Highway Signage and Your Genealogy

City Limits.  What city.   1000 North.  Where.  The Federal Interstate System  posted new signs all across the country this last year to make their signage correspond more closely to GPS directions.  And left off all the towns and cities from the signs.

If you are a local resident of some years, you may know where you are when you change from South to North.  But to the newly arrived, or the traveller just passing through, or the person without a GPS in the car, the signs do not help all that much.

And if the sign does not match the map, with village and hamlet designations that do not appear on topographical or local state road maps, you may be left to wander around a rural area looking for some familiar designation. And hoping for a live person also wandering around to ask for directions.  Always hoping they don’t say, “You can’t miss it!”

This woe-is-us commentary will set the stage for a short treatise on the importance  of clear and complete source descriptions.   Full bibliographical details including volume and page numbers.  And a note as to the format of the record–microfilm, digital version accessed directly from the catalog entry (with name of library where the collection is housed), printed book, handwritten manuscript…on and on and on.

The Family History Expos Annual Research Retreat at the Family History Library just ended.  This time, we had 30 researchers.  And they were sophisticated enough to keep us all running to find the records they needed.  After one day, I began to make notes about what to teach them next year and how to model the results I wanted them to achieve this year. 

Notes on how to read the catalog and what catalog details are needed to locate records on library shelves.  Notes on what details to record so they know what source they looked at, what information the record provided, and what details they need so they can find the record again.  Notes on where to record these details.

Some attendees had calendars and logs loaded on their laptops.  And they simply filled in the blanks with pertinent details.  Like the road signs on the freeway, if the blank is not provided–the entry details do not get recorded.  Forms are really timesavers.  You can fill in the fields without having to remember them off the cuff.  And you are oriented to forms in genealogy as few study fields are. 

My advice:  examine the forms you use, online and off.  Do they carry all the fields you need, including a place to record the library where you searched the record.  If not, find a place to put these details–all the details.  OR, select a new data program that will allow you to expand data fields.  Incomplete forms lead to incomplete information and dead-end ancestors.

The old genealogy family group sheets did not include a blank for the place of the marriage nor the place of burial for the children.  Whole generations have spun around seeking these very details to locate burials of elderly parents and new jurisdictions to research for dead-end lines!  Don’t let this assumption that “everyone knows” stop your pedigree success.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle   http://www.arleneeakle.com

PS  I am gearing up for the 25th Annual Christmas Tour sponsored by Leland and Patty Meitzler–the first full week of December.  There is still time to register and attend.  Just think, you can have access to me and my research skills for a whole week.  Live at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City UT and focused on your hard-to-find ancestors!  Sign-up now for a great week at http://www.christmastour.com.

PPS  I’m still on a borrowed computer.  I’ve decided to become a tech with my own laptop and  cell phone.  Being  subject to one digital provider is a real drag.  If you have sent emails without an answer, please hang in, there.  My 5 weeks of travel have taken a toll on punctuality.  I’ll see you al l get answers.

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