You are here

Genealogy Do-Over – Week 5, Cycle 2: 1-7 May 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over - Month 6 Topics: 1) Evaluating Evidence and 2) Reviewing Online Education Options

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 5 Topics: 1) Building a Research Toolbox an 2) Citing Sources.

Click here to to download this article in PDF format.

Previous topics in the Genealogy Do-Over:

[Editor’s note: Much of the text below is unchanged from the original Week 5 posting on January 30, 2015 except for my personal updates.]

Topics: 1) Building a Research Toolbox an 2) Citing Sources

Here we are in the fifth week already of the Genealogy Do-Over and this week’s focus is all about tools: finding and curating online tools to assist with your genealogy research AND understanding the basis of citing sources as a tool to document your research.

* * *

Building a Research Toolbox

For several years I’ve been advocating the following concept: every genealogist should create a consolidated research toolbox filled with various tools such as historical value of money calculators, links to historical newspaper sites, etc.

The reason? Efficiency and increased productivity. Think of how much time you spend looking for a link to a site you saved a week or a month ago? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time looking for ancestors? Or when you need to calculate something – like how much $1 in 1910 would be worth in today’s money, you spend time out on the Web searching for a site to do the calculation. Don’t forget that each time you wander out to the Internet, you are at risk of being attracted by those BSOs (“bright and shiny objects”) and time is wasted!

A genealogy research toolbox can take many forms: a blog, a website, an Excel spreadsheet or even a cleaned-up and organized list of bookmarks:

A genealogy research toolbox can take many forms: a blog, a website, an Excel spreadsheet or even a cleaned-up and organized list of bookmarks.

  • What I Plan to Do: Since I’ve already had a research toolbox for the past three years, I will be reviewing the links to make sure they all work and making updates where needed. I’ll also spend some time online look for new tools to add to my toolbox. Here is the current version of my Genealogy Research Toolbox: http://genealogytoolbox.weebly.com/
  • “All-In” Participant Options: If you don’t already have a research toolbox, download and review the Building a Genealogy Research Toolbox handout here: http://www.geneabloggers.com/genrestools
  • Modified Participant Options: Consider creating a research toolbox, especially if your current toolbox consists of tons of bookmarks or favorites that are not very well-organized.

BONUS: Building a Research Toolbox video from RootsTech 2015

This past February, I was honored to present a live streamed session entitled Building a Research Toolbox (you can watch the video below or click here to view). In front of a full house of over 800 participants and with thousands watching live on the Internet, I explain the concept of a research toolbox and how it has helped my genealogy research.

And click here to download the Building a Research Toolbox syllabus for free!

BONUS: Tools to Get You Started

Here are some tools that I recently located while preparing for a Newspaper Research Strategies Boot Camp. They are so useful that I can’t see doing without them . . . so why not have them ready to access in a toolbox?

  • List of Occupation Abbreviations – GenealogyInTime Magazine
    http://www.genealogyintime.com/dictionary/list-of-occupation-abbreviations-page-a.html
  • Spelling Substitution Tables for the United States and Canada – FamilySearch
    https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Spelling_Substitution_Tables_for_the_United_States_and_Canada

Citing Sources

True confession: Like many beginning genealogists, I did not always cite my sources during research. I was a name collector. I’ve evolved as my research skills improved and as I took advantage of educational resources. For me, citing sources is not about impressing other researchers or meeting any standards established by others. I cite sources so I can go back and find the original information. Plain and simple. Source citations are the equivalent of a trail of breadcrumbs along my genealogy journey.

So, why do we use source citations?

There are many reasons why a genealogist might want to cite sources while researching ancestors.

  • Establish Proof. Cited material gives credibility to a fact or relationship while proving a connection.
  • Determine Reliability of Evidence. Some sources are more reliable and make a stronger proof. Compare points of evidence based on their source.
  • Track Records and Resources. Easily go back and locate records and their repository. This is effective when the original record or a copy is lost.
  • Expand Research. When encountering a difficult area of research, look for sources that were successful in making a proof and check them again for further information.
  • Discover Conflicts. Locate contradictions in existing research or when new evidence is found.
  • Understand the Research Process. When using another researcher’s work, sources can give a glimpse at how that research was developed.
  • Placeholders. Pick up a research project where you left off by looking at source citations.

How do I create a basic source citation?

A basic source citation has the following components:

Author, Title, Publisher, Locator

For the book Evidence Explained, here is a basic citation:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub Co, 2007, p. 103.

  • Author: Format can be “First Name Last Name” or “Last Name, First Name.”
  • Title: Format can be Title (italics) or Title (underline). Also article titles may precede publication title.
  • Publisher: Format often includes publisher location, name and year published and sometimes appears in parentheses.
  • Locator: Usually a page number or range of page numbers depending upon the source type.

In addition, for online sources you may need:

  • Accessed: List date when source located as in “accessed on March 29, 2009” since online sites are known to disappear.
  • Examined: List search criteria as in “examined for any reference to ‘xyz’.”

Following the Basic Source Citation format above, you will want to add more “locator” information when using records such as census pages, death certificates, etc. and also specify the name of the person(s) listed in the record.

1850 U.S. Federal Census, Lewis County, New York, population schedule, Leyden, p. 84, dwelling 1254, family 1282, line 36, Clarinda PARSONS, digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 16 October 2011); from National Archives microfilm publication M432, roll 523, image 168.

How can I access the citation format templates?

While I have added the source citation templates to the Genealogy Research Log (on the Citation Formats tab), click here to access a list of common citation formats in a Microsoft Word document.

  • What I Plan to Do: I’ll be using the Citation Formats tab in my Genealogy Research Log to build source citations for the research I’ve done in the past two weeks. In addition, as I encounter new record sets, I’ll take time to create new templates which will increase my productivity in the long run.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: If you own a copy of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (either hard copy or digital), read Chapters 1 and 2. Doing so will help you understand how source citations are constructed and why they are so important to genealogy research.
  • Modified Participant Options: If you have cited sources for your previous research, review the cites and check them for formatting and accuracy. If you don’t have a cheat sheet or template to help speed up the process, consider creating a way to use pre-set source citation templates.

* * *

And that’s all I have for this week’s topic of the Genealogy Do-Over. Get ready for next week when we discuss evaluating the evidence that we’ve gathered for our proofs and we’ll look at various online genealogy education options.

Next Week: Week 6, Cycle 2 – 8-14 May 2015

  • Evaluating Evidence
  • Reviewing Online Education Options

Thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Do-Over and your feedback is always appreciated. You can leave a comment on the blog post at GeneaBloggers, email me at geneabloggers@gmail.com or post at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Top