Saturday, August 31, 2019

The INDEX: An Important Tool

How do you judge a genealogical or historical book? The more research I do, the more I evaluate a book on the contents, of course, and the INDEX. When I look at a book I check out the title page, the Table of Contents and then I turn it over and look through the Index.

According to Merriam-Webster an INDEX is:

 a list (as of bibliographical information or citations to a body of literature) arranged usually in alphabetical order of some specified datum (such as author, subject, or keyword): such as a list of items (such as topics or names) treated in a printed work that gives for each item the page number where it may be found.

I love those alphabetical lists of “specified data”! 

Using an INDEX.

First, in an Index I look for NAMES. As genealogists we are primarily interested in people, “our own people”. I look for the surnames I have been researching. Which means I have to know which surnames are most likely to appear in the book I am holding. If it is a book with Virginia information I will look for Alford, Brumfield, Dillon or Lawrence. If it is a book with Connecticut data I look for Brady, Coyle or Kilday. I need to have a mental or physical list of names & the places associated with those names.

Second, in an Index I look for PLACES. I want to learn about the places my families lived. How did the environment and the events that happened there affect my people?  If I am holding a book about South Carolina I look in the Index for Lancaster, Orangeburg and York Counties. The Table of Contents might be helpful with this but an Index usually gives more details, such as the towns with in a county or the names of rivers and creeks that I have discovered in deeds and wills.

If a genealogical or historical reference book has names & places I want to spend time with that book. I’ll most likely find information that will enhance my research.

There are times that I will spend time with a book that has no index but that is rare. For example if the book’s title was “The Brumfield Family in Colonial South Carolina” and it had no index I would still want to sit down and enjoy it.

Include an INDEX. 

In my blog, at the top of the page, I have a Name INDEX. It is written by me & updated with each new post. I want visitors to be able to quickly see if our families are connected. After finding a name visitors can click on the link to the relevant post. Simple & Easy.

In my books I include an INDEX. I include: names, places, cemeteries, churches, ships, soldiers, etc. 

What do you like to see in a research book?

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