I was going over the research reports that I "auto-generate" from my genealogical program and realized that I may not have been including my translations in the correct section of the report.
For reference; I looked at, "Cookseys in Tattnall County, Georgia, Loose Papers. (2008)", https://www.historicpathways.com/download/2008-15Dec-CookTattnallLoosePapers.pdf
It appears that the main section under an entry consists of objective statements about the content of the item viewed, which might include quotations and statements of fact. The "Comments", as the name implies, tend to be subjective statements by the report writer. I can see that transcriptions belong in the main section, as they are clearly objective. Being somewhat subjective; should the accompanying translation be kept with the transcription or should they really be part of the "Comments" portion?
Hello, History-Hunter. First…
Hello, History-Hunter. First, we need to clarify a point that is basic to everything else we'll discuss. Because you are a genealogist, I’ll use definitions as they apply in genealogy.
The genealogical work product that is labeled “research report” is not a report generated by genealogical software. Those relational databases do create “reports” but they have their own more-specific labels according to type.
QuickLesson 20 “Research Reports for Research Success” (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-20-research-reports-research-success) defines in detail the work product called “research report” within the genealogical field. To summarize briefly, these are reports of one specific block of research, and they are expected to meet certain criteria for
No genealogical software is designed to produce this kind of report. Using genealogical software, we accumulate data over a period of time, data gathered from here and there, as time permits. The software then takes whatever bits of information we have fed into it across time and then rearranges parts of it into whatever type of report we choose at the moment—typically, a narrative genealogy, a pedigree or relationship chart, an individual summary, a list of this-or-that, etc. The result for our software's "narrative report" will mix together “facts” we gleaned from documents with the interpretations of the compiler and the bridge-statements constructed by either the compiler or the software—although the arrangement will, to some extent, depend upon where we enter pieces of data into our software.
Aside from the differences in scope and content, a research report differs from a software-generated report in yet another way that speaks directly to your question: format. Because genealogical research reports are prepared in word-processing software, we have the ability to organize and format our report as we see fit. Genealogical researchers do vary the format and organization according to the type of research and scope of the project.
After reading one of my own research reports at HistoricPathways.com, you observe:
“It appears that the main section under an entry consists of objective statements about the content of the item viewed, which might include quotations and statements of fact. The ‘Comments,’ as the name implies, tend to be subjective statements by the report writer. I can see that transcriptions belong in the main section, as they are clearly objective. Being somewhat subjective; should the accompanying translation be kept with the transcription or should they really be parts of the ‘Comments’ portion?”
The report you’ve consulted is an extremely basic one whose objective is to extract relevant entries from one publication (Sabina J. Murray’s Tattnall County, Georgia, Loose Papers) that creates abstracts from one county-level record set. Consequently, the main level of the report transcribes relevant entries from Murray, item by item. For particular items, I add (indented) analytical comments that represent my source analysis or information analysis. I point out problems with the transcriber’s notes, contradictions between records, insight gleaned from a record, etc.
Specific guidelines for all the above are covered in Genealogical Standards, 2d ed. (Nashville: Ancestry Imprint, Turner Publishing, 2019), 15–23, “Collecting Data,” Standards 19–36. Particularly relevant here is Standard 26:
“Distinction between content and comments. Genealogists’ notes clearly distinguish abstracted, quoted, and transcribed source content from their own comments, descriptions, interpretations, paraphrases, and summaries of that content.”
When, for this report—a report whose sole purpose was data collection, not problem analysis or resolution—I put my transcriptions of Murray’s abstracts at Level 1 and then indented to add my own comments (each introduced by the word “Comments”). In this manner, I “clearly distinguish abstracted, quoted, and transcribed source content from [my] own comments, descriptions, interpretations, paraphrase summaries of that content.”
For other types of research reports the structure might be reversed. As a contrast, you might compare that Cooksey report to the Anderson report created by another CG, FASG and posted at https://www.findingsouthernancestors.com/_files/ugd/eea7e1_50141add9a8145ac891b34e10472f1cc.pdf. There, the structural scheme is reversed. The genealogist has been requested to analyze a body of records already gathered in hope that her analysis might dissolve a brick wall problem. The logical organization in that case is for the main level to present the report-writer’s analysis, while quotations and document images are indented to maintain that ‘clear distinction’ between (a) the researcher-writer’s “comments, descriptions, interpretations,” and (b) the content that is being analyzed.
Most of the reports that I have posted at HistoricalPathways.com/researchreports.html do focus on data collection—as with the Cooksey example—although typically the data is being extracted from original county records. Several reports do reverse the emphasis, with the analytical narrative in Level One and the abstracts, quotations, etc., indented in Level Two. For example:
Whichever arrangement you choose, the one thing that matters is this: A research report should ”clearly distinguish abstracted, quoted, and transcribed source content from [your] own comments, descriptions, interpretations, paraphrases, and summaries of that content.” Indeed, any work-product by any historical researcher should do that.
You might also find the following helpful:
Nancy A. Peters, "Research Reports," Elizabeth Shown Mills, ed., Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2019), 415–50.
While the book is titled Professional only part of the book deals with the practice of the profession. Most of the chapters teach the practices that create quality research and writing by serious family researchers such as yourself.
Dear Editor; I appreciate…
I appreciate your explanation. Thank you.
The focus issue for me was very simple...
When a genealogist transcribes a foreign-language document and then translates it, is the transcription treated as being a comment by the genealogist?
H-H, you would not be…
H-H, you would not be faulted with either choice. You might think, "Well, the translation is my 'interpretation' of what the original says;" but the counter to that is that, with transcribed manuscript material, the transcription itself is our 'interpretation' of what the penmanship says.