Re: Sources vs. Citations

Jan Murphy

We're often told that the reason we should cite sources is that we can find them again if we need to, or point other researchers to the same source.  That's valuable, but there's an even more compelling reason.  In the opening of Evidence Explained, Elizabeth Shown Mills says:

We identify our sources -- and their strengths and weaknesses -- so we can reach the most valuable conclusions.

In the 2nd edition of EE, this is on page 10; if my memory is correct, in the newest (3rd rev) it is on page 8.

I've seen discussions on the EE website about cases where census pages had been re-arranged by Ancestry. I've heard FamilySearch indexers complain about arbitrators taking the wrong reading for place names when they (the speakers) had local knowledge and had inputted the correct one.  

We can argue about lumping vs. splitting and the format of citations, and all the other things, but in so many cases, we skip over the critical task of properly identifying what it is that we're looking at.  And none of the "we can find the images just about anywhere" websites are particularly good about giving us enough information to understand what we're collecting.  Findmypast at least gives us an archive reference most of the time, so we can go to the RO or TNA's catalogues and get more informaiton, but they too have collections where the information in the 'transcription' is not really sufficient. 

People struggle with Family Historian sometimes because other programs have different ways of 'helping' us collect source citaitons.  However you choose to record your sources (or not), please take enough time to look at your source and understand what it is and understand its context.  Did the online 'source of your source' re-arrange the pages in a different order than they appear in the original work?  Did they drop a page or two and insert them in a different parish?  Did they assign the parish to a different county in the 'transcription' or 'record' page?  

If you're cribbing information from an index, do you understand how the index was created, what its structure is, what its purpose is?  

Trevor says:

 In my opinion the widespread availability of source images renders such time consuming practices as both unnecessary and outdated. We now live in a completely different age. 

My opinion is completely the opposite. Given how easy it is for websites to screw up, by dropping images, re-arranging images, attributing images to the wrong location, and introducing other problems with bad metadata, I think understanding our source material enough to write a decent citation is more important than ever.  

Jan Murphy
Moderator Pro Tempore

On Sat, Mar 7, 2020 at 7:12 AM David Potter via Groups.Io <> wrote:
I started to capture the Ancestry. hint image URL and as you say it changes over time. Now at least 1/3 of my Ancestry URL go nowhere.

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