TMG-L ArchivesArchiver > TMG > 2007-09 > 1189468574
From: "Elizabeth Shown Mills" <>
Subject: Re: [TMG] Local Sentences
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 18:57:10 -0500
>I am not big on local sentences. ... but after
this discussion, I am seeing more and more their value ... I think we tend
to forget that we can just type what we want into the sentence field and
forget about variables, role names, etc altogether.
>Elizabeth's discussion has opened me up to thinking that for my MAIN lines,
I may want to do something a little more creative with local sentences.
>So Elizabeth what I could do is create a tag for the 1850 census for a
person, and instead of using a sentence with variables, roles, etc. I would
use the Local sentence, and I would simply type into the
Sentence for that tag what I wanted to say. I could analyze the sources as
part of the tag sentence, or as part of the source in the footnote. I would
then pick out the tags I wanted for your report, and have TMG print them.
>I can't find the example you gave earlier. Could you repost it?
Teresa, I don't know what prior "example" you are referring to, although
last night I did reply to one of your posts about writing but it bounced
back. (I was too wordy. :)
Certainly, local sentences can help to create better narrative--less stilted
and less boring than stock phrases repeated over and again. DeAnna, in her
message of 11:48 last night, gave an example in which her 2nd and 3d
paragraph (but not the first) does something we don't see enough of in
genealogical accounts: Rather than a paragraph being just a litany of events
in chronological order, she actually uses topic sentences to set forth the
theme of that paragraph (a canon of good writing that we all learned in
school but tend to forget when we take up genealogy :).
Beyond that, two things more:
Analyzing a source isn't a problem within the framework of most good
software but that's just a small part of the "analysis" issue. There's also
the issue of analyzing the *evidence* (which is not the same as the
*source*). And *many* times we need to analyze a *whole body* of
evidence--especially indirect evidence. With tough ancestors, we accumulate
scads of tidbits from umpteen documents that have to be correlated and
analyzed in toto, to provide the reasoning why we say "Mary" is the daughter
of "John." (The old principle of "the whole is often greater than the sum
of the individual parts.")
Last night you wrote the following:
>[In] the 2004 discussion, you make the point that we
create an event with its sentence, and then another event, and then we
string them all together and call it a report. And "John isn't a living,
breathing human, whose life had meaning. He is just a stick figure
marching woodenly through a series of events until he plops over dead."
To this, you added:
>I don't think it is so much that a user using TMG CAN'T create such a
>narrative, as it is that users using TMG DON'T create such a narrative.
To which, Lee added "Hear, hear!!" :)
I'd say it is *both* a user problem and a software problem. When we read
good biographies, short or long, we don't find there a presentation of every
detail in a person's life, blow by blow, in strict *chronological* order.
Let's say that a writer has found a marriage for John Brown in 1825, three
documents relating to his religious and/or fraternal affiliations between
1825 and 1840; a dozen deeds and mortgages dating 1832-40, and two records
relating to his health in 1838 and 1839--after which his wife appears as a
head of household on the 1840 census. Timewise, those affiliation, marriage,
property, health, and census records all overlap.
Does that biographer then present the "facts" from all those records in
chronological order? No, the biographer will step back and consider what the
*whole body* of records tell us about the structure and fabric of his life.
S/he will group those records by *subject area*, not chronologically. S/he
will take the religious/fraternal documents and discuss that aspect of his
life--putting them into context with what is known about those organizations
in his society. She will group his entrepreneurial activities together and
discuss him as a struggling newlywed who managed to accumulate the capital
to buy a town lot on spec during the real-estate boom of the 1830s, which he
parlayed into several other properties before the Panic of 1837 bankrupted
families worldwide. Then, putting his 1838-39 mortgages into the context of
the entries from the doctor's daybook that said he was treated for phthisis
in 1838 and 1839, s/he would be able to show the effects of financial stress
and his consumption upon the wife and the seven young children who survived
Martin wrote today of the importance of presenting our forebears as human
beings who experienced troubles and joys, just as we do. When we write our
family accounts, we have a choice of creating those stick figures marching
stiffly through time, in chronological order, to the cadence of the canned
sentences--or we can present ancestors as the human beings they really were.
But, to do that in gen software, we need to create tags and sentences for
events that can be maintained at least two ways: (a) in conventional
chronological order for family group sheets, etc.; and (2) but rearranged by
*subject* (or other criteria) to develop an interesting and meaningful
Here's hoping I haven't exceeded my space allotment again :).
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
Advanced Research Methodology & Evidence Analysis
Samford University Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research
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