Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Universal Source Citation System for Genealogists

Hello All -

One of the things that I have been thinking about is a need for a universal source citation system for genealogists/family historians. What I mean by universal is a recognized system for citing sources that is world-wide. The thought came to me after doing my BCG portfolio and also finding out about how other people do their citations. These thoughts are purely my own opinion, and are not really meant to cause a big debate.

I cannot really speak about how other countries do things, apart from the US and UK. However, from working in these two countries as a genealogist the citing of sources is not the same. The USA and possibly Canada trend toward the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the basis for Elizabeth Shown Mills' two books on the subject, "Evidence: Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian" (1997) and "Evidence Explained" (2007).

In the UK (at least some parts of Scotland) source citations trend toward the Harvard System (sort of an APA style). This is from what I have been led to believe is the main system taught at Univ. of Strathclyde's Genealogical Studies course. However, if I am wrong on this please let me know as I don't want to give out wrong information. Personally, I have been using Mills' books (Chicago Style) for my own work, but it is just what I have been used to so I stick with it.

There are few other styles of citation as well that are used in other academic disciplines such as MLA, Turabian, AMA, APA, etc. In my opinion, I am one that thinks genealogy is an academic discipline too. Some may think it as just a past time or hobby, but in my view it is not much different from studying pure History in university or college. But, I digress.

However, I do realize that there are some who are only interested in doing family history as a hobby. That is fine, but to make one's work credible the sources should be cited. If down the road a person would like to publish their work either as a simple manuscript, self-published such as My Canvas or Blurb, or having a publishing company do the work, it is very important to have the documents and other sources cited as others will be reading it. I know that citing one's work can be a pain, but it is necessary and serves a purpose.

I think as a genealogical community worldwide there should be a universal citing system that can be agreed upon and used by all researchers. This could be either the Chicago or Harvard Style or perhaps something else. I am not too sure that Mills' books are that known in UK and other parts of the world apart from US and Canada. But, that is just speculation on my part. I personally am not fussed by which system is used. My main concern is to have a universal system that we can all agree upon worldwide. I think it would make things easier for everyone is we are all the same in our citing in reports, essays, articles, etc.

In my opinion, I think that genealogy is becoming more recognized as an academic study. We are seeing more and more classes and courses being offered at colleges and universities and online. And as most academic disciplines there should be a proper system in place to cite sources recognized universally. It shouldn't matter if one is from US, UK, Australia, or France.

Well, I suppose I better leave it there. I just thought I would tell my thoughts and observations on the subject.

Until Next Time ...

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