A transcript is a typed or handwritten copy of an original document with exactly the same wording, spelling, and punctuation. Records may be transcribed from many sources: You'll find indexes and other compiled lists that include vital records, census records, cemetery inscriptions, military records, and more.
Transcribed records were one of the first things to make it onto the Internet, especially with the creation and growth of the USGenWeb (www.usgenweb.org) and the WorldGenWeb (www.worldgenweb.org) Projects. These and a number of other Web sites exist solely as a way to share the wonderful volunteer efforts of genealogists around the world. These genealogists transcribe records and put them online, bringing information about a given state, county, town, shire, province, or parish to researchers who may never get the opportunity to visit the courthouses, cemeteries, or other repositories in which the original documents are housed.
Arranged from largest to smallest jurisdiction, these projects include information shared by volunteer managers of the sites. A site may include transcripts of biographies found in county history in the late 1800s as well as indexes to birth, death, or marriage records. You may find that a site offers its members a place to post tombstone inscriptions with or without corresponding photographs of the tombstones in question. These sites are also useful for learning the location of original records for a given county or township. Eventually you'll need to use the Internet for more than just looking up names. You'll find that much of its true genealogical wealth lies in helping you uncover what is not available online.
Family history Web pages compiled by others can be another good resource for your genealogy project. Learn the pros and cons of using them in the next section.
To learn more about building a genealogy, see How Genealogy Works.