Genealogy Citation – Why It Is So Important To Your Family History. I am sure we have all done it, we’ve chased ancestors from one census to the next, from school records to parish registers, from wills to property records and then when we have exhausted all that Ancestry, FindMyPast, FamilySearch and the internet can offer us we have sat back very pleased with ourselves. That is until we start to unravel what we have found so that we can enter it onto our online tree and/or computer based genealogy programme. And then we try to remember what exactly made us think that our Joseph was the son of James and Sarah, where did we see that he had inherited a large estate three counties away from the ancestral village and what was the title of that old book that we read online and was it on Google Books or FamilySearch book collection or Archive.org?
I have heard chasing ancestors on the internet described as following a white fluffy tail down a rabbit hole and seeing it disappear around a thousand corners and I truly think this is a very apt description! However I am here to stop you disappearing for ever into the vortex that is the internet. The key to good internet research is slowing down and recording every information source as you come across it, because you may be able to remember the details a few hours later, but will you next week, next year, next decade? I suspect not! For sure this isn’t as exciting as hurling yourself through database after database, website after website at a great speed, but it will save you time in the end. I promise you that if you can make yourself do this for a few weeks it will become a habit and will ensure that your research stands the test of time.
There are whole books writing about genealogical source citation and very worthy they are too but I, personally, think that keeping your citation simple, but with enough information that someone else can later find the record is a habit you are more likely to keep than when the recording is too onerous. I am sure I will get a few negative comments about this statement, but it is founded on many years of experience teaching family history and researching my own genealogy. As those who have read my blog post Organise Your Genealogy will know I am a great believer in keeping things simple!
Genealogy Citation- What To Record
Firstly I want to tell you that I have designed a FREE Genealogy Citation Worksheet which is in the Resource Library, this has an examples sheet outlining what you should record and also a blank Genealogy Citation worksheet that you can print off and use. To access the Resource Library is easy, you just need to become a member of the MadAboutGenealogy mailing list. Once signed up you will immediately get an email with the password to enter the library. It is free to sign up and free to use anything you wish to in the library.
Citation is really quite easy when you know why you are doing it. The main reason is so that when future generations take an interest in your work they can see that it is based on good research, sound reasoning and careful recording. You are really laying a family history path between yourself and your descendants who can follow your research and see how you came to the conclusions you did. Leaving a well researched genealogy with good citation may make all the difference when it comes to a future generation deciding if it was just something that great-granny or grandpa did to amuse themselves or something that has historic value.
If you have your family tree online with websites like Ancestry, FindMyPast, FamilySearch etc. and you add a record from the same website that your tree is on then the citation is added automatically. However if say your tree is on Ancestry and you find a record on FamilySearch you can copy and paste the citation from the FamilySearch record onto your tree in Ancestry. If you use a computer based genealogy programme then just copy and paste the citation into the programme.
However if you find a record which doesn’t have a citation then you will need to create one of your own. The details you need to record are as follows:-
- Type of record – Is it a book, church record, census, newspaper cutting or ?
- Title – If it is a book or newspaper it will have a title, passenger lists will give the name of the ship etc.
- Author/Compiler – Who wrote the record or in the case of the index who compiled the index
- Publisher – If it is a printed record who published it and when was the edition published
- Location & date of search – Did you view the record online or was it in an archive or library? Record the website if found online or the official name of the archive/library. Note the date when you did the research especially online searches as new records get added to collections all the time.
- Reference number – Unless the item was privately owned then anything in an archive, library or genealogy website will have a reference number
- Volume & Page no. – If the item is a book or a run of records such as census then there will be a volume and page number.
If you have made a photocopy of a record then remember to note the citation on the back of the copy. If you are storing an image of the document on your computer you won’t have space to enter a citation as the file name. I suggest that you note down the citation on a worksheet and add where the image is stored on your computer. If you take a look at the examples sheet on my Genealogy Citation Worksheet (get yours free at my Resource Library) you can see how to do this. I then file the worksheet in the file for that persons surname. See my blog post Organise Your Genealogy to see how I keep my genealogy files in order.
Genealogy Citation – Summary
I hope you are now convinced of the importance of good genealogy citation. You will find you soon become very quick at noting down all the details required and before long it will become second nature to do so. If you wish to access the MadAboutGenealogy Resource Library simple fill in your details in the form below and you will get immediate free access.
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