Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Citation Soapbox

Citing sources is important. I know I've mentioned this before, and I can't help but bring it up again. Some people will say it's important to write citations so that you know where you found the record, and can go back there again. However, it's more than that.

Do you plan on passing your research down to relatives? What are your plans for your research when you are gone from this world? Do you want a future researcher to know how you found the record? Do you plan to publish? This is why citations are important. Yes, you want to be able to figure out where you found the record. However, other people should be able to figure it out too.

I've been conducting research on a particular surname and came across a five volume book set written by one author (I'll keep the surname and author name private). At least four of the books were easily over a thousand pages. This was a lot of research, work, time and money. An impressive feat to be sure. Sadly, there was a glaring lack of citations. Only vague references occasionally to deeds, wills, and other books.

I found the particular lineage within the books I was looking for, but was left having no idea how the author got the facts. At the beginning of the passage that was pertinent to my research, was the mention of a book which I've requested through inter-library loan. I would have preferred that a will, gravestone, bible record or some other source had been properly cited. Then I would have something to go on. Instead I wait hoping this book will give me better clues for evidence to track down.

So, it's important to cite your sources not only for you, but for those that come after! I know that you have spent a lot of time and effort to gather your information. You don't want it to be disregarded.