When I was in high school, I took a typing class. I should have taken a stenography class at the same time, except I don’t remember them offering such a class. It would have good to take such a class. it would have been useful in college to be able to take notes like that. I could have transcribed them into English and done better in the classes as a result. Instead I created my own technique for speed writing.
Taking adequate notes is essential, whether you are in a class, a meeting, or you just want to evaluate a document for your family history project. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to take things down verbatim. Paraphrasing what the instructor, meeting leader, or document is the best way to understand the material. In the case of a document, you have the decision of whether you are transcribing or abstracting the document. Transcribing a document means that you are copying it word for word. That requires you to include all punctuation and spelling errors that you may encounter in the document. You can paraphrase if you are abstracting. Abstracts are a summary of the data in a document. That can mean taking a two-page document and writing down the data from it in less than a page. One to two paragraphs is sufficient. Taking notes in a meeting or class gives you more of a leeway as well. Again, you are taking an hour or two of words and abstracting them to a few paragraphs. Leave out the examples and just take the facts. If you need examples later, you can find them in the textbook or the real world. Just get the facts.
For a document, like my great grandfather’s naturalization paper, an abstract is the best way to go. That document is on legal paper and is two pages long. Here is the abstract.
In the district court held at Montpelier, Vermont on September 1904. Carl Mauritz HENDRICKSON of 5 Edward Street, Montpelier, Vermont said that he was a granite polisher, by trade. He said that he was born on Goteborg Sweden on 28 July 1867 and is 37 years old. He also said that he was not of the nobility of Sweden. He arrived in the US on 25 June 1894 and has lived in the US ever since. He lived in Barre, Vermont, nine years and Montpelier Vermont one year. He made a primary declaration of his intention to become a US Citizen in Barre City, Vermont on 5 February 1901. He is in the US legally. The document was signed by Carl M. Hendrickson and witnessed by Edward Goddard on 31 August 1904.
That’s just the first page, but you get the idea. I took a legal sized page of legal language and boiled it down to that single paragraph. There’s another page, but I won’t add that to this blog.
Taking good notes will help you understand what you are reading or hearing. For example in the above abstract, I realized as I wrote it up, that I have a date and location in there, 5 February 1901 in Barre City, Vermont, that I can use to find his document of intention, the other part of the naturalization process. I’m going to look into finding that. you can learn a lot when you take good notes.