I knew when I posted “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?” that it might push some buttons. The piece was heavily edited, and it sat on the shelf for almost two months before I decided to post it.
What I did not realize is that the most controversial part of my post would be the last paragraph:
The online genealogy community needs to recognize [that blogs are public]. We need to join the genealogy community as a whole. … Treat your blog the way you would treat anything else done publicly. Put your best face forward. You don’t have to change your voice to sound professional, or anything like that. But at least cite the sources that you discuss in your blog post. Try to learn new techniques and apply them to your research, then write about what you learned. Not only will your ancestors thank you for that, but so will those new genealogists who look to your blog for guidance.
Surprisingly, other bloggers felt that some of this crossed a line. The primary objection was raised by Marian Pierre-Louis in her post “Genre and Genealogy“: that blogs are aimed at a different audience than a scholarly journal, so citations are not necessary.
I would like to respond to these sentiments.
First, I do recognize that there are many different reasons that people blog. For some, a blog is a way to tell stories that their grandmother told them. How do you cite that? You don’t, because you are the source. For others, a blog is a way to communicate back and forth with your genea-buddies. No citation needed for your own opinion.
However, if you are using your blog to report on your research, in my opinion, you should be citing your sources.
I am not the first person to suggest that genealogy bloggers cite the sources that they use. In fact, this subject seems to come up every year. Unfortunately, the geneablogging community decides almost every year that citing sources in a blog post is unnecessary.
I am definitely not one of the genealogy bloggers who believes this. You will see my sources in every post I write.
Thomas Macentee of Geneabloggers has led at least two separate initiatives on the subject of citing your sources.
In the first initiative, in March and April 2009, I believe that Thomas was trying very hard to convince other bloggers of the importance of citations. He even went to the trouble of writing a “Genealogy Source Citations Quick Reference“ card, and a post about how to use HTML code to superscript numbers and add hyperlinks to source citations within blog posts. See below for the posts that I could find during this spring 2009 push:
- Thomas Macentee, “Cite Right – A Source Citation Initiative,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 31 Mar 2009 (http://www.geneabloggers.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).
- Thomas Macentee, “Genealogy Source Citation Quick Reference Card,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 1 Apr 2009 (http://www.geneabloggers.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012). [Note: the short links used in this post no longer appear to be active.]
- Thomas Macentee, “Footnotes – How to Cite Sources In Blogs and Websites,” Bootcamp for Genealogists blog, posted 3 Apr 2009 (http://fbbootcamp.blogspot.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).
- Thomas Macentee, “In Defense of Genealogy Blogs,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 4 Apr 2009 (http://www.geneabloggers.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).
You can find the “Genealogy Source Citation Quick Reference” card at http://hidefgen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Citations_Quick_Reference.pdf.
In the last of the posts listed above, Thomas expressed the following sentiments:
Always looking to convert a difficult situation into a win for the geneablogger community, I started Cite Rite a source citation initiative since the lack of citations in genealogy blog posts seemed to be at the heart of the issue with Mr. Duxbury’s distate for genealogy blogs. In addition, I created the Genealogy Source Citation Quick Reference card to educate new genealogists and geneabloggers on the importance of source citation.
The comments to these posts show that several bloggers already cited their sources, and others were beginning to do the same.
In the fall of 2010, a discussion on citing sources in blog posts again occurred, inspired by a post entitled “Bloggers Should Set An Example” by Martin Hollick in his former blog, The Slovak Yankee. Unfortunately, this post no longer appears to be available online. Martin notes on his website: “[this blog] once had over 1,000 posts, but I removed all posts that I thought were opinionated and left those that were pure genealogy, some 600 posts.”
Thomas posted twice on the subject of source citations during this fall 2010 initiative:
- Thomas Macentee, “Open Thread Thursday: Genealogy Bloggers and Source Citations,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 12 August 2010 (http://www.geneabloggers.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).
- Thomas Macentee, “Got Sources?,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 15 August 2010 (http://www.geneabloggers.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).
Both the tone of the comments and the outcome from this discussion was vastly different than in the earlier one. It was apparent that the “geneablogging community” had spoken, and citations were a no-go for most bloggers. Whereas in 2009 Thomas provided new resources for helping bloggers cite their sources, in August 2010 he provided the graphic seen here.
To me, this is not progress.
I want to be clear that I am using Thomas as an example in this post because he is a leader in the geneablogging community. I am not picking on him at all. I know that he does use source citations in his own research. Most of his blog posts in Geneabloggers do not contain any facts that would need citations.
More experienced genealogists always talk about “if I only I knew … when I first started doing genealogy.” One of the most common phrases is “if I only I knew to cite my sources back then.” With more and more new genealogists coming into contact with and learning from blogs, wouldn’t we be doing them a favor by telling them, “Hey! Cite your sources!” and showing them how (or at least practicing what we preach)? Ten or twenty years from now, they won’t have to look back and say, “if only I knew.” Because they would know.
How many genealogy bloggers believe that we should cite sources in our research? How many of us painstakingly add citations to our Rootsmagic, Family Tree Maker, or Legacy Family Tree databases using their citation templates? Shouldn’t we practice what we preach? Why is there a double standard?
What’s the difference between saying “my blog doesn’t need citations–it’s just for fun, it’s not a scholarly journal” and saying “my research doesn’t need citations–it’s just for fun, I’m not a professional”? The slope may be slippier than you think.
It’s true, bloggers. You are in control of your blogs, and it is your decision whether or not you want to cite your sources. I hope that even one of you will read one of these posts and decide to start.
 Michael Hait, CG, “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 16 December 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).
If you would like to cite this post:
Michael Hait, CG, “My last word on GeneaBlogging and the Paradigm Shift,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 6 January 2012 (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.]