The Importance to Cite Your Genealogy Findings

Citing Your Sources

Genealogy research can be an exciting and rewarding hobby, as well as a way to uncover the history and heritage of your family. As you gather information about your ancestors, it is important to keep track of where you found each piece of information and to document your sources. This not only helps you to verify the accuracy of your findings, but also helps other genealogists who may use your work in the future.

Citing your sources is a critical aspect of genealogy research, and it is essential to understand why it is so important. In this article, we will explore the reasons why citing your sources is so important, and we will provide tips and resources for effectively documenting your genealogy findings.

Why is it important to cite your sources in genealogy?

  1. Verifies the accuracy of your findings: By citing the sources of your information, you can verify the accuracy of your findings and avoid using information that is inaccurate or false. This helps to ensure the reliability and credibility of your research, and it also protects the integrity of the genealogy community as a whole.
  2. Helps others to build on your research: By documenting your sources, you can make it easier for other genealogists to build on your research and to validate your findings. This is particularly important if you are publishing your research online, as other researchers may use your work as a starting point for their own research.
  3. Protects the integrity of your research: By citing your sources, you can protect the integrity of your research and ensure that your findings are not questioned or disputed. This is particularly important if you are sharing your research with others, as it provides evidence to support your findings and demonstrates your commitment to accuracy and reliability.
  4. Provides a record of your research journey: Citing your sources also provides a record of your research journey, including the steps you took to gather information and the sources you used. This can be an invaluable resource for future generations, as it provides a glimpse into the process of genealogy research and the resources that were available at the time.

Tips for citing your sources in genealogy

  1. Start early: Start documenting your sources from the beginning of your research, and make sure to keep track of all the sources you use as you gather information. This will help you to avoid having to go back and retroactively add sources, and it will make it easier to keep track of your research progress.
  2. Use a consistent format: Choose a consistent format for documenting your sources, and stick to it throughout your research. This can be a genealogy software program, a spreadsheet, or a simple note-taking system, but whatever you choose, make sure to use it consistently.
  3. Be specific: When documenting your sources, be as specific as possible. Include the title of the document, the date, and the source where you found the information. If you are using a website, include the URL, date accessed, and any other relevant information.
  4. Keep copies of original documents: Whenever possible, keep copies of original documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and census records. This not only provides evidence to support your findings, but it also protects the original documents from damage or loss.
  5. Use secondary sources with caution: Secondary sources, such as family histories, genealogy books, and online databases, can be useful sources of information, but it is important to verify their accuracy. Whenever possible, try to find original primary sources to support the information found in secondary sources.
  6. Use digital resources wisely: Digital resources, such as online databases and digitized historical records, can be incredibly useful for genealogy research, but it is important to use them wisely. Before relying on digital information, it is important to verify the source and assess its reliability. Some online databases and websites may not be maintained by professionals or may contain inaccurate or unverified information. When using digital resources, it is also important to be mindful of data privacy and security issues, especially when entering personal information.
  1. Create a system of organization: Genealogy research often involves collecting large amounts of information from a variety of sources. To keep track of everything and ensure that you are not duplicating efforts, it is important to create a system of organization. Consider using a genealogy software program or a spreadsheet to keep track of family names, dates, and sources. You can also use a file folder system, index cards, or even a notebook to keep track of your research findings.
  2. Cite your sources: Citing your sources is crucial for genealogy research. Not only does it provide proof and context for your findings, but it also helps others understand the basis for your conclusions. When citing sources, be sure to include the type of source (such as a census record or a family Bible), the date of the source, the repository or location where the source is held, and any other relevant information.
  3. Collaborate with others: Genealogy research can be a solitary pursuit, but collaborating with others can help you learn new information, validate your findings, and share your knowledge with others. Consider joining a genealogy society, participating in online forums and discussion boards, or connecting with other genealogists through social media. You may also want to consider working with a professional genealogist to help you with your research.
  4. Be prepared for the unexpected: Genealogy research can be a journey of discovery, but it can also be a journey of surprises. Be prepared for the unexpected by keeping an open mind and being flexible in your approach. You may discover information that challenges your assumptions or contradicts your previous findings. Be willing to revise your family tree as you uncover new information.
  5. Preserve your findings: Preserving your genealogy research is important for future generations. Consider storing important documents and records in a safe and secure place, such as a fireproof safe or a bank vault. You may also want to consider digitizing your findings to make them more accessible and easier to share with others.
  6. Share your findings: Sharing your genealogy research with others can be a great way to connect with your family, preserve your family history, and make new discoveries. Consider publishing your family tree online, writing a family history book, or sharing your findings with others through social media or genealogy forums.
  7. Continuously learn and improve: Genealogy research is an ongoing process that requires continuous learning and improvement. Keep up-to-date with the latest research techniques, tools, and technologies by attending genealogy conferences, workshops, and webinars, and by reading genealogy journals, books, and blogs.
  8. Celebrate your successes: Genealogy research can be a long and challenging journey, but it can also be a rewarding one. Take the time to celebrate your successes, such as finding a long-lost ancestor, uncovering a new branch of your family tree, or learning a new research technique. These milestones can provide a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue your research.
  9. Be patient: Genealogy research can be a slow and time-consuming process, but it is also a worthwhile one. Be patient and persistent in your research, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks or dead ends. The journey of genealogy research can be a rich and rewarding experience, and the more time and effort you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

In conclusion, citing your genealogy findings is essential to preserving the accuracy and integrity of your research. It not only helps you avoid errors and ensure that your work is trustworthy, but it also helps future generations of genealogists by providing a road map for their own research. By following best practices for citing sources, such as using standardized forms and documenting as much information as possible, you can be confident that your family tree is based on solid evidence and that your research will be useful to others. Whether you are just starting your genealogy journey or have been tracing your family roots for years, taking the time to cite your sources is an investment in the future of your family history.


Published by Darrell Gibbs

A father of three children and five grandchildren who retired in 2015 and began a career as a non-fiction writer in genealogy resource ebooks for new family historians. Aspiring towards the future as a Historical Fiction Author of his premier book "Wessex Reign".

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