family correspondence that dates from the 18th Century. They talk of family news and health issues, the rights of women and African-Americans, and moral reform. Topics such as printing, education, pioneering life, and religion are all discussed.
Robert Everett was born in Flintshire, Wales in 1791. He graduated from Wrexham Seminary in 1815, and soon after was ordained a minister at Capel Lôn Swan, Denbigh. During this time he learned a system of shorthand writing, which he adapted to the Welsh language and continued to use throughout his life.
He married Elizabeth Roberts in 1816, and they had three children, Elizabeth (1818), John Roberts (1820), Robert Junior (1822).
In 1823, Robert accepted a call to preach at the Welsh Congregational Church of Utica, New York and the family emigrated to America. They had a further eight children Lewis (1825), Jane (1827), Mary (1830), Sarah (1832), Henry (1834), Anna (1836), Cynthia (1839) and Edward William (1843). The letters between them all make for interesting reading, and are part of this digital project.
This letter is from Anna to her younger brother Edward and is littered with pictures and symbols, as well as news about school grades and church visits. It’s quite fun to read, and you will probably find you spend more time reading their letters than transcribing!
You can see the original letters and read more about the fascinating lives of the Everett family on the Digital Newbury website that was set up for this project.
You can go directly to read the surviving letters that Jane Everett wrote here.
It’s a great project, happy reading and stay safe.