As an addendum to our earlier blog post on resources to help you cite your genealogy sources, I wanted to link to some other posts on the topic from genealogy bloggers.
Most researchers agree it’s important to cite sources, but the hows, whens and wheres have caused a bit of a stir. Genealogy blog readers may notice what my mom and dad used to call a “discussion” over the importance of adhering to the finer points of source citation style (which might be intimidating to newbie or casual researchers) versus just getting the source information down.
Another component to the issue (and something else that can make source citation look complicated) is evaluating a source’s reliability:
Is the information likely to be correct because the source—say, a birth certificate—was created when the birth, marriage or other event happened? Or is the source less reliable because it’s a transcription of a digitized book written years later by someone who read a newspaper article about the grandson of the person whose neighbor was actually there? Do several less-reliable sources that provide consistent information equal a reliable source? Can you ever really prove when certain events happened in your ancestor’s life? What does it all mean??
These folks weigh in with their opinions and encouragement:
- In his Citation blog category, the Ancestry Insider writes in depth about source citation principles and the quality of source information given on genealogy records sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
- Source Citations in Genealogy: Church or Cult on the Clue Wagon blog encapsulates the above-mentioned discussion. The comments here include 10 commandments of source citation from Evidence Explained author Elizabeth Shown Mills.
- The Genea-Musings Source Citation posts describe sourcing in genealogy software and online family trees, review presentations on citing sources, link to others’ posts on the topic and more.
- On his Planting the Seeds blog, Michael Hait explains why the way you format source citations is important.
- James Tanner on Genealogy’s Star writes here about genealogical evidence as opposed to proof. Dear Myrtle links to several of his related posts here.
- On Luxegen Genealogy and Family History, Joan Miller writes about how to educate new researchers regarding citations, and her Good/Better/Best citation philosophy.
- Posts in the GeneaBloggers Source Citation category link to the site’s quick reference citation guide and a discussion of blogs’ reliability as sources.
Source citation doesn’t have to be scary. The key is to note every bit of information available about the record, website, book, newspaper, person or other source you used, and make sure it doesn’t get separated from the information the source provided. Whenever possible, get the original record rather than stopping when you find an index or a transcription.
Use your knowledge as a researcher to decide whether the information in the source makes sense, and how far you can trust that source. If you have any doubts, don’t add the information to your tree, but use it to form a hypothesis you can keep researching.
- Family Tree Magazine free, downloadable Source Citation Cheat Sheet
- Source Documentation 101: How to Cite Genealogy Sources Accurately and Effectively Family Tree University course
- Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills, available in Family Tree Shop