While exploring our heritage for the first time we are all too new to the practices of a good genealogist. Recording your sources is important but how do I cite my sources?
As we begin our ancestry journey citing sources is something that we are not too familiar with. It is one of the most important tasks that you need to do when researching your family tree.
So, in this post I will explain to you all of this to help you on your way.
Besides citing your sources during your research it is also important to cite any sources if you are publishing your very own family history book.
I have written my own book, (albeit just printed out and bound for my family, not published), and I have put in citations where appropriate. I will explain this process later on.
Topics discussed in this post:
- Beginning Your Family History Journey
- Reasons Why Citing Your Sources Is Important
- What Details Need To Be Cited
- How Do I Cite Other People’s Work
- My Final Thoughts
Beginning Your Family History Journey
When you begin your family history journey you are so excited to add names, dates and details to your family tree. You want to go as far back as you can and fill in all the blanks.
You probably will get that rush when you discover something new and feel the desire to add it to your tree. Does every family historian?
Well I know the feeling!
I too was so excited to add a new name to my family tree and add any facts to that ancestor of mine that I had found along the way. But you do have to be cautious about what you enter.
I do have a logical mind and I know how to join the dots and not take every piece of information for granted. I realized when I first began to trace my family history not everything would be accurate.
And so I would need to verify these facts before I added them to my family tree.
Why is verifying information important?
There is no point entering all the information that you find about your ancestors into your genealogy software.
Because not everything that you find will be correct. Hard to believe but not everything online is the truth. Oh no, shock, horror!
You will be amazed at how many family trees that I have found on the Ancestry website that contain quite obvious mistakes.
These Ancestry members added information willy nilly before actually looking deeper into the facts. They took what information they found from multiple census records, (or other sources), and assumed that the person they had found was their ancestor.
Yes, they had found a person with the same name as their ancestor, but they were not their ancestor. This was despite the fact that this ‘ancestor’ was in a different county and with a different family completely.
An obvious glaring mistake but you will be surprised to find many Ancestry family trees this these mistakes.
These trees on Ancestry were a valuable resource for me. But I would urge you to be sensible and document your sources if you do decide to use these trees.
Reasons Why Citing Your Sources Is Important
Verifying information is an important task to complete as I have pointed out in the previous section. You do not want to add everything that you find about your ancestor into your genealogy software program.
What if that information is incorrect? When you check back your research how would you know where you found the information that you have recorded.
Well, you have just wasted your time and so will need to spend more time to fix up this mistake.
I though must confess that I did make this mistake with one family member. I was sure that I had found the right person. I had even gone back a few generations.
Unfortunately I had found the wrong person. Yep, they shared the same name, were from the same county but some family members were different.
I soon realized my mistake and eventually found the right person.
Luckily for me I didn’t waste too much time but it was time that I could better have spent. Also, fortunately I didn’t enter this incorrect family tree member into my family tree.
Why is citing my sources important?
Citing your sources is one of the most important tasks that you will need to complete as you find new ancestors and new pieces of information. It can help you immensely with your research as I will point out.
3 main reasons why you should cite your sources!
1. Help other people check your sources – Other people will want to carry on with your family history resource. Whether they are other family members, maybe even your descendants, or they maybe members of your local family history society who are interested in your work.
They will rely on what sources of information you have found and also where in the source that they can find the information that you have used.
2. It shows your level of research – It will show to other researchers that you have been thorough with your family history research. It will give them the confidence that the work that you have completed is correct.
Although to be a competent researcher they will obviously need to verify your work. So, please make it easier for them.
3. Give credit to others and sources – If you have found information for records then you will obviously need to cite these. The same can be said for other people’s work, (for example Ancestry family trees), or books.
It is also a good idea to do this avoid plagiarism. That’s one thing that you want to avoid.
What Details Need To Be Cited
I have just covered why citing your sources of information is important. I will now cover what details that you need to enter to properly cite your sources.
There are just a few key details that you will need to enter when citing your sources. This process does not need to be complicated and over time it will become second nature to you.
You will find that entering citations will come naturally as you research new family members and lines of your family tree.
The details that need to be cited include:
- Title – The type of record. So it could be a parish record record, a certificate or document such as a census. Please though put in as much information as you can, such as the name of the parish, the type of certificate or the year of the census.
- Date – The date that the information was collected in the source that is referred to. Adding the day and month is also important as the year as well. So if citing a census be sure to add these too.
- Collection – Certain records maybe compiled with a collection. It is therefore important to add the collection name for this source.
- Page and Volume – If you are referring to a collection then you will have to enter the page and volume of the collection as well. This is important as it will help other researchers to easily find the information that you have used.
Another piece of information that you can add when citing a source is to add your own personal comments. This can be your own observations that you have made when you have discovered a particular record, document, letter, etc.
These comments could state maybe that a sibling’s details have been omitted, or maybe your ancestor’s birth year or place of birth is different from what you expected.
How Do I Cite Other People’s Work
You may need to cite other people’s publication when tracing your family tree or when you write your own family history book. You will obviously have to do this to avoid copyright issues.
If you are publishing your own book then you will need to ask permission from the author or publisher to include anything from their book or work.
If you are quoting, paraphrasing or summarizing someone else’s work then these will need to be cited. You can cite the source within a parenthesis, a footnote or maybe an endnote at the end of a chapter of your book.
If you are using a parenthetical citation then you will include the author’s name, the book and page that the citation can be found.
A bibliography of citations can also be added to the end of the book that you are writing.
My Final Thoughts
Citing your sources is an important task as I have outlined in this post. It does not have to be a complicated task for you and once you have done this a few times then it will become second nature to you.
By doing this it will help you when you return to research an ancestor of yours. It may also help other people who are tracing your family tree. These could be relatives or members of a local history society as I have said in this post.
It could also be a distant cousin that you have discovered whilst on your family history journey. If you are interested in sharing any information that you have found you will need to show where you have found certain pieces of information with your ancestor.
This will make it easy for other people to carry on your research. I hope in time that my descendants and my brothers descendants will carry on the work that I have started. And so I hope that I have made it easier for them.
For more information on citing your sources why not head on over to FamilySearch. There you will find a really helpful guide entitled Cite Your Sources.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
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