Bruce D. Despain
The genealogist has a moral1 responsibility to report to his client relative to his effors on behalf of that client and their results. Certainly he is accountable to the client, since money taken for services implies the performance of the relevant tasks. The client is entitled to some tangible record of the tasks performed2 and their relevance to the request for services3 that he has paid for. sometimes these services include a cetain amount of education in what requests a genealogist can reasonably fulfill.4
It is important initially to understand the reasons for and purposes of the research report. Only by knowing why he is putting forth the effort to get it in writing is the researcher in a position ot judge clearly and with satisfaction whether what he includes or how it is included in meeting those ends.
When the question of why is answered, it makes sense to ask about the scope and content of the report. Should every detail, every piece of information discovered be displayed? To what extent does the researcher use discretion and even imagination in selecting, arranging, and reporting the data to be described?
Finally, what is the appropriate format? Should the researcher be satisfied with filling in blank in forms? Must he engage in expository writing paying special attention to his rhetoric and grammar? With his purposes in mind and the question of significance answered, the researcher will find that the form of the report will to a large extent follow naturally.
The researcher may be seen as reporting to his client for three reasons: 1) to account for his time and other expenses the client must feel confident that his investment in research services is well advised;5 2) to report in a way that review will be perspicuous the direction of further effort must be clear to a subsequent researcher;6 3) to present an analysis of the data that will bring life and credibility to the compilation. These three areas accountability, review, analysis are intertwined; their division is somewhat arbitrary. For example, the clarification of future direction encourages future investment in services; a logical analysis should bring about a perspicuous review. Yet, it is important that, however classified or conceived, proper attention be given to each of these three aspects.7
It is most courteous to save mention of cost till last; there is really no other reason why it cannot be mentioned sooner. Perhaps it is because the real cost of the research can be embarrassing,10 that it is not mentioned first. Yet, if research is reported properly, the cost does not have to be an uncomfortable postscript.11
Some genealogists choose to send the client copies of every research extract, notes complete with library source identification references and archive catalog numbers. Though these notes and extracts are part of the research task their provision with the report fails tofill directly the purposes of that report. Is a consumer concerned with the technique and processes involved in the construction of a light bulb, for example? Only as it relates to the question of durability and desirability in the product. So in reporting genealogical research to the client the researchers interest in technical details extends only so far as a direct connection to the reconstitution of the ancestor family. To the neophyte the connection is far from obvious.
The proper emphasis to the data uncovered and to its significance to the record linkage process is a tremendous challenge to the researchers abilities to communicate. Forms of a technical nature tend to confuse a client unless they are designed to be self-explanitory. Abbreviations of a techneical nature must be avoided for the same reason. Yet, if an item is on a form for ultimate goals,such as pedigree charts or family group sheets, their mention in the report itself will be in abstract terms how they lead to the next search. Generally variant spellings of a surname affect the technique more than the substance of the research and do not deserve mention.
It is easy for some genealogists to bog down in the enumeration of data and its interpretation without the corresponding emphasis on its significance to the research effort. Such reports mystify genealogy to the client.
The client deserves a scholarly report as much as he deserves scholarly research. The form and style of the research report should conform, therefore, to the standards of formal English. A disorderly composition implies to the reader that the research is disorganized and misdirected. Consider the following suggestions as a step toward an orderly presentation.