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Archiver > APG > 2002-09 > 1032187668

From: "Richard A. Pence" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Indexing Females
Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2002 10:47:48 -0400
References: <0D642F84.5946B055.000660FC@netscape.net>

Judy Newman <> wrote:

> It seems to me that the purpose of an index is to point the
> reader to information not to give information. Therefore, I
> find it simple and space saving to put all entries under the
> birth name and under the other names simply say see xxx.
> For example
> Jones, Mary pp 5,30,88,56.
> Smith, Mary see Jones, Mary

<some snipped>

> If the text does not make relationship clear the author has
> not done his job.

I have a couple of comments on the above thoughts.

First, we live in an age where a great deal of the work in indexing a
document - be it an article, a journal or a full-length genealogy spanning
many generations - has been eliminated. In my case, I am using a word
processor (Word Perfect) and have been indexing as I go. WP is quite
versatile in allowing you to set up an indexing style - but you run into
problems when you deviate from the style. Take the above example, wherein
the page numbers are given only after the birth name index entry and the
entries under other names are pointers to that entry. In my book I set up a
two-level index - Last name, first name (the page number is entered when the
index is compiled). This means If I were to do the cross referencing
described above, then I would have to manually create each of "See xxx"
entries. This is a chore that creates many chances for error and probably
makes it a bit more difficult for the reader (he or she has to make two
look-ups in the index when one would do).

So, the tools we choose to do the task can sometimes dictate how we do it.
Certainly, we want to choose the tool that gives us the greatest range of
options and the "best" output, but sometimes compromises need to be made.

Secondly, I differ slightly from the above-stated purpose of an index. That
is, instead of simply providing a pointer to the desired person, it should
make it as easy as possible for the reader to find the desired person. To
me, this means creating an actual index entry with a page number for every
possible name the person may have been known by - nicknames for everyone,
maiden names, all married names, etc. For example, someone's grandmother may
have been known to them as Zetta. Not always will that person know to look
under Luzetta to find the grandmother. Even more complicated (and this is
based on an actual case), the grandchildren think Grandma was named Sloan
because that was the name on the marriage record. But grandmas had been
married not once but twice before - the short of it is, you have to give all
the options because the reader might not know the correct combinations.
(BTW, Zetta is also indexed as Zella - because that is the way her name
appears in a census record and may be the only name known to the reader.)

Finally, with respect to the final though above - if the text doesn't make
the relationship clear, then the author hasn't done a good job - I couldn't
agree more.

This is where I disagree with an earlier suggestion that there should be an
index entry for every name known to the author even though that name does
not actually appear on the page cited. If you make such an index entry, then
I think you have to annotate the page in question to make it clear who the
reference is to.

An example. There is a multi-volume series of both Union and Confederate
Civil War records (the official name escapes me right now). Years ago (too
many) when I was getting started in genealogy, I picked up the index to this
set and started looking for the names of ancestors. My wife's great
grandfather was an officer in the Confederate Army and was named William
Bolivar Ferrell. I was thrilled to see an entry for "Ferrell, William B."
But when I got to the page, all I found was a reference to "Lt. Ferrell." I
am still puzzling over this (and the reference librarian I consulted had no
explanation either). How did the indexer (one among dozen who worked on this
project, I'm sure) know from the information on this page that "Lt. Ferrell"
was "William B. Ferrell" - and, for that matter, how can I, the reader? If
there was a reason why the indexer did what was done, then there should have
been at least a parenthetical explanation on the page.

Frustration, as Snoopy used to say, is not finding the indexed name on the
referenced page!

Richard A. Pence, Fairfax, VA
Pence Family History <http://www.pipeline.com/~richardpence/

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