In her book, Evidence!, Elizabeth Shown Mills makes the following comparison. She states, “Ancestors. Where did they come from? Who produced them? These are the most basic questions that genealogists ask. These are also the questions we must ask of our information, Where did it come from? Who produced it?”
There are many times I receive emails, letters and phone calls asking me to verify some family data I had submitted. Unfortunately, during my early years of research I did not realize the importance of documenting and citing my sources. I have to redo the earlier research and hope to find that source I had previously used.
Elizabeth Shown Mills gives us 13 guidelines for documentation. Her book, Evidence!, is a great book to purchase for your genealogical library. Using these guidelines to cite your sources will help you find those documents you use years down the line should you need to refer to them again. She goes into detail explaining each of these guidelines showing examples where needed.
The guidelines she recommends are as follows:
Guidelines for Documentation
1.Any statement of fact that is not common knowledge must carry its own individual statement of source.
2.Source notes have two purposes:
a. to record the specific location of each piece of data, and
b. to record details that affect the use or evaluation of that data.
3.Sources are tracked in two basic ways: by generic lists (bibliographies) and by source notes keyed to specific facts.
4.Source notes have two basic formats: full citations and short citations.
5.Source notes for narrative accounts can be presented in four ways: footnotes, endnotes, parenthetical citations, and hypertext.
6.Source notes keyed to narrative text should be numbered consecutively; the corresponding numbers should appear in correct sequence within the text.
7.Explicit source notes should also appear on ancestor charts and family group sheets.
8.Full citations should be affixed to the front side of every photocopied document and should appear on every page of a research report.
9.We should not cite sources we have not used; it is both risky and unethical to "borrow notes" from other writers.
10.Even a full citation of source may not be sufficient, legally or ethically, when copying from another work.
11.Microforms and electronic materials need extra treatment.
12.Clear citations require attention to many details.
13.Citing a source is not an end to itself; our real goal is to have the best possible source to cite.
Source of 13 Guidelines for Documentation:
Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997, p. 18