Is Some Source Better than No Source?

Yesterday’s Genealogy Tip of the Day, Remember Your Cousin in Santa Fe,”  was an extremely shortened version of genealogical citation. Extreme is probably an understatement. It was written more out of frustration than any desire to rewrite the methodology of genealogical research.

While some may take me to task for the citation format that was used and suggested, there was a reason. I know there are many researchers who avoid any type of citation at all because they see no reason to cite or they view citations as unnecessarily complex. There are a few for whom citations bring back visions of PCSD (post-citation stress disorder)* from various high school and college English classes. Seeing citations as something to avoid is not my personal viewpoint, but it is difficult to deny the approach of many–particularly when one looks at some online trees and some printed references. It might be nice if every genealogist would cite in the style of  Evidence Explained, but that simply is not going to happen.  That’s not the world in which we live.

I’m of the mind that some sort of citation in compilations made by genealogists is better than no citation all. Purists may take me to task. That’s fine.

I would rather see a reference to a date of death with a source of “Coshocton County, Ohio, Courthouse Death Records from 1878” than nothing. A genealogist worth their salt (professional or not) who needs to see the actual record should have a good idea to what the compiler was referring. Again, it’s not perfect and ideally there would be a volume, page number, format of access, etc. But it is better than nothing.

As some genealogists continue their research they may see that citations of this need some refinement because there are things that citations of this type do not tell the reader. But there is no denying that these citations do tell the reader something.

These comments should not construed to refer to the fee-based and free-access publishers of genealogical records and sources (census, newspapers, vital records, county records, etc.). These comments are intended to refer to authored sources compiled by researchers on families in which they have a genealogical interest.

*-this reference is not meant to cause offense to anyone suffering from actual PTSD.

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