What You Cite Should Be In Your Sight

Never cite a source unless it was actually in your sight.

It’s simple:

  • If you saw a tombstone’s picture on FindAGrave, cite that website–do not indicate you were in the cemetery yourself or took the picture yourself.
  • If you saw a transcription of a will in a published book, cite the book and that book’s transcription–do not cite the will itself.
  • If your Mother told you something about her mother, cite your mother as the source-do not cite Grandma as you didn’t hear Grandma actually say that something.

Whether the source is accurate is another story. We just want our citations to accurately reflect what used.

To learn everything you ever wanted to know about citations, see Evidence Explained.

A big thanks to GenealogyBank for being our sponsor!


7 thoughts on “What You Cite Should Be In Your Sight

  1. Cindy Barber

    I never trust transcriptions. I try to get the source document. Transcriptions may be full of errors, and many times they state relationships that are not actually in the document. For example Michael Rutledge administrator bond was brought by Anne Rutledge in 1709. There is no relationship mentioned in the bond, yet I have a transcription that says she was his wife.

    1. michaeljohnneill Post author

      If I know who transcribed the document and I know that they are usually “true to the document,” then that’s one thing (but I’d still probably get the document unless it was cost prohibitive to do so). But when I have no idea who transcribed it or if I don’t know if the transcriber was really familiar with documents and handwriting from the era, that’s a different story.

    2. Linda Tisdale Mandi

      I too do not completely trust a photocopied transcript. For example, I spent more than 2 decades looking for the original documentation of 3 births in 1692!! Yes 1692!! I knew it was in Maryland. I had info they were born in Somerset MAryland, city county? Was it Somerset then s d something else ow due to dividing counties??? I didn’t know, but I found out. I spend Internet time looking for the data and eventually I spent days in the MAryland Archives, going through big books and little books and microfiche and microfilm. But preserve paid off! After 3 days, I found the info in a book I had already searched, but without the help if the staff at the archives, I would not have found it. But now I have held that book of births, deaths, and marriages. I have seen the original entry and I have a picture of the book, the spine of the book, the index if the book and the original page if the book that has my a ancestors births! Go for the original by using the transcript!!!

  2. Patricia Regan

    Excellent suggestion. So many times people take information from a Query Reply and also from something written by someone and put it down as if they visited the location, talked to the people, or researched the people or historical matter and never give credit to the person who actually did the work and documented it. I’ve had it happen numerous times to me on things I spend money, time, research and worked on without any reference to me and act like they did it. They should realize that professional researchers work is covered under copyright laws and using it as your own without permission of the originator is illegal.

  3. Pingback: Favorite Reads of the Week: 31 July 2016 – BYU Family History Conference, genealogy road trips, LDS pioneers – Family Locket

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