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.
Specify the Source of the Source
Genealogists must generally use copies of records rather than the originals themselves. Genealogists use a fancy term, derivative sources, for copies.1 Records on microfilm, the Internet, and in publications are derivative sources.
The strength of a derivative source depends on the strength of the source from which it was derived. (The strength also depends on the type of derivative, but that’s the topic for next time.) Since a citation should indicate source strength, a citation of a derivative source must specify the source of the source.2
Consider the following online sources of Kansas marriage records. Without knowing the sources of these sources, it would be difficult to judge their strengths.
|Database Title||Source of the Source|
|“Kansas Marriages, 1840-1935”||“Original and compiled records.”|
|“Kansas, County Marriages, 1855-1910”||“Marriage registers and records made by county clerks.”|
|“Leavenworth county, Kansas, Marriage Records, 1900-1920”||“104 through 110 in the collections of the Leavenworth County Genealogical Society.”|
|“Kansas Marriage Index, 1854-73”||“LDS microfilms and local newspapers.”|
|“Kansas and Kansans, Vol. 2”||Published book.|
|“The annals of Kansas”||Published book.|
In future articles we’ll develop citations for these sources. Next time, we’ll talk about types of derivative sources.
So far in this series of articles we have spoken of these purposes and principles for genealogical citations:
- Citations have two purposes: 1. Locate the source, and 2. communicate its strength.
- Cite the source you see.
- Specify the source of the source.
1. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, ed. Helen F. M. Leary, (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2000), 9.
2. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 47-8, 52.