GenScriber – a FREE Transcription Tool for Genealogy Research

One of the best tools for transcribing old handwritten documents is called GenScriber, a FREE program for Windows and Linux created by Les Hardy. A Macintosh version is also available although it operates as a Windows version packaged inside a wineskin wrapper. While not ideal, the “pseudo-Windows” version is still a reasonable solution for Macintosh users.

GenScriber is a transcription editor for census records, church records, birth, marriage, baptisms, burials, index records, and more. GenScriber is useful for transcribing both free-form text as well as columns of data, such as U.S. census records. It is designed to be used for easily transcribing digital images of old, handwritten documents.

GenScriber is simple to use. First, store the image of the document you wish to transcribe someplace on your hard drive or on external media, such as a flash drive or external hard drive. Launch GenScriber and point it to the folder that holds the document images you want to transcribe, click on the file and then start transcribing. GenScriber displays a “split screen” with the top half of the screen showing the image and the lower half is your worksheet for transcription. Images may be rotated, zoomed and various filters applied.

Unlike the more common method of transcribing to spreadsheets, The GenScriber worksheet is not a spreadsheet. It will not change dates or numerical input. All cell inputs are alphanumeric. No assumptions are made about the data type. Dates and values remain exactly as you entered them.

Of course, any data entry program is only as good as its ability to import from and export to other applications. GenScriber will import and export several different formats. It can import a GEDCOM file. Imported files are always converted to CSV files. Exported files may be in CSV, ODS, XML or GEDCOM formats.

GenScriber is free for non-commercial use. GenScriber may be found at http://genscriber.com/genapps. A number of videos showing how to use GenScriber may be found at http://genscriber.com/genapps/genscriber/help/tips_and_tutorials/200_videos.

9 Comments

This wheel had already been invented by Jacob Boerema in the Netherlands. I’ve been using his “Transcript” for a number of years without any punctures or hitting any ruts. It’s also free for private use though there is a paid version. http://www.jacobboerema.nl/en/Freeware.htm

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    THANK YOU! I’m already in love with this thing, John. Pays to read the comments.

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    John,

    I agree. I’ve been using Transcript for ages and is is a very nice tool for transcribing, especially when you only have a single screen to work on. I’ve experienced no problems ever with the program. It doesn’t do columns but most of what I transcribe is old parish records, wills, etc. The ability to be able to scroll around and zoom in and out of the document you’re trying to figure out is invaluable.

    I’ve been using the free version but there are several options in the paid version that I’ll have to investigate. They may be worth the 15 euros.

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Dick,
I just realized that the “Townlands of Ireland” is by the same author as GenScriber. It’s the final download listed and is a great, easily searchable database of townland. If you’ve got Irish blood, you need this tool.

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Dick,
You can do the same thing simply by opening two horizontal windows on your monitor. I open the document to be transcribed in the top window and a transcription spreadsheet in the lower window. I can easily zoom in/out and move around in the document window and I can do the same in the spreadsheet window, independently. You also can open additional windows (like Google Translate) if needed. And, of course you can save your spreadsheet in native mode instead of having to go through csv.

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I read the description of these programs and from what I can ascertain they don’t do the transcribing but rather give you a program to enter the transcription while looking at the document you want to transcribe, correct?
With Windows 8.1, I can already divide my screen into two portions. On one side I can display the image while on the other side I can open MS Word and transcribe what I see.
I would appreciate knowing what advantage it would be to download either Transcribe or Genscriber. Is there something more that I would be able to achieve by using one of the programs rather than splitting the screen as I’ve described above?
Thanks in advance for any help or advice.

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The image shown is here is from a very early version. GenScriber 2.3.4 has many more options, including a choice of inputs.
There is a spreadsheet style input or a richtext wordprocessor style input.
It also provides several functions that are not available in spreadsheets. For example, sorting mixed dates, inporting/exporting gedcom, support for freecen, freebmd, freereg, pdf and html export and much more.
I have used GenScriber for 4 years, and I can say for sure that you cannot do the same by opening two separate apps. I really like the fact that I don’t have to worry about if I set the cells correctly to stop my dates changing, or having to force text mode.

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David Paul Davenport December 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

BTW – I have a “trick” that makes transcribing poor handwriting “easier” that I would like to share. Capture the image using the Windows 7 snipping tool (or its equivalent). Copy that image to any page in a word processing program Word, Open Office, Libre (etc). Then “stretch” or “compress” the image by right-clicking on a corner or edge to reshape the letters as seen on the original image. This will alter the shape of the letters and in almost every instance allow the word to become more readable.

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    Thanks David Paul Davenport. I’ve clipped this to Evernote for future reference. I’m transcribing my Civil War ancestor’s journals. While I can read most of his handwriting, some is almost impossible. I think this tip will be very useful. Thanks for sharing it.

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