Thursday, November 16, 2017

Gen Doc Study Group 4 - Assembling Components into Clear Citations

I thought that I would have this post up early last week but I have had an awful cold that really knocked me flat! I wasn't even able to finish reading this chapter until Monday.

Anyway, now that things are returning to normal, I was able to finish the chapter and watch a replay of the hangout while reading the homework submitted by the panelists.

Chapter 4 - Assembling Components into Clear Citations

Jones, Thomas W. " Assembling Components into Clear Citations." In Mastering Genealogical Documentation, 37-48. Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2017.

Before a genealogist can assemble the components of their citation, they must understand the source that they are citing. Over the past few months, I have realized that I need a better understanding of one of the sources that I use frequently; Quebec church records. I hadn't known until recently that the church books are considered transcriptions. It just hadn't occurred to me not only because there are witness signatures at the end of each record, but because I recognize many of them. Some, because they appear in several records, some because I have other examples. Since I learned that these records are considered transcriptions I have looked more closely at the signatures on each record I consult and I have found a record with witness signatures that not only appear to be written in the same hand, they appear to be in the same hand as the rest of the record. In other words, they appear to be in the hand of the minister. This could be a complicated answer and I could devote a post to just this topic, but I'll wait until I have more information. In the meantime, I am researching the history of these records in more depth to see what I can find out about when priests and ministers would create the duplicate copies of these entries and which copy actually went to the civil authorities.

The topic of Quebec church records was actually discussed in this week's hangout because panelist Dave Robison used one of these records as an example in his homework. There was some discussion of the record itself, but mostly it was about the citation.

Also in the study group was a very interesting discussion about whether or not to include the website in citations for census and other widely available records. It turns out that at least some journals have been omitting this information for years. My opinion, based on the study group discussion (you can register and view here) and my own experience is that it depends on your audience and their knowledge of genealogical records and repositories and also on whether the repository matters to the quality of the image. For instance, in my own research, I have found more legible copies of some Canadian census records on the Library and Archives Canada website than on Ancestry. If I were citing one of those records, I might want to point the reader toward the more legible copy.

This is just one example of the most important point made in this chapter; clarity for the reader is the most important factor in assembling a citation. No rigid format, no one template is the answer for every citation. The researcher/author knows the source the best and must point the way for others but not in a one-size-fits-all manner.

As addressed in the Genealogy Standards(1), however, there is certain information that should always be captured in a citation, if known: who, what, where, when, and many times wherein.

I'm still very uncomfortable creating citations, but I'll give it a whirl with a document that should be straightforward enough.

Death Certificate of Benjamin Smith, my 2nd great-grandfather:

Both sides of the certificate copy with the citation digitally added in Paint.

Who - who created the document? State of New Jersey Bureau of Vital Statistics

What - What is the document? Death Certificate No. 1769

When - When was the document created? 1908

Wherein - Where in the death certificates of 1908 is the document? Benjamin Smith

Where[is] - Where is the document now? New Jersey State Archives, Department of State, Trenton.

So, those are my elements, here is the full citation.

     1. New Jersey Bureau of Vital Statistics, Death Certificate No. 1769 (1908), Benjamin Smith; New Jersey State Archives, Department of State, Trenton.

Most of the other examples I have are either privately held items or were the result of online research and I'm not feeling ready yet to get into online records, so I'll leave it at that for today, except to say, that the chapter covers much more material than I did here in my post. You'll learn a lot more from Dr. Jones and DearMYRTLE's panelists than you will from me, at least for now. So buy the book and watch the hangouts!

(1) Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.:, 2014), 7, for standard 5, "Citation Elements."

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Private G.W. Smith

My mother brought me this photo recently with a few folders of papers that belonged to the subject, my grandfather, George Washington Smith.

On the back of the photo, in my mother's handwriting, it says 

May 1919 France
Private G.W. Smith
technical storekeeper

That's the first I've ever heard about my grandfather having that particular title/responsibility. The only story I'd ever heard before this was that he spent his 21st birthday (February 22, 1919) at a train station in France waiting to get back to his unit after delivering a truck back to its unit. In his WWII service file, there is a reference to the fact that he was a machine gunner in WWI, but my mother had never heard that.

In a few days, Library and Archives Canada will release another update on the scanning of WWI service files. I can't wait to learn how much closer they are to the Smiths!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Gen Doc Study Group - Week 3 - Citation Settings, Forms and Shortcuts

If someone had told me at the beginning of my genealogy journey that I would spend my Saturday genealogy time reading from The Chicago Manual of Style I probably would have asked them what they were smoking, but here we are. After reading Chapter Three of Dr. Jones' Mastering Genealogical Documentation and watching a replay of DearMYRTLE's Week Three Study Group, that's exactly what I did.

Nine years ago when I started my first Ancestry tree and tried to upload my own documentation for the first time, Ancestry wanted me to enter quite a bit of data including a citation. I gave it a shot, but I'm pretty sure I gave up on it; I wasn't really sure I was doing it right and it seemed pretty complicated. That pretty much sums up where I am with citations today but I'm hopeful that Dr. Jones' text will at least, as someone put it in the study group, make me more comfortable and confident.

I wouldn't have thought that it would make sense to teach shortened citations before full citations, but in some ways, it makes a lot of sense. The rules of shortening a citation - for the subsequent mentions of data items in a particular source - are not the same as the rules for full citations. And learning it this way, with examples and exercises that provide the full citation gives the reader exposure to full citations that are constructed properly.

Rules for shortening citations can be found in The Chicago Manual of Style, in Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained and in Genealogy Standards. Shortening a citation requires that you take out as much information as possible for brevity, but leave enough for the reader to be able to remember and identify the source. 
Chicago Manual of Style, Evidence Explained, and Mastering Genealogical Documentation all give guidance as to how this can be accomplished, like:

  • Abbreviate titles
  • Include authors' surnames only
  • Do not change the word order of a title
  • Include the place, type of record, and time period
  • Omit the publication and repository information and the medium through which it was viewed

I am reading a book that I will write up in a future blog post. If I write about my possible 7th-great-grandfather who was mentioned in the book the citation would read:

     1. Atkinson, Jay, Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's captivity and revenge in colonial America (Lyons Press: Guilford, Connecticut, 2015), 193

If I later wrote about the information contained in the book pertaining to Count Frontenac of New France and his campaign to terrorize English colonists, the citation would read:

     4. Atkinson, Massacre on the Merrimack, 82.

Something I am less sure of, here is a citation for a census record for my paternal grandmother's family in 1920. I should say that I did not use Evidence Explained to create the full citation when I used it in a blog post last year. I used the format I saw on what I believe to be a reliable blog.

1920 US Census, Manchester, Hartford Co., CT, population schedule p. 4B, dwelling 45/family 46, Carl Anderson household, digital image (http: accessed 15 Jan 2017); NARA microfilm T624, roll 181

If later in the same post, publication or report I were to cite a statement about their friends, the Olsons, it would read:

1920 US Census, Manchester, Hartford Co., CT, population schedule p. 27B, dwelling103/family 114, Charles Olson household. 

I am able to eliminate the medium through which I viewed the record and the microfilm publication and roll numbers because they are the same. Then again, I may not have needed the Ancestry information anyway. I have to watch again, but I think I understand from the Week 8 hangout that because census records are so widely available now, the website through which you viewed them is considered irrelevant. But don't quote me on that.

Shortening a citation when the source is referred to more than once is not the only way to save space in a post, report or article. Abbreviations, initialisms, and acronyms are another way and are discussed in detail in COMS and EE (see what I did there?).

Another very important point made in the study group and in all of these readings; when you are writing, always use the full citation each time until the final draft. That way you won't inadvertently use a shortened citation before the full citation if the order of your reference notes or citations changes along the way.

Settings, Forms, and Shortcuts are important building blocks in learning how to cite data in genealogical communications. But I do think I'll have to learn to write full citations before I really have confidence in my shortened ones.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Gen Doc Study Group - Week 2

I can't recommend DearMYRTLE's Gen Doc Study Group enough. This series is not just for beginners - anyone can learn something from this wonderful panel. The examples of work product that were shared in Week Two were fantastic and so interesting. Want to see an example of Dr. Jones' editing for the NGS Quarterly? Watch.

You can find DearMYRTLE's new blog, Myrt's Musings here - then click on Hangouts near the upper-right of the page. To register for upcoming hangouts, click on the NEXT Hangout tab, which usually has all of the hangouts for the current month. To register for past hangouts click on Archives. This is the best way to view the hangouts because you will be able to see the chat that occurred during the hangout and follow links to the panelists' homework and any other sites they discussed.

Chapter Two of Mastering Genealogical Documentation is "Noncitation Aspects of Genealogical Documentation." Dr. Jones not only brings his considerable experience to this chapter, he also weaves in content from The Chicago Manual of Style and Genealogy Standards.

There was a lot of great material in this chapter but the part that interested me the most was the section on reference note content; maybe because I have no experience with creating reference notes from multiple citations or that include notes about the data or the sources, etc.

Each chapter of Mastering Genealogical Documentation ends with a series of questions. In Chapter One the questions were only about the material in the text but in Chapter Two there were also exercises where Dr. Jones uses his own revised NGSQ (National Genealogical Society Quarterly) article as the reference.  So, having read the chapter twice, watched the hangout and read the panelists' homework, I completed the exercises which were helpful but left me wanting to explore a bit more.

Next I turned to the article that the NGSQ study groups will be discussing this month, Sue Hahney Kratch, "James Wesley Mooney of Will County, Illinois: Business Records Reveal His New York Family." from the September 2015 issue. The article and research were interesting, but it was the reference notes that I read with a new appreciation for their content. Previously, I only read the notes to get information about the sources, now I was looking to see how each note was constructed, how many citations were contained in each one and what additional information the author had given us in each note. I know it's mostly my inexperience talking, but wow, it certainly felt as if the research was the easiest part of this article!

As Dr. Jones explains in his Preface, this book is a text, not a reference like Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained, and he is giving us the tools to craft citations no matter the source. The elements of Chapter Two are part of the foundation without which our documentation will utterly fail in its goals - communicating the qualities of the source, how to find the source and showing the scope of the genealogist's research.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

I Finally Visited My Local Family History Center!

Grave of Betsey Kezar, my 4th great-grandmother.
The book I read at the Family History Center traces her line
back to my 10th great-grandfather, George Keyser.

Nine years into family research and I have finally visited a Family History Center. Nine years! That tells me that I am not using the Family Search website enough. If I were, I'm sure I would have had a reason to visit before now.

A week or so ago I was trying in vain to catch up on my blog reading over lunch when a post I read suggested using Google Books in family history research. I have used Google Books in the past, but I'm sure I haven't searched for all of my ancestors, so I plugged in Moses Bean Hatley, the ancestor I wrote about in my last post and the name of the place he settled in Quebec, to see what I would get.

One of the books that came up on that search was available to view on Family Search but only from a Family History Center. So, it was finally time to make the arduous half hour journey to Plainview to check out the library.

What I found was more like a reading room than a traditional library. The main room was lined with bookshelves and file cabinets and also had three large tables; one where two volunteer staff members were helping researchers, one containing two desktop computers for public use and another table with internet connections for users who want to bring their own laptops to plug into the center's internet.

I was able to get on a public computer right away and, since no one was waiting for it, use it until I left.  I finished taking notes just as the daytime hours were ending, so I didn't have a chance to explore a lot or ask about the available resources. But I did see a shelf copy of The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society's New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer. That's a book I've been wanting for a couple of years now, but the $90 price was prohibitive, so I was excited to see that. 

From the conversations I was hearing behind me I gather there are some very serious researchers working regularly at that center. So, I'll have to borrow a laptop and get myself there again very soon.

I'll keep you posted and let you know when I make that grueling trip again.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gen Doc Study Group - Chapter 1

I wrote recently about DearMYRTLE's newest study group; seventeen Google+ Hangouts where she and several panelists (see this post for her announcement) are discussing each chapter of Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas W. Jones.

To save a little money, I first purchased the Kindle edition of the book, but last week I had to admit that I just study better with a printed text and so I ordered the print version from NGS. Once it arrived, I reviewed the first chapter again, reread the homework submitted by the panelists and rewatched the first hangout. Now I am ready to put my thoughts on this chapter in writing.

The panelists for this study group have been asked to share only about a part of each chapter that speaks to them, both to respect copyright and for brevity, and I am going to do the same.

As Dr. Jones points out in his book, there are several reasons that "serious genealogists" document their findings. Crafting accurate citations forces us to analyze records deeply, it allows us and other researchers to find those sources again, it shows the quality of the records and the scope of the research and it even helps researchers to avoid plagiarism.

Grave of Moses Bean(e),
Lakeview Cemetery, No. Hatley, Quebec.

Moses Bean(e) was my fourth great-grandfather. We visited his former homestead and grave this summer. This line seems to be very well documented, appearing in at least four books that I have found online. One, in particular, I once thought would be the Holy Grail for a lineage I had seen in some Ancestry member trees taking me back at least 11 generations to my supposed 8th great-grandfather, John Bean of Exeter. He was a Scotsman and a prisoner in the English Civil War and was brought to the colonies and sold into indentured servitude in Exeter, New Hampshire. It took me a long time to find the book online and in one sense, it did not disappoint. The book was obviously a huge undertaking, a labor of love, I'm sure, for the author, a distant cousin. His genealogy took my line all the way from John Bean to my 2nd great-grandfather, Denison Bean of Compton, Quebec.

Denison M. Bean

But there were issues. I know a little something about genealogy now that I have found this book. I know I cannot take it at its word. I know I need to evaluate the evidence, examine citations, study those sources for myself. And there I was disappointed because there was nothing to evaluate, examine or study. Just vague references to archives and, as I was sad to discover this summer, an entire passage about Moses and his wife Elizabeth that matches a passage from an earlier work almost word for word.

One of the participants in the study group shared her experience with having a printed genealogy handed to her many years ago. It too was unsourced and it has taken her 30 years to verify that most of the information in it was indeed correct. Wouldn't it have been great if she could have spent those 30 years adding to the research instead? As much as I am looking forward to digging into some archives in New Hampshire, wouldn't it be great if I could as well?

I have to admit that if someone took over my research today, much of it would have to be verified independently from scratch too. Citations are missing, incomplete or not attached to the record they describe. I don't want to be that researcher. By the end of this study group, I hope that I will be a different researcher; a researcher who digs into her sources to understand them as completely as possible, who can follow even citations-in-progress back to their source, who can easily show others the quality and scope of her research and who shares only original, commonly known or well-attributed information in her conclusions.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Family History Month - Giving Back

Yep, that's me!

If you're someone who volunteers regularly, I applaud you, sincerely. I never seem to find the time to do so on a regular basis.

This weekend, though, I'm going to spend some time giving back to the genealogy community. I'll be joining with (so far) 59,220 others to index records at Family Search during this year's Worldwide Indexing Event (link here) from Friday through Sunday.

If you haven't indexed for Family Search in a while, you may see some changes. You are no longer tied to your desktop because indexing has moved to the cloud and is now accessible from most devices.

If you haven't indexed ever, please don't be intimidated. There is plenty of help on the website and you can take it at your own pace.  The records are fascinating and you know that you'll be helping other researchers connect with their families.

Since 2006, volunteers have made 1 Billion records searchable on Family Search - a truly breathtaking number but still only the tip of the iceberg - I'll be very interested to see how many records we can add during this event.

There was an error in this gadget