Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cite the Source You See

Cite the Source You See
Image: frenta. Used with permission.

Citations have two purposes: locate the source and indicate its strength. This series of articles explains what we must do to accomplish these purposes for genealogical sources.

 

Cite the Source You See

It is a neat experience to travel to an ancestor’s home and feel a strong sense of belonging. I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, few hobby genealogists can invest as much time and travel into our hobby as we would like. Few of us can view the original records of our ancestors. We must instead rely on copies.

It is deceitful to cite sources we have not seen or used.1 This principle extends to copies that we as genealogists use.

Image copies may not be as clear as the originals. Indexed, abstracted, and transcribed copies may contain errors.2 Our citations must indicate the copies that we used. To do otherwise would be unethical and unwise.3

Series Summary

So far in this series of articles we have spoken of these purposes and principles for genealogical citations:


Sources

     1.  The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, ed. Helen F. M. Leary, (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2000), 29.

     2.  Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 28-31.

     3.  Mills, Evidence Explained, 52.

6 comments:

  1. Please clarify this. When I go to an archive, and get a copy from a microfilm which was made from an original (or possibly from another microfilm of the original), should my citation say "from a copy of a microfilm of an original?" What if the microfilm is several generations from the original, what then?

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  2. Excuse my ignorance, but as someone still learning the correct way to cite sources, will you please clarify? Does that mean if I have a photocopy of death certificate that belongs to someone else, I should cite the repository as that person? And not the repository that she got it from? Is the purpose to cite so that someone else may find it also? Or just to show where I found it personally? Thank you!

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  3. Monica,

    I don't understand what you mean by "I have a photocopy of death certificate that belongs to someone else".

    -- The Insider

    ReplyDelete
  4. I reread your post and I think I understand what you are saying. You mean that one shouldn't cite a record that they haven't actually seen, such as citing a birth certificate based on information from an index (for example). Is that correct or am I misunderstanding still? I'm sorry!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Monica,

    As we shall see, your citation will include both the copy that you saw and the original.

    -- The Insider

    ReplyDelete