Friday, December 14, 2012

184. Scanning versus Abstracting

     From the time we are genealogical newbies, we are repeatedly told that we should search for and use "primary" documents and sources instead of "secondary" ones. This is why I personally prefer online sites that feature scanned images. Essentially, I like to look at what's there and make up my own mind.
    This is one of the quibbles that I have with the Indiana State Digital Archives--everything there is a secondary abstract, when the technology is clearly available to have the original images in place. I mean, I'm only a private citizen, and I have both a flatbed and an handheld scanner. Are you telling me that the State of Indiana can't afford scanners?
     A case in point is Nancy Marshall. Nancy evidently died in Marion County in 1875, before the state mandated death records. We are fortunate that her death was accidental, so the Marion County Coroner was required to investigate her death.
     The Indiana State Archives inherited several hundred M.C. Coroner's files from the 1870's and 1880's, and an unpaid volunteer (me) sorted and alphabetized them awhile ago. Recently another volunteer abstracted the data and it was added to the ISDA website.
     Here is the primary document for Nancy in the Archives:

Here is the search abstract on the ISDA website: 

Record Series:
Misc Historical Records
Marion County Court
Nancy Marshall
Type Of Court:
Circuit Court
Case Number:

Type Of Case:
Coroners Inquest
First Party:
Marshall, Nancy
Second Party:



Statements by S.M. Brown, Emma Marshall, Wm. T. Brumley

Note the differences:

A. The date is different--July 27 instead of May 27, or is that May 29?

B. The village of New Bethel in Franklin Township is not mentioned in the abstract.

C. The cause of death--"self administration of morphine" not mentioned in the abstract.

D. The list of jurors is not mentioned in the abstract.

E. The statements in the abstract are not spelled out--what do they say? Should we look at the image?

     Do you see what I mean? Why should we have to write to or visit the Archives to get this information? Is the object just to charge a few copy dollars? The Archives is understaffed now--why should they have to dig out the file and copy it? Scanning would eliminate so many problems--why can't we see the primary images???


  1. "Scanning would eliminate so many problems--why can't we see the primary images???"

    Scanning involves no more work, at the end of the day, and results in a FAR superior end product. Abstracting is SO 20th century!

  2. First~Thank you for you volunteering work!! I hope to do some in the future, but I lack the time needed.

    Second~As a taxpaying Hoosier, I would love for my tax dollars go to such a wonderful project. Or at least get the Archives moved to a secured building.