Saturday, July 7, 2018

AmericaGen Chapter 6: Reference Works

AmericaGen Study Group
Chapter 6 Homework 
Marceline Beem

Reference: Greenwood, Val D. “Reference Works.” In The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th ed., 115-142. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2017.

When I enrolled in the ProGen course, my main goal was to improve my genealogical writing skills. I already had good writing skills that got me through my Master’s in Public Health, but I wanted to learn to write about my family history in a more engaging style – an entirely different mindset from medical-related research and program planning! My favorite assignments in ProGen were the two that focused on writing polished pieces -  proof arguments and family sketches – and I feel like my writing skills improved greatly with those assignments.  Because of my personal focus on writing, the reference books I have most recently purchased relate to that skill more than methodology or other aspects of genealogy research.  Here are the books that I have at my desk, within easy reach because I use them so often, listed alphabetically by author's last name:

Casagrande, June. The Best Punctuation Book, Period. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2014.

Is the Oxford comma necessary, or can be it omitted? The answer is - it depends! No, seriously, it does! My own personal preference is to use the Oxford comma, but when I had to produce AP-style work at my transcription job, I was not allowed to use it. This little book is jam-packed with grammar and punctuation guidance for the four major styles of writing: book (including nonfiction), news, scientific, and academic. The book style is based on the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), so it is what I refer to most often for genealogy purposes, but it's nice to have the other styles since I often need them in my professional life.

Jones, Thomas W. Mastering Genealogical Documentation. Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2017.

This workbook demystifies documentation by stepping the reader through how to answer the who, what, when, and whereis questions when crafting citations for genealogy research. Although the book gives plenty of examples, Dr. Jones encourages the reader to craft his own citation style that is concise and contains all of the necessary elements in a logical order, rather than dogmatically adhering to any one style guide.

Mills, Elizabeth. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. 3rd ed. rev. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2017.

This book is the best reference for how to cite just about any type of document or object used in genealogy research. I used to grab this book every time I needed a new citation, but I'm trying to use what I've learned from Dr. Jones' book more often.  Sometimes I'm still stumped, though, and grab this book when I just can't figure out how to document what I'm working with. Even if you never use the reference models, though, every genealogist needs to read the first chapter on evidence analysis. I'm constantly referring to the evidence analysis process map, in both the research and writing phases of my workflow.

Rose, Christine. Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case. 4th ed. rev. San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2014.

This is a short book, but it is jam-packed with information on writing a solid answer to a research question. For our study group on this book, I created a chart that summarizes when and how to write a proof statement, proof summary, or proof argument. Since I can't keep the difference between the statement and summary straight in my pea-brain, I refer to it often when I'm writing conclusions.

In addition to the four books mentioned above, I have the following QuickSheets by Elizabeth Shown Mills at my desk. If I'm not sure how to cite something, I'll look at these before dragging out the heavier Evidence Explained:

  • Citing Ancestry Databases and Images, 2nd Edition
  • Citing Online Historical Resources Evidence Style
One other reference work which I use quite a bit, especially if I have a quick question about CMOS, is Purdue's Online Writing Lab, or OWL. It summarizes and provides examples for citations of books, journals, newspapers, and other materials that are used in academic writing, but that we also use in genealogy research. The website is free and open to anyone, not just Purdue students. This is a great resource if you don't have the funds or space for the hard copies of Evidence Explained or CMOS, or even if you do have them but are traveling and don't want to carry those tomes with you!

Of course, there are many other reference books and QuickSheets on my shelves in a wide range of topics from DNA to methodology to how to use specific software, but these four books are what I have found the most useful for me at this point of my journey.  As I get further back into time in my research, I plan to purchase Kip Sperry’s Reading Early American Handwriting, which I am sure will also wind up at my desk, but I’m not sure which book will get moved to the bookcase when I do buy it. I can almost guarantee that it won’t be one of these books, though!

No comments:

Post a Comment