[APG Public List] Years in citations

eshown at comcast.net eshown at comcast.net
Wed Nov 4 19:07:27 MST 2009

Rondina wrote:
>I have forgotten the reasoning as to why we sometimes place the year in
parentheses and sometimes use a comma. My example is on pp. 524-525 of
_Evidence Explained_. In 10.32, first reference note, "inventory of the
estate of William Frame, 1813" compared to 10.32, second example of the
first reference note, "probate case files, no. 26469, Landry Charleville
(1900)." Any help pushing me past this senior moment would be greatly
Rondina, you raise a good point-one that I apparently did not explain in EE.
(With 885 pages at my disposal, one would think I'd have covered it all. J)
The two dates are used in different context. As a general rule without court
cases, when a case number is cited and the cases are located or identified
by year, then the year of the case is usually placed in parentheses. If one
is citing an individual document from the case (or anything else), then the
document's date is not typically placed in parentheses. 
That's one of the "visual clues" that alert readers as to the nature of what
we're citing and one of the ways that prevent readers from searching for
records in the wrong time period. As you'll note from the Charleville
example, the case is dated 1900 (because it was opened in 1900 and it is
filed amid 1900 cases), but the specific document of interest was a late
1901 document.  In many court cases the disparity between the date of the
document and the date of the case in which it is filed is far greater. A
1900 case might introduce a document from, say, 1869. Or the case might be
carried forward for years to come and we might be citing a 1920 document in
a 1900 case.
Punctuation is one of those "nitpicking" things most people groan over.
Usually, though, there's a reason why certain punctuation is used-and the
reason is usually something to help us. (Even so, let me hasten to add that
content is far more important than punctuation. Punctuation is just a set of
little aids that help to clarify the content.)
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
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