Sourcing a human transcription of a vital certificate when the certificate itself cannot be viewed online?

Cook County, Illinois vital certificates are a decent example of what I'm inquiring about.  On a standard database with images for genealogical research, the images of these certificates are are not made available to the researcher.  However, human transcriptions of them are available on these websites (websites like FamilySearch, Ancestry etc.).

Seeking pointers on how to build a full reference note for these types of transcriptions.  My only copy of EE is 3rd edition revised.  Thanks so much in advance!

Submitted byEEon Tue, 08/31/2021 - 19:34

Ryan have you seen QuickLesson 19: Layered Citations Work Like Layered Clothing?   The section "Database entry describing files in a collection, created and offered by an online provider" seems to cover what you are generically describing.

This same basic format appears in the QuickStart Guide on the gray pages tucked into the front your edition of EE.

Incidentally, the details provided in a database would not be called a "transcription." Check EE's glossary for a definition of "transcription." At best, what most databases provide are extracted tidbits.

Submitted byRyanNon Wed, 09/01/2021 - 12:04

Elizabeth, thank you again!

I am 100% in agreement on the necessity of adding a note under certain circumstances, as you describe in your article:

  • a layer to create our own description of the source or an analysis of its reliability

You probably already know this; the staff at FamilySearch refer to the process of human-copied fields from within historical records that are specific to individuals as "deep indexing."  In a nutshell: volunteers, staff and/or contractors type on a keyboard in an effort to replicate, in verbatim, information in certain fields that appear on the original document.  Although the persons engaged in this "deep indexing" process are indeed granted digital images of the original documents (usually, in the form of scanned microfilm images), the rest of us, are not.  The subscriber therefore ends up with a human-created replicant, rather than online access to a scan of the document we wish to cite---but cannot see. 

But all that aside, the bottom line, is this: the keyboard-created record described above, that emerges from this "deep indexing" process, is a record prone to human error---and because of that---this type of record absolutely requires a note from the author of the citation.  (I will noodle how I will word that.)

Thanks again!

Submitted byEEon Thu, 09/02/2021 - 09:44

Yes, the "deep indexing" is helpful.  But indexing or extracting and reformatting result in much loss of context and juxtapositions, as well as omitted details. Reliable research is definitely as much about context and supporting details as it is about "a name."