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, November 10, 2015

What on Earth is a Concordance File?

One of the newer resources for TMG users is Michael J. Hannah's online book, "Customizing TMG - Using It My Way." It's amazing how many different ways one can solve a problem with TMG! Michael and I have frequently chosen different methods, but I always learn something from his choices. Since Michael was one of the contributors to the TMG-L thread on indexing, I checked out his section, "TOC and Indexes." Surprisingly, that section did not mention roles. Instead, the index method used a concordance file.

What on earth is a concordance file? As Michael's entry states, "The concordance file is a Word document containing nothing but a single, two-column table and no text outside the table. The first column contains a word or a phrase to be searched for throughout the report and indexed, and the second contains the text for the entry." He also gives easy-to-follow instructions on using that concordance file to create an index in a Word document. I followed them, and quickly discovered a problem. I had a lot of different Samuel Wards in my short test narrative - and each mention of the name "Samuel Ward" resulted in an index entry for every one of those men! I needed to rethink my concordance file, the TMG report I used to create it, and ... I also decided to consult the Chicago Manual of Style and Robert Charles Anderson's The Great Migration index to learn a few indexing principles. After all, it's very difficult to create something when you don't know what it is you want to create.
  • I needed a TMG narrative report and a concordance file that uniquely identified each individual.
    • TMG allows the inclusion of each individual's ID number and/or reference field. My use of the reference field is not consistent, so I opted to include the ID number in my reports.
    • The ID number is enclosed in parentheses, so I did the same after every name in my memo field. A concordance file only marks the first appearance of the name in each paragraph, so I didn't worry about marking each individual's name more than once.
Tag entry screen showing ID numbers appended to names in the Memo field
  • With the unique identifier problem  solved, I now needed to determine what my index entries should look like.
    • Keeping ID numbers in my index would be confusing for readers, but a lot of unidentified Samuel Wards in the index won't be helpful either. I decided I wanted to include the life span; e.g., Samuel Ward (1781-1835).
    • What about indexing women's names? Under both maiden and married names? Under maiden names only? CMOS offered some options and TGM include example possibilities.
    • What about instances of a.k.a. names or alternate spellings in the text? Should I index those and use a "see" reference; e.g., "Howard, Sucha (see Hayward, Susannah) (1792-1871)? Or should these name variations appear in their own right in the index with no reference to any other name variation? (Note that the inclusion of quotation marks in the index entries causes problems.)
  • What about those many occurrences in a narrative in which only the given name appears? How will I work that into the concordance file?
You will probably choose options that differ from mine, but the important thing is to make those choices in advance. This is what I decided I wanted my concordance file to look like.
Concordance file for Samuel Ward narrative
  • The colon following the surname creates an index with levels. Level 1 is the surname; given names are indented and follow the surname entry.
  • Women are indexed under both maiden and married surnames.
    • If indexed under a married surname, the maiden surname, prefaced by "née", is enclosed in parentheses, a CMOS option.
    • If indexed under the maiden surname, married surnames appear, each enclosed in parentheses, in chronological order, a slight variation on TGM.
  • A name variation is indexed with a "see" reference to the person's birth name index entry or with variations separated by slashes; e.g., Lovina/Lovey.
  • The left-hand column includes all the TMG name variations for each person.
  • The left-hand column also includes an entry for a person's given name only. A married woman's given name appears multiple times because I wanted an index reference under each married surname and the maiden surname.
Now, how do I create this concordance file? That is the topic of the next post.

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