30 November 2012

Does Color Matter?

This application card for a military tombstone is a wonderful document. These records were recently released on Ancestry.com .  The card got me to thinking about more than just the person who was named on the record. 

The front of the card
U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963card for William B. Tammen-obtained at Ancestry.com
 There is information that could potentially be lost if the card had been reproduced in black and white. There are several different individuals who put information on the card:
  • The typist
  • The clerk who apparently wrote in red pencil
  • The widow (Ella J. Tammen) who signed the card
  • various individuals who stamped the card
Of course, it is possible that some of these individuals are the same, but a black and white copy would not have done this record justice. Additionally there is information on the back of the card.

 The back of the card 
U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963card for William B. Tammen-obtained at Ancestry.com

This database includes applications for headstones made between 1925 and 1963. While most of the men died during this time period, all did not. There are also cards in the database for Civil War veterans who died before 1925. These cards may provide information on the person's military service that may be difficult to access elsewhere. 

A question...

How should the color of the writing be accounted for in the transcription of this document? Does it make any difference? I'm thinking about the easiest way to handle this? As genealogists have access to more color images of records should be account for the color in our transcriptions or should we ignore it?

Tammen is the husband of Ella Johnson Tammen. Her sister, Tena Johnson Ufkes, was my great-grandmother. 


Carol Dunn said...

All I can say is WOW, color does matter!

Valerie Craft said...

Color matters a lot. As you point out, it can help differentiate all the different step and processes and people that influence a document. It shows that the document wasn't recorded and immediately filed away. It had a purpose and was created by many people.

Also, the color can make it easier to read. In this record, the marks don't really obscure anything, but I can think of a number of census records, deeds and minute book entries where notes were made on top of entries. These were likely made in red pencil, with the black ink still legible behind it. But when everything is black and white, all the writing is equal. It can make it difficult or impossible to read. I really appreciate seeing records in their original colors.