YouTube viewer deck-o cards asked: I’m curious to know what you think about sourcing & citations, etc. I’ve watched the Ancestry.com videos by Crista Cowan and, in my opinion, I think that there is too much redundancy. For instance, all the documentation that she does--which is fine, if you enjoy that and want to do it. However, I feel that when you save a source, such as a census, you don’t need to type everything up that is there. I’d like your opinion on that. Maybe, I’m just lazy but what is the point? Maybe you can share what you do and what you know. Thanks!”
I appreciate Crista Cowan’s videos on YouTube. She’s a colleague and I hope I understand why she ‘types everything up.” In the video response to this viewer question, I provide a full explanation of what I think. In a nutshell, here’s my response.
The amount of effort you put into ‘all the documentation’ depends on to what level of research you are doing.
For casual users, I invite you to find a quality source for each fact (name, date, or place) that you place on your family tree. A quality source could be a government record, a church record, or even a home source. A family tree is not a quality source. It is a clue. Work towards finding sources to build your trees rather than the trees of others. The bonus for users of online trees with record collections, whenever you find a source and link (or attach) it to your relatives, the citation for the source comes with it. Hooray! No extra stress or effort. You can focus on gathering and evaluating sources.
For genealogy enthusiasts, I invite you to gather enough sources to answer a research question, especially when records conflict. You’ll want to use laters of evidence such as a birth record, census record, and death record to determine when an individual was born. These records aren’t the only records that prove or disprove a fact, but it’s a step up from the casual researcher who only looks for one record.
Evaluate the evidence you find and leave notes or write conclusions on your findings. With FamilySearch, you can share this information in the “Reason to” boxes. With other online platforms or genealogy software, you can write up your conclusions in the note fields associated with each individual you research.
For professionals or professionally-minded researchers, you’ll attempt to leave no stone unturned and gather all possible evidence. You’ll analyze and correlate your information and then write about your findings. You can still use online trees and software programs, but you might write reports when the cases require.
Depending on the requirements for your report or article creation, you might have to craft more thorough citations.
No matter your research interest level, the one thing I hope you take away is the need to remind yourself and inform others where you obtained the information you used to build your family tree. Otherwise, you’re creating a fantastic work of fiction.