Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reflection's Balancing Act, or, Nope it Ain't Perfect

This post is a follow up to my Relatively Speaking post of Monday March 29, 2010.

I made the statement, "I do not transcribe EVERYTHING on a doc.” Yep, I could hear all the purists groaning and moaning and thinking, well Carol, you have just lowered yourself in my opinion. Well, for that I am sorry, but, read on, understand my reasoning, then judge me.

I TRY to balance my life, and my research. There are times for excesses, there are times to be downright lazy. Best is if you can come to some happy medium. Well, best for me, anyway.

So, when I say, I don’t transcribe every thing from a document, that is a balancing act. I do look at every single column or entry on each and every document, there are little hints hiding there folks! My job is to discover them.

I also realize that my time on this side is limited, my energies are limited by health, time and the sometimes need to sleep. So, I try to use that time wisely.

Balance this with knowing my audience. Say what?? My audience, as in who will really be looking at my data base and my sources and my transcriptions. My audience is, first, and mostly, MOI. My second audience are those that may eventually, now or in the future, access my data base via computer or hard cover published works.

I know me, I know that I have a shortness of patience to do full transcriptions of every document that I pull. There have been days when I pulled 30 or 40 documents from the internet, full imaged documents. How long do you really think it would take me to fully transcribe them?? Two days, three?? Knowing how well I type, and SLOW is the name of that game, it would probably take me a week to do a FULL transcription of 40 documents. OK, honestly, it would take a lot more than a week, cause life gets in there, dogs, laundry, meals, Man, family, etc. Do I really want to spend that much time transcribing, when I could be doing some more research?? Well, honestly, NOPE, not Moi!

So, I do a hard look at each document, each line, each little information square, grab out what information I don’t already have, enter said information, link the document to the person and move on to the next document. And, it still takes days for me to do those 40 documents. But, it does not take weeks. My rational is, I have that image readily handy should I have questions, should I feel the need to have another look at it, it is right there, click, view, satisfy my curiosity.

Another issue that is important for Moi, is, can I duplicate the find, as in, have I sourced the information sufficiently that I can go back and find it again. I judge the quality of my sourcing and transcribing by this factor alone. Do I have enough information, yes, or no?? And, yes, I look at work I have done, and go, what is THIS?? So, I go fix it. Sometimes my work does NOT stand the test of time. My to do lists are notorious for not standing the test of time. I’m working on it tho!

Next audience will be of course, family and other researchers that will use my research, now or in the future. Lets get down and dirty about this folks, purists and others, how many of these users will be serious researchers, and the answer is, NOT MANY. How many will be family members who are interested in their ancestors, the answer is, more. How many of those family members casually flipping through your data base will really be interested in totally perfect sourcing and totally transcribed documents. Not many.

I have a bit of experience with this as I have published a couple of family histories. I know my audience there. Nice people, lovely people, people dear to my heart, but, they honestly just don’t care that much about perfect sourcing. They are not librarians (although I do have one or two of those in my audience), they are hard workers, busy people, short on time, who do not care to be bogged down in the minutia details of perfect transcriptions of every single document I have found. Seriously, they really don’t care if I have followed the best advice of “Evidence” or not. They do appreciate knowing where I got my information, but it is not the end all of end all for them. They really want to know the story, as in “just the facts mam”. (Besides, those full transcriptions sure can add to the number of pages if a family history is to be printed out, and they add pages quickly!)  I believe, that the serious researchers that may use my data in the future will be able to re-create my documentation, I have that much faith in my sourcing.

So, I balance my transcriptions and sourcing, my apologies to the purists out there. I balance my time the best I can, research, input, transcribe, source, can I duplicate the research, is it more clear than mud to my readers?  It is NOT perfect, textbook perfect, nor is it source-less.  It is my way, a balance that works for me, and has worked for my family readers. 

Balance, not perfect. But, it works for me, and, as the Wild Ones frequently say, that is what counts!

* In comments on my original post, Greta suggested a great way to do transcriptions, thanks. And, also on the original post, GrannyPam suggested a free downloadable program for use in transcriptions, Anne loves it, and I know I am gonna love it too.

** "Reminder" graphic, from internet site, source information lost.  Scale from

***And, NO, I am not always successful at that balancing act.  Note I did say TRY!  LOL

Copyright 2010, CABS for Reflections From the Fence.



lindalee said...

I am not a transcriber anymore. It is just to easy to scan or cut and paste it from an internet source....or xerox it from a library. My typing is good, my handwriting...very poor. If I did transcribe a doc, I probably wouldn't even know what it said weeks later if I hand wrote Great graphic "undocumented genealogy is a myth"...I stole it from your blog!

Greta Koehl said...

Thanks for the mention, Carol. I'm more into "full transcriptions" for the individuals and families that I intend to be a main focus of my research, but not for other members of the family tree. If I did full transcriptions of all the documents I found, even if I could work on genealogy full time, I would never get it done. There is just too much stuff out there. Documents that follow a standard form, obituaries and other short items - OK, but that still leaves a good 80% of the material I use that I don't transcribe. And, oddly enough, I think if a researcher spends too much time transcribing, it is easier to "go into the zone" and overlook important details - I have done this when working on all those obituaries.

TennLady said...

I transcribe fully from obituaries and marriage and birth announcements. Or letters that I want a full transcription of. Not sure on those wills yet.

Karen said...

Direct line all documentation is transcribed & typed in. If its a sideline & an ancestor is named, the part naming the ancestor is transcribed. I too like your "mythology" statement. But then you already knew that!

Mel said...

Carol, as someone who is disable (arthritis in hands and shoulders) I have had to prioritize what things are important to my research and which are not. I do not transcribe unless I don't have a copy of a document. This probably puts me on the wrong side, but I feel that my time and abilities are best spent inputting my data and making sure every field added has a source.

I'm not sure I see the necessity to transcribe. I put a copy of every document behind the family group sheet in my family binders. I normally have a digitized or scanned copy which goes into a specific folder for that family on my computer (and those are backed up on my flash drive). If a document is confusing or long, I may take notes just to sort out my thoughts. The extra typing would be too much work and I wouldn't be able to find the energy to research or to analyze data. Not to mention that my hands would be killing me. So, I consider it assessing my physical abilities and deciding how to use them wisely but still enjoy genealogy research.