Vital Records online database from WPA index

 
 
 
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eevande
eevande's picture
Vital Records online database from WPA index

Both Ancestry and FamilySearch provide the same database (with FamilySearch’s data coming from Ancestry’s data).

From FamilySearch (virtually identical at Ancestry):

  • Name: George Judge
  • Event Type: Death
  • Event Date: 20 Dec 1895
  • Event Place: Mechanicsmurg, Indiana
  • Age: 74
  • Birth Year (Estimated): 1821
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: W
  • Affiliate Repository Place: County Health Office, New Castle
  • Source Reference: The source of this record is the book CSS-2 on page 113 within the series produced by the Indiana Works Progress Administration.

For our reference, FamilySearch has built a sample source note as follows:

  1. "Indiana Death Index, 1882-1920," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VZ7X-WRV : 3 December 2014), George Judge, 20 Dec 1895; from "Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920," database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2003); citing Mechanicsmurg, Indiana, County Health Office, New Castle, The source of this record is the book CSS-2 on page 113 within the series produced by the Indiana Works Progress Administration., Indiana Words Projects Administration.

 

There are several things wrong with this note, but it is not my purpose of this thread to analyze all of its details. Not to mention that this is a derivitive source times, what, four?

I am interested specifically in what the record has as its source in the “Source Reference” field.

“The source of this record is the book CSS-2 on page 113 within the series produced by the Indiana Works Progress Administration.”

If I were to drive down to New Castle, go to the Health Department, ask for Death Book CSS-2, and check page 113, should I expect to find death information for George Judge? If I take this source note at face value, then book CSS-2 was created by the WPA and not by the Health Department.

??

EE
EE's picture

evande, when we feel we have to "take this source note at face value," then the safe thing to do is to put quotation marks around the exact wording. In trying to guess what someone else’s citation means, we could introduce new errors. The even better thing to do is to (a) use those quote marks as a place-holder, then (b) run down the source and clarify the matter.

One source of the confusion in the FHL record is the run-on sentence it created after the word "citing," by introducing a full sentence—with first word capitalized after a comma splice:

citing Mechanicsmurg, Indiana, County Health Office, New Castle, The source of this record is the book CSS-2 ...

Grammatically (which is another word for "to avoid confusion"), to add a full sentence after the location of the office that contains the record, we would need to put a semi-colon or a period, then start the full sentence. The problem with that approach in this example is two-fold:

  • In a complex citation, semi-colons separate "layers" but (to interpret the data as it’s given) "Mechanicsburg, Indiana, County Health Office, New Castle ... book CSS-2" would seem to be all part of the same layer. So, FHL apparently decided a semi-colon to create a new layer would be wrong.
  • In a reference note, when details for one source are followed by a period and a new sentence begins, that period tells our reader: "End of the details for the prior source; now I'm about to start a new source."  That, obviously, was not FHL's intent.

EE’s approach, in this case, would be to track backward to FamilySearch’s source and see exactly how Ancestry describes its database. There, on the database screen that presents the extracted detail for George, we find this:

Source location:

   County Health Office, New Castle

Source notes:

The source of this record is the book CSS-2 on page 113 within the series produced by the Indiana Works Progress Administration.

Now we see that FamilySearch’s citation quotes exactly the wording of its own source—without quotation marks to tell us that it is quoting someone else's words.

At Ancestry, below this frame in which George’s data is extracted, we find more details about that “series produced by the Indiana Works Progress Administration":

Source Information

Ancestry.com. Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.

Original data: Various Indiana county death records indexed by the Indiana Works Projects Administration. Indiana: circa 1938-1941.

So, how might all this confusion be clarified? We have at least three choices.

(1)   

The simplest  approach would be to go back to Ancestry’s database to clarify things and then cite Ancestry. In doing that, we can create a clear (and much shorter) citation of our own.

"Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920," database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2003), George Judge, 20 December 1895, Henry County; citing Book CSS-2, p. 113, of “Indiana county death records indexed by the Indiana Works Projects Administration… circa 1938–1941,” housed at “County Health Office, New Castle.”

(2)  

If we did not have access to the Ancestry database from which FamilySearch took the data, then we could use the FamilySearch citation but clarify the confusion a bit by clearly indicating that we are quoting their words exactly (and taking them "at face value," as you put it):

"Indiana Death Index, 1882-1920," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VZ7X-WRV : 3 December 2014), George Judge, 20 Dec 1895, Henry County; FamilySearch provides this source-of-its-source data: "from 'Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920,' database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2003); citing Mechanicsburg, Indiana, County Health Office, New Castle, The source of this record is the book CSS-2 on page 113 within the series produced by the Indiana Works Progress Administration., Indiana Words Projects Administration."

(3)  

Order the actual record from the county office to get all the detail that is likely missing from the WPA index—then cite that original record.

The Editor

eevande
eevande's picture

Thank you for the detailed explanation. You are always able to put into words what I am (or am not) thinking.

I will start with the Ancestry citation and then, because I am about 30 minutes from New Castle, collect a list of vitals records to look up and go view them myself in the near future. I am very interested in whether CSS-2 is a county death record book or a WPA index book. According to the Ancestry database note, it should be a WPA index book, but I am skeptical. I wasn't sure whether to put my thread in "Record Usage and Interpretation" or "Citation Issues." I decided the former was due for a new topic.

In the source notes field for the George Judge record, WPA is spelled out as “Works Progress Administration,” whereas the original data in the source information says “Works Projects Administration.” EE 11.57 and 13.49 tell me that the terms were used interchangeably. I feel proud for looking that up and finding out why they were different before I asked you. I highly recommend having an electronic version of EE as well as a hardcopy. But if I had to choose one over the other, I would pick the electronic version.

Does EE come in an electronic format besides Kindle? I could not find one.

Thanks again.

EE
EE's picture

 Yes, indeed, the WPA went by two names. Glad to hear that EE 11.57 and 13.49-13.51 helped you. Actually, it known by three. It's "street name" in the public at large was "We Piddle Around."

With some online sleuthing, you may very well be able to find a bibliography of the projects they did in Indiana, to answer your questions above about the series that Ancestry references.

As for EE being available in an electronic format other than Kindle: no. We tried others and users were not happy with them.  Kindle, fortunately, has a free viewer for just about every type of device.

The Editor