"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press & Thorndale Champion
- 23 January 2003

Genealogy: A Language of Its Own
Family History vs. Genealogy - Abstract vs. Synopsis vs. Summarize

These are but a view of the many unique words associated with genealogical research. One of the keys to family history research is the language you use to describe what you are doing! We’ve all heard certain, tried and true words that they have become old, tired and worn-out.

I am working on my family history. I am conducting genealogical research. I am involved in the historical analysis of the origins of my family. It all means the same thing – I want to learn more about who I am and my ancestors.

It doesn’t matter how good you are at your research, if others have decided they know what you have or they are not interested in family history. Regretfully, they won’t listen to anything you have to say or in some rare instances, make fun of what you are tying to accomplish.

Personally, I have one cousin who is absolutely convinced I am going to write a book on my family history and make millions of dollars selling it. Other times, it can be walking into a county courthouse and telling the employees you are visiting to do genealogy and they visibly let out a big sigh and you know they are thinking, “Oh no, not another one!”

So, how do you get their attention? What I can do to change their idea or perception? The solution: Grab them with a new language! We have to convince them that what we are doing is different by not using the same tired words. Sort of like what the spin-doctors do for the politicians.

Now, when I go to a courthouse now, I inform the staff I am conducting a search for specific legal records. That is exactly why you go to the county clerk or district clerk’s offices, to review and search through official public records that are in fact, legal documents. Now there is a difference perception as to your goals.

Abstracting vs. Synopsis vs. Summarize Legal Documents – It all means the same thing, getting what you need quickly out of the document in a condensed format, i.e., who, what, where, when, why and how. You can always get a photocopy and review it in detail later when you get home from the courthouse.

Let me know what language you come up with to describe what you do!


In 1803, the United States acquired the area that is now Arkansas with the Louisiana Purchase and it became part of the Louisiana Territory and in 1812, the Missouri Territory was established, including Arkansas in its boundaries. By 1819, Arkansas became a separate territory and on June 15, 1836, it became the 25th State. It succeeded from the Union in 1861 and was readmitted in 1868.

In 1905, the Arkansas History Commission was created as the official archives of the state, responsible for collecting and preserving the source materials of the history of Arkansas.

The collection includes: U.S. Census Records, Manuscripts, Newspapers, County Records, Photographs, Military Records, Maps, Booklets & Pamphlets, and Church & Cemetery Records.

Regretfully, the staff will not answer or respond to research questions. However, they will make photocopies if you know the exact date, location, example, "I need an obituary for John Smith of Little Rock who died on Oct. 1, 1928." In addition to paying the photocopy fees, all out-of-state requests must include a $10 non-resident tax. [Note: It is nice to know that anyone who requests research assistance or photocopies from the Texas State Archives & Library is never charged an out-of-state tax.]

To contact the Arkansas History Commission write: One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201. They do not have e-mail.

Websites of Interest to Students, Genealogists & Historians

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 5 May 2003 and was last revised on __________

Copyright © 1999, 2001, 2002 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604