Documenting Your Sources

Documenting the source of your information is imperative. Although your immediate family may not care to read pages of endnotes and citations, fellow researchers will not be so generous. Your work will be judged by its documentation, not by the number of names you have found. Thousands of genealogies exist in libraries or online which contain no bibliographies or source citations. It is impossible to judge the validity of the information they contain. Did this critical birth date come from a family Bible, a tombstone, or the author's estimate? Where was this maiden name found? No family of that name lived in the area at the time. Did the author make it up? Serious family history researchers examine any genealogy very critically. Make sure your research passes muster.

When beginning your research, it seems that you can remember every source you examine. My earliest sources were the memories of my father and grandmother. It did not seem necessary to note this after every event. However, this situation does not last long. Documenting your sources will save you hours of repeated searches and will help you avoid long journeys down false research trails.

To summarize, citations are necessary in scholarly works for several reasons.

Do not let formatting concerns prevent you from maintaining good source documentation. When it comes to citation content and format, the "Bible" is Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained. If you find an almost 900-page book intimidating, consider starting your citation adventure with her much smaller Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian or Richard Lackey’s Cite Your Sources. Remember that form is important, but content is even more so. Be complete in your own citations, and be as consistent as possible. When deciding what information you must cite, more is better. Your citations must provide the following information.

Citation examples will appear throughout these pages. Feel free to use them or create your own format. Remember, be consistent and be complete.





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