Re: Sources vs. Citations


I rarely comment, but sources & citations are one reason that caused me to take a holiday from FH.


The example described by colevalleygirl isn’t that unusual and certainly I have some in my tree.


I would add the following:


  1. It’s vital that sources & citations should be understandable by anyone coming fresh to your tree (after all, you may not be around).
  2. Sources & Citations must be carefully chosen to stand the test of time. I fell foul of this when the Record Office I was using decided, without warning, to re-catalogue the BMD records I was referencing. Moreover, the records are now on Ancestry, who in turn present the records by decade rather than the original document. Perhaps a good case for having a private copy of the images?
  3. Where there is ambiguity in the records, the reasons for your conclusions must be included. It’s nice if you can develop conclusions which are beyond all reasonable doubt (as the judge might say to the jury), but that isn’t always possible where old records are involved, so doubly important your reasoning is recorded.
  4. Taking Jane’s initial post I’d hazard a guess that many users start by being “lumpers” and then when the research bug really bites, want to change to be splitters (not my favourite terms, but hey-ho…). I wish I’d started as a splitter, as that brings me to my final point. Deciding the formats of your splitter citations is not straightforward as later research may mean the initial formats you choose may no longer fit the bill. I did suggest the wider use of user-defined templates (in AS), as that would be an obvious aid to consistency. I wrote my own plugin and that worked to a degree, but of course has its own challenges with an editor I find increasingly tedious to use (scrolling through yards of code without line numbers and no facility to collapse sections of code).


Lessons learnt:

  • Changing from lumper to splitter isn’t straightforward if you have a sizeable tree and the work can be tedious. So the initial decision is very important. A migration aid would be a boon, but of course requires detailed knowledge of your lumps.
  • Think carefully about the readability of your sources / citations. Something which might suit you personally might not always be the best for others, or those who might later look at your efforts.
  • This entire topic took a lot of effort for yours truly (and is still incomplete). Advice saying “whatever works for you” only added intensely to my frustration. I would far rather my effort could have been directed at continuing research. Not ideal.



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