Friday, April 24, 2009

Book Review: Citing Ancestry.com

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The Evidence! Series

I recently agreed to an invitation from Genealogical Publishing Co. to review Elizabeth Shown Mills' latest addition to the Evidence! series. The Evidence! series began with Mills' 1997 publication of Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian. This was followed a decade later by the 885 page Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. The first QuickSheet from Mills was the red-rimmed QuickSheet: Citing Online Historical Resources: Evidence! Style.

Evidence!  Evidence Explained  QuickSheet: Citing Online Historical Resources  QuickSheet: Citing Ancestry.com Databases and Images

Now Mills has added QuickSheet: Citing Ancestry.com Databases & Images: Evidence! Style. According to the publisher,

Elizabeth Mills’s fabulous new QuickSheet provides rules and models for citing the myriad databases and images you use on Ancestry.com. With this new QuickSheet, you’ll know instantly how to cite databases that include census records, vital records, passenger lists, city directories, and family trees; and how to cite images that include manuscripts, maps, newspapers, and online books and articles. In QuickSheet: Citing Ancestry.com Databases & Images you’ll find the standards you need for the correct citation of Ancestry sources, as well as help in judging the reliability of those sources.

For most Ancestry.com sources, sample citations are shown here in three styles: Source List Entry, Full Reference Note, and Short Reference Note, each showing you how to deal with author/creator, title, website, URL, date accessed, item type, source of sources, and so forth. Arranged in tabular format under each of these headings, the sample citations are easy to follow and can be applied to your specific needs in citing your sources.

The QuickSheet is a heavily laminated sheet folded to form four pages of standard 8.5 x 11 inch size. After some initial materials, the pages are filled with example citations for Ancestry.com databases of various types.

I found the "Basic Principles" in the introductory material inadequate for a beginner who's forgotten basic citation principles from high school. If you don't know when to use a source list entry, a full reference note, or a subsequent reference note, then you'll need to first review a citation style guide before you use a QuickSheet. And if you don't understand why citations are different for text and images, then you'll need to consult Evidence! or Evidence Explained. There just isn't room to adequately cover these topics in the space available.

Next to the fold of each QuickSheet page is the black band one finds on photocopies made from a book when the binding doesn't allow the page to sit flat on the copy machine. I find these blemishes amateurish, unsightly, and distracting. I can't imagine what the designer was thinking. Fortunately, they do not affect usage of the QuickSheet.

I use one or more of these publications almost daily. I recommend all four publications from the Evidence! series to everyone that does genealogy several times a week and to all libraries and Family History Centers (FHCs). For everyone else, buy or borrow and read Evidence! and the first two chapters of Evidence Explained. Then consider buying one or both QuickSheets for reference.

You'll also want to take a look at your desktop genealogy software. If it doesn't include Evidence!-compatible citation templates, by all means upgrade to a version that does, or switch to another program.

QuickSheet: Citing Ancestry.com Databases & Images: Evidence! Style
8.5" x 11", 4 pp., folded, laminated. 2009.
ISBN 978-0-8063-1794-6
Genealogical Publishing Company
1-800-296-6687 * www.genealogical.com
$7.95 (Maryland and Michigan residents add 6% sales tax)

5 comments:

  1. One quick, easy, FREE method of citing sources is simply go to the family history library catalog on FamilySearch and do your sources that way they do it. When I am working in Ancestry.com, I use the methods they use in their sourses. One more tip: remember that the term "citation" is like the term "footnote" you used back in the days you wrote those high school research papers.

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  2. One more comment from me: I don't like the sourcing methods allowed on New FamilySearch. I hope they make improvements there. Can't copy/paste very well, can't transfer sources from one event to another very well, and there are too many fields to enter.

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  3. Insider,

    Perhaps it would be good to mention too that EE is available as an e-book download from Footnote. Saves clutter on the bookshelf.

    On the first quick sheet, unless what is currently for sale is a revised edition, I believe that several citation formats have been tweaked in the interim as given in EE, and thus a new edition would be good.

    I haven't yet gotten the Ancestry quicksheet but will soon. Any subscriber who tries to go by Mills format in EE will quickly recognize that Ancestry's suggested citation formats are lacking. And this is not merely a difference in style.

    As for desktop genealogy programs, less important is precisely using EE formats than the flexibility of allowing the user to make his/her own templates that follow EE. I use Genbox and it does allow that to be done very nicely, as I presume do the other top level programs.

    Mike

    P.S. I am going to start posting the captcha I have to enter to make a post here. I think that they are really some secret code and should be preserved for posterity.

    today's captcha: "rookierb"

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  4. Sandra,

    Thanks for the helpful hints.

    -- The A.I.

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  5. Mike,

    The Citing Online Sources QuickSheet does appear to be a revised edition.

    I too love the electronic edition of EE. I have so many pages flagged in my print edition, I can usually search for and re-find familiar passages more quickly in the PDF than flipping through all the post-its protruding from my book.

    -- The A.I.

    Today's capcha: MundayRoks

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