Citing a typescript copy of a court decree

Editor, I have a doozy for you.  Let me begin by saying that I am trying, without much success, to obtain copies of an original "Judgement and Decree in Partition" from 1888/89 Andrew County, Missouri.  Assuming that I cannot find the original, I will need to cite scanned images of a typescript copy of the decree that I received via email.  Here are the particulars:

  • The decree is in the case of Philip Burns who died intestate in Andrew County, Missouri in January 1886.  The date of the court case, which names over 200 people connected in some way to Mr. Burns, is 13 December 1888, and another date, presumably the final date listed on the outside of the case file, is 1 April 1889.
  • I was informed in a post on a Facebook genealogy page of the existence of a typescript copy of the decree which was made by the deceased authors of a family book published 30 years ago.  
  • I was informed via email by the author of the Facebook post that the copy was in the possession of the unidentified daughter of one of the authors of that family book.
  • In a series of subsequent emails with the author of the post, I received scans of the 18 pages of the typescript copy of the case.

So...  How in the world do I cite this typescript copy?  Here is my first attempt at crafting a citation, and I know that there are probably numerous problems with it.  So can you help me and others who may have a similar document to cite?

Andrew County, Missouri, probate case files, Philip Burns (1888), “Judgement and Decree in Partition,” 1 April 1889; repository unknown; scans of a typescript copy received by Greg Lovelace [my address], 15-16 September 2022 via email from [author of Facebook post with address and email for personal use]. The copy was apparently (according to a Facebook message, [date of message], from [author's name] on the "[name of the Facebook genealogy page]“ page) made by authors of The Lowman Story of Faith, Hope, Hard Work, and Dreams (published in 1992 by Gateway Press), reportedly supplied by the daughter (unidentified) of one of the authors.

Submitted byEEon Sat, 09/24/2022 - 09:43

Hello, Greg.

Interesting situation. Let’s start with the basics. If you are compelled to use, for evidence, a typescript made by a person with no legal authority over the record, then you are not using the probate case files. You are using a typescript. The reliability of what you are asserting—the information taken from the typescript—depends entirely upon the reliability of the person who made the typescript. You don’t know whether it’s accurate.  You don’t know whether it’s complete.

Chapter 8, Local & State Records: Courts & Governance, like all the record-focused chapters, begins with discussion of typical issues for that kind of record. EE8.6 tells us this:

Using Other Derivatives

Abstracts, database entries, indexes, transcripts, and translations—whether they are found as typescripts or published in print or digital form—are considered derivatives. You would cite these in the manner of other publications, typescripts, or manuscripts, depending upon the form the derivative takes.

Citations to those “typescripts or manuscripts” all follow one basic form: They always start with

  • Name of Author/Creator
  • Title of What We’re Using.

In that order.

EE has numerous examples of citing typescripts or typed manuscripts. The one that fits your situation closest is at 3.29:

Bettye Collier Smith, CGRS, transcriber, “Journal of Sarah Jane (Hickman) Brown, 1896–1902, Fernwood Station, Mississippi” (typescript, ca. 1990), p. 87; copy in possession of Anne S. Anderson, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Gulfport, Mississippi, 2015.

Converting this into your specific item would generate something like this:

John and Mary Whoever,  transcribers, “Judgement and Decree in Partition [Philip Burns probate case no. ____],” 1 April 1889 (typescript, ca. ____), p. ___; copy in possession of Greg Lovelace, [Your address, which you might supply privately but might not care to publish,] Whatever Town, State, 2022.

With regard to the title in quotation marks, I’m using what you used but I’ve added other essential identifying detail in editorial brackets. Without seeing your manuscript, I’m flying blind here. I have no idea whether the title you put in quotes represents the entire 18 pages or just one section thereof. I have no idea whether the transcribers used those exact words for a title at the head of p. 1, with no identification of the case itself (which is why I added that case ID). Often in situations such as this the transcriber does not put a title on the whole and it’s left to us to create a title as an identifier—in which case, we don’t put quotation marks around any of our descriptive words because we’re not actually quoting anything. (See 2.22 “Untitled, Unpublished Manuscript, Register, Etc.”)

Now: What about all that other detail you put into the draft?  Those details provide important background, but they are not part of the citation to the “Judgement and Decree.”  That Facebook post is a different source. The author of that Facebook post is not the transcriber of “Judgement and Decree.”  The title of the book created by John and Mary Whoever is yet another different source. 

Yes, you can include all this in your reference note. Two considerations here:

  • The author of the Facebook post supplied you with the copy. That’s a point worth noting. Normally, we put into the core citation the ID of the person who supplied that privately held material (See 3.28 "Citing 'Supplied By ..."). However, if that identification requires you to cite the Facebook post, then that’s too much for the core citation. Start a new sentence and cite that separately.
  • The fact that John and Mary Whoever also wrote Thus and Such is relevant to the credibility (or unreliability, if that might be) of the transcript you are citing. But that, again, is not part of your core citation.

In short: EE would put the details of the Facebook post and the details of the book publication in separate sentences. That would create a citation that has three sentences, each citing a different thing. In the case of the second and third items, you’d want to preface them with words that explain why they are relevant.

Submitted bygreglovelaceon Sat, 09/24/2022 - 13:36

EE, thanks so much.  I knew there were problems with my first attempt.  Your comment about flying blind is understandable.  I, too, am doing the same more or less.  I'm attaching the image of the first page of the typescript.  It shows what I believe is the title of the document:



There appears to be a some identification of the case (no case number, though) at the end of the final page (p18):

"State of Missouri

County of Andrews

Case of Charity Miller

April 1, 1889 12 o 'Clock

1889 J..C.Brooks"

As to the additional sentences you suggest adding, I'm not exactly sure how I would do that.  Should I preface each sentence with "Also,"?  Or should I just add explanatory sentences after the first one?

Thank you again for helping me out here.



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Greg, the wording on that first page is exactly what we would expect to see from a legal document of that type. In other words, the transcribers have not added a title. They just plunged right into the translation.

That leaves it up to us to create an identification for what John and Mary Whoever transcribed. That title needs to include the who, what, when, where that identifies what we're reading, in a summary form. The "what" would be the first five words on the page, which we would place in quotation marks because we would be quoting it exactly.  Beyond that, different researchers would likely craft the identification in different ways. One way might be this:

John and Mary Whoever,  transcribers, “Judgement and Decree in Partition," Case of Charity Miller et al,  Andrews County, Missouri, 1 April 1889  (typescript, ca. ____), p. ___; copy in possession of Greg Lovelace, [Your address, which you might supply privately but might not care to publish,] Whatever Town, State, 2022.

The citation still leaves much to be desired. The docket number of the case is suspicious absent. But it identifies enough details that readers should be able to locate the case for themselves.

As for how to add those sentences: just put a period after the core citation and start a new sentence to discuss whatever you need to discuss.

Frankly, EE would drop the Facebook discussion. When we cite a book in the library, we don't say "Well, I was reading this other book and it had a footnote that pointed me to this one, so here's my citation to the one that led me to this important one."

A sentence identifying the person who sent you the transcription and their relationship to the transcriber would be justified. A sentence identifying the transcribers and why they prepared it (prep for their book, etc.) might be useful to someone. A sentence explaining why you are using the transcription rather than the original would be expected.

Submitted bygreglovelaceon Sat, 09/24/2022 - 13:45

I'm attaching the final page, showing the identification I mentioned previously.  Charity Miller, named there, is the niece of the deceased Philip Burns and wife of the administrator of his estate.

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Submitted bygreglovelaceon Sun, 09/25/2022 - 11:24

EE, I decided against citing the Facebook post and instead added an email from the author of that post. Here is what I came up with:

Mildred Lowman Speagle and Ruby Lowman Young, transcribers, “Judgement and Decree in Partition [Philip Burns probate case, unnumbered],” 1 April 1889 (undated typescript), p. _; copy supplied by [SUPPLIER, SUPPLIER ADDRESS], 2022. Speagle and Young, deceased authors of a book on the Lowman family which includes information on Philip Burns, can be considered as knowledgeable on the family. Margaret Mary Louise Lowman Smith (author), Mildred Aileene Lowman Speagle, and Ruby Ella Lowman Young (editors), The Lowman story of faith, hope, hard work, and dreams (Baltimore, Maryland: Gateway Press, 1992). According to [SUPPLIER], the pages are in the possession of an unnamed daughter of one of the transcribers. [SUPPLIER, SUPPLIER ADDRESS], to Greg Lovelace, e-mail, 15 September 2022, “Burns and Lowman”; Burns files, Lovelace Genealogy E-mails; privately held by Lovelace, Charleston, South Carolina.

What do you think of this one?