We often hear people say that they don’t have to cite their sources because they are “only doing it for the family” or they “aren’t going to publish” their research. But there are very good reasons why you should want to cite your sources.
3. So Other People Can Follow You
Whenever I hear people say that they don’t intend to publish their work, I have to laugh. Because almost every one of them that has said that has also told me that they use a genealogy database program to keep track of their research. Not only that, but they create GEDCOM files, which they send to family and friends, or post them online. They don’t realize that this is also publishing. And when you publish in any way, shape, or form, you want people to be able to understand your research, and how you reached your conclusions.
2. So You Can Evaluate The Reliability of Your Evidence
Genealogists today have access to mountains of information for researching their family history. This information will provide you generous amounts of information, which you then have to evaluate. You may, for example, have a general year of birth from a census record. You then find a birth certificate that gives you an exact date of birth. By citing your sources you will be able to review where you to the information to determine what is the most accurate.
1. Because You Will Need to Find it Again
Above all else, your ability to find your source again is the biggest reason why you should record where you found the information. You may find two documents that provide conflicting information, so you will have to go back and look at your sources again. You need to be certain you didn’t make a typographical error of some sort when recording the information. I have a friend who has been a professional genealogist for more almost thirty years, and has been researching for almost forty years. One of her biggest regrets is that when she was a beginning researcher, she found the date and place of birth for her great-grandfather. Unfortunately, she didn’t record the source of the information. She has never been able to find it again. And people are publishing all sorts of conflicting information online, but she has no way to evaluate it all and come to the truth.