If you have spent any time recently looking at genealogy blogs you will have come across Mark Tucker’s A Better Way to Cite Online Sources video on his ThinkGenealogy blog. Mark Tucker is starting a crusade to get online providers to provide a better system for genealogists to cite information from their databases.
Whilst I agree in principle that citing sources is an essential part of family history, that everyone should cite their sources (regardless of their professional or non-professional status), that it should be made as easy as possible to cite a source and there should be a standard for citing sources, I do however have some reservations about his suggestions.
What I see as the real issue here is that genealogists need guidelines and instruction on how to cite sources, regardless of where that source is found. It is all well and good giving someone a button to press to cite an online source, but what happens when the source is not online?
Genealogists need the knowledge to be able to construct the source citations themselves, so rather than taking it out of their hands, we should be encouraging them to learn to do it themselves.
In my opinion the key reason why genealogists find citing sources so problematic is that there are very few clear and concise guidelines on how to do it properly. I don’t want to knock Evidence Explained but at 885 pages it is probably too complicated and inaccessible for many people (and virtually impossible to find outside of the United States, in hard copy at least).
Now I am not an expert, and my sources are certainly not perfect, but personally I would rather see the online providers spending their time and money (or rather our money) on digitizing and indexing new content and leaving me to deal with how and where I am going to put that information into my family tree.