Saturday, December 26, 2009

Citing Those Christmas Cards, Holiday E-mails, and Family Photos

It's the day after Christmas, and unlike all the (other) crazy people out there, you've decided to avoid the after-Christmas sales and start entering all the new and updated family information from your stack of Christmas cards, holiday e-mails and family holiday photos you've received over the past month into your genealogy software.

Now, if you have some of the newer genealogy software like RootsMagic or Legacy Family Tree, you're fortunate in that each have a built-in citation generator. Choose the source type from a drop-down menu, add the pertinent data, and voila! Your citations are in place. But just in case you don't have the latest software, or you'd like to ensure your citations are up to standard, you may wish to consult Evidence Explained: History Sources form Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills to see what the expert has to say. According to Ms. Mills, your stack of holiday mail and portraits is categorized as personal files and privately held materials. So let's create some scenarios and list the citation formats.

Your name is Jo Researcher and you live in Chicago. Your first item is a Christmas card from your mother's cousin, John Smith in Seattle. On the back, he has written a note stating his older step-sister, Mary (Jones) Brown, passed away in September, and would you please be so kind to let your mother know, as he's lost her address.  As you enter Mary's data into your software, giving the death date of September 2009, you realize you'll have to contact Cousin John to get more pertinent details, such as the exact date and the location of her death, as well as burial or cremation information. Oh, yes, and you must send him your mother's address as well. As you do. Every. Year.

Your bibliography would read:
2009 Researcher Family Christmas Cards. Privately held by Jo Researcher, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois.

If you used the source in a footnote in a report or family history book, the first reference would be:
1. John Smith, Seattle, Washington, to Jo Researcher, Christmas card, 22 December 2009, mentioning September 2009 death of Mary (Jones) Brown; privately held by Researcher, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois.

Mentioned again later, the short footnote would be:
11. Smith to Researcher, 22 December 2009.


Scenario Number Two: Uncle Charlie, your husband's charming bachelor uncle with a reputation for being a ladies' man, has sent a mass e-mail informing the family he has finally tied the knot Christmas Day while vacationing in Fiji over the winter holidays. Of course, Uncle Charlie has forgotten to mention some important details, such as his lovely new bride's name, but while you wait for him to respond to your query on the matter, you cite the original e-mail as so:

Researcher Family E-mails. Privately held by Jo and Joe Researcher, [(E-ADDRESS) AND STREET ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois.

1. Charles Chaplin, Jr., Navini, Fiji [(E-ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE),] to Jo and Joe Researcher, e-mail, 26 December 2009, "You'll Never Guess What Happened!" Researcher Family E-Mails; privately held by Researcher [(E-ADDRESS) AND STREET ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois.

Short footnote:
11. Chaplin to Researcher, e-mail, 26 December 2009.

Scenario Number Three: your second cousin, three times removed, Sarah Ann Snedeker, sends you a photo of her kids taken with the mall Santa. On the back, she writes, "Timmy (11), Tommy (9), and Tammy (7)."  You enter their birth dates into your software as c. 1998, c. 2000, and c. 2002, respectively. Before you store the photo in  your archival-safe photo box labeled "2009 Family Photos," you also cite the following:

Snedeker Children with Santa. Photograph. 2009. Privately held by Jo Researcher, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois. 2009.
1. Snedeker Children with Santa photograph, 2009, privately held by Jo Researcher, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois. 2009. Caption on reverse states, "Timmy (11), Tommy (9), and Tammy (7)."

Short footnote:
11. Snedeker Children with Santa photograph, 2009 Researcher Family Photos.

Last, but not least: your half-brother's ex-wife's sister has sent you a Christmas card and you notice the matching envelope has a personalized return address label with a cutesy "New Address!" caption on it. Entering a new residence fact for her in my software, you realize this is the 15th residence she's had in four years...that you know about! This actually fits under personal correspondence, like your first scenario, so here goes:

2009 Researcher Family Christmas Cards. Privately held by Jo Researcher, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois.
1. Janie Doe Reindeer, Los Angeles, California, to Jo Researcher, Christmas card, 14 December 2009, return label notifying a new address; privately held by Researcher, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois.
Short footnote:
11. Reindeer to Researcher, 14 December 2009.

(The following is read in a fast, auctioneer-style of information-giving one hears when listening to the end of a television commercial for a pharmaceutical product, with the hope that you will not notice that the quantity and quality of side effects are surely more annoying and even dangerous than the original symptoms from which you hoped to receive relief.)

All of the characters in the above scenarios are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Citation examples are gleaned from Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained: History Sources form Artifacts to Cyberspace (Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 2007 [1st edition]); any errors in citation are my own and are not a reflection of the excellent work of Ms. Mills. It is recommended that all readers consult a copy of Evidence Explained for themselves and even more strongly recommended that all genealogists and family historians actually own and use a copy at home. Regularly and religiously.


Janet Iles said...

Well done. Great advice. Now I will have to check to see if I received any important information in my Christmas mail.

GrannyPam said...

A great reminder as we end one year, and begin another.

I use Evidence as a PDF, making searching for what I want a little easier.

Tonia Kendrick said...

Awesome post! Great way to illustrate citation-styles and a timely reminder to sift through all those potential sources.

Hellenic Genealogy Geek said...

Very helpful post - I am printing to keep in my records and will reference it in my Greek genealogy blog. Thanks.
Georgia Keilman nee Stryker (Stratigakos)

Miriam Robbins said...

Thanks to all of you for dropping by and leaving your comments. Georgia, as Pam mentioned, Evidence Explained comes in a downloadable PDF version to make finding citing examples and explanations just a little easier. Both the print and the downloadable versions are available at the Genealogical Publishing Company or Amazon. If you click on the corresponding ads on my site for Amazon or GPC, you can help support this blog with your purchases.