Our library recently added a new genealogy book to our circulating collection. It is titled “Mastering Genealogical Documentation”. The author of the book is Thomas W. Jones. The book will soon be on our circulating shelves available for you to check out. The call number of the book is 929.1 JONES, T. You will be able to find it on the 2nd floor of our library in the area noted by the Call Number.
I mention this additional book because up until now the best known source for genealogical documentation and citations is a book titled “Evidence Explained” by Elizabeth Shown Mills. We also have that book in our collection. The call number of this book is 929.3 MILLS, E. It too is available on the 2nd floor of our library on the circulating shelves in the area indicated by the call number. “Evidence Explained” has always been known in the genealogical community as the “Bible” for all things related to genealogical documentation.
Both books point out the necessity for documenting your genealogical discoveries whether your discoveries are online, in a desktop/laptop/tablet lineage program or just in a word document or spreadsheet that you have customized for your own research. Identifying where you found something is critical to show your skills as a researcher as well as to leave a trail of resources that can be followed by other researchers that may follow-up on your discoveries to see if they can replicate what you discovered with the resources you mentioned when cited.
For those of you using a lineage program such as Reunion for a Mac, Legacy Family Tree for Windows, RootsMagic for Windows and other lineage programs for your desktop,or laptop, you will hopefully have discovered the methods within these programs to cite your sources and document your findings. Once you set up a source citation you will find that it can be easily applied to future discoveries on other ancestors from within the same source.
If all else fails and you do not formally cite your sources, at least find a way to use the extensive notes fields of the lineage programs or your own customized methods of keeping your family history to identify and describe where you found material to advance your discoveries. Yes it may not look like a perfectly, formally cited source but the descriptive notes you keep will ultimately lead you to be able to create a citation.
Now that just about all of us have smart phones with extensive picture-taking capabilities, think of using your phone to take pictures of the resources where you are making your discoveries when these are in book format. Take a picture of the book and the first few pages that shows publication year, author, publisher, page where discovery was made etc. Keep the picture in the lineage program or online with the person it was associated with just like you would include a regular picture of the person or a picture of a birth certificate etc.
At least make yourself aware that we have these resources in our collection for you to check out and apply to your discoveries in your research. Yes, these books can be very “heavy” with all they are trying to do to encourage you to develop a process for documenting your discoveries. See for yourself. Check out one of the books. Let your lineage program or online family trees show you how to document your discoveries.
Take advantage of any online tutorials or tutorials embedded in your lineage programs or online uploading locations. Here are a couple of “learning citations” videos from Ancestry.com:
Perhaps you should look at all of the online family trees you will find in which there is hardly any citing of where materials were found. These trees are just copied from one family tree to another and the best source or often noted for the material is that it was obtained from another family tree. That is not a citation!
If you are brand new as a researcher, now is the best time to get in the habit of properly citing and documenting your discoveries. Once you start it will become second nature to do so for every discovery.
If you are a seasoned researcher review what you have and where you obtained the discovery and start updating little by little your sources.
Enjoy these books. Give them a try. I think you will be happy on the guidance they can provide to you.
Schaumburg Township District Library