Week Eight

Do I HAVE to Cite My Sources

Citing your sources is not so much a "HAVE TO" procedure; but it is in a way "a completion" of your research.

If you don't cite your sources; it doesn't make your research, null & void or by any means useless. However, it does indeed have some effect eventually on your records.

My goal here is not to "threaten" anyone into citing their sources; I will simply point out the various pros and cons for you to make an informed decision of your own. Some might feel that this topic really has no place in the "organization" of your research, but it does go along with having it orderly, so therefore organized.


In many ways, not citing your sources, only hurts you in your own research. You may not see it at the particular time of finding a bit of information; but you better hope that you get ALL the data you want at that time. Why? 1. You may need to return to the same source to retrieve further data that originally didn't seem necessary. 2. Your source may be an out of print book that you need to ask someone else for page copies from; don't know the name of it, makes it hard to ask for right? 1. It hurts your genealogical reputation. So what- you might say. However, in the researching world, the worst that can happen is for word to get around that your data is "questionable" or "not verifiable". People stop trusting your work and as a result really don't want to swap data with you quite as much because they aren't getting anything worthwhile in return. 2. If you are lucky, someone younger in your family will decide to pick up the research trail when we are too old and feeble to care. Giving them a source, allows them a "jumping off" place to start from. Conversely, if they find an additional connection that a second look at your source could clarify, well then, knowing how to find it is a big bonus. 3. If tragedy strikes and your computer crashes- and you simply have ignored all warnings and don't keep a paper record of your work; a "source guide" will assist you in re-gathering your data.


Your data and years of work become reliable and valued by other researchers. I have seen several genealogical books written that had errors a mile wide in them; I always wonder "where did they get that information". If you should decide to write a book, you will want to have a "back up" to your statement of facts. Citing your sources also can be judged as a sign of etiquette in the researching world. It allows you to give credit where credit is due.

Granted, some of you may well have done all of your own researching and never, ever received data from anyone else's research/data. For the great majority of us though, the equal exchange of data with other researchers is a standard that we operate on. It is only considered decent to give those other researchers credit for all the work they did.

Worth pointing out also; IF the data that you have gained from someone else turns out later to be "bad data", and it is something you have published whether in a book or on the internet; persons reading it will not judge YOU as a nutcase or bad researcher. They also will not deluge YOU with questions as to the accuracy of your research. They can contact the source.


First I wish to mention that although you may wish to include your sources individually with the actual piece of data in your computer; you should also consider keeping a "paper copy" of your sources. If everything is in the computer, it crashes, you loose everything.

Citing your sources doesn't really need to be a complicated procedure. You are simply answering many of the questions that you were taught in school to answer in making a report. Who/Where/When/What

Who-- This can be the name of a book (always include the author, publisher, name of book, page number) or simply the name of the researcher (an email or mailing address is good to keep also).

Where-- Something as simple as what library/archive/ website

When--Record the date that you found the information

What-- Give a brief comment as to the content of the data that you have found. Something such as "parents of John Smith", etc

You basically need to ask yourself what information would be the most beneficial to someone else following up your research; or what data you might need to retrace your steps later on. It's not much different then when you are shopping and find a great deal on an item. You would most likely try to keep note of where you found it, when the sale ends, what the product was and the price.