Thomas Bartram Merchant Log Book

Black Rock History Archives
Black Rock became the official Port of Entry for Fairfield County in 1790 and its merchants played a signifant role in the economic development of New England. One of the most successful merchants and sea captains who also traded in the West Indies was Thomas Bartram. Everything he did was so successul that it was said to turn to gold! 

And yet, very little was known about him and the great fortune he created. That is until now with our project. Thomas Bartram merchant project is digitizing and transcribing the original manuscripts for study and discovery of local history. Bartram was one of 13 families who settled in Black Rock. The account books are important historical documents for Black Rock and Connecticut, documenting one of the earliest settlements in New England.

We will create a narrative based on the historical data. The project has opened up many topics of interest, one of which is understanding what the actual words mean in the merchant log. The vocabulary and spelling was much different from today. We setup a system for analyzing the text we refer to as a Wiki, you can see here:

Join our project as a volunteer, help provide funds, or just watch as we discover more about Black Rock, Connecticut's wonderful history.

Where do the funds go?

It costs $200 to put 100 lines of script text online. We are doing a pay as you go instead or raising the full amount needed which is $1500.

$100 to transcribe 100 lines of textpages
$100 for computer code person to put online

What's special about this project?

We are not only just putting online, but we are using scholarly tools which conform to the best practices. All text online uses the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) to represent the text in digitial form to ensure encoding methods for allow for optimal machine-readable texts. This means that our work becomes searchable online in the best possible manner and allows for students and scholars to continue to explore Black Rock history and culture. 

The progress of the project is visible every day at:

The project involves the following steps:
1) Digitizating (completed)
2) Transcribing (5% done)
3) Coding (in XML programming TEI)
4) Creating a summary for every page (5% done)
5) Creating a narrative story
6) Create lesson plans
7) Marketing including Connectcicut History Day

Our staff:
Becca is our code person. She just graduated from the University of Pennslyvannia studying digital humanities and computer code and is a graduate student.

Susan and Beth are our transcribers. They are members of the DAR local chapter and has years of experience transcribing. They are members of the Genealology Roundtable which meets at the Pequot Library in Southport, CT on a regular basis. They are also descendents of many of the people mentioned in the merchant log books.

Max is our jQuery/javascript person, who for example implemented the magnifying glass function to allow for closeups of the manuscripts with just a mouse over.

Larissa is a volunteer and provides summaries of the manusript text after it is transcribed, coded and appears online. Her summaries of the first 30 pages can be found on top center here in a Google doc:

Robert is the project leader on this project. He is the founder of and has other projects underway which also need funding. Robert has been involved with creating online exhibits for many years. His work contributed to the State of Connecticut signing into law that Bridgeport's aviation engineer was 'first in flight' instead of the Wright brothers. He is motivated interested in his projects because "there is so much to learn about local history, especially when we apply new digital tools. And in some cases history will need to be re-written as it was after Gustave Whitehead."


  • Evelyne Serais  
    • $100 
    • 57 mos
  • Donald Marks 
    • $30 
    • 57 mos
  • Sheila Nevins 
    • $20 
    • 58 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $200 
    • 58 mos
  • Nina Riccio 
    • $30 
    • 58 mos


Robert Foley 
Bridgeport, CT