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Ten-Years War


Cuban Liberation Army 1895-1898
Transcription Project



dingIdea for the Project

The idea for transcribing the list of veterans from the Cuban War of Independence into a public web based resource was initially conceived by Maria de la Torre.

We checked the copyright status and found that there should be no legal obstacles to doing such a transcription. Although at first we were a bit skeptical that we could ever finish such a large project (the number of names to be transcribed numbered 69,770), we decided to give it a try.


dingPlanning the Project

We first made a number of experiments to determine if it was possible to scan the information directly into computer readable format using OCR software. This proved to be not feasible due to the very poor quality of the available text, and because of the type and small size of the font used (scanning did prove successful later when transcribing the death notices which were printed using a larger type).

Briefly we considered the possiblity of publishing the individual pages as image reproductions. This idea was also found to be not practical. In order to reproduce the small type, high resoultion images were required, which in turn required large file sizes. The large number of pages (1004 pages in the soldiers listing plus 263 pages in the death listings) would have required additional storage to be leased on a monthly basis from the web service provider, adding to the costs of hosting CubaGenWeb. This method would also have had the very serious disadvantage of not being searchable on a name-by-name basis.

The conclusion we quickly reached that we would have to transcribe the data manually. This involved a) developing a method to transcribe the data that would be easy for volunteers to use and b) developing a method for posting and retrieving the data on the web that would be user friendly and would impose minimal requirements on the web service provider hosting CubaGenWeb.

A search was done for commercial web-based search engine software having the desired characteristics. Fortunately such software was quickly found, although it imposed some limitations on the number of records per file and number of fields per record. These limitations were felt to be not too severe. The software was procured, the user interface was customized, and tests were made to verify operation and how best to input the data.

A format for the data was then designed which closely followed the order of data in each entry in the original book and added the regiment information to each entry so that it would be retained after sorting. Codes were assigned to each regiment to minimize the typing requirements and to provide uniform nomenclature in all the entries.

The final record format selected retained all the information in the original entry with the exception of the volume, folio and page number of the original document in the Cuban National Archives and remarks appearing after some of the entries. It was felt that the location of the original records would be of interest only to someone with physical access to the Archives. Such an individual could easily find the information by searching the index while at the Archives, or by searching a copy of the Roloff book or a microfilm copy of the book.

Although a few of the remarks in the original entries were of historical interest, indicating, for example, that a certain individual worked at a "taller" (machine shop),or was a "proveedor" (supplier), most remarks consisted simply of the statement "grado por aclarar" (rank pending to be verified). It was felt that these remarks would add significanlty to the transcription effort while they were of limited genealogical significance without the benefit of any subsequent verification. In the end it was decided to omit the remarks from the transcription.

A list of instructions was then prepared indicating how to enter the data at home into a spreadsheet or a word processor and how to resolve the most common questions and conflicts, as well as how to transmit the data back to us. These instructions were updated as a result of the questions received from the first transcribers (see the entry on the left menu titled "Instructions to Transcribers").

At the receiving end, we also prepared software to pre-process the received spreadsheet data into the format expected by the data base engine and also to correct common errors such as converting all dates to use Spanish abbreviations, removing any commas in the entries, etc. We also developed reporting software to check for errors, duplicates or gaps in the sequence numbers of the entries and to keep track of the progress of the transcription (see the entry on the left menu titled "Project Status" for the most current example).

Finally it was time to enlist the help of volunteers to actually transcribe the data.


dingExecuting the Project

The call for volunteers was posted to the CUBA-L list on 3 April 2000, with the first test transcriptions from the volunteers received on 11 April 2000. The transcriptions kept coming in steadily until September 2001, when they almost completely stopped a little over half way done (see Figure below). This was likely due to other demands for time on the volunteers.

Nothing much happened for the next 9 months until the Miami Cuban Genealogy Club's Genealogy Conference in May 2002. At this conference we learned that there was still a great level of interest in finishing the project and we also learned that one of the Club members had been successful in obtaining a copy of the original book on eBay. We followed suit and were lucky enought to also obtain a copy. Having the original in our hands allowed us to make high quality copies of the pages to facilitate transcription (the legibility of the copies had always been a problem). It also made it possible for us to respond almost immediately to the requests of volunteers so as not to loose interest or project momentum.

A new call for volunteers went out via the CUBA-L list. This latest crop of volunteers (which included some of the original ones) was able to rapidly complete most of the project. Again, though, the rate of transcriptions tapered off after a few months and it looked like it would take forever to finish. Once again, a handful of volunteers was solicited for the final push. The project was finally completed on 13 April 2003, three years after it was started.


cumulative graph



ding List of volunteers from whom we received transcriptions:

In the end, a total of 34 volunteer transcribers participated in the project, which took 3 years. As to be expected, due to differences in typing ability and available free time, there was a large variation in the number of names transcribed by each individual.

We specially thank Maria de la Torre, who produced and distributed the copies to be transcribed during the first two years of the project. We are all grateful to and thank the following volunteer transcribers that made the project possible:


Transcriber # of names transcribed
(as of 03-May-2015 )
C. Victor Hernandez 6704
Ed Elizondo 6495
Matt Perez 5735
Norma Cabrera 5106
Martha Ibanez Zervoudakis 4381
Edward E. Baez 4175
Mary Ann Garza 3919
Mariela Fernandez 3884
Donna Suarez 3743
Susan Muzio Conner 3556
Raclare Kanal 2660
Andres Villalon 2216
Jose A. Tavel 2033
John Rogers 1509
Cindy Braman 1469
Stephen Barranco 1434
Donna Costa 908
Maria de la Torre


Georgina McWherter 812
Adriana Power 780
Cecilia Vaillant-Yanes 777
Jennifer Becker-Diaz 768
Alan Perry 715
Patricia Pulles 690
Ben Diaz, Jr. 690
Vicente Sanchez 651
Nancy Padron 623
Luly Del Pino 601
Cheryl Sanders-Sivers 436
Eddie Ramos 410
Jorge Gregorisch 369
Nidia Gonzalez 348
Agueda Hernandez 317
Hilda Pomares 39


Thank You!


dingLog of Files Received

Here is a detailed log of all the files received:

Get PDF ReaderLog of transcription files received


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Transcribers List - Updated 03-May-2015

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