Ruminations on Genealogy: Part 3

 

English: The stemma of the kings of Lazica acc...

English: The stemma of the kings of Lazica according to Toumanoff, Cyril. “How Many Kings Named Opsites?”, p. 82. A Tribute to John Insley Coddington on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the American Society of Genealogists. Association for the Promotion of Scholarship in Genealogy, 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

A while ago, someone posted on Fb an infographic, part of which read ‘comparisons are cliché’. It should have read ‘comparisons are passé’. The writer, reader, and re-poster got it wrong as far as genealogy goes.

 

Comparisons are not passé as far as genealogy goes. We do comparisons as part of our basic research. We compare others’ recollections to known facts to prove or disprove what is the truth of a matter about our ancestors. The only thing that is passé about comparison in this way is that it becomes old hat after a while and we don’t bother thinking such things.

 

As far as writing clichés, that’s a different thing. There are only so many ways to write a birth, death, marriage sequence of sentences in a well-defined format. Indeed, all genealogists use clichéd formulas because they work. Most genealogy programs use hackneyed phrases (The Master Genealogist is an exception) to pass off their data and genealogists need to change them to something unique.

 

These hackneyed phrases, however, are usually the best way to portray compared data. Yes, they are passé but only in the sense that they work. The writer and reader have only to let their eyes see beyond these phrases to get to the real meaning and the underlying data. Doing this allows one to create a better proof statement and research report.

 

The writer is responsible for not making the reader’s eyes glaze over with too many redundant statements of the same form.

 

NPM

 

 

 

The word ‘genealogy’ is pronounced …

gee nee al o gy

that is, it is not pronounced

jen e al o gy

My understanding of Webster’s definition is that the E in genealogy is alike with that in ‘easy.’ I’ve heard some podcast speakers and others trying to make it sound like gen et ic, but it’s not; they are two separate words with two separate meanings.

Thanks, folks!

NPM

 

Notes on the Source – Statement Continuum

In The Master Genealogist, version 8 (TMG8), the user is forced to choose between using end notes or footnotes. The differences between the two are remarkable and have an enduring effect on the reader and researcher.

Elizabeth Shown Mills and others have written on the subject and I’d like to add to and paraphrase some of those writings here.

Footnotes are the recommended style in genealogy

A casual reader may not be interested in the source material and can safely continue reading past the end of the page with footnotes. A researcher, however, needs to have the footnotes on the same page.

Benefits and Problems with Footnotes

The major benefit of footnotes is that they are on the same page as the statements to which they relate.

The major drawback of footnotes is that they can be lengthy and contain information not directly relevant to the statement. The best way to handle this latter is to find a way to merge digressing information into the text and add a citation to it.

In TMG8 the problem is compounded by the use of “ibid.” The forced use of this archaic and often confusing Latin abbreviation can lead researchers to cite the wrong source in their own work. It can also cause readers to misunderstand or misread a critical source citation.

Benefits and Problems with Endnotes

The benefit of endnotes is for the casual reader who is not so much interested in the sources as she is in the content about those sources. This type of reader may become a casual researcher and look up a source statement, but is generally put off by having to flip through numerous other notes on the way to finding the one she wants. This effort can lead to problems in finding and thus correctly interpreting the information in the endnote.

TMG8 handles the ibid problem differently with endnotes. You can combine consecutive notes and have them all together as proper. The problem with TMG’s output of endnotes is that they are “uniqued” and not consecutively numbered in the text. Thus you get note 20 followed by note 8, and then note 34. This is meaningless to a skilled researcher and can throw them into a wasteful loop of figuring out which notes are which.

The final grain that tips the balance against using endnotes in TMG is that they are not connected to the text as is proper. They follow the text as additional paragraphs, so you can’t click on the note number in the text and jump to the text of the note later in the document. You need to flip so many pages to get where you are going and maybe lose your original starting point because of the non-continuity of the numbering mentioned above.

Taking a Break from Blogging

After an 8-month break from GenealogicNG, I’m working on it again.

What is GeneaLogicNG? It is a non-traditional genealogy application closely based on the GENTECH Data Model (see the National Genealogical Society’s website for details).

The project got a bit overwhelming after about 7 months and I wound it down during the 8th month. Since then I’ve been blogging a lot on different platforms but have gotten a bit burned out doing so.

I’m also working on several other genealogy-related projects which are absorbing more of my time that I had devoted to the blogging, so I’m taking a break from blogging for a while to satisfy those other projects.

The other projects include articles for the Seattle Genealogical Society, articles for my own use elsewhere, and finishing (trying to, actually), an indexed copy of a genealogy that I’ve been working on off-and-on for some years.

I will continue to do status updates on the blog and elsehwere (Twitter, G+), so you won’t miss me too much. 🙂

Thanks for understanding.

NPM

P.S. I will finish the 1940 obituary series this month, in time for the U. S. Census roll-out.

Writing for a Society Publication

English: N.E. Historic-Genealogical Society, S...

Image via Wikipedia

I write for the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin and it is an experience in learning how to put together a great article on family history. Having learned the ropes of how to research family trees and how to look up records in various sources, I’m able to put all of that data together in a comprehensive article to share with the community.

Many societies need new material for their newsletters and journals on a regular basis. Local, county, and state genealogical societies often have at least a newsletter. Some have journals of varying publication schedules: quarterly, semi-annual, and/or annual. Lineage societies such as the Mayflower Descendants also have journals and publications you can write for.

Journals other than those of the national societies such as the National Genealogical Society’s Quarterly and the NEHGS Register often have broader standards for article submissions. While the Quarterly and Register articles often are written by professionals and peer-reviewed, many society journals have somewhat lowered standards for quality and source citations.

There are a number of considerations for writing for a society publication, such as their focus on a particular area, time period, or subject matter. Societies also have their own guidelines and styles of presentation.

Focus Areas

Finding a genealogical society or journal for a topic area is easy. One of the best ways to find an appropriate journal is to ask a reference librarian at your local library. The genealogy librarian is often familiar with the different journals and their focus areas and able to tell you which ones for which you might consider submitting an article.

A newsletter is often more appropriate for general articles. For a focused article, such as a compiled family tree, or ancestry genealogy, you might consider submitting it to a journal, rather than to a newsletter.

Speak with the society before you submit an article to query the editor for its appropriateness to their journal or newsletter. If it is, they are likely to accept and publish it. The article then becomes the property of the society, restricting your ability to re-publish or submit it to another society. If, on the other hand, a society doesn’t accept an article, you are free to submit it to another. Always follow up, within a month or two of submission to see whether the society has plans for the article.

Guidelines and Styles

Be sure to check for guidelines and style guides on the society’s website or contact them and ask if they have any idiosyncrasies. For instance, the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin uses the word “county” in its text and end-notes on its first occurrence. As an example: “Seattle, King County, Washington Territory.” After that, they just use the city or county name, as appropriate.

Benefits

The benefits of having written an article for a society newsletter or journal are three-fold. You benefit the communities of society members, people interested in the topic area, and genealogists or family historians who read the publication.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

On Indexing

I am currently preparing an index for a family history. The index will include places as well as people. A town, county, and state name index is important to family histories. The reason for including place names in the index is to allow the reader to follow a larger family group on its migrations to various places.

In another family history, covering colonial and federal period Massachusetts, the family consistently expanded outwards to New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York, making the project that much larger. By including these items in the index, the reader can follow a particular branch of the family in its outward peregrinations.

Sometimes, if the family history is large enough, or complex enough, separate indexes might work better to allow for quick finding in the text. You might want to consider having the primary family in its own index, everyone else related to the primary family in a general index, and place names in a third, or subject index.

A subject index in a family history would include topics such as farming, occupations, the names of prominent universities the family members have graduated from, and other such matters. One of my current indexing projects includes references to about a dozen universities and several dozen more graduates of those universities. As is a major feature of the family history, it is imperative that they be indexed; perhaps names of graduates under the university heading, or perhaps just the universities referenced where they occur in the text. It is a judgment call whether to index the graduates and universities together.

The level of detail in a surname index can be important, especially with larger family histories. People oftentimes name their sons and daughters after other members of the family. For instance, a son would be named after one of his grandfathers. This pattern can continue for generations. In the index, one would ideally include the birth and death years, as well as at least the middle initial, if not the full middle name, of each member of the family with the same given name.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

This post originally appeared on the defunct Seattle Book Scouts’ Blog in 2009.

T4G: Punctuation and Text Formatting

Hyphens are punctuation, a part of the text; en and em dashes are not, they are formatting marks. I’ll talk a little about the differences and genealogical applications of each. A brief resources section to highlight significant sources used in this article is also given.

The hyphen, en, and em dashes discussed here are part of the standard font package. The hyphen is in the Basic Latin section and the other two are found in the General Punctuation part of the font’s special characters listings.

Punctuation and Text Formatting

Hyphens

Hyphens are punctuation, a part of the text. In the old days of the typewriter and early days of the computer, hyphens were doubled and tripled to substitute for dashes. This is unnecessary now as we have proper dashes available. The hyphen is also distinct from a minus sign, but mathematical expressions occur only rarely in our type of writing.

En Dash

En dashes are what Bringhurst (see resources section) calls analphabetic characters. His thought about the handling of them is different from traditional usage. The differences he considers significant take into account more languages than English, which most fonts are designed for.

In genealogical writing, the en dash is the strongest visual indicator for date ranges. En dashes are meant to separate the two ends of a range such as 1582–1752. Some textual terms can also benefit from its use. En dashes emphasize a separation between a prefix and a word in a compound term such as post–1945, or pre–marriage.

Em Dash

Em dashes separate thoughts. They represent missing data in some cases as in unknown surnames (—?—).

In terms of formatting, there are several micro-stylistic thoughts to consider. One is how much spacing there should be around the em dash.

Bringhurst would have us use spaces around the en dash as an alternative to the (subjectively) lengthy em dash as in “… – …”. Doing this would lead to putting a non-breaking space between the last characters before the en dash to keep the two together, possibly affecting a text’s justification.

One of the faults with Times New Roman is that the em dash is too long. Most professionally designed fonts compensate for the length of the em dash by making the capital M a more realistic width. Times New Roman was designed for a specific purpose: newspapers, and should only be used by that type of publication. Linux Libertine, on the other hand, was designed for more common publications such as this one, and books, so its readability is greater.

Illustration: Linux Libertine and Times New Roman em dashes

Illustration: Linux Libertine and Times New Roman em dashes

Hatcher, and Leclerc and Hoff (see resource section for both), differ on whether there should be spaces around an em dash in text. I would prefer the latter, and include the spaces. Doing this also requires that you pay attention to justification and word breaks at the beginning, so the dash doesn’t sit by itself at the beginning of a line.

My own thought on doubling or tripling the em dash for missing names is that it’s unnecessary. A triple dash, or in Unicode terminology a “horizontal bar” (―) can stand in. It is shorter, and more representative of the strong emphasis necessary. I prefer to denote missing data with just an em dash or as (—?—) [opening parenthesis em dash question mark em dash closing parenthesis].

Dumb and Curly Quotes, Redux

Using real quotes (curly “ / ”) raises the tone of what we read. It’s also what we’re most brought up to see in printed published materials. Online it’s another matter, though, since most early computer systems couldn’t handle curly quotes and kept the dumb quote from the teletype repertoire.

Resources

The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographical Style, version 3.2, Point Roberts, Washington: Hartley & Marks, Publishers, 2008. See in particular chapter 5 “Analphabetic Characters.” on punctuation and textual markup.

Patricia Law Hatcher, Producing a Quality Family History, Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, Inc., 1996.

John D. Lamb, Notes on OpenOffice Writer: Large and Complex Documents, n. p.: n. pub., 2009. Available online at the author’s home page. See in particular Chapter 2 “Characters, Fonts and Highlighting,” on the details of the characters and their handling.

Michael J. Leclerc and Henry B. Hoff, eds., Genealogical Writing in the 21st Century, Boston, Massachusetts: NEHGS, 2006.

Peter Wilson, A Few Notes on Book Design. Normandy Park, Washington: The Herries Press, 2009. Available online at the LaTeX archives . See in particular, chapter 5 “Picky Points,” on punctuation and textual markup.

© N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research