Reformating of text to improve clarity in support of the Tapestry Project

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This is one of a series of articles on Genealogical Methods, prepared in association with The Tapestry. See Index for a list of related articles.


Genealogists commonly make use of older works of genealogy in developing their understanding of a particular family line. Some of these documents are well researched and well written. Others leave something to be desired, both in terms of documentation of sources, and in terms of writing style. Documentation is, unfortunately, a particularly weak aspect of most genealogical family histories, and is particularly difficult to remedy. Writing style, on the otherhand, is usually less problematic, as the earlier authors who chose to commit their research to publication, seemed to have considerable facility with the written word. Nonetheless, when displaying their information on WeRelate, their writing is sometimes disadvantaged. In some cases the style of writing is such that it is difficult for the modern reader to follow the argument. Sometimes a short passage being quoted makes references to material stated elsewhere in portions of the document not quoted, leaving the meaning of the quoted passage unclear.

The Tapestry Project makes extensive use of earlier genealogical materials, particularly those that are out of copyright. Inclusion of these materials helps us incorporate the findings of earlier authors, either pointing out new lines of research, or in some cases, deadends. It is often useful to adjust some of the original text to make the original authors meaning clear to the modern context, and to facilitate presentation on WeRelate. This often takes one of several forms:

  1. Adjusting the paragraphing of the the original to compartmentalize different ideas
  2. Elision of extraneous materials (shown with "elipsis", e.g. "...")
  3. Slight modifications in capitalization (or perhaps correction of spelling/grammer
  4. Reorganization of paragraphs to improve narrative flow.

In all cases, the intent is to clarify what the original writer was saying, without changing their meaning or intent. "Changes" however, are changes, and when reading modified materials on WeRelate, the careful researcher will want to examine the original materials to see if any signficant change has been introduced beyond the effort tot improve clarity. In all cases, transcriptions that have been adjusted to support the Tapestry Project are carefully noted carefully noted as such. Usually, a link to the original electronic form will be provided (typically under "Sources") to facilitate this comparison.

It should also be noted that the items used in this way on the Tapestry Project are taken from commonly available electronic sources, such as Internet Archives, or Google Books, where the transcriptions are within the public domain. Transcribing sources make use of scanning programs to produce machine readable text. Sometimes those programs, especially when working with older texts, make errors in the transcription process. Dates, in particular, are commonly garbled. Where possible such errors are weeded out when the materials are copied into a WeRelate article. The careful reader should, however, verify any critical materials, including specially dates, by examing the original. Q 08:43, 22 July 2011 (EDT)