Genealogical citations are one thing that genealogists of all levels struggle with at one time or another. We all know that it is important to write down where we found a particular piece of information -- or at least that is a lesson we quickly learn as we begin to run into conflicting information. But how many details do we need to record? Is the order and punctuation of the citation elements really that important? Will we get our hand slapped by the citation police, or be taken less seriously, if we "do it wrong"?
I can honestly say that the turning point for my mindset on genealogical citations was the week that I spent in June 2010 participating in Elizabeth Shown Mill's Course 4, Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis, at Samford's Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research. Until that week I wrote citations because that's what I was supposed to do. Citations, I thought, were proof that I knew what I was doing. They also made it possible for me, and others, to go back and locate the records I used. I used Elizabeth's book Evidence Explained on a regular basis, turning to it for citation templates whenever I needed help, and thought I was doing a pretty good job.
But then I spent a week listening to Elizabeth, soaking up more information than I ever thought I could in such a short time. My views on genealogical records and the information you can extract from them changed forever. And as far as genealogical citations go? I can't remember exactly how Elizabeth put it, but it had something to do with being selfish. If we are being honest, do we really do all of that work for "other" people? Shouldn't we be doing it for ourselves--to assist in our analysis of the evidence and ability to reach accurate conclusions? That's also why all of those little "details" such as order and punctuation are important, because they help to demonstrate the nature and quality (strengths and weaknesses) of the source. I also learned that Evidence Explained is SO much more than a collection of citation templates.
Now you can benefit from Elizabeth's extensive knowledge and brilliant words on her new website, EvidenceExplained.com. On it she offers digital versions of her book Evidence Explained, as well as the popular QuickSheets, available for purchase--something many of us have long been waiting for! Even cooler there are several free QuickLessons, including:
- QuickLesson 1: Analysis & Citation
- QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof
- QuickLesson 3: Flawed Records
The site also includes sample selected content from her book, several sample QuickCheck models, and a forum for evidence and citation-related questions and discussions. Check it out!