Using Miss/Mrs. in Citations

 
 
 
4 posts / 0 new
Last post
tmphelps
tmphelps's picture
Using Miss/Mrs. in Citations

I am not sure if there is a “rule,” but my normal practice is that if a document uses Mrs. or Miss as part of the formal identification of a name, I include it that way in my reference note. For example, if the title page of a book names the author as “Mrs. Alvaretta Kenan Register” I cite her by that name in my reference note. Similarly if a death certificate is issued in the name of “Mrs. Irene M. Phelps” I cite her by that name in my reference note.

In my specific case, I am working with an unpaginated and unnumbered parish register of baptisms. Among many columns in the register are “Name” and “Parents”. For those baptized as children, the “Name” column contains only the given names, while the surname appears only with the parents. It seems logical and proper to take the appropriate information from the two columns when citing the name of the person being baptized in my reference note.

However, adult baptisms are handled differently in the register. In the “Name” column it lists the name as given name followed by the surname in parenthesis. The “Parents” column includes the notation “A white adult” as appropriate (this is 1830’s North Carolina), and, if it is a female, the notation “(Miss)” or “(Mrs.)” [the parenthesis are included in the register entry.]

Here are three specific female examples (I added quotation marks for clarity):

     “Deborah Maria (Phelps)” “A white adult (Mrs.)”

     “Mary (Swain)” “A white adult (Miss)”

     “Mary Jones (Fortune)” “A white adult (Miss)”

Although other records exist that show that Deborah Maria Phelps’s maiden name was Fortune, I do not think that I should include that information in this reference note since it is not found in the register information, so my first question is should the name in the reference note be:

     a) Deborah Maria Phelps

     b) Mrs. Deborah Maria Phelps

     c) (Mrs.) Deborah Maria Phelps

    d) Does “Phelps” need to be in parenthesis as it appears in the original? If so, should the entire name be enclosed by quotation marks to indicate that it appears this way in the original record?

I have the same questions about how to construct the Mary Swain and Mary Jones Fortune entries.

However, the Mary Jones Fortune example has an added wrinkle. Later entries in the same register are for baptisms of two children whose “Parent” column lists “Mary Jones Fortune”. No records that I have found to date give any evidence that this woman ever married. If I find nothing else (I am dealing with a burned county, so no birth records, death records, bastardy bonds, or court records exist – but my “reasonably exhaustive research” is not complete to my satisfaction) I may determine that one possible conclusion from the combination of baptism records is that Mary Jones Fortune had (at least) two children although she never married. In that case the indication that she was unmarried at the time of her baptism could be critically important. (And yes, I understand the danger of drawing any conclusion before I am satisfied that my research is complete, and I know “the name is the same” danger, but I want to build my reference note at the time I examine the record, so I want to think ahead.)

Or, as is often the case, am I overthinking this?

Tom

EE
EE's picture

Hi, Tom,

It was good to meet you face-to-face at last week's conference.

The issue of identifying an author by titles or honorifics is covered in several places in EE that you may or may not have already seen. A quick check of the index turns up this:

Authors, creators, etc.: credentials, degrees, and honorifics   50, 76, 133, 204, 335, 792-93

"Mrs." falls into the honorifics category. The only time an exception is warranted is when an author (from years past) is identified as Mrs. Husband's Name.  To leave off the "Mrs." in that instance would be to change the identity of the author.
 
Re the use of parentheses as part of a name, long-standing conventions do that only for a woman's maiden name.

The Editor

tmphelps
tmphelps's picture

It was good to meet and speak with you in Raleigh last week.

I did look for references in EE before constructing my query, but I freely admit that I totally missed the “honorifics” references. I just never thought of Mr./Mrs./Miss as honorifics, but now I know!

Further reflection and study of your references gives me a better understanding of what I am doing wrong (and sometimes right!) in my understanding of what I should cite. I think I was mixing up the information that is relevant to keep in my working notes, and how I want to cite that information in a formal citation.

However, your gentle urging to search for “honorifics” in the index led me to look deeper. One reference especially intrigued me. In EE 10.16 under the subheading Citing Honorifics, you say:

“All four entries above involve males. In one, the name is prefaced by the honorific Mr. By modern conventions, you would not use that honorific in citations. However, the appearance of the title Mr. before a man’s name in a seventeenth century record is an important identifier that should be preserved.”

Would you be willing to explain the last sentence in more detail? I suspect this is something I should understand, but I admit that I don't.

Thanks!

Tom

EE
EE's picture

Tom, in today's word we use "Mr." as a token of respect for all adult males who are not close friends—much as a Southerner uses "sir."  In past centuries, "Mr." was indeed an honorific in the original sense of the world: a "title" accorded only to males of a certain social status, especially those of a higher social rank than the person who is using it.

The Editor