The Transcribe ScotlandsPlaces project is the biggest crowd-sourcing scheme of its kind in Scotland. It will focus on more than one million records of people and places dating from 1645 to 1880.
This includes more than 150,000 pages of old handwriting in Scots, English and Gaelic, detailing information about land taxation; taxes on clocks, windows and farm horses, as well as Ordnance Survey "name books" which were part of the first official record of Scottish places and place names.
It is hoped the information processed will boost knowledge and understanding of Scotland and its people.
A previous review of tax records identified the cabinet maker William Brodie as Deacon Brodie, whose dual life as a thief and model citizen inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde.
Records show Mr Brodie made a respectable living and paid duty, which helped mask his criminal life. He was hanged in 1788 after he was arrested and tried for a failed robbery.
Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs, said: "It will ensure these precious records become more accessible for everyone."