Note: This post is part of a series of blog posts about making 2011 the best genealogy year possible. If you have any topics you’d like to see covered, please feel free to email me.
Realtors use the phrase “Location, Location, Location”. Genealogists should use the phrase “Sources, Sources, Sources”.
Why Cite Your Sources?
- Keep Track of Where You Got Information. The bottom line is that you cannot remember every place that you got every piece of information – especially when you have conflicting information! Therefore, cite your sources!
- Help Others Follow Your Research. When you cite a source, the goal should be that someone else can find that source document based on your citation. Even if you are not going to be formally publishing your genealogy in a book, you should still cite your sources. Why? For one thing, it adds to your credibility as a researcher. If your research will be on the internet (most people have their research SOMEWHERE on the web), then you should add source citations so the genealogists that stumble upon your work can follow your research. Even if you aren’t putting any of your research on the web, imagine for a moment that one of your descendants finds your research in a box. Then imagine your descendant becoming interested in continuing that research (Nice picture, huh?). Wouldn’t you want them to be able to see where you got your information from?
- Source: The record from which you got the information.
- Citation: The link that joins your source to the conclusion. A citation can be displayed in a bibliography, end notes, footnotes, or even embedded in parentheses within the text.
How to Cite Your Sources:
- The Goal: Your source citation has enough information within it that another researcher will be able to retrace your steps and find that source.
- Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills: This is now the industry standard for citing sources. This book has step-by-step instructions for how to cite nearly any source imaginable. Elizabeth Shown Mills also offers some helpful “quick sheets” for citing some of the more common sources. I would highly recommend the Quick Sheet Citing Ancestry.com Databases and Images and the Quicksheet Citing Online Historical Resources.
- APA Style: This is another popular style used by genealogists to cite sources. When I cite APA style (which is usually in school), I use The APA Pocket Handbook.
Homework (Yes, there is homework):
Enter 5 proper source citations into your genealogy database.