Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weekend wonderings: discursive endnotes

Why do so many publications at the state level continue to use endnotes rather than footnotes? Is there an insoluble layout issue here that I don't understand?
The spring issue of the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly includes an annotated transcription of Caleb Swan Walker's autobiographical fragment from 1861 to 1863, chronicling almost daily his experiences in Clermont County just east of Cincinnati and in Dennison General Hospital with wounded soldiers. Annotations are necessary because what was obvious to Caleb is no longer obvious to us. When he alludes to "Hon John McLean" dying on 4 April 1861, an editorial endnote identifies McLean, citing sources. Likewise when Caleb dined with C. W. Deland at the Burnet House, we learn who and what they were.

This kind of diligent well-sourced detail work has been my favorite feature in the Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal, and I hope the new OGSQ will keep it up after OCWGJ goes away next year. (And, yes, I know they need material and I owe them a bunch about my Ohio relations.) Doing such annotations right is a difficult and underappreciated part of genealogy and microhistory, because the closer we get to the past the more mysterious it can be. (I blogged last month about a less thoroughly annotated Illinois treasure.)

The downside for me is that in this case the annotations appear in endnotes. So they are (a) essential to the enjoyment of the read, and (b) several pages away! I await the graphically-gifted genealogist who can make this kind of annotation work better.

Polly Day Staley et al., "Caleb Swan Walker's Autobiography, 1861-1863, Clermont County and Dennison General Hospital," Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 1 (Spring 2012):39-52.

Harold Henderson, "Weekend wonderings: discursive endnotes," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 26 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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