Saturday, August 1, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over (Cycle 3) - Week 5 - Toolboxes and Citations

So we are now in Week 5 of the third cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over.

Review of Last Week

I spend some time this week looking at task management software options. As I said last week, I was unaware of a good cross-platform, simple option - something that would work on tablet and computers, with cloud capacities to ensure universal syncing.

Well, after hours of searching, I still haven't found anything. Indeed, some of what I used in the past is no longer available/supported. I can try to use Evernote, but I think that is as bad as trying to use spreadsheets for every task. This will be an area of ongoing investigation for me.

Two Topics for Week 5

Building a Research Toolbox

The idea here is to centralize links to useful resources that we would like to not have to hunt down whenever we would like it. For example, a calculator that translates between Julian and Gregorian calendars can be useful in trying to figure out what a particular date might be in the other calendar (for those of us with Eastern European ancestry, that one is important because Orthodox countries like Russia didn't adopt the Gregorian calendar until the 20th century).

I have done that in the past in my browser bookmarks. I will review the bookmarks, because to be honest, even with my multiple layers of subfolders, some things are misplaced.

Citing Sources

At some point I will go into the whole point of source citation, the Genealogical Proof Standard, and how to be thorough and document things.

The main point is that it is important to cite the sources of information. This is important both for yourself and for others following your work.

For yourself, citing sources will allow you to go back later and review why you came to a conclusion. It will also help you find additional information that you overlooked before, as you learn more what to look for in the records.

For others, it allows them to replicate your research to verify it for themselves. It lets them test your conclusions and possibly correct errors. And it also gives others confidence in your results.

Thorough citation is a pain in the butt. It takes a long time, requires practice, and every type of resource has its own stylistic template. Different software programs require different ways of setting up the sources and citations.

Let me explain a bit. Say I am citing a U.S. census record. I got the information from a repository, say, It received the information from the National Archives on some date. I retrieved the results on a different date. The census was taken on an earlier date. The record is for a specific state, county, and district within the county. It is on a line and a page. All of that information might make it into a citation.

Online search services usually attach some sort of citation to an entry. However, any information entered by an individual user doesn't have that information. If I get a copy of an old birth record in a church directory, scan it, post it to an online tree (we can have a discussion later about copyright issues), and then try to cite it, there are a host of issues that I need to address. I may need to create a repository entry, a source entry, and a citation.

I am getting tired just thinking about it.

Citing sources is one of those things that we all agree makes sense, like not jaywalking and always obeying the speed limit, but where we might cut corners when we are in a hurry.

Saying "cite your sources" is a lot like saying "eat your vegetables." We know it is good for us, but most of us are not in the habit of doing it consistently.