Basic vital record question

 
 
 
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jdchess78
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Basic vital record question

I have a question regarding a citation for a locally created birth and/or death certificate that is referenced by volume and page number at a local office. The larger collections are series of volumes titled simply: "Birth Certificates," and "Death Certificates." So for a birth certificate for John Doe that is in volume 1, page 2, I have...

Source List Entry

North Carolina. Randolph County. Birth Certificates. Register of Deeds Office, Asheboro.

Reference Note

Randolph County, North Carolina, birth certificate, volume 1: 2, John Doe, Register of Deeds Office, Asheboro.

 

My question is, when referenced by a volume and page number (and not a cert number), should the reference note have a reference to the collection title from the source list entry ("Birth Certificates"), or is this redundant? It feels odd referencing the volume and page number without the collection title, but with it seems very redundant. I suppose one or the other (collection title or type of certificate) is implied and understood, but I'm not sure of the best method. Is the above correct, or should it be...

Reference Note

Randolph County, North Carolina, Birth Certificates, volume 1: 2, John Doe, Register of Deeds Office, Asheboro.

Or something different?

 

 

I noticed that in the examples in EE of death certificates referenced by cert number, there is no reference to the collection title in the reference note. For example (from page 458)...

Bibb County, Alabama, death certificate no. 1908-28, Vernice Bledsow; Probate Judge's Office, Centerville.

 

I couldn't find any examples of birth, death, and marriage certificates referenced by volume and page number and I would like input and advice on how best to cite those for clarity.

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

Also, if there is both a volume and page AND a certificate number, is using one preferable to the other? Should both be used, or is that overkill?

EE
EE's picture

jdchess78, your second reference note is correct (almost). The first, which you say you model after EE’s Bibb County, Alabama, example, is off-target. To insure that all our readers understand the differences, I’ll do a bit of grounding here.

The Bibb County example appears in EE at 9.33 “County-level Certificates.” All four examples in that section are to certificates. That term typically is used for individual pieces of paper. That individual piece of paper may be a new creation issued to or for a specific person. When certificates are maintained in an office, the individual pieces of paper are typically housed in a file or collection, where they may be arranged by certificate number, date, or name.

After preprinted registers came into vogue in the late 1800s, some areas bought registers in which each page was designed to look like a certificate and sometimes carried that word “Certificate” at the top. However, bound registers are cited in the basic format a book: Author/Creator, TITLE, page.

Your description of your record implies that you are using a bound register. Under EE 9.30, the “Background” section for EE’s Vital Registrations section, 

  • you’ll note the bulleted list of “key issues to consider, when citing U.S. vital records,” wherein the first bullet is this: "Is your resource a register or a certificate?"
  • After that list of key issues, the discussion states: "The elements you include in the citation can vary according to the nature of the record and your own need. Fundamental rules are these: [bullet one] If the document is locatable by book and page number, as with the Kansas City record at 9.32 below …”  That Kansas City example provides this model:

First Reference Note

  1.  Kansas City, Kansas, Record of Births, Book A: 121, Arthur Millsap, 1902; City Clerk’s Office, Kansas City.

Your second Reference Note draft is the one that follows the form for bound registers. We might offer two tweaks:

  • Presumably “Birth Certificates” is the printed title on the register that is numbered “1.”  Presumably that is all that is printed on the register’s spine. If so, given that the register title does not carry a year or time frame (as in the Kansas City example), you might want to add the year after the name of the person. When we identify our sources, we need to ground them in some time frame. Citations, like all kinds of good reporting, answer the questions: who, what, when, and where. (They also need to answer the question why—as in, why should I believe this in the firrst place?)
  • Your division between elements of the citation would be clearer if, after identifying the register and the specific page, you closed out the description of the book with a semicolon before starting the layer in which you identify where the book is housed.

You also ask whether, when citing a volume:page and the page has individually numbered certificates, we need to include the certificate number. In most situations, that's not essential to relocating the record. It may assist with our contextual analysis of evidence if, for example, it is relevant to consider that someone's birth was the second birth of the year or the 537th.

In some cases, the data entered into a register comes from an original loose certificate that is also maintained by the agency in a file arranged by certificate number. If that is the case, then including the certificate number along with the volume:page would help in the location of the original.

The bottom line for this specific question might be this: If in doubt whether to include or delete a piece of information, include it. Having more detail than we later need seldom hurts. Having less detail than we later need is a problem.

The Editor

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

The use of a comma and lack of a semicolon between the person of interest and the repository was simply a typo.

The records which I am referencing are in fact birth certificates. In Randolph County, as well as most counties in NC, birth certificates are kept on file at the Register of Deeds Office for the respective county. The are kept in volumes and each certificate is given a separate page number. I was incorrect on the title. On the spine of each volume, "Vital Statistics" is on one line and "Births" is on a separate line by itself like so...

 

Vital Statistics

Births

 

So would the title be listed as "Vital Statistics Births?" Should they be written some other way since they are on separate lines? It sounds a little strange as a title. Again, each page is a different certificate and each is labeled as "Certificate of Live Birth." So it's not like a birth register with multiple entries on each page. Since the title is NOT "Birth Certificates, and it would be incorrect to use that as the collection name, should the reference note include the term "birth certificate" to indicate that it is in fact a certificate, or would that not really be necessary? Would this be correct?

 

 

Source List

North Carolina. Randolph County. Vital Statistics Births. Register of Deeds Office, Asheboro.

 

Reference Note

Randolph County, North Carolina, Vital Statistics Births, volume 1: 2, birth certificate, John Doe, Register of Deeds Office, Asheboro.

 

On a slightly different note, each certificate has a small sticker attached with a volume number and page number along with a barcode. Strangely, the volume numbers on the stickers are prepended with a "BC," which presumably stands for "Birth Certificates," even though this is not the title on the spine of the volumes. This is reason I had used "Birth Certificates" as the title, but checked and realized it was not what was printed on the spine.

EE
EE's picture

jdchess78, from your latest information—particularly the phrase "Certificate of Live Birth—it would appear that you are working within modern VRs or within re-recorded records. Including a year for the document would definitely help others understand what it is you are citing.

As to whether you should call it a "Certificate of Live Birth" or a "Birth Certificate," do use the exact phrasing on the documents.  Many modern "certificates of live birth" are "short-form" documents that copy only a portion of what appeared on the original "birth certificates" or "birth registrations."

The Editor

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

These are not redacted "short-form" or "heirloom" copies. They are the full original Register of Deeds copies signed by the attending physician or midwife and have a filed date very close to that of the respective events. The more recent ones (mine from 1978, and my mother's from 1951) have "Certificate of Live Birth" at the top; however, the ones just a few years older than my mother's have "Certificate of Birth" at the top. This seems to hold true for all the NC counties from which I have obtained birth certificate copies from the respective Register of Deeds offices. I'll attach an example of an older one that has "Certificate of Birth" at the top.

Here's a copy of my late grandfather's birth certificate from Montgomery County, NC. This is a photocopy (that I personally made myself) of the actual certificate on file at the Register of Deeds office in Troy. It is located in a three ring binder that is a volume from a collection titled "Vital Statistics Births" (just like Randolph County). It is in volume 1 on page 1094. This is from June 1914. NC didn't start requiring birth and death regitration until late 1913. Perhaps actually seeing the certificate will allow you to tell me more about what "it" actually is.

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

Looking at the document (birth certificate for Max Dennis) and info that I posted, here's what I have for the citation...

 

Source List

North Carolina. Montgomery County. Vital Statistics: Births. Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

 

Reference Note

Montgomery County, North Carolina, Vital Statistics: Births, volume 1: 1094, certificate of birth for Max Dennis, 1914; Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

 

Shortened Ref Note

Montgomery Co., NC, Vital Statistics: Births, vol. 1: 1094, Max Dennis, 1914.

 

How do these look? In the reference note, is the "certificate of birth for" part necessary or useful? If so, I assume the same would apply to marriage license and certificate filed using the same volume and page system. I'm attaching a copy of me great grandmother and grandfather's marriage license and certificate from the same Register of Deeds office in Troy, NC. Here's the citations. How do these look?

 

Source List

North Carolina. Montgomery County. Marriage Licenses. Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

 

Reference Note

Montgomery County, North Carolina, Marriage Licenses, volume 6: 31, marriage license and certificate, Randall Dennis and Ola Hunsucker, 1910; Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

 

Shortened Ref Note

Montgomery Co., NC, Marriage Licenses, vol. 6: 31, Dennis-Hunsucker, 1910.

 

 

 

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

No option to edit posts (unless I'm missing it) is a little frustrating at times. That last reference note for the marriage license should have been...

 

Montgomery County, North Carolina, Marriage Licenses, volume 6: 31, marriage license and certificate for Randall Dennis and Ola Hunsucker, 1910; Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

EE
EE's picture

Well, done jdchess78. There's also one other refinement you might consider for clarity, so that readers of your citation (or you, at a later date after your recollection of this source grows cold) won't wonder about that phrase "Vital Statistics." (Are you using it as the name of an office? As a record type? Or is it the title of that register?)  EE 8.15 recommends using quotation marks around the exact title of "Distinctively named volumes."

Yes, including the record descriptor "certificate of birth" in the reference note is valuable. Given thay "birth registers" contain various types of birth records, each with differing amounts of data and differing "generations removed from the original," specificity is valuable.

I've not been able to open your attached certificate, for some reason.

The Editor

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

Thank you for the additional suggestion. I'm not sure why you can't open the PDF file of the certificates that I posted. I am able to open them through Chrome and MS Edge without issue.

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

An additional question regarding series and volumes...

I have noticed that in some places EE uses "volume" (or vol.) and in some cases, EE seems to omit "volume." Examples below...

From section 9.4, page 435, reference note 3 (Allegheny Co., PA) uses "vol. 48: 646" to denote volume 48, page 646. Reference note 1 on the same page (Mobile Co., AL) omits the word volume (or vol.) and uses "4:378" to denote what I assume is volume or book 4, page 378. There are additional cases where the word "volume" seems to be omitted. On page 437, the reference note example for Hocking Co., OH uses "C:46" to denote, again, what I assume is volume or book C, page 46. Is it a preference whether to include volume or book or is there a difference in these uses?

Also, section 8.15, to which you refered me, has the following example which omits "volume" and also omits a comma between the title and number...

"Chancery Count Minutes 2: 123"

 

So is the word "volume" or "book" necessary for clarity, or can it be safely omitted in most cases? Would the following examples all be correct or is there a use case for each one?

 

Vital Statistics: Births, volume 1: 2

Vital Statistics: Births, 1: 2

Vital Statistics: Births 1:2

 

 

Also, regarding the same BMD records that we have been discussing from Randolph Co., NC, there seems to be some discrepancy in whether the "Vital Statistics: Births" is in "volumes" or in "books." for several years I had always heard them referred to as "volumes" by the folks at the Register of Deeds office. The indexes for the records refer to "book" and page numbers, and not "volume" and page numbers. Also, the stickers that I mentioned previously that have been placed on each page or document references a "Bk" number and "Pg" number, and not a volume number. Is it important to make a distinction between volume and book in this context? Again, they had always been referred to as "volumes" by those at the office, and I'm certain that you would receive the correct document if you requested it by volume and page, but I'm just curious as to your thoughts on this. I'm adding a death cert with an example of the sticker I'm talking about. It's the top right hand corner. Hopefully, you will be able to open the PDF.

 

 

EE
EE's picture

jdchess78 writes:

I have noticed that in some places EE uses "volume" (or vol.) and in some cases, EE seems to omit "volume." Examples below...

From section 9.4, page 435, reference note 3 (Allegheny Co., PA) uses "vol. 48: 646" to denote volume 48, page 646. Reference note 1 on the same page (Mobile Co., AL) omits the word volume (or vol.) and uses "4:378" to denote what I assume is volume or book 4, page 378. ... On page 437, the reference note example for Hocking Co., OH uses "C:46" to denote, again, what I assume is volume or book C, page 46. Is it a preference whether to include volume or book or is there a difference in these uses?

Yes, as you go on to propose, it is a clarity issue. Here are your cited examples stripped to the title/vol/page:

  • Colored Marriage Records, 4:378
  • Marriage License Dockets 1989, vol. 48:646
  • Marriage Records, C:46

Now lets omit the word "vol." in the second example:

  • Marriage License Dockets 1989, 48:646

This creates a number string, with no clear explanation as to the differences between them. Online research abounds with examples in wich individuals assume that 1989 is the volume, 48 is the page, and 646 is the entry no. The opportunity for confusion is even greater in this example: while most new researchers can understand "Marriage Records, 4:378," there are many who have never encountered the concept of "Dockets" and simply don't know what's going on.

Throughout EE, where there is a likelihood that a reader of a citation might not understand that a number in a string represents a volume number, EE specifies "vol."  Examples:

  • series 1, vol. 129 (1948): 30.  (EE 4.20)
  • Second Census of the United States, 1800, vol. 2, New York: Clinton–Green Counties ... (QuickCheck Model p. 251)
  • pop. sch., ED 157, vol. 2, sect. “E,” ... (EE 6.32)
  • Testimonies of Denial and Acknowledgements [1783–1811],” p. 24; New England Yearly Meetings of Friends, vol.135 ... (QuickCheck Model p. 312)
  • Parish Registers, vol. P52/1/1, p. 103 (EE 7.38)
  • Fet Clerical District (Akershus County), vol. M I 10A, Section F, Vaccinerede (Vaccinations), unpaginated, entry 94 ... (EE 7.42)

The bottom line is that even though citations seem formulaic, with each citation we create we must  think about the details of that situation and the possibilities for misunderstanding them, and then make adjustments where needed.

The Editor

EE
EE's picture

jdchess78 also writes:

[In] Randolph Co., NC, there seems to be some discrepancy in whether the "Vital Statistics: Births" is in "volumes" or in "books." for several years I had always heard them referred to as "volumes" by the folks at the Register of Deeds office. The indexes for the records refer to "book" and page numbers, and not "volume" and page numbers. Also, the stickers that I mentioned previously that have been placed on each page or document references a "Bk" number and "Pg" number, and not a volume number. Is it important to make a distinction between volume and book in this context?

jd, when courthouse records are discussed, the words "volume" and "book" are routinely used interchangeably.  However, there are instances in which we definitely should be precise. A courthouse office, for example, may have multiple conveyance series for which the binders have stamped the words "Conveyances, Register __" on one series and "Conveyances, Book __" on another series. In those situations, we should use the exact wording that is stamped on the cover or spine and put that wording in quotation marks.

But, of course, there are problems with saying "should" in cases like this. For example,

  • when we use these registers on film or in digital form online, our provider may not have imaged the cover or spine;
  • as beginning researchers, we are unaware of these issues and often don't make the effort to study and compare all series in that courthouse office, archive, or online provider's catalog.

EE's index, under titles: of registers ... points to several discussions of citing these titles and their quirks—specifically pp. 52-53, 222, 322, 386, 518, 522-23. The discussions appear in different portions of the book because they are attached to examples of different types of records.

The Editor

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

Thank you for the detailed reply and wonderful discussion. It's very thought provoking and very much appreciated. An additional thought/question...

From a clarity standpoint, do you feel that there is a difference between "for" vs. a comma in between the record type and name? An example of each...

 

Example one...

Montgomery County, North Carolina, Vital Statistics: Births, volume 1: 1094, certificate of birth for Max Dennis, 1914; Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

 

Example two...

Montgomery County, North Carolina, Vital Statistics: Births, volume 1: 1094, certificate of birth, Max Dennis, 1914; Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

 

I was just curious your thoughts on this. It's another situation where there seems to be examples of both in EE. I even noticed one where the order was different. From 9.4 on page 435, reference note 2 is...

 

Reference Note Example

Leake County, Mississippi, Marriage Book B: 72, James Boyd and Mary Smith, 1853, recorded bond and license (with original signatures) and return; Chancery Clerk's Office, Carthage.

 

In this example, the record type that is found at the given volume and page is placed/described after the name and date. This would lead to...

Reference Note Example

Montgomery County, North Carolina, Vital Statistics: Births, volume 1: 1094, Max Dennis, 1914, certificate of birth; Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

 

While I'm sure there is a reason for the difference, I'm not sure that I see it. Any thoughts you have on this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again.

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

What are your thoughts on this?

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

Also, I meant to mention that all of the county certificate copies, located in the respective Register of Deeds offices, do in fact have NC state info at the top, as you can see in the example that I posted. I assume these were preprinted forms that were sent to the counties by the state. Safe assumption? Or no?

In addition, while the one that I posted (my grandfather's) does not mention anything about being a register of deeds copy, almost all of the others that I have from NC have a preprinted line about being a "Register of Deeds Copy" or a line that says "THIS COPY TO THE REGISTER OF DEEDS ON FIFTH OF MONTH."

 

What I am not certain of the process by which these records were created. I assume the original (from the hospital, doctor, midwife, etc.) was sent to the county registrar initially, but I'm not sure of the process from that point forward.

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

After posting this, I read page 90, section 2.76 regarding titles. As per this section, would it be correct to add a colon between "Vital Statistics" and "Births" to clarify title and subtitle?

Vital Statistics: Births

EE
EE's picture

That's exactly what I was going to suggest—as per EE 2.76.

The Editor

EE
EE's picture

jdchess, your questions in messages 14 and 15 are posed at the sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sublevel, which means the answer goes into a sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sublevel with a column about 1.5" wide. That doesn't work so well with citations, so I'm moving back to level 1 and repeating the essential details of your query.

Citations seem to divide people into two camps: those who love rules and those who hate them. I’m guessing that you love rules, so here’s the most basic of all:

Citing sources in a citation sentence follows the basic writing rules as writing a sentence.

To put it another way, we’re not writing a math formula or a scientific formula where things can only be expressed in just one way. We’re writing a description and an explanation for what we are using. That means: each time use something, we choose the words and punctuation that most clearly conveys the circumstances. That means: there can be variation from one to the next, depending upon the particular circumstances.   (If you're an IT engineer, trying to create a nonvariable template you have my sympathies. That's why basic citation software doesn't try to deal with the complex manuscript sources that history researchers use!)

To address your specific questions …

ISSUE 1:

You question whether we should use the word “for” in pointing to a specific record or whether we should just string elements together with a comma. You illustrate with these two options:

  • Montgomery County, NC, Vital Statistics: Births, volume 1: 1094, certificate of birth, Max Dennis, 1914; Register of Deeds Office, Troy.
  • Montgomery County, NC, Vital Statistics: Births, volume 1: 1094, certificate of birth for Max Dennis, 1914; Register of Deeds Office, Troy

No one would fault you for using either. However,

Caveat 1:

In the example that you give above, because “Births” is explicitly stated in the title of the volume and there is no other type of record in that volume, EE might strip the citation down to just this:

Montgomery County, NC, Vital Statistics: Births, vol. 1:1094, certificate, Max Dennis, 1914; Register of Deeds Office, Troy.

Caveat 2:

Given that record books are not all created exactly the same, there are occasions in which a bridge word such as “for” might express the situation better than a simple comma.  Using EE examples, here, we might compare these three variations:

       Shocking County, Ohio, Marriage Records, C:46, Strawser-Leisure, 1861; FHL microfilm 912,319. (EE 9.5, p. 436)

       Ottawa County, Ohio, Record of Births, vol. 1 (1867–1890): 4, 1868 entry for “Is not baptized,” female child of Albert Witcher; Probate Judge’s Office, Port Clinton.” (EE 9.34, p. 460)

      Dallas County, Alabama, Child Labor Affidavits, 1908–1914, alphabetically arranged by name of child, for Harvey Dodd (born 22 May 1901), filed 23 May 1913; Probate Judge’s Office, Selma. (QuickCheck Model p. 421).

In examples 2 and 3, we don't have a simple string of parallel items that can be conventionally separated by commas. Choosing words that describe the situation is a better option than using a formulaic punctuation mark.

ISSUE 2:

You also point to this example in EE:

        2. Leake County, Mississippi, Marriage Book B: 72, James Boyd and Mary Smith, 1853, recorded bond and license (with original signatures) and return; Chancery Clerk's Office, Carthage. (EE 9.4, p. 435)

You ask why the sequence of details is different from the basic Montgomery County example that you first presented—specifically, the record type is stated after personal name(s) and date, rather than before. The difference goes back to the idea that writing citation sentences follows the same basic rules as writing ordinary sentences.  One of those is this:

When we have a string of items in a series and one of them is longer and more complicated than the others, we list the short and simple items first. Then we deal with the longer, more-complex item.

In the Leake County example, the book:page, personal name(s), and year are all simple items that can be simply stated. However, that marriage book contains a variety of item types and not all items are provided therein for every couple. Also, the fact that original signatures appear in the bound volume definitely needs to be noted. Therefore, when we itemize and explain what is provided for this couple, we state the short and simple items first. Then we deal with the longer, more-complex item.

 

The Editor

jdchess78
jdchess78's picture

EE,

Thank you for the detailed reply. Your input has been both enlightening and edifying, and is sincerely appreciated. Also, you are likely correct regarding my fondness of clear-cut rul...err...uh...I mean...guidelines.

Thank you again.

EE
EE's picture

Glad to be able to help!

The Editor