Here is a demonstration of how semantic mark-up can illuminate the meaning of a handwritten document from the pre-computer age. Unlike many marking-up schemes, this one is designed with clear graphic presentation and simplicity as the two top priorities. The hierarchy below is one possible anatomy (intended for genealogists) of an English probate record, and demonstrates how each element can be appropriately styled in HTML.
The principal topic of interest in any testament will be the names of the beneficiaries.
|H4||deed type (will or administration)|
|DIV preamble||P deedsection (optional)||SPAN vanishing text|
|SPAN testator's condition|
|DIV disposition||UL legacies||LI person||UL extra person|
|SPAN vanishing text|
|DIV signature||H5 with date *|
|UL the group||LI person|
|DIV codicil||DIV preamble||H5 with date|
|DIV disposition||UL legacies||LI person|
|DIV witnesses||UL present||LI person|
|DIV grant||H5 with date|
|SPAN grantee name|
|DIV bond||H5 with value|
|P deedsection (optional)|
|DIV inventory||H5 with value|
|UL property||LI article|
|UL inventarizers||LI person|
* Additionally it might be desirable to include an image of the autograph signature, or at least some meta-information about the testator's autogram (shaky— indicates infirmity; a cross— indicates illiteracy; etc.)
Note in this analysis how the bullet-list presentation that has already been recommended for legacy listings can also be employed in supplementary documents such as codicils (later additions to wills) and in inventories of estate property.
If you do not have access to dedicated software to mark up transcripts, it is possible to fashion your own tools using editor software such as NoteTab for MS operating systems. Fookes Software of Switzerland provides a free version, NoteTab Light, which you can download at www.notetab.com. Users can then fashion their own specialized tools, or "libraries", within NoteTab. To get you started, I have provided a free sample containing most of the tags from the table above. After you have installed NoteTab, download the library by right-clicking on the hyperlink to this file. Select "Save target as ..." Save it to the following directory on your computer: NoteTab Light\Libraries\. Now load a file in NoteTab to be marked up, click on the DeedMark library from the libraries bar, select the text snippet to be tagged and double-click on the appropriate "clip". The result: instant tagging as you go. You'll find it easy to modify such a library for your own purposes.