An AHRC Funded Project Exploring Ordinary Civil War Sailors

Nativity & Ethnicity Breakdown for USS Pittsburg, 1 October 1863, based on transcription data compiled for the Civil War Bluejackets Pilot Project (Northumbria University)

A total of fifty-two crew musters survive from the City-class ironclads. These translated into 206 individual sheet images that required transcription. As part of our first phase, high-resolution images of the 206 muster sheets were downloaded from the National Archives website in preparation for distribution to volunteer transcribers. Following an appeal for expressions of interest, a group of eighteen individuals signed on for the project. These transcribers were located in Britain, Ireland and the United States. Each volunteer was provided with information outlining the details of the project and a transcription guide to aid them. The transcribers were then issued with one muster roll sheet image at a time, and requested to fill in a specially prepared excel spreadsheet, both of which were uniquely numbered to match each other. In advance of handover to the volunteer transcriber, each spreadsheet was prepared by the project team with the name of the vessel, date of muster, and the specific Ship’s Number of each crewman on the sheet.  

Each volunteer entered data into the remaining columns based on the information from their sheet, namely: Name (Surname, Firstname); Date of Enlistment Year; Date of Enlistment Month; Date of Enlistment Day; Where Enlisted; Term of Enlistment; Place or Vessel From Which Received; Rating; Where Born (City, Town or County); Where Born (State), State of Which a Citizen; Age; Occupation; Eyes; Hair; Complexion; Height (Feet); Height (Inches); Notes Recorded in Muster. As a volunteer completed a sheet, it was submitted and they were issued with a new one. The transcription phase of the project started on 13 May 2020 and was fully completed on 22 July 2020. During this process weekly updates were provided to volunteers, highlighting some of the learning outcomes from the work they had submitted and some of the historical information it had gleaned. At the conclusion of the transcription phase the information was checked, cleaned and formatted, and used to create the historical data that is being shared on this site.

We were greatly supported in developing this project and the methodology by Jackie Budell of the U.S. National Archives and Dr. Kevin Wood of Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean & Ecosystem Studies (COIES). You can see the Old Weather Project which Kevin is instrumental in delivering here.