Showing posts with label citations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label citations. Show all posts

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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Citations... It's Like Flossing.

Why are citations like flossing? Well, it's a good habit to get into... just like flossing. Neither are very exciting or brag worthy. However they make you better. The more you cite your work the more it becomes second nature, and you don't even think about it... much. Just like flossing.

Yesterday I worked on citations for several different documents that had arrived in the mail over the past week or two. Most were very straight forward, being birth or death records from a particular state's vital records department. In fact looking at the records one could almost wonder, "Why write a citation? Isn't it obvious where it came from?" To us genealogy obsessed folks it probably is, but for the non-obsessed probably not. Also, now that I have citations on the said documents, when I write up my findings (today, I hope) I'll have the citation ready to go for my footnotes. This way I can focus more on the writing aspect than the technical citation part.

One document that gave me a challenge and spent a surprising amount of time on, was a certificate of divorce. I looked at a few examples in Elizabeth Shown Mills' book Evidence Explained. The book explains (in a nutshell) that divorce cases are civil suits that begin and end in local court (refer to 8.25 and 9.36 in the book if you're curious). Then I proceeded to make a mountain out of a mole hill. The issue was, I obtained this record from the vital records office, not from a court house. Should I cite the docket number or not? Should I cite the page number or not?

In the end, after a chocolate break, I got back to basics. The question to address was very simple, "Where did I get the record from?" After all that is the point of a citation, to tell whoever is looking at a given document where you got it from. Then it was easy. The citation I ended up with very much resembled that of a citation for a marriage certificate.  I'm not sure if that was the "right" way to do it, but I do know that I answered all the questions of who, what, when, and where. Now I'm ready to write up my findings in my research report, and wait for the next batch of documents to come in the mail.