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Open Thread Thursday: Genealogy Bloggers and Source Citations

keep calm and cite your sources

In today’s post Bloggers Should Set An Example over at The Slovak Yankee, Martin Hollick asks why more genealogy bloggers don’t post their source citations in their blog posts. He asks, “Shouldn’t bloggers be setting am example?”

This may seem like a discussion we held several times at GeneaBloggers in the past and due to the explosive growth of genealogy blogs and new members, it might be a good idea to review the topic of source citations and genealogy blogs.

First, for source citation resources and previous discussions on this topic, click here.

Second, for technical information on setting up footnotes in a blog post, click Footnotes – How to Cite Sources In Blogs and Websites.

Third, one of the most heated discussions here at GeneaBloggers took place in our infancy, back in March 2009 when genealogy blogs were accused of being bad for genealogy.

Finally, the decision to include source citations in a blog post is left to the individual blogger. This community did not reach a consensus for several reasons:

  • by their nature, most blog posts are usually two to three paragraphs in length and many bloggers prefer to limit them to that length
  • many genealogy blogs are created to share information with family members and including source citations may detract from that function
  • most bloggers would prefer to be contacted by individual researchers and then share information including source citations
  • many bloggers – some of whom are professional genealogists and some with certification credentials – don’t treat their blog posts as academic research and again, prefer to provide source citations upon request

When bloggers say that they do provide source citations upon request, I trust that most of them really do and are not trying to provide poorly researched information on their sites. My personal opinion is to not include source citations and to provide them upon request, which I do.

One thing that can’t be said is that we haven’t pushed the concept of source citations and their merits here at GeneaBloggers.  In recent activities such as the GeneaBlogger games, with cheat sheets like the Source Citation Quick Reference and other posts, we’ve consistently tried to impress upon the community the importance of backing up your research with source citations. Whether you choose to include them in posts is up to you individually.

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So, let’s treat this as an Open Thread Thursday.  What are your thoughts on the subject of source citations and genealogy blog posts? If you do not post them, do you offer them to other researchers upon request? Do you think that the lack of source citations on a blog post reflects poorly on the post content, the research, the blogger, the genealogy blogging community? Have your say in the comments.

Oh and if you have a minute – check out our Keep Calm and Cite Your Sources button. I will be at #fgs10 in Knoxville next week and will have these with me and available for purchase.

©2010, Thomas MacEntee

23 thoughts on “Open Thread Thursday: Genealogy Bloggers and Source Citations

  1. I have thought about this many times as I do my blog posts. I admit, at times I feel like I need to be posting citations and other times I do not.

    It makes sense to me that some people post citations on their blog if they are giving names, dates, places, etc. It shows that they have done their research and have correctly documented their findings. But, I also agree that most people are not making blog posts as an academic research publication. I think it is a great idea to offer the sources if people ask.

    I come across websites, including blogs, all the time that have a bunch of information but nothing on there is sourced or have citations. Almost all of those sites and people who contribute to them have been more than happy to share their sources with me when I have asked.

    When it comes down to it, I think it is just up to the person making the post.

  2. I am a huge believer in having your sources but I don’t think they have to be published on the blog posts. I always say that I am willing to give out the source citation if someone asks. However, it is just too much work to constantly be thinking of including source citations for it – especially since it is not meant to serve as an academic publication.

    I’m always willing to share and I have my email address posted all over the net and a contact form on my website. So people can decide what they want on their own.

  3. I try to cite sources but there are times when I don’t on my blog because of time restrictions. Frankly, I’m still
    a newby at siting sources correctly and it takes me a
    good long look at Evidence Explained sometimes to figure out how exactly to cite something. I do try to give as much information as I can as to where and how I
    find what I’ve written about.

  4. As yet, I don’t think I’ve seen any sources on a blog. And, I don’t source either. However, I do have 95% of my RootsWeb site sourced, and with over 36,000 names, none of which were from GEDCOMS. And I am constantly helping others with their genealogy. A blog, to me, is a fun thing to do and can be put up or taken down in a second. If you want to stress sources, write articles in your blog about it.
    I think if some “had” to source their material, we would never get to read their blog.

  5. My blog is definitely not an academic journal. It’s entertainment. Most of my readers are not genealogists, and I’m careful not to get too technical because I want to appeal to a broader audience. That allows me to reach more people, which means more ad revenue, which means I get to buy groceries and diapers. Otherwise we starve.

    I think of blogs (well, my blog anyway) as akin to a TV show. You don’t see detailed source citations pop up on the screen during “Who Do You Think You Are?” That wouldn’t be appropriate for the venue.

    But if other bloggers have different reasons for blogging and/or want to cite their sources, that’s fine. I’m also delighted to provide source information (and copies of the actual sources, when appropriate) to other researchers. When the sources are online, I also provide links.

    I’m glad to see the Thursday discussions back!

  6. I do not post my sources unless I have exported something from my genealogy database to post. Then I allow the sources to go along with it. As another person commented, the blog is not meant to be academic, so if someone would like the sources to go with the information, I’m happy to provide them.

  7. I replied on Facebook, rather than here. Curious, huh?!
    My note to Thomas is: Do you have an updated list of “Daily Themes”? I notice you use Open Thread Thursday – I like it. The “originals” are getting somewhat tired. Thanks, Bill 😉

  8. It depends on the type of article I am writing whether I include sources. If I am writing up a case study, I would more likely include sources. If I am posting photos and if there are not my own, I will say so.

    If I am telling family stories, they are that, stories of how I remember an event. If I quote another author, I will give the source.

    I find that on my Graveyard Rabbit of Grey County, Ontario I am more apt to give sources of the information that I have located about the individuals as I generally post about strangers. I am not apt to keep the information on sources on my computer so I want them to accompany the photos that I post.

  9. My thoughts run along what Kerry said. In general, most geneabloggers are blogging for fun, in addition to their research. Blogs aren’t usually an academic medium, but are an informal way of communicating easily with anyone who might find you. Footnotes just don’t seem to fit with blogging.

    Having said this, I’ve used footnotes on occasion, though not consistently. Sometimes I simply feel that they are appropriate, but most of the time I don’t feel that they are necessary.

    Think back about some of the blog posts you’ve read recently. A few were very likely about an individual document and how and where the researcher found it. Or some were profiling an ancestor, stating the research behind finding the individual: what census records they can be found in and what military document broke through a brick wall. These don’t really call for footnotes do they? The information is in woven into the blog content.

    Most of the blogs I read are sourced – just not in footnote form.

  10. I’ve been blogging just over a year. I included source citations in several of my earliest posts. Though I looked at the sources to write the posts, it took a lot of time and effort and it didn’t seem to be of interest to anyone. And I noticed that of the blogs I read, no one else cited sources. So I usually don’t.
    I think it’s very important to have, know, and consult sources when writing factual blog posts, but I think it depends on the purpose of the blogger whether he/she cites sources in posts.
    Another thought I had is that if one can read your blog and get the sources for all your information, there’s less reason for that person to email you. No cited sources could encourage another researcher to contact you.

  11. When looking at my own blog, I can see three types of posts. All three get a different treatment as to sourcing.

    I have posts that are just showing what I am doing, what I am researching. These are about works-in-progress, and I don’t source them, as it’s usually just a ‘I’m doing this’ post.

    I also have posts that fall in the ‘look what I found!’ category. These normally are about a specific bit of information and the post itself details where I found it. No need to put in a source, as the source is in the post.

    And then I have my ‘showcase’ posts. COG posts, posts about local or world history and of course biographies of my ancestors. These posts are written in story-form and I put all of my sources at the end. Although I am thinking about switching to footnotes in future posts for this. Either way, all of the sources I used are in the post.

  12. All genealogists should be able to provide sources to their research if requested; but in regards to blogs, I most agree with bullet 4: • many bloggers – some of whom are professional genealogists and some with certification credentials – don’t treat their blog posts as academic research and again, prefer to provide source citations upon request.

  13. I agree that sources are extremely important, actually critical but with that said, I don’t usually include my sources (at least as footnotes) in blog posts. However, I think I have an acceptable alternative. I started my blog as a companion to my full blown family history website which does have sources documented. Most everyone I mention in a blog post is linked to their information on my website so my sources are available to anyone who is willing to make an extra click or two. I have a note in the blog sidebar that additional information (including sources) is available by clicking on the links. My hope is that this satisfies both the people who don’t care about seeing the sources and the ones who do.

  14. I think this discussion is terrific and I believe it is a great example of genie blogs, genie research, genie data bases and family historians are all INDIVIDUALS with different obsessions, outlooks, goals, talent and time.

    I am the first to say and teach, YOU GOTTA SOURCE your data. I stress to newbies that you must source EVERY single fact you input to your data base, bar NONE! Do it , every single time. I don’t really care if your sources are techy correct, do what works for you. The reality is, very few family researchers will ever publish a work or book, if you take the numbers that research and compare to the numbers that publish. So, source for YOU, so you can remember where you found the information. FOR YOU!

    As far as this discussion, it just shows our individualism once again. I just love it. So many ways to approach our blogs. If you are techy and academically inclined footnotes rule, go for it. If you are more into wanting your family to read a bit about their family and want to keep it light, go for it.

    Individualism Rules!

  15. It’s a challenge to post my sources for each bit of information. Thinking back on the variety of posts about actual research, I find that I:

    * Post a source for the material used for Amanuensis Monday. It is usually in the text rather than an endnote.

    * Don’t post a “real” source for the Tombstone Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday or Treasure Chest Thursday posts. Most of the images are from my own collection and I don’t bother. Others do – good for them!

    * Don’t post sources for info in Surname Saturday posts. These posts are created from my database, and then edited down. They often include 4 to 8 families with 2 to 15 children each. Doing sources for them is not an option. I’ve been trying to add a general source – e.g., a surname book – if I have one. Unfortunately, information on many of my ancestral families came from family history and town history books, not from original source records. Readers can contact me for the sources if they want to.

    * Other posts about individuals or families are sometimes sourced, and sometimes not sourced, depending on the material I have and if I remember to do it!

    I am still working on adding sources to my database. It is over 39,000 persons, and I had very few “real” sources when I started. I have thousands now, but they are still in shorthand format.

    In principle, I agree that facts should be sourced. In practice, and on a blog, it’s difficult to do consistently. Or maybe I’m just too lazy?

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