When exploring our heritage 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 also explain this process later on.
Beginning Your Family History Journey
When you begin your family history journey you are so excited to add names to your family tree. You want to go as far back as you can and on each and every line that you possibly can. You may get that rush that you feel when you discover something new and add it to your tree.
I know the feeling because I have been there!
I too was so excited to add a new name to my family tree and add any associated facts to that ancestor of mine that I had found along the way.
I do have a logical mind and I know how to join the dots and not take all information for granted. I realized when I first began to trace my family history not to enter everything I found before verifying it first.
Why is veryfing information important?
There is no point entering all the information that you find about your ancestors into your genealogy software. Why? Because not everything that you find will be correct.
You will be amazed at how many family trees that I have found on the Ancestry website that contain obvious mistakes. These Ancestry members have added information from multiple Censuses or other sources and have assumed that the person in these records is their ancestor.
They have found a person with the same name as their ancestor and assumed that they are the same person. This is despite the fact that this person is from a different county and has different children.
An obvious glaring mistake but you will be surprised if you use these Ancestry family trees to help you trace your family history. It has been a valuable resource to help me go further back with my tree. But I urge you to be sensible and document your sources if you too decide to use these trees.
The 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 to your genealogy software program. What if that information is incorrect?
Well, you have just wasted your time and you will have to spend even more time to fix up your 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 even went back a few generations based on the information I had found on that person.
The trouble was I had found the wrong person. They had the same name and was from the same county but some family members were different. I soon realized my mistake and found the right person. I didn’t waste too much time but it was time that I could better have spent.
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.
The three 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. These people maybe 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.
3. Give credit to others and sources – If you have found information with 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.
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 – This is 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 – This is the date that the information was collected in the source that you are referring 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 that you could add 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 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. This chapter could be exploring a branch or family member.
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.
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 if 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 for 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.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
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