What to Copy

I was trying to help Mary (not her real name) with her genealogy.  She had brought a folder full of documents to the library.  As we went through them, a key one was a photocopy from a compiled genealogy.  But neither of us can figure out what the source actually is.  We just know it is a page 79 from a book with a title that ends in, “and His Descendants in America.”  (Presumably the facing page 78, which was not copied, had the beginning of the title.)

Have you ever run into something like this?   And let’s be honest, haven’t you on occasion done this to yourself?  The document you can no longer place is one you copied years earlier?

I’d like to suggest some good practices for what to copy when you makes copies from a book.  With digital copies for free and paper copies still only a dime or a quarter, copy the following and you’ll be thanking yourself later:

  1. The title page, giving the full title and author of the book
  2. The copyright page, usually the back of the title page, giving the publisher and publication date.  It can also indicate whether the book is a reprint of material previously published.
  3. The pages covering your subject, with context.   So, if the first mention of your subject is on a page 79 that starts: “vi. Frank Hubner, b. Dallas, Texas 24 Nov. 1886…” you very likely want to start your copying on the page before, so you get the rest of his birth family, e.g., the parents and the information on children i…v.  Copy enough so his place in the genealogy is clear.
  4. Any brief introduction that explains the scope of the work and the depth of the research, e.g., places and time periods covered, archives consulted, etc.
  5. Any table of abbreviations used in the book.
  6. The index pages pertaining to your surnames of interest.
  7. The bibliography

I’d say that items 1-3 are “must copy.”  1-2 give the information you’ll need for properly citing the book in your research.  If you find your target person, then 3 follows naturally.  But even if you do not find your target person in the book, I’d still recommend copying 1-2 above, so you know what you’ve already searched and don’t waste time accidentally repeating that effort.

Items 4-7 are “copy if you possibly can.”  Especially if the library is out of your area and revisiting will be inconvenient, you’ll be better off to copy all the above items.

When I make copies for my own research of that of clients, I try to gather the complete set of the above items.  Even if a search comes back negative, and a book does not contain the person of interest, I’ll copy 1, 2 and 6, showing the title and copyright page, as well as the index entry where we expected to find the person, but did not.

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