TMG-L ArchivesArchiver > TMG > 2011-01 > 1294954801
From: Rick Van Dusen <>
Subject: Re: [TMG] "Conclusions"
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2011 13:40:01 -0800
References: <AANLkTim0Pq3bRJEPmjPZ4sGVauCgJqivkWOr0L9mt6mM@mail.gmail.com> <2011112111713.665204@Terry><002601cbb289$c8289e80$5879db80$@net>
While reading through this thread, I've had a couple of thoughts/concerns:
1. IMHO, Pierce, in starting this thread (restarting, since this was a
discussion about a week ago that I thought had pretty much concluded),
goes to the opposite extreme of where I was on "conclusion", and I
disagree with him.
a) I find it very hard to see reading as interpretation or conclusion.
Those "wiggly lines" are standard, commonly-understood/interpreted
letters and words, and therefore say what they say (when they're
legible). IMO, when any two or three or ten people looking at it would
read it the same way, I decline to call that reading a "conclusion".
b) I'd rather not stretch my understanding of "conclusion" to include
recognizing ditto marks to be a standard and commonly understood
expression of "same entry as above", or, "Smith" if the last written-out
entry is "Smith".
c) To me, "Jas" and "Jno", etc., nearly fit the same category as b)
above. (And I will not record the name as "Jas" or "Jno", nor submit a
correction to an index which makes such to be "James" or "John", any
more than I'd transcribe an entry as "John " ".)
d) Obviously, if I say to a person, "Buenos dias," and s/he understands
it as, "Good morning," that is by definition interpretation.
Technically, I'll yield that the person "concludes" that my meaning is,
"Good morning."* But this is, IMHO, in a whole different category of
"conclusion" from "concluding" that in a listing on the 1850 Census two
persons of the same last name, in the same household, and within a few
years in age are/must be siblings.
2. Records/documents often have errors. Some are accidental, some are
official.** Erroneous or not, the record says what the record says. IMO,
we must record what the record says, and that's a very different thing
from believing it to be accurate. (I believe this is a point that
confuses many people.) We are recording what the record said, not what
we think it should have said (although we can put that in the Memo or CD
if we wish, not that I really see the point to that, except where the
particular record is part of a controversy, e.g. where a Census
enumeration is used for a name tag).
3. The record is what it is. Therefore, the transcription, to be
legitimate, must retain the content of the record, no matter how wrong
the record is. (John David Van Deusen is enumerated in the 1865 NY
Census as John David DeForest. I have no explanation for that, no proof
of his father's identity, and no other reference anywhere to the
DeForest name. I can't explain it, nor will I try to "correct" the
record. My report will show exactly one reference to DeForest and
several references to Van Deusen; the reader can make of that what s/he
4. I don't "know" anything; I only have a collection of records and what
they state. Only in degrees would I believe my cousin's testimony more
(or less) than a document.*** And I'd record both the document and the
cousin's testimony as sources to support my tag entry. Again, IMHO,
"knowing for a fact" is "above my pay grade". I'm not going to take any
blame for wrong information; "It's not my fault it's wrong; that's what
it says in xxxx."
5. This is what I was emphasizing when I said (erroneously) that I don't
see a place in scholarship for "conclusions". If it's "conclusion" to
read "Jno" as "John", I'll admit to concluding. But again, that's a
completely different thing than "knowing" John David was not DeForest.
(Just for the record, there's evidence to support this being the same
person as in other references.)
6. Indexes can be a blessing or a curse. Where we know an index is wrong
(mis-transcribed), we should contribute to a correction if possible.
However, the fact is that many indexes are wrong because they correctly
transcribe an error. We can't do anything about that except as in 7, below.
7. I'll try to keep my time on the soapbox brief: Document everything.
Pierce said in another thread:
I believe source citations serve two purposes:
- help the reader find the same document you used to come to the
conclusions you report
- provide evidence that you know (or maybe don't really know) what you
are talking about (i.e. a surety value).
I largely agree with the first point.**** Just as the measure of a
filing/storage system is retrieval, so is the measure of source citation
the reader's ability to go to the source. But this is not to show the
reader that you know what you're talking about; it's to show the reader
that it's not you talking at all (see Item 4 above); it's relieving the
reader from having to trust you.
With the classic Van Deusen book from 1912, the reader must presume from
the author's preface statement that he relied a lot on church records
and from his mention of where the events took place what his sources
were. My grandmother's work of 1135 surnames and 5000-some people tells
scarcely one word of where she got the information. So I have two
researchers expecting me to take by faith what they recorded. Sorry. I
don't even take by faith the accuracy of primary sources. (See Item 4,
Off of soapbox now.
* Technically, even if I say, "Good morning," the English-speaking
hearer must "conclude" my meaning, however obvious.
**The 1850 Census for Albany Co., NY, spells as "Van Dusen" all entries
in the county, including the obviously same people as recorded in 1840
as "Van Deusen" by my cousin the enumerator.
*** We've all had or heard of instances where a "fact" "known"
throughout the family turns out to be "not supported by" primary documents.
**** I possibly disagree with the part about how you've "come to the
conclusions you report". I'd rather say, the source citation shows that
you're reporting something you found, and where you've found it.
Teresa Elliott wrote: