ScotlandsPeople reference numbers

Dear Editor;

Perhaps a seemingly trivial question, but your opinion would be appreciated.

Sometimes the way in which ScotlandsPeople states their reference numbers could result in recording them incorrectly. I believe I have a solution, but I'm wondering about just how much leeway I have in the way I cite them.

For example; a downloaded file has the name, "ScotlandsPeople_C1851_328_00_003_000_2_007Z.jpg." The stated reference number is, “328/ 3/ 7.” For one unfamiliar with the numbering scheme, this could very easily be incorrectly typed or adjusted during proof-reading as, "328/3/7," due to the lack of place-holders for the dropped digits. In fact; until I delved into how the records were numbered, I often copied the reference incorrectly.

(Note that the single digit "1" or "2" in the filename denotes a header record or the main document record and that the numbers before and after the "/" characters have specific meanings. All downloaded records appear to end in "Z".)

So; when citing the record that someone else may later wish to examine in person or to purchase, would citing the reference as, reference no. 328/00 003/000 007, be acceptable? Note that I would not use quotation marks, because this would be my interpretation of the number. However; I would think that a reader would clearly understand it and a proof-reader would be unlikely to incorrectly adjust the string.

Submitted byEEon Tue, 11/10/2020 - 17:09

History-Hunter, if the file name is essential to identifying or relocating the record, EE would not change it. If it is not essential to identifying or relocating the record, then EE would cite the record itself and then, in the last layer, cite the source information given by ScotlandsPeople.

Another way of looking at it: If the record came to you in an envelope would you cite the details from the envelope?

How we save the file, in our own files, is more often the trigger to consider changing the file name.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Tue, 11/10/2020 - 20:30

Dear Editor;

I appreciate your quick response. I see that perhaps you've misunderstood my question. That's likely my fault in that I sometimes find it difficult to express myself clearly in emails/posts.

If I may explain...

The question was not really about the filename. The filename was there just to illustrate that "internally" ScolandsPeople uses a "full" reference, including "0"s as placeholders. This is a practice that is less prone to misinterpretation. In fact, ScotlandsPeople has sometimes used this "full reference number" in their communications with me.

My question was about the format in which ScotlandsPeople states their reference number on the website since it appears to be open to transcription errors due to their dropping leading and trailing zeros.

I suppose that I'll just cut and paste these reference number strings, put them in quotes in my citations, and let someone else take the responsibility for potentially altering or misinterpreting them. I doubt that adopting this practice will impact the work that I do for myself because I am so familiar with what the numbers actually represent.