Page numbers are integral to genealogical citations. It’s a problem when after we’ve left the research facilityy we realize that we’ve forgotten to include the page number for a document which we’ve copied.
When obtaining an item from a mortgage book in Hancock County, Illinois, recently I made just that mistake. I made certain to get the entire desired record and was too eager to read it after I made the copy. I made certain to note the mortgage book from which it was copied on my own copy. In my haste to attend to other tasks, I neglected to confirm that the page number was on the copy.
It was not until I returned home that I realized I didn’t have the page number for this document.
What to do? Will my genealogical world fall into complete disrepair? Am I now out of the genealogy club because I forgot a page number?
Genealogy theory (and good practice) indicates that a complete citation to a document is necessary when using that document. That citation generally includes the page number. I had everything but the page number. I can’t simply site the book title and leave it at that as there are too many pages to wade through. However is it practical to return to the original location of the record just to get the page number?
And what’s the goal of genealogical citation anyway?
A more specific question is better. “why do I need the page number” for a citation to this document? What purpose does it serve in the citation? I need the page number so that I, or someone else, can get to this same page in the mortgage book from which this copy was made.
I already have that part of the citation to get me back to record book. The book that I used was Mortgage Book 98 in the Hancock County, Illinois Recorder’s Office in Carthage, Illinois. That information would get me to the book.
How much further do I need to get? There are a lot of pages in that book.
It’s not just about the page. It’s really about a specific document that’s on a page of that book. I’m not so much interested in the whole page as I am in the “Assignment of Mortgage” from Sharp & Berry Brothers to Mary M. Love that was recorded on 1 April 1919 (at 4:16 pm. for those who want to be precise).
Is there another way to get to that document–which just happens to be on a specific page?
Turns out that there is.
The documents are numbered. The document of interest is number 7800. The next one in the record book is number 7891, recorded on 7 April 1919.
Why aren’t the numbers sequential? What’s the deal with documents 7801 through 7890? Where are they and why aren’t they in the record book?
They aren’t in this book because this isn’t any old record book. This is the mortgage book that only includes the mortgages. The recorder’s office also recorded warrantee deeds, quitclaim deeds, releases, and other documents related to land titles in Hancock County. Those documents were in different record books. Documents 7801-7890 are not missing. There is no grand scandal. They are in other books. The numbers were assigned to each document as it was brought in to be recorded.
The document number of 7800 for the Berry Brothers release would be more than adequate to get me to the desired item of interest in the record book. That’s my citation goal.
Since the book is paginated and the page number was not used in the citation, I did add a comment of explanation so that someone else who later may use the citation doesn’t wonder why on earth I didn’t use the page number in the citation.
Hancock County, Illinois, Mortgages, 98: document 7800, Sharp & Berry Brothers to Mary M. Love, assignment of mortgage, 1 April 1919; County Recorder’s Office, Carthage; record book pages are numbered, page number was illegible on photocopy made of record book.
And I can always go back later if I so desire and get the page number if the Genealogy Police come a knockin’.
You can learn more about citation theory in Evidence Explained.