Archive for April 19th, 2012

April 19, 2012

On Source Citations

My son and I have been looking for ideas for a research project he can complete by the end of this school year. I suggested doing a one to three page biography of a family member who lived during a time period he enjoys studying. After a bit of thinking, he decided on a Revolutionary War veteran ancestor who died during that conflict. One reason I suggested this particular ancestor was because I have very little information on him, and what I do have was given to me by other researchers who neglected to put source citations on their documentation.

I wanted to see what, if anything, had already been published on this man and/or his family, so I did a quick search of the Internet.1 In particular, I wanted to see if I could find a source for information given to me about this man’s parents. Lo and behold, one of the first returns for my search was a lengthy article tracing the Revolutionary War veteran’s lineage back to Great Britain, several generations previous, and forward through a collateral line to late-19th century descendants.

The article when printed ran to about 18 pages, so you can imagine the kind of detail included. In spite of its length, there were only eight footnotes, six of which were explanations of items in the text and two of which were truncated source citations.2 I scanned the article looking for in-text, informal citations and found a small handful of vague references like “according to records held” in XYZ county or “land records indicate” or similar remarks.

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