Thoughts on Mastering Genealogical Proof: Chapter 7-Writing or Making Genealogical Soup

The written conclusion, the answer to a particular single genealogical question, is like a delicious soup. Soup, when skilfully prepared from carefully selected ingredients, develops just the right flavour for the diner. Not everyone likes the same flavours, and some need a simple and digestible meal. Chefs tell us that fresh, quality ingredients make the best soup.

Rosehip soup

Rosehip soup CC Josefine Stenudd

A proof statement is like a simple soup, suitable as a starter (needs context), made from just a few raw ingredients (original records, primary information) that have harmonious flavours (no conflicting evidence). Preparation (analysis and correlation) is straight forward.

Shark fin soup

Shark fin soup CC chee.hong

A proof summary is like a more substantial soup, suitable as a light meal (can stand alone), typically made from a range of ingredients. It still contains raw ingredients, but might contain some preserved ingredients (derivative records, secondary information) when fresh are unavailable. Flavours may compete, so a balance is needed (conflict resolution). Preparation takes longer than a simple soup and may involve two or more stages (documented facts).

Minestrone

Minestrone CC Julie Anne Workman

A proof argument is like a filling soup that is a meal by itself. It contains many ingredients, including some that need extensive preparation or long cooking (questions of identity and substantially conflicting evidence). Eventually the flavours blend into a rich complex that gives an initial impression, develops on the tongue and leaves a distinct aftertaste. Preparation may include test tasting (hypothesis), adding new flavours (building blocks), and contrasting flavours (if-then syllogisms).

How did the first soup you made taste? Writing a genealogical conclusion gets easier with practice, just like making soup.

 

Reference:
Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof  (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013)

© Sue Adams 2014


Find My Past miss-judges its Kittens, I mean Customers

Dear FindMyPast

I am concerned about your treatment of my fellow felines, aka. FindMyPast website users. Until recently most of us were pretty chilled and enjoyed ancestor hunting forays with FMP.

I am sure you have heard that a healthy genealogy diet includes a range of tasty sources not just pop-tarts alone. I was in need of the nutrition provided by a nice juicy apprentice promised on the menu months ago.

So I entered the dining room (aka. search) and met with a very nasty surprise – a dowsing in horrid cold water. Only a few felines like water, and those that do only like it on their own terms. Such nasty surprises put us in bad humour and make us irritable.

By this time I was hungry, so made my way into the kitchen (aka. Facebook) to make my views known to the FMP monkeys. The monkeys expected me to play that kitten game of chasing a toy/laser. The attention span of little kittens is limited, but the monkeys expect us all to play for 100 days.

Teasing a tetchy, hungry feline is never a good idea, especially grown up big cats. FMP, your customers aren’t little kittens or docile moggies, we highly skilled hunters like these:

Big cats, all Creative Commons. Leopard, Steve Jurvetson; Lion,  Martin Fisch;  Tiger, Shahadat Hossain

Big cats, all Creative Commons. Leopard, Steve Jurvetson; Lion, Martin Fisch; Tiger, Shahadat Hossain

We don’t look please do we? You’ve got work to do before we will purr again.

© Sue Adams 2014


Thoughts on Mastering Genealogical Proof: Chapter 4 Citations

During this week’s Hangout-on-air, I publically criticised Evidence Explained, widely regarded as an essential reference to genealogical citation. In particular, I find the examples for census and civil registration records in the United Kingdom confusing.

In this post I will examine one census example, a first reference note on page 304:

“1871 England Census”, database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 September 2006), entry for George Lucas (age 33), Bromley St Leonard, London; citing PRO RG 10/571, folio 27, p. 3; Poplar registration district; Bow subdistrict, ED 14, household 9.

The original of this record is held at The National Archives, Kew, and its catalogue entries are arranged in several levels :

Level Reference Title, Creator, Date
1 RG Records of the General Register Office, Government Social Survey Department, and Office of Population Censuses and Surveys
2 RG 10 General Register Office: 1871 Census Returns
Creator: General Register Office, 1836-1970
Date: 1871 April 2
3 Subseries within RG 10 – LONDON – MIDDLESEX
4 Sub-subseries within RG 10 – Registration District 20.POPLAR
5 RG 10/571 Registration Sub-District 1C Bow.
Civil Parish, Township or Place: Bromley St Leonard (4)

There is extensive documentation of the parliamentary Acts, instructions, forms and resulting publications at Histpop Online Historical Population Reports.  The RG 10 subseries and sub-subseries follow the order of registration districts in the Registrar General’s Annual Reports. Sub-districts were further divided into Enumeration Districts, an area that could be covered by one enumerator. The enumerator collected household schedules (which generally were not preserved) and used them to fill in the Census Enumerators Books (CEB). The census record we have here is a page from a CEB. There could be one or more CEBs for each Enumeration District, and several EDs for each Registration sub-district.

Before the CEBs were microfilmed, each sheet of paper or folio was stamped on the top right corner of the front side, starting with no 1 on the first page of the first CEB and continuing the sequence through subsequent CEBs. Consequently, the combination of folio number and page number uniquely identifies each page within a sub-district.

To cite the original page following Thomas Jones “who; what; when; where in; where is.” format:

General Register Office; 1871 Census, England & Wales, Census Enumerators Book; 2 April 1871; Entry for George Lucas, line 1 [counted], schedule no. 9, folio 27 [stamped], p. 3, Bromley St Leonard, Enumeration district 14; Registration Sub-District 1C Bow, Registration District 20. Poplar, London – Middlesex, 1871 Census Returns, Records of the General Register Office, The National Archives, Kew.

The thing that is missing from the above is an archival reference, also known as a call number. The reference elements are included, but are scattered. The National Archives type of reference is a well established convention that is widely understood. If you were permitted access to the original, you would quote the reference RG 10/571 for the bundle of CEBs and RG 10/571/27/3 for the page, because that reflects the current archival arrangement and makes it easy for archive staff to retrieve.

Ancestry image page showing refernce elements

Ancestry image page showing citation elements

Now let’s take a look at the Ancestry version of this record. Ancestry often re-arranges records because the website deals with digital images rather that the original thing. Treating each image as a separate ‘thing’ within a series is sensible because each image is a separate file. This is different from the original CEB or bundle of CEBs that comprise RG 10/571. Ancestry’s card catalogue splits the census by year and country into separate collections. Within a collection, the breadcrumb trail shown above the image reveals the arrangement, the last element is the image number at the bottom of the image. A complication for this example is that the digital image was derived from microfilm, of which I have no details.

Citation of the Ancestry copy requires a layered citation, which gives details of both the digital image and original:

General Register Office; 1871 Census, England & Wales, Census Enumerators Book; 2 April 1871; Entry for George Lucas, line 1 [counted], schedule no. 9, folio 27 [stamped], p. 3, Bromley St Leonard, Enumeration district 14; Registration Sub-District 1C Bow, Registration District 20. Poplar, London – Middlesex, 1871 Census Returns, Records of the General Register Office, The National Archives, Kew; digital image from microfilm, Ancestry, “1871 England Census”, database, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 27 March 2014), London, Bromley St Leonard, District 14, image 4.

I much prefer this citation to the Evidence Explained version. With census records I more interested in “what” rather than “who”, so I might change the order of citation elements or drop the creator. The title in the form ‘Census, 1871, England & Wales, CEB’ would make all my census records appear together in a source list. I could omit the first ‘Ancestry’ and abbreviate common terms. I did not give the full URL that takes you directly to the record because that could change, and it is rather long.

How would you cite this record?

I have previously pondered citations. What do you make of these examples:
Copies of Copies, Citation and Source Evaluation with FamilySearch
Citation and Verification or ‘Where the hell did I get this from?’

References:
Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013)
Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained. Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007)

© Sue Adams 2014

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 797 other followers