Creating Acceptable Reports
Written for TMG v6x, Principles Apply to All versions of TMG
|A number of professional genealogists have expressed
their opinion that a genealogy program cannot create a report or
paper that can be published in a respected society publication or as
a book. The preference for these experts is that papers and books be
produced by the author writing the entire document using some form
of word processor. That word processor could be a pencil and
paper, a typewriter, or some word processing program such as
WordPerfect or MS/Word.
|Aside from the opinion of the experts, there are
also the opinions of those that are much more important -- your
family! Not everyone will be submitting paper for publication.
But most of us will produce papers for our families. Suppose you
present two papers to them with one being right out of the genealogy
program and the other written like the experts want. Assuming the
information is the same in each paper, when you ask which they
prefer then they will usually tell you the 'expert' paper is more
interesting and their preference.
|Their basis for this is that program-produced documents are and read or sound like they are computer-generated. In that strict sense, I would agree that when a user enters data into most genealogy programs (including TMG) and prints a report or paper, the result is rather staccato-sounding and dull. The output of most genealogy programs are reports that at best sound like this:|
|John Smith was born on 14 Sep 1748 in
Virginia. John Smith married Mary Jones in June 1770 in Albemarle
County, Virginia. John Smith died on 3 Mar 1788 in Madison
County, Kentucky after being killed in an Indian attack on his home.
John Smith was buried on 4 Mar 1788 near Fort Boonesborough, Madison
|Added information about his parents, education,
religion, occupation, or even the Indian attack would help this.
But, the added information would probably be written in the same
boring format as above. Adjusting the format of the sentences so
they are not all the same and substituting pronouns instead of the
constant use of the full name would also help. But this is
hard or even not possible to do for most genealogy programs.
TMG makes it easier in many ways.
|First, TMG allows the user to generate the report to
a word processor file that can then be fully edited and changed with
a lot of hard work to some acceptable form. This works well if the
user only uses the report once. But as new people and data are
entered, the user may want to re-generate that same report to make
it up-to-date. So most of the same hard work editing the file
has to be done all over again.
|The second way TMG provides is to make the changes
within TMG and in the user's project and data set. Initially
the user has a lot of work ahead, but by doing the work in TMG
rather than in the word processor there is no need to have to re-do
the work later if the same report is produced.
|The steps toward acceptable reports is similar to
those taken when writing a paper in a word processor. In a
word processor, you write the draft paper, review your work, and
then go back and edit it. In TMG, you enter the data, check
the output, and then edit your data entries. So you see the
steps are nearly the same. In TMG, you need to generate the
report to review it to determine the editing that is needed.
Some will want to print the results but as more experience is
gained, the user will begin to generate the report to the screen and
do the editing based on that.
|While the editing in the word processor is somewhat
straightforward, the same results can be less obvious at first in
TMG. The design of TMG allows each event to be entered in a
single Tag Type although closely related Tags could be used for a
single event. And the flexibility of TMG allows the user to
have one Tag hold data for multiple events. The remainder of
this discussion is based on a single Tag Type for a single event
although the principles are the same.
|TMG provides standard Sentence Structures for each
Tag Type. A Sentence Structure is essentially a basic
standardized sentence in a coded form. Do you remember your
early school days where the teacher made you diagram and parse
sentences? Then she had you fill in the blanks with the
appropriate word? Well, that's baacckk!! The difference
is that instead of subject, verb, and predicate TMG Sentence
Structures use Variables. And instead of a blank, a specific
Variable is used. Most Variables are easy to learn and use
although a few will take you a little longer because you won't use
them as often.
|The resulting Sentence Structure may be a single
Variable, multiple Variables, or Variables and plain text arranged
in various ways. Most Sentence Structures follow a basic
format of subject, verb, and predicate with the predicate consisting
of some combination of a date, a place, and/or other text.
|The user can adjust those standard Sentence Structures for each Tag Type as desired. Further, the user can also adjust the Sentence Structure for each Tag assigned to a person so that the resulting sentence is different. For example, suppose we take the sentence based on the standard Birth Tag Sentence Structure which gives something like the one above. Let's further assume that John Smith had a cousin born the same day and that he also was named for his grandfather, John. Thus the sentences for the two Johns might be like this:|
John Smith was born on 14 Sep 1748 in Virginia.
John Smith was born on 14 Sep 1748 in Virginia.
|Now this really shows the boring aspects of using the same Sentence Structure for all of the same Tag Type. But as noted, we can adjust the Sentence Structure for one (or both) Tags on what is called a "local" basis so that the sentences might read like this:|
John Smith was born on 14 Sep 1748 in Virginia.
The birth of John Smith occurred in Virginia on 14
|Various other arrangements could be made with the
date or place being first in the sentence and so on. The user
just has to make sure that they adjust the Sentence Structure when
they enter the Birth Tag data for a new person. TMG makes it
even easier if the user has created multiple Roles (each with their
own Sentence Structure) for each Tag. But while Roles can help
a lot, we will not discuss that here.
|The problem is that regardless of how a user decides
to adjust Sentence Structures, it can be hard to keep track of which
sentence form is used for which Tag and for which person.
Further, there may be additional data that will be included in a Tag
for one person and no other data in a similar Tag for another
person. How this added data is incorporated into the Sentence
Structure will affect the sentence arrangement.
|So how does a TMG user create an report or paper that will be accepted with minimal editing by a major publication such as the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (or the more discriminate family member? The basic steps were noted above -- enter data, review it, and edit it with the review step including report generation. We'll assume the data entry has already been done for the most part and concentrate on the remaining steps. With that in mind, the more detailed steps are:|
|Be sure to take advantage of the many TMG features
(e.g., split Memos) and make those features work for you.
Check your work often by re-generating the report. Don't be
afraid to use the TMG default on anything but also be critical if
the default as well. The aim is to re-arrange Sentence
Structures as needed to vary your sentences, eliminate the rote,
staccato sounding report and have the sentences flow smoothly in
|Two examples of what might be done are given.
Both are based on an Individual Narrative report that I created from
my main project. An Individual Narrative report is basically a short
biographical sketch of a person and is more or less the basis of all
other narrative reports. In this case, the report is for Judge
Edward Clay O'Rear I (1863-1961) who is one of the more interesting
persons in my projects.
|Let's start with his Birth Tag and see what I did
for it. The default Sentence Structure for a Birth Tag is:
[P] was born <[D]> <[L]>
which gives a sentence like:
Judge Edward Clay O'Rear I was born 2 Feb 1863 in Camargo, Kentucky.
|Now his parents are not mentioned. Other
reports might indicate them in other ways, but a standalone report
like the Individual Narrative does not and we may prefer to have the
parents mentioned for this report. Since they are already in
the project, we only need to edit the Sentence Structure for that
purpose and there are a number of ways we can do that. These
all involve adding one or more Variables and text. We could edit the
default Sentence Structure to once of the following ways:
[P] was born <[D]> <[L]> to [FATH] and [MOTH]
[P] <[PAR]> was born <[D]> <[L]>
|The resulting sentences are (respectively):
Judge Edward Clay O'Rear I was born 2 Feb 1863 in Camargo, Kentucky, to Daniel O'Rear and Sibba Mynhier.
Judge Edward Clay O'Rear I, son of Daniel Orear and Sibba Mynhier, was born 2 Feb 1863 in Camargo, Kentucky.
|Note there is not a lot of difference and personal
preference will dictate the choice in most cases. Further, the
user could arrange the sentence in a number of other ways. The
re-arrangement may be needed in other reports so that all birth
sentences don't read the same way. But other information in
the Tag may change how you arrange the Sentence Structure. For
example, if there was an entry in the Memo field of the Tag, such
in a one-room log cabin, the next to youngest child
then this will affect the editing. So the Sentence Structure might be edited to be like:
[P] <[PAR]> was born <[D]> <[L]> <[M]>
|The result would be a sentence like this:
Judge Edward Clay O'Rear I, son of Daniel Orear and Sibba Mynhier, was born 2 Feb 1863
in Camargo, Kentucky, in a log cabin, the next to youngest child.
|While we often may speak like this, grammarians may
want to revise the sentence. For example they might want to
make the result appear as two sentences and the Sentence Structure
might be edited as follows:
[P] was born <[D]> <[L]><[M]> of [FATH] and [MOTH]
while the Memo field would be revised to be:
in a one-room log cabin. He was the next to youngest child
|The final sentence would be:
Judge Edward Clay O'Rear I was born 2 Feb 1863 in Camargo, Kentucky, in a one-room log
cabin. He was the next to youngest child of Daniel O'Rear and Sibba Mynhier.
|Another example might be a Note Tag which has
a default Sentence Structure of:
[P] <|[and] [PO]> [M] <[D]> <[L]>
and which has the following text entered in the Memo field:
resigned from the Court of Appeals at the insistence of many friends to accept the Republican
nomination to the office of Governor of Kentucky. In the election after an aggressive campaign,
he was defeated by James B.McCreary of Richmond, Kentucky
|The resulting sentence before editing would be:
Judge Edward Clay O'Rear I resigned from the Court of Appeals at the insistence of many friends
to accept the Republican nomination to the office of Governor of Kentucky. In the election after
an aggressive campaign, he was defeated by James B.McCreary of Richmond, Kentucky in Nov 1911.
|Based on prior sentences and various other reasons,
we decided to change the Sentence Structure as follows:
<[M1],> [P] <|and [PO]> [M2] <[D]> <[M3]>
which required the Memo field to
be revised to:
delimiters between the Memo field segments.
|The final sentence would be like this:
At the insistence of many friends, Judge Edward Clay O'Rear I resigned from the Court of Appeals
in Nov 1911 to accept the Republican nomination to the office of Governor of Kentucky. In the
election after an aggressive campaign, he was defeated by James B.McCreary of Richmond, Kentucky.
|In the case of Judge O'Rear, there were some 41 Tags
that needed reviewing. In about 20%, I used the default
Sentence Structure for the Tag Principal or for the Tag Witness.
For the remaining 80%, I either revised the Sentence Structure or
the data in the Tags fields of both. The final
Narrative report can be seen along with the
Table of Contents, the
and Bibliography. And a
all Tags and Sentence Structures (for an earlier version of the
report) shows the changes I made which,
with some study, can give you an idea of the other changes made to
|As you might see in the list of Tags, many of them
are not designed for a specific event. Many are generic in
nature and the Memo was initially the entire entry in the Tag
(Source Citation notwithstanding). Usually this was a way to
enter a specific story regarding the Judge --often a humorous story
he enjoyed telling at his own expense. Many of these Tags only
required minor changes to the Sentence Structure to ensure proper
paragraphing. Other Tags required slight re-arrangement of the
Sentence Variables and/or the Memo field entry. Because some
stories came from printed media with various formatting, editing
required judicious deletion of unnecessary text. To get an
idea of how the initial report looked, compare it with the
|So instead of generating a report for your family or for publication and doing the hard work in your word processor to clean it up, make the changes in TMG. It will mean less work in the long run.|
Comments to: Lee Hoffman
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