Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Easy Sources, Citation Challenges - Genealogy Do-Over / Do-Better

I don't have a problem recording sources.  Keeping track of sources was reinforced to me from my first introduction to family history.  I record them religiously (with the rare possible exception now and then).  Sometimes I have to dig deep at websites like FamilySearch and Ancestry to find enough detail for more than the online location and collection name.  I like to know the physical location of the original source, even down to the page and entry numbers in a county record book and I record as much information as I can find.

My challenge is crafting citations for those sources.  I'm intimidated by my software and the possibility of not creating a correct citation.  There's such a multitude of source possibilities and the varieties of ways citations should be written based on the source.  I like to be accurate and get things right but I sometimes feel challenged by my lack of knowledge.

Someone on the Do-Over Facebook page suggested a simple ABCDE method of citation in which A is the author or editor; B is the book, magazine, or article title; C is the city or company; D is the date of copyright or date reviewed; and E is the page number or url.  It seems too simplistic to me for the kinds of sources I'm recording.

On her post, Why Are EE's Source Citations So Complicated?, at her blog, Quick Tips The Blog at Evidence Explained, Elizabeth Shown Mills points out that we cite records of many different varieties and we use those sources as evidence to help us evaluate the assertions they make.  (She says it so much better than I can.  Just click through to read her post.)  It's not just citing the source, or being able to return to the source that's important.  The citations should help us understand the records we've used by giving details about the sources which can help us evaluate the evidence in them.

On his blog, RootDig, John Michael Neill wrote a post about sources and citations in which he encourages his readers to think about how a source was created and whether we're looking at an original source (the will someone wrote before he took it to the courthouse) or a copy, and why it's so important to clearly record in the citation what source we used.

I think recording sources, crafting accurate citations, and evaluating the information in the records is at the heart of genealogy and family history.  I think I need to use my genealogy software, RootsMagic, to serve me instead of feeling like I have to serve it and not be intimidated that I'll get the format of the citation wrong.  I will continue to try to improve my source citations to make them useful for evaluating the evidence they contain as well as to be able to return to the source when necessary.

I'm not keeping up with the weekly Genealogy Do-Over activities even though I'm only doing a Genealogy Do-Better, trying to improve as I go forward.  However, they have been helpful in encouraging me to think more carefully about the way I'm performing and recording my family history. 

Click on Genealogy Do-Over Week 5 or Genealogy Do-Over at bagtheweb to learn more and read what others have to say on the topic.  Thanks to Thomas MacEntee for initiating and hosting the Genealogy Do-Over.


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

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