Why we don’t always need source citation templates …

A commenter on my previous post, “Why citation software should be avoided,” noted,

Citations are easy, or should be. Simply provide a key at the beginning of how your citations are organized, then include who,what, when, where, and where found. That should be sufficient for anyone to find it and verify it, if possible. Why do we need an 800+ page book for that?

To a certain extent, I completely agree with this statement.

For me, probably based on my experience using and citing many different record groups for close to 40-60 hours a week for a few years now,  citation is easy or “should be.” When I look at Evidence Explained (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), it makes sense to me. I look at specific examples only because I cannot remember a small detail concerning that particular record group. But about 97% of the source citations that I write are written without the use of a template.

Ultimately, source citations provide exactly the information my commenter noted: “who,what, when, where, and where found.” And of course, the necessary key to the organization of the citation.

This is precisely the point that I wanted to make with my earlier posts, “Source Citations: Getting it ‘Right,'” parts one, two, three, and four. In these posts, I explain the logic behind why several of the more common citations are organized the way they are.

Take a look at the accepted citation for a book, in reference note format:

Michael Hait, Online State Resources for Genealogy, Version 1.0, e-book (Harrington, Del.: Hait Family History Research Publications, 2011), page 37.

This citation provides all of the necessary details to locate this reference.

Now, look at an example from Evidence Explained selected at random:

Midmar Parish (Aberdeenshire, Scotland), Old Parish Registers, OPR 222/1, p. 65, James Edward baptism (1727); FHL microfilm 993,344, item 1. [Evidence Explained, 1st ed., p. 366]

This citation provides the creator (Midmar Parish), the record (Old Parish Registers), the specific volume and page, followed by “where found” (the FHL microfilm).

Here is another example for a completely different record group, again selected at random:

Passenger list, El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, 1779; Papeles Procedentes de Cuba, edición 141, legajo 689, folio 414; Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain; consulted as microfilm PPC roll 68, Clayton Library, Houston. [Evidence Explained, 1st ed., p. 640]

This one is a little different, but ultimately the same. The first element cited is not the creator, but a specific record contained within a larger record set. Like an article in a journal or a chapter in a book. But otherwise the citation contains the same elements in the same order.

So do we really need an 800-page book of source citation templates?

Not if we “get it.” At least, not on every single citation. You may need to use the templates from time to time to figure out some idiosyncracy of a specific record.

But … (please read on in the next post) … but we need Evidence Explained.

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “Why we don’t always need source citation templates …,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 23 Sep 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

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5 responses to this post.

  1. […] About Me « Why we don’t always need source citation templates … […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by L. H. "Larry" Head, Jr. on September 24, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Michael,

    My eye was drawn to your example of the Cuban Papers (Papeles Procedentes de Cuba).

    In one of my courses at IGHR, the coordinator recommended citing the source personally consulted, and excluding “other data” as extraneous. Accordingly, the coordinator would seem to suggest paring this citation simply to “Microfilm PPC roll 68, Clayton Library, Houston.”

    Several of we students disagreed and (politely) asserted that would be inadequate.

    Having just confessed my ignorance of Evidence Explained elsewhere on your blog, it’s obvious I’ve never examined a copy. Nevertheless, I sat there in class and silently vowed to do something paralleling Elizabeth.

    I think it’s better to err on the side of absolute clarity. If a citation creates, or adds to confusion, what’s the point?

    Reply

  3. […] Citation Posts – Other Blogs « Why we don’t always need source citation templates … Birdie Monk Holsclaw Scholarship for IGHR […]

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  4. […] “Why we don’t always need source citation templates …“ […]

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