Saturday, August 25, 2012

Questions About Wikipedia, Indexes and Obituaries

A little announcement before I get into today's questions. Michael John Neill, member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), has over 30 webinars on a nice variety of topics you might be interested in. These are not free but close to it. They might be a good resource for you. Most of them are $8.50 BUT Michael gave a coupon code of “halfoff” (don’t use the quote marks) which will give you a 50% discount. This code will be good until 11:59 PM Central Time on August 26th. He does have a free webinar so that you can try it out to see if this is the type of information that might be helpful to you. I watched the freebie and thought it was quite good. The link to the freebie is in the first paragraph under “Updated List of Genealogy Webinars.” When you click the link on it looks like you are going through Paypal but you really aren’t. Just submit the order and there you go.
Michael John Neill Genealogy Webinars
Ann asks:
Do you consider Wikipedia a good source?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. When you look at a Wikipedia page, you will see the sources for the information as listed by the contributors. You need to evaluate those sources. I do use Wikipedia for background information on towns/counties I am doing research in. I have found it most helpful. I will also use it for specific events. For example, I have an ancestor that was wounded in the Battle of the Crater. I did look this up on Wikipedia and I did use the Wikipedia page as a source for some background information that I wrote about the battle. If you look at the list of references on this page they look good. If I had needed more extensive information, I would have consulted the references listed but in this case I only wanted to write a one paragraph, general information summary of the battle.

Ann also asks:
You talk a lot about making sure you get the original documents but is there any time that you just settle for the index?

I use indexes as a placeholder source until I get the original. I also use an index if the original is not readily available or not easily obtained (unless the original is critical to my research). I will "settle" for the index if it is a collateral family member and not part of my direct line. I can always change my mind later and get a copy of the original document.

Gerry asks:
When you find an obituary do you just copy the page or do you transcribe it too?

I transcribe it too. I like to have the obituary in an easy to read format within my genealogy file on my computer even though I have a copy of the newspaper page saved to my hard drive.

Another question about obits from Gerry:
When you save an obituary, do you save the entire newspaper page or just crop out the obituary itself?

I always save the entire page. You can always zoom in on the obit if you need to look at it again. I like to see the obit (or whatever kind of article it happens to be, it doesn't have to be an obit) in the context of the page and it is nice to have the name of the newspaper, the day, the date and the page number at the top and then there is no question of what you are looking at. If you crop it, you are going to have to add in all of that information on some sort of label anyway. This is of course assuming you are talking about newspaper pages being downloaded from the internet or being copied off of microfilm. I have many newspaper clippings that were actually cut from newspapers. In those cases I scan then into Microsoft Word and then add an appropriate label.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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