Monday, August 25, 2014

Citations don't have to be perfect?

I'm going to make a somewhat heretical statement when it comes to genealogy and that is "that citations don't have to be perfect".

Over the past several years there has been a big push to make sure you have citations for everything that you have recorded in your family trees. In my personal opinion (and may others) this is a good thing. When I was first starting out I didn't record where I found various facts or who told me family lore. Not having doing this in the past has bitten me in the derriere more times than I can count and I've had to recreate the path from square one as to how I found out some details in my tree.

Yet some people out there insist that citations must perfectly conform to what Elizabeth Shown Mills has written in "Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace". For many people just starting to delve into their family trees being constantly pounded upon to have "EE approved" citations just puts them off working on their tree.

For many starting off in this hobby they will often make use of Ancestry (and hopefully also MyHeritage, Findmypast, and FamilySearch to name a few other online resource) to start their trees. Possibly they have a program on their computer like Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree, Roots Magic, or Reunion. All of those resources and tools can easily generate the citations needed. Many of the programs mentioned actually make use of Evidence Explained to create the templates to quickly and simply fill in. Are they "perfect" citations? Most often they are not. But are they good enough that if you give a family report with the citations listed to another person to locate the documents can they? You bet!

So, when helping out someone new to the hobby1 of genealogy and family history research gently remind them to record where and when they found the information. But, unless they are going to be writing a book, don't insist on the perfect citation at this time. Let them enjoy the thrill of discovering their past.

For all those having fun doing their family history, please have a citation associated with the facts you record but don't stress out on how it looks. Just make sure there is enough information recorded that you can find the document cited sometime in the future. You will be thankful that you did!

1. A professional genealogist is another case though.

1 comment:

  1. In Evidence Explained ESM writes:
    Source citations have two purposes
    - to record the specific location of each piece of data, and
    - to record the details that affect the use or evaluation of that data
    This blog post emphasizes wiring citations so that you can find the document cited sometime in the future. To what extent do you consider the second purpose as unimportant for the non-professional?