Monday, April 21, 2008

This Really Peeves Me Off!

Well it's Monday morning and I really need to vent about my biggest genealogy pet peeve.

This weekend I was visiting with my aunt and uncle. We were chatting away when Uncle LB hands me a book to look at. The book is a family history of his mother's paternal ancestors. It is a beautifully bound green hardcover with gold lettering; about 400 pages or so. It looks quite impressive. I open the book and take a quick browse through. Lots of people are listed in chronological order and there are quite a few photographs included. It is obvious the author has spent a great deal of time on this family history.
I didn't bother to ask Uncle LB how much he paid for the book because in fact he was ripped off! Why would I say this? The family history book with all its facts and pretty pictures in not worth the paper it is written on from a professional genealogy standard. There is not one source listed in that book.
Now I must say that at least the author was consistent and did not cite any sources, which in my opinion is better than the family books I have where the author did some scattered citing here and there. A look through that three volume set is an exercise in frustration!!

So, what is my point in all of this?

Document and cite your sources. Any and all family historians should document where they are getting their information. That information should be backed up with solid evidence (proofs) such as primary documents - birth, marriage and death registrations and supported with secondary sources - census records, newspaper announcements. Even if the information came from an email from Great Aunt Lulu, it is important to document that.
Ideally, anyone reviewing your research should be able to locate the same proofs you did to support your research.

There is a new book by Elizabeth Shown Mills titled "Evidence Explained". It is the "definitive guide to the citation and analysis of historical sources". Using Elizabeth's book you will learn how to properly document and cite Great Aunt Lulu's email plus all your other sources.

I encourage all of you to write and share your family history - just make it worth the respect your hard work deserves and include your sources!!