Thursday, June 2, 2011

Inflaming Source Citation Passions

Source citation passions seem to bloom every so often - some geneabloggers write whole series about creating them and using them, and some geneabloggers lament that they are so complicated that you need a 1,000 page book to create them.  Other geneabloggers write a long saga about how genealogy software programs mess them up, but I digress.

There are two source citation series started this past month:

The Ancestry Insider has a series on Citations with a plan for many more articles.  I was intrigued by his objectives for this series:

"1. Show beginners how easy it can be to cite and historic record collections.
"2. Convince and that they need to shoulder the heavy lifting, so that citations to their collections can be easy for beginners.
"3. Convince non-beginners that what I am showing beginners is credible (for citing and historic record collections).
"4. Convince users that Mills citation guides are absolutely necessary for citing archive sources.
"5. Pass on some insights I gained during a year's study of citation issues."

I'm enjoying the series, and the comments, and I think that my readers will enjoy and appreciate this effort.  I hope that Mr. AI succeeds in his objectives, especially #2.  Then there is the issue of creating quality source citations in newFamilySearch... (hopefully, that is part of The AI's objective #2).

*  Michael Hait, on his Planting the Seeds blog, has several posts about source citations:

1.  Source Citations: Why Form Matters, part one
2.  Source Citations: Why Form Matters, part two
3.  Source Citations: Getting it “Right,” part one

with more to come, I hope!

Michael's posts were inspired, in part, by Kerry Scott, who writes The Clue Wagon blog and caused a stir in the genealogy world back in February with her post:

Source Citations in Genealogy: Church or Cult? (with 73 comments to date) in which she stated that "I am a devout member of the Church of Citations." but "What I don’t believe in is the Cult of Citations."  That is a useful distinction, I think.

I appreciate the efforts and thoughtfulness of these geneabloggers, and hope that they continue writing about sources and citations.  They break up the boredom of a long genealogy day - I get excited when I see a long post about source citations (um, I hear someone saying "get a life, Seaver"). 

In my own research and database work, I've wholeheartedly adopted the Evidence! Explained models and cheerfully create my sources using the genealogy software templates based on EE.  Basically, I stopped fighting it and learned to love the bomb, er, the process.  I became a member of the church of citations, but don't sweat the really small details.  I don't really know anyone who is in the cult, although some may think I'm a member of it because of my series about mangling sources by genealogy software and GEDCOM. 

My whole attitude has changed - it's now "genealogy fun" for me to create complicated citations that may impress, or confuse, whoever finds my work in a GEDCOM file hundreds of years down the road.   However, I've resisted making "Write a really complicated source citation for ..." a topic on Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. 

I know that several other geneabloggers have opined on this subject, but I don't have URLs to quote.  If you know a good one, please pass it on and I'll update this post.

UPDATED: 11 a.m.  James Tanner on the Genealogy's Star blog has done us a service by creating a Citation Awareness Chart.  I'm a 10.5!

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(c) 2011. Randall J. Seaver. All Rights Reserved. If you wish to re-publish my content, please contact me for permission, which I will usually grant, with proper attribution. If you are reading this on any other genealogy website, then they have stolen my work.


James Tanner said...

On question raised recently in the FamilySearch Forums for the Wiki was whether or not other English speaking countries adhered to the Mills variety of citations. I thought it was an interesting question. Are we becoming to U.S.-centric in addressing the issue?

Drew Smith said...

One could just as easily ask if one is being U.S.-centric if you use American spelling conventions instead of British spelling conventions when you are writing family history stories. Clearly, you have to make choices, and your choice should be heavily influenced by your primary intended audience. If that is an American audience, then there shouldn't be any problems with using a citation style that is popular among American historians (such as the Chicago Manual of Style).