google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html A 10 Step Plan: Getting Sources & Citations Under Control | The Armchair Genealogist

A 10 Step Plan: Getting Sources & Citations Under Control

Let's not kid ourselves, many genealogists started their researching careers with a lack of knowledge  or understanding of the importance of citing their sources.

 I didn’t get drawn into genealogy because I love to write a citation. Before I started genealogy, I hadn’t used a citation in probably 30 years. Seriously. It was not part of my daily diet.  It still is the least exciting part about genealogy ranking right up there with the tedious task of scanning. But...like you I made my share of mistakes and I have been fixing those mistakes.

We all were pulled into the excitement of the research, the thrill of the hunt and discovery of our family history. Eventually we all come to realize the importance of knowing where our information came from, and what sources we have to support our history as fact. However, more often then you realize, this knowledge arrives after we've been researching for some time.

Now what do we do?

Seasoned professionals love to beat this stick. I like to think it's not because there exists some rigid rules meant to frighten and intimidate you from this very passionate hobby. I think it’s because many of them made these very mistakes. They understand the work involved in going back through your research and making sure you have proper sources for all your information.  They want to help you from repeating history. They are trying to save you time and grief later.  But they also understand completely if you too got caught up in the excitement of the hunt and paid little attention to those boring citations. We're not passing judgement, many of us, whether we care to admit it or not have walked in those shoes.

So I’m not going to beat that stick as well. I ‘m going to assume you followed human nature and did like the rest of us, got caught up in the excitement and left the citations at the curb. But of course, now your ready to clean up your research and address those sources and citations. 

Do you have spotty and shotty sources and citations? Click to Tweet


Here's a 10 step plan to help you do just that! It's meant too be easy, uncomplicated and do-able in manageable chunks. Once you create your system and put your plan in place your citations will slowly get under control. You'll expand your knowledge of sources and citations and you just might tear down a brick wall by looking at your research with fresh eyes. 

There is no miracle to taming those out of control sources and citations, only a slow and steady pace. Check out the mind map below that lays out this 10 step plan. 

If you would like a larger view of this mind map click here, you can download a PDF of this tool to help you clean up your sources and citations. 



22 comments:

  1. This is wonderful, and makes it seem doable. I can't access the PDF however and would like to print it off as a reminder.

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  2. Sorry Cellista, forgot to change the share setting, it is accessible now.
    Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. Where do I print from? This is fabulous!!!

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  4. Follow the link in the last line of the post to Google Docs where you can download it to your computer. From there you are welcome to print it or just view it from your computer. You may have to manipulate the size to print it. Or print on larger paper size. Hope it helps!

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  5. Back to the drawing board. I don't think I've done this for anyone. Looks like a gigantic chore but I did print your mindmap as a starting place.

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  6. Ann, for certain there is no quick fix. But think how rewarding it will feel to accomplish this task knowing you have sourced and cited your family history and it will stand the test of time. Start small, one ancestor at a time, manageable chunks.

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  7. This is wonderful! What I like most about your process is it breaks down this overwhelming chore to manageable bite size pieces. I have over a 1000 people in my tree and only the most recent additions have been properly documented. Thanks for this fantastic 10 step plan.

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  8. You're very welcome Kathy. That's my motto for everything "manageable bite size pieces." No one wants to start a task where there is no end in sight! This way you can measure your progress.

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  9. I am one of the guilty ones and I just started this huge task as a New Year's resolution. I would suggest that if you are going to tackle this, go to You Tube and find the "how to cite your sources" videos (there are several) created by Ancestry Anne for Ancestry.com. She explains how to cite your sources in an easy to understand way based on the book, Evidence Explained. After watching the videos, I then purchased the book and, following Ancestry Anne's suggestion, I created a master citation list in my word processing program to copy and paste from before I ever actually dove into my software program, Family Tree Maker for Mac. Anne will even get you started with your master list by providing the census citations you will certainly need! If you have been researching as long as I have, I will not kid you that this is a huge undertaking. But...it has turned out to be one that is both rewarding and eye opening. I have found mistakes and thought of ideas to scale those brick walls. I will not claim to be an expert in correctly citing all of the sources that I have used; some I just can't figure out the correct way, but I am trying. What matters, though, is that anyone can now find where my facts came from and know that my tree is based on actual documents. Isn't that what we all hope for, a true picture of our ancestors and their lives? Thank you for your flow chart! I think it will motivate a great number of people to document their trees!

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  10. Thank you Lynn for reminding us that Anne is a wonderful resource in learning to understand citations. And no guilt allowed, we look at this only as an opportunity. I can only think of a handful of people who would or could claim to be an expert in citations. The rest of us need that trusty manual, and really do we need to commit it to memory? I wish it came in an app....in case your listening Ms. Mills.

    Like I said to Kathy there is no quick fix. Like you, I have found many enlightening opportunities by cleaning up my sources and citations. It's not easy, tedious just like scanning my boxes of pictures but rewarding none the less.

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  11. This was a great post! I also was one of the newbies who did not cite my sources, although all the friendly and more experienced patrons at the local genealogy library told me to do so. They even told me I would not understand now, but I would in ten years. Truer words were never spoken. I have spent the last three years or so correcting source citations and have FINALLY finished the project. I followed a similar plan to your's. I agree that you need to take breaks and put in some new research here and there to break up the monotony. Just don't forget to cite your sources with the new research or you will be back in the same boat.

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  12. Of course I didn't cite my sources in the beginning but now it's such a habit I enjoy the satisfaction of getting it into my program. Good idea to go back to the beginning and get it all caught up.
    Thanks for a well laid out plan!

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  13. Thanks for providing a plan that makes correcting my past "mistakes" doable.

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  14. Lynn, this is an excellent and common-sense plan. I'm doing a first-pass for over 1000 ancestors now, working partly from a cousin's genealogy sketch and simply attaching documents to each ancestor from Ancestry, while making sure each document is consistent with all the other documents. I do pace myself and try to do a maximum of 10 or 12 a day; otherwise, my nerves start to jangle. Ancestry does has a "Bibliography" function, though I realize it is not thoroughly up to code.

    I've downloaded your inspring PDF that makes checking sources very clear. I plan to use Evidence Explained on the second pass, and eventually all this material is destined for a family archive in a state library. You're right, there are open "leads" for each ancestor, but I think If I did each one now according to Genealogical Proof Standard I would simply bog down. When I've finished my first pass, I'll bring up your PDF and dip further into individual ancestors, starting with the most interesting.

    Thank you for making this subject so clear and approachable! Very useful.

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  15. Mariann, thanks for sharing your experience with cleaning up your citations with us. I wouldn't suggest researching the open leads, but note them in a plan so when your ready for some research time your following those leads and not off on a random search. I'm the worst for that, now I have a list of my leads and I go to that list when I have research time.

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  16. Lynn,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/04/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-april-19.html

    Have a great weekend!

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  17. Great advice and solutions, with a cool-looking graphic. Thanks!

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  18. I am in exactly this bind. I decided that this is the year to begin this massive project and as you suggest I started with people in my direct line. I've started a couple of times, but I get bogged down trying to figure out which source template is the correct one to use. For example, when I'm dealing with a birth return filmed by the FHL and available on FamilySearch I'm never sure if I'm dealing with the county record (the original still held by the county) or if it is the return from the county sent to the state (and is that held by the state or by an archive somewhere). Then I go online looking for that information and by then I'm frustrated because I want to do it right, but I'm not sure what that is. I finally pick one just to get at least one source cited and by then it's time to do some task around the house so I have to stop. Then I don't want to do the next one because I'm still not sure I picked exactly the right template (or filled out the fields correctly if I didn't pick a template) and so I put it off. Sigh. I think I probably just need to pick a template and write it down so the next time I know which one I previously used. Even if they are not all 100% correct at least they will be consistent.

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  19. Great diagram. It's going on my genealogy bulletin board above my laptop. Another thing I do is type the EE citation into a Word doc, as an example, so that if I am returning to the same source, I just change the "vital info" and cut and paste into my software.

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  20. I don't see a link to Google Docs or a PDF file.

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  21. Virginia, the last line of the post says click here, this will take you to it.

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