Citing Key Parties in a Record


10 April 2014

Citations to original records held in courthouses and town halls may vary from one to the next, depending upon the nature of the record and the focus of your own work. For example:

  • Deeds & mortgages: if your text identifies the key individuals involved in the document—say, the grantee and the grantor—you do not have to repeat that identification in your citation. On the other hand, if your text were to state that Joe Turner lived on Neal's Creek and your source for that piece of information is a deed between Sam Snodgrass and Eliphat Bullwinkle, in which Turner is merely mentioned as an adjacent landowner, it would be appropriate for your reference note to name the key parties to the deed.
  • Court records: The same principle would apply, when your person of interest was not one of the individuals who appear on the case label.
  • Tax rolls, censuses, etc.: When using a record that is essentially a "list," your reference note should identify the person(s) of interest.

Does it matter? Yes and no. In a narrative that discusses the deed, repeating the identification in both the narrative and the citation would be redundant. Most authors, editors, and readers hate redundancy. At publication time it eats up valuable real estate or bandwidth. In our "working notes," however, we can be as redundant as we please. After all, they are our working notes. Anything we can do or say in those notes to "keep ourselves straight," can be a valuable aid. (And all of this, of course, is why the above tip says, "You do not have to repeat that identification.")

In all cases, you would spell the name(s) exactly as spelled in the record. If you feel it necessary to include a "correct" spelling, then place the exact spelling from the document in quotation marks and add your correction in square editorial brackets.