Sunday, May 20, 2007

Book citations & annotated footnotes

Standard practices for leaving good audit trails

There are reasons why Ol’ Myrt studies the publications of the NGS (National Genealogical Society) and the NEHGS (New England Historical and Genealogical Society.) Specifically I wish to hone my skills by observing how more experienced genealogists:

  1. Think through research challenges
  2. Report findings
  3. Document anomalies
  4. Cite sources

Guiding creation of book citations, The Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition declares “A full reference must include enough information to enable an interested reader to find the book. Some references contain supplementary information not strictly needed for that purpose but enlightening nonetheless.”

Continuing on page 647 (IBID) concerning information to be included we read that that some flexibility with consistency is acceptable. “As long as consistent style is maintained within any one work, logical variations on the style illustrated [sic] are quite acceptable if agreed by author and publisher. Such flexibility, however, is rarely possible in journal publication, which calls for adherence to the established style of the journal in question.”

It should be noted that both the NGS and NEHGS have specific, though very different, styles to be followed if one wishes to prepare a manuscript for publication. Genealogists who study this can improve source citations, essential to any good research report.

The April 2007 volume of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register published by NEHGS provides a variety of examples in footnotes that are particularly inspiring. Let’s dissect this footnote from “The English Origins of Jeffrey Staple of Weymouth, Massachusetts” by Gail Staples on page 98 reproduced below. The superscript numeral 23 pulls the reader’s eye from the text to the appropriate footnote.

Example of footnote from NEHG Register Vol 161 p 98.

Note these elements of the footnote, including punctuation:

  • Author: Donald Lines Jacobus
  • Comma
  • Title of the reference work: History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield
  • Comma
  • Volume: 3 vols. In 4
  • Beginning parenthesis
  • Publication location: New Haven, Conn.:
    Note the use of a period for abbreviation of Connecticut (not CT) and colon as a break leading to the next item.
  • Publishing company: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor
  • Comma
  • Publication date: 1930-32
  • Semi-colon
  • Reprint info: reprint
  • Reprint location: Baltimore
  • Reprint publishing company: Genealogical Publishing Co.
  • Comma
  • Reprint date: 1976
  • End Parenthesis
  • Comma
  • Volume number: 1
  • Page numbers: 579-80
  • Period

This citation naming another's published work is completed, referring the reader to author Gail Staple’s source.

But Ms. Staple’s footnote does not end there. What follows is an annotation, though on topic, it does not specifically refer to the book referenced in the footnote. Interesting.

From we read:
an•no•tate [an-uh-teyt] verb, -tat•ed, -tat•ing.
–verb (used with object)
1. to supply with critical or explanatory notes; comment upon in notes: to annotate the works of Shakespeare.
–verb (used without object)
2. to make annotations or notes.

an•no•tat•ed [an-uh-tey-tid]
supplied with or containing explanatory notes, textual comments, etc.: an annotated edition of Milton's poetry.

Gail Staple’s footnote 23 has an annotation that includes reference to a DNA study with descendants of the first generation Jeffery Staple, the second generation John Staple and another ancestor Thomas Staple. The author’s notes on this DNA study are placed in square brackets [ ]. Not only is the URL for the website listed, but it is followed by a comma and the date viewed.

The date was listed in the normally-accepted genealogy format: day month year. Although 3/6/2007 (US) or 6/3/2007 (European) would be correct, we must think globally, and remove all doubt about interpretation of a date, hence the format 6 March 2007.


Click to find out more about Evidence!

Elizabeth Shown Mills.
Evidence! Citation & analysis for the family historian.

Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.
1997, reprinted 2006
ISBN: 9780806315430
Item #: GPC3846
$16.95 regular price

Source citations are the most important element of a quality research product in any genre.
For too long genealogists have accepted half-truths and fabrications. Now is the time for us to rise to a higher level of research by clearly labeling elements of our work with accepted methods of source citation.

Having 16,000 names in an undocumented pedigree is nothing compared to 160 names with multiple citations pointing to reliable original source documents. Citations allow those that follow to evaluate our work and compare it with new information that may have come to light.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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