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 Ancestry.com (http: www.ancestry.com 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.

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