Getting Help with Citing

There are books to help you learn how to cite properly. One of the best and most detailed is The Chicago Manual of Style. Another book by the late Richard S. Lackey, Cite Your Sources, was compiled for genealogists but doesn't include newer sources, which have become widely used since the death of the author. Look for a book, published in 1997, by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Titled Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian, it illustrates, simply but effectively, the manner in which the various sources encountered by genealogists should be cited. This includes books, magazine articles, journals, microfilm, manuscripts, and other sources.

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The Chicago Manual of Style not only includes detailed information on preparing citations and referencing, but also other useful information such as manuscript preparation and copy editing, indexing, book design, and other related subjects. Check your library for other similar guidebooks used by colleges and universities.

If you keep in mind that the purpose of the citation is to enable the reader to readily find the same source, it will be easier to remember which items should be included. Basically, the citation for a book must include the complete title of the book, the full name of the author, the city and state where it was published, the name of the publisher, the year published, and the edition (1st ed., 2nd ed. revised, reprint, and so on). None of the components can be omitted for the citation to be complete. The citation for an article must include the full title of the article and the author, in addition to the full title of the magazine or journal, where published, publisher, volume, issue and page numbers, and date of the publication in which it appeared. When citing microfilm, include the series number and roll number, as well as the micropublication title, the specific item and page numbers, and anything else that will help identify it so others can locate the microfilm. Think what you would need to know if you were trying to find the record.

Also cite personal documents, such as letters and photographs. The citation for the letter that Aunt Martha wrote to Cousin Jim in 1910 giving the family history should at least include the date, to whom addressed, by whom, and in whose possession the original letter now resides. If referring to an oral interview, give the date, who was interviewed, by whom, and where. For Bibles, besides the date of publication, be sure to note whether your information is from the original Bible, a photocopy, a handwritten copy, or a typed copy made from the original. This will help in evaluating whether errors may have been made fuller examples and illustrations refer to the mentioned

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Some researchers photocopy the title page of the book to prepare the citation. Though this appears to be helpful, it adds expense and adds "paper" to your files. Learn early the correct citation techniques, and write down the details. Be sure to check the reverse of the title pages of books; some of the needed information may be there.

in copying or transcribing. (For manuals.)

You may think, "But I am only doing this for fun." Your diligent search of your ancestors, if not properly cited, could someday puzzle descendants who will wonder upon what the statements were based. A new record could turn up with differing information, and they need to judge it together with the information you preserved. It takes little extra effort to add your sources if done at the time the information is obtained. Your record may be the correct one, but they won't know unless they know where you got your information.

Undocumented data is an immense problem for genealogists. In the past, there was little effort to include citations. Today there is increased interest in restudying earlier records to add details, and to thoroughly document compilations in order to correct prior errors and omissions. You can see a need for this when using a source that gives names and dates but nothing more. A book may show that Mary Gordon was born in 1832 while her tombstone says she was born 1835. Which is correct? You cannot evaluate the validity of the information unless you know the source. Was the information in the published genealogy supplied by Mary herself at the age of 80? Was the tombstone erected by a granddaughter? Knowing the source, you can make a judgment. This applies not only to dates, but to locations, parentage, and other

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The necessity of adding citations is not a reflection on your ability. You may use a record that appears correct when you locate it; another record you didn't even know about may later be found that is in conflict with it. Knowing the source of each statement will help you and others in making judgments.

important details. Sometimes the discrepancy is only an error made in transcribing the handwriting from a document, or a slip made in writing it down. If you know from where it came, you can reexamine the source.

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