Saturday, April 7, 2012

Source Writing - Don't Let It Scare You!

In the first months of learning how to research my family history, I felt paralyzed by the prospect of writing correct source citations. I wanted to do it right, and the thought of making a mistake kept me from doing anything. I overcame this unfounded fear and have advice for those experiencing similar feelings of anxiety.

1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, the master of genealogical source writing, says "Citation is an art, not a science". Remember that when you start feeling uptight about writing a source citation. (Evidence Explained, p. 39)

2. The purpose of a citation is to get back to the source you are citing. If you can do that, your citation is a success.

3. Attach the information necessary for a source citation to every image you download, print, copy, photograph. You don't want to try to figure out later where you got it.

4. To make source writing easy, use the templates in the most current release of your favorite genealogy database programs. (Rootsmagic and Legacy both attempt to closely follow the standards found in Elizabeth Shown Mill's books Evidence! and Evidence Explained.)

5. In the absence of a template, write down everything you can about your source. You can worry about formatting later.

6. If you want to be professional in your source writing, follow the established and current genealogical standards.

7. Remember that the most correctly written citation does not establish proof. Evaluation of the quality of a source and it's application to the fact you're trying to document could be the subject of a whole other blog post.

Click on the following links for articles, blog posts, and books about source writing:

The Genealogy Source Citation Quick Reference Card - Thomas McEntee

Evidence Explained - The Book - Elizabeth Shown Mills 

Evidence Explained - The Website - Elizabeth Shown Mills

The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (2000) - Board for Certification of Genealogists

Genealogical Standards of Evidence: A Guide for Family Historians - A book by Brenda Dougall Merriman reviewed by Olive Tree Genealogy

An Extensive List of Blog Posts about Citing Sources- Michael Hait blog author of Planting the Seeds

Don't let source writing make you nervous. If you want to do it correctly, there are plenty of resources available to teach you how. If you've been able to find elusive records, you're most certainly able to format a citation. Just like with your research, it all depends on how badly you want it.

Thine in the bonds of wanting it!  Caroleen

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