On top of everything else I ought to be doing with my family history this week I have decided to set myself a new challenge.
A couple of months ago I used a query on Family Historian which shows all the facts in my database without sources, this brought up a list of entries, around 25 in number, which I didn’t think was too bad for a database of 1700+ individuals. In the intervening weeks I have nibbled away at the list so that yesterday the list was down to twenty.
Yesterday evening I decided it was time to tackle the remaining twenty entries, so this week I am going to attempt to clear the list. Last night I cleared another five entries so it is now down to fifteen.
Most of these entries on the list shouldn’t cause too much of a problem (I could probably do it in an evening), most of them are where I have either got carried away and forgotten to add a source or I have merely added a temporary fact, such as a birth year and place from the census, with the intention of putting in a more detailed entry later but never got round to it.
There are a few foreign entries which need a bit more thinking about because I lack the experience of citing those sources, however I never said that the source citations had to be perfect, just functional.
Hopefully by this time next week I will have this little list cleared and if it proves to be a helpful motivational exercise I might see if I can find a similar challenge for next week.
I currently have 62 events in my database which cite the International Genealogical Index as a source. I use the extracted records from the IGI as an alternative source until I can view the actual entry (digital image, microfilm/fiche or original register) and confirm the details for myself.
It occurred to me a couple of days ago that some time in the future the IGI will disappear in its current form (or at least not be so easily accessible) and all the source citations I have for it will cease to be of use to anyone trying to follow-up my research.
Now the extracted records are included on the new FamilySearch.org website and in the future I will be citing the England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 and the England Marriages, 1538–1973 from the Historical Records as the source of the information I would previously have found in the IGI, but what should I do with the existing citations?
Technically the IGI is still the source of the information, whether it exists or not, but when it ceases to exist it is not going to be particularly helpful to those coming after me. Now that the information is available from a new source (which will presumably be around for many years to come) it would be much more helpful to update those sources to the new format, but of course that means I will be wasting valuable research time on updating source citations that I don’t really need to.
So what do you think? Have you got source citations for the IGI? Are you going to be updating your sources?
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.