Become a Better Researcher

Our research problems are unique and our genealogy software, to be useful, must be flexible enough to match our respective problems and our respective methods. The Master Genealogist is that software, but power and flexibility has a down side. The more options a program has, the more decisions the user must make. This year, the Tri-Valley TMG User Group will explore those options and make some of those personal decisions. Would you like to play along with us? Do each month's assignment, and if you like, e-mail it to us at: We'll post some of the completed assignments on this blog each month. Let's hear it for choices!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Periodic Table of (Source) Elements

Sorry, I could not resist this post title. The following is of academic interest only, but given how often the question arises, that interest is widespread. "I've just added another source element to my custom source type, but the element seems to be added randomly on the Source Definition screen's General tab. Shouldn't it be added to the first available blank field? Or shouldn't the elements be arranged in alphabetical order? Or shouldn't the elements be arranged as entered in the Source Type template? What's up with that??"

Let's take a look at the General tab in TMG's Source Definition screen.
General tab in the Source Definition screen
There are fifteen possible element fields on this screen. The first field is reserved for elements from the Title source element group. The remaining fourteen element fields can be filled by any one element from 23 source element groups. Those source element groups are added to this table in a specific order:

Short TitleSecond Location
Short SubtitlePublisher Location
Record TypeSeries
Second PersonFile Reference
DateRecord Number
Second DateFilm Number

Take a look at the TMG screenshot. If we were to add the [SHORT TITLE] element to this screen, it would not appear in the first available blank spot (the second label in the second column). It would pop into the first label spot in the first column, and all the rest would move down. If we were to add an element from the Publisher source element group, it would be inserted between our Location element and our Description element, which is defined as part of the Series source element group.

Try it! Let me know if you think I've made an error in this Periodic Table of (Source) Elements. Again, this is of academic interest only. Knowing this won't make any difference in how you use TMG.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Recapping Our October Meeting - Part Three

Let's take a look at a few screenshots. One of the tricky problems when defining a source type definition by hand is that a list of non-conflicting source elements isn't readily available. If you base your source type on a similar one, copy and rename it, and then work from the Source Definition screen, you have a way to keep that list current and handy.

Source Definition screen with available Source Elements screen on left
Suppose I want to add the "File Reference" source element to this template, but I don't know if I've already used its source element group. I can click on a blank field label and the Source Element list opens -- containing only those source elements still available for this template. Clicking on a named field label opens the source element list highlighting that named source element. You can quickly identify its source element group.

As you add and remove source elements from your Source Definition screen, you should add them to the source's various output forms -- with punctuation and word constants, as well. Although I didn't add the element [FILE REFERENCE] to this actual source, this screen shows you what happens when you do so. Note the "(Overridden)" annotation on the Full footnote.

Source Definition screen - Output form tab
The arrows point to variations in the punctuation for the [TITLE] element. The exact title of an unpublished work should be enclosed in quotation marks. How you choose to handle this in your custom Source Type template will make a difference in the citation output.
  • Removing the quotation marks from the template and entering them as part of the title will yield American-style comma and period placement, if that comma or period is included within the [TITLE] element's angle brackets, e.g., <[TITLE], >, or if there are no angle brackets in use.
  • If the quotation marks are constants and the comma or period is placed before the closing quotation mark, the output also produces an American-style sentence. The Short footnote form illustrates this example.
  • If the quotation marks are constants and the comma or period is placed after the closing quotation mark, as shown in the Full footnote and Bibliography forms, the sentence created follows English-style punctuation; i.e., the comma or period comes after the quotation mark.
This Source Type uses our [REPOSITORY MEMO2] for the private holder's address. Exact addresses for living people are usually presented as [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], City, State. To recreate this, highlight the phrase only, right-click, and select Format > Small caps. Then, to prevent any misunderstandings by TMG, precede each square bracket with the escape character: \. Note the illustration below. If your previewed output includes [YEAR], TMG thinks those square brackets are special characters, not part of the text. Carefully re-enter the [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] section in your [REPOSITORY MEMO2] field, with the escape characters. Your citation output preview should now read correctly.

Repository Definition screen showing the escape character

This final illustration shows the Full Footnote output. If you compare this custom Source Type to our starting template, "TVTMG Artifact (Privately owned)," you will see that very few changes were made. In fact, this template could probably be used for artifacts, as well as those documents found in private family files. It probably needs a little tweaking, but I'll leave that up to you.☺ Note that I left the [CD] elements in this template. These are unnecessary for this specific document, but a multi-document file might require them.

Comparing the Full Footnote definition and output

Recapping Our October Meeting - Part Two

Reviewing our finished citation (compare to EE QuickCheck Model, p. 111, "Private Holdings: Legal Document, Unrecorded Family Copy"):

James T. Grasshopper (originally known as Jiminy Cricket), "Declaration of Legal Name Change," 28 June 1954, Grassy Meadows Co., California, Hildegarde A. Turtle, Notary; original family copy, privately held by Joanna (Grasshopper) Bluebird, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Shady Oak, California, 2015. Ms. Bluebird is the daughter of James T. Grasshopper, and inherited his papers upon his death in 2010.

These are the "source elements" I see in this citation: 1) Author or Creator, 2) Title or Record type, 3) Date created, 4) Place created, 5) Additional description; 6) Format, 7) Repository, 8) Repository address, 11) Date held; 10) Provenance. Mills also includes additional information between our "Format" and "Repository": a collection or filing name.
  • At last, it's time to check our templates to see if we already have one that would fit this citation. Those TV-TMG source types that refer to privately owned material include: TVTMG Artifact (Privately owned), TVTMG Family Bible, and TVTMG Letter (Historic-Privately Held), Several of these come close, but they don't quite fit some of our elements.
  • How about the source types included in TMG? None of them fit any better, so maybe we should create our own custom source type template for those records we're going to call "Family Documents (Privately owned)."

Customizing a Source Type Template

  1. Start with the source type closest to the desired output. In this instance, that's the TVTMG Artifact template. Highlight that source type and Copy it.
  2. Rename it as desired. Here, we'll call it Family Documents (Privately owned) QCM 111. (QCM 111 identifies the EE example on which we base a source type template.)
  3. If you feel confident, you can simply edit the source type here in the TMG Source Types list. We're going to use an alternative approach that allows more experimentation.
  4. Save the renamed source type. Then, open the Master Source List and Add the new source, our legal name change document.
  5. Select the newly created source type (yes, I know it might need some editing, but we'll take care of that later), and begin adding the desired information. What elements are missing? What problems arise?
  6. As you add information on the Source Definition Screen's General tab, flip back to the Output form tab and preview each output.
  • Our output isn't happy with our parenthetical name. Since we're unlikely to have a lot of creators requiring this, we may need to think of an alternate place in the citation for this information.
  • The [RECORD TYPE] should be preceded by a comma. We've actually used the document title, enclosed in quotation marks, for this citation. Maybe we should add the [TITLE] to the source type template? (I decided to include the [TITLE], and surrounded it with quotation marks. This way, we can use this template for more generic records, as well as those with exact titles.)
    • Add the new source element, word constant, or punctuation in the appropriate place in each output window. There should be no element group conflict with the [TITLE] source element, so it's safe to add. Note that (Overridden) now appears below the output window label.
    • Return to the General tab; enter the title of the document (Declaration of Legal Name Change); return to the Output form and preview the result.
  • Rather than [INCLUSIVE DATES], maybe we should just use a [DATE] element? (Your call. I changed my [INCLUSIVE DATES] to [DATE].)
    • To delete a source element from the source type, go to the Output form tab and delete the element and its associated punctuation from each output window.
    • Note that this does not delete any information already entered on the General tab. Update your General tab information, remembering to delete that information from the to-be-deleted source element field. When you save, close, and reopen your Master Source, you will see that the deleted element label no longer appears on the General tab.
  • We don't include a location element in this template. Add one?
  • In this source type, [DESCRIPTION] is the element used to describe the record's format and whether or not it was privately held. That works here. Since this template could be specific to privately owned material, the word "privately" could be added to the output form as a word constant.
  • The source type's [REPOSITORY], [REPOSITORY MEMO2], and [YEAR OWNED] elements work perfectly for this citation.
  • The [COMMENTS] field on the Supplemental tab is a perfect place for the provenance.
  • What do we do about our parenthetical a.k.a. information? (I rewrote it and added it at the end of the document description information, following the name of the notary.)
  • What do we do about that extra additional description? (I found that the element [RECORD INFO] was available, so I used it for all additional descriptive material that wasn't easily labeled.]
Tip: Click on one of the blank field name boxes. This brings up a list of available source elements. This is a great way to avoid choosing a source element from a group that is already included in the source type template - and get ideas for appropriate source elements.
  • As you add a source element with its information to the Source Definition's General tab, add the same source element in the appropriate place in the Output form tab. You are overriding the template, but that's okay.
  • When the citation reads as you want, it's time to copy each output form template (Full footnote, Short footnote, Bibliography) into the new custom Source Type (TVTMG Family Documents), thus completing the creation of that new Source Type. After all, you don't want to redo all this editing every time you choose to use this custom source type!
    • Copy each output form and paste it into Windows' Notepad application. Then, open the Source Types list, scroll to the "TVTMG Family Documents" source type, click Edit, and paste each new output form into its proper place.
  • Finally, edit the custom Source Type's reminder area so you will know what information fits in what element field. It's a good idea to include an example citation.
  • Click OK. You've created your new Custom Source Type.
Want to see screen shots? Continue to Part Three.

Recapping Our October Meeting - Part One

The October meeting merged our "Stump the Panel" segment with members' requests for new source type templates. In the course of discussing and problem-solving, some tips and techniques were reviewed. Perhaps the most important of these discussions centers on a problem described in this user review of the recently released 3d edition of Evidence Explained: how does the researcher determine the most appropriate citation model. Both the reviewer's post and Elizabeth Shown Mills' response should be read. Note ESM's important point: "If we don't understand the documents we are using - and the differences that exist between different types of records - then their citations will indeed confuse us." When choosing a TMG source type template, or creating a new one, the first priority is to understand the document.

Consider the first citation problem we considered: a legal name change document. On 28 June 1954, Jiminy Cricket changed his name to James T. Grasshopper via a "Declaration of Legal Name Change" notarized in Grassy Meadows County, California. This document was found in the family files of James Grasshopper's daughter, Joanna (Grasshopper) Bluebird. In addition to documenting the name change, this document also included Jiminy Cricket's (a.k.a. James T. Grasshopper) date and place of birth. What template should we use to cite this source?

Before choosing a source type template, we must first understand the document.

  1. This is not a microfilm copy or digital image. Therefore, we can ignore all those templates, and it's likely that we won't need to worry about any "layered" citations.
  2. This is a legal document; however, it is not the result of any court action and the law did not require that it be recorded in any court. Therefore, it's unlikely that it should be cited with any of those templates used to cite court and government records.
  3. Despite the legal purpose and form of this document, it was privately created by Jiminy Cricket/James T. Grasshopper. This document was kept among Mr. Grasshopper's papers, which eventually found their way to his daughter. If you think about the types of records that you might have found in a similar location, you will see that this document is more akin to a family letter, scrapbook, or photograph privately held by a family member, than to a record found in a government archive or a historical society library.
  • Now, examine EE for citation principles to these family papers. Mills doesn't have a chapter called "Family Records," but Chapter 3, "Archives & Artifacts," includes a section on "Private Holdings." Doesn't that fit our document? Take a look at the examples in this section and you will see one called "Legal document, unrecorded." That looks perfect!
  • Don't skip to the QuickCheck Model and copy it down. Read the basic issues for this class of records first, and then read the discussion on basic elements and basic format for these privately held records. Basic elements include: 1) type of item; 2) description; 3) last-known whereabouts; 4) statement of provenance.
  1. Let's create a description of the item. Descriptions usually included the creator/author/subject, the title or type of item, and the date and place of creation. It should also include any other information bits necessary to uniquely identify the item. Here is our initial description: James T. Grasshopper, "Declaration of Legal Name Change," 28 June 1954, notarized in Grassy Meadows Co., California. I would like to include the original name in this description, so perhaps I would change the creator to this: "James T. Grasshopper (originally known as Jiminy Cricket)." Do I want to include the name of the notary? Knowing this name, date, and place might allow a future researcher to find the notary's record book, if the notary kept a record book, and if the notary was required to deposit his or her record books with the state commissioning authority or the county court. Although this information probably won't be required in a publication citation, we could still include it in our personal working citation: "Grassy Meadows Co., California, Hildegarde A. Turtle, Notary." This is our complete description of this document: James T. Grasshopper (originally known as Jiminy Cricket), "Declaration of Legal Name Change," 28 June 1954, Grassy Meadows Co., California, Hildegarde A. Turtle, Notary.
  2. It's usually a good idea to identify the format of any record you saw before you tell everyone where you saw it. This is the original family copy of this document.
  3. Now, it's time to describe the last-known whereabouts: privately held by Joanna (Grasshopper) Bluebird, 2015. Since Joanna is happily still alive, we need to protect her exact address, although we can include the town and state: Shady Oak, California.
  4. What about the provenance? That statement can be very important to future researchers, as it helps to establish the credibility of the information a record contains. "Ms. Bluebird is the daughter of James T. Grasshopper, and inherited his papers upon his death in 2010."

Here's our preferred citation:

James T. Grasshopper (originally known as Jiminy Cricket), "Declaration of Legal Name Change," 28 June 1954, Grassy Meadows Co., California, Hildegarde A. Turtle, Notary; original family copy, privately held by Joanna (Grasshopper) Bluebird, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Shady Oak, California, 2015. Ms. Bluebird is the daughter of James T. Grasshopper, and inherited his papers upon his death in 2010.

Are you ready to enter this document in your Master Source List? Then continue to Part Two.