Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't use shorthand, abbr., or otherwise leave out

Inspiration for blog posts can come from anywhere, including the daily comics:

In the above Dilbert comic, the humor is predicated on the assumption Dilbert makes (and most readers will make, too) -- that the pointy-haired boss implies an "if I were you" at the end of his initial statement.  He reveals in he final panel that he doesn't.  And it completely changes the meaning of his statement.

It's good advice not to leave out information in your genealogy record keeping.  You may know what you mean, but someone else looking at your work later on might not.  And few genealogists are writing down the information for themselves only.  Here are a few examples:

1) If you are labeling a photograph, don't forget to identify yourself, as well as the person standing next to you.  Use last names.  You know who "Jack" is, but your grandchildren might not.

2) Names of people can be similar.  Sometimes exactly the same.  Nicknames, vital dates, and phrases such as "son/daughter of ___" can help to clarify who you mean.

My second great grandfather, Selig Feinstein, had several grandsons named after him.  Three had the name "Seymour Feinstein".  All three of them were the youngest of siblings, and two ended up with the nickname "Babe."  I distinguish them by the identity of their fathers, Harry, Herman, and Morris.

3) For geographical entries, include city, county, state, and country.  If all four exist.  (Don't make something up if it doesn't.)

For example, I write a lot about "St. Louis."  There is a St. Louis in Missouri, Saskatchewan, Michigan, and Mauritius.  Not to mention a St. Louis Park, in Minnesota. Using abbreviations for some of these could lead to confusion. (You may also note that indicating the country is helpful, but doesn't solve all the issues.)

Furthermore, in Missouri, the City of St. Louis is independent  The complete description is "St. Louis City, Missouri, USA."  St. Louis City is its own county, so inserting "St. Louis" into the description as the county, actually makes it incorrect.  It has been this way since 1876.   Tamura Jones' Place Name Standardisation Basics is a good primer on how to record place names.

Note: Non-commercial usage of the comics at Dilbert.com is permitted, provided you use the embedding code they provide.

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