Citations – Madness or Sanity?

An Antebellum era (pre-civil war) family Bible...

Image via Wikipedia

Working with genealogical materials in a responsible way calls for citing them in a responsible way. Some folks cringe at the mere thought of citations while others obsess over them. Which way is better? Which way is worse?

The middle way, or the way I’ve chosen to do citations is to use the KISS principle. Keep It Simple, Simon. (Simon also happens to be the given name of the patriarch of one of my most often researched lines.)

Years ago when I started out, there were several different methods I knew of for citing sources, Chicago, Lackey, MLA, etc. Then comes E. S. Mills with Evidence Explained, in 1997. This is the simplest method, combining the other styles I just listed, with the more specialized source styles preferred for genealogy materials. Then, a few years later, comes the big Evidence Explained book. Whoa! I had already set up more than 1,000 sources in the earlier style and wasn’t keen on re-doing them all to the new style. Am I wrong to not “fix” them? No, not really.

The 1997 EE style is sufficient for the majority of materials and can be adapted to special cases based on styles for similar materials. Works for me. My cites are better than they were, and are easily adapted to other styles, such as a society’s “house” style, or moving to a different piece of software.

I keep the big EE book handy to check my existing source citation templates and use those styles for new, and different, materials not covered in the 1997 EE book. There really isn’t much difference, so they all meld together in a readable and usable format. It also keeps me from obsessing over fixing all thousand-plus sources, and it’s hardly madness to do it this way.

As an aside, you might ask: “Why do you have so many sources?” I’m not a lumper like some folks on The Master Genealogist mailing list call themselves. Nor am I a splitter. I am a realist. I keep each source separated as much as possible so that if the templates I use get separated from the source data for some reason, all is not lost. Here’s the way I see it:

Simple fact: if all the source data is in one place, the source entry can’t fall apart when I shift from one application to another. Say I’m using a census entry. What happens if the word “census” only appears in the template and not in the source data? The rest of the entry is ambiguous so If I see the data without the template, I’m left asking “1870 what?”

An analogy is the recommended practice of writing your source citation on the front of a photocopy. If the source entry is written on the back, it can get lost when someone else makes a copy of it, leaving them with just the data on the front.

Simple fact: if all the data appears in a citation, like it should, then I can just excise the bits I don’t need for the particular house style I’m using. Magazine cite styles are shorter than professional report cite styles. Many journals are focused on one place or region and the readers can very easily fill in the missing data from the context for themselves.

The flow of data, from complete entry to short-form citation in a report, is consistent. There is nothing unnecessary added and there is nothing unnecessary removed. I can also focus more on what I’m doing at the moment and not flipping around.

It’s easy to handle citations in this way. I’d rather not spend time hunting down a needed piece of data in one application when I’m trying to write a report in another application.

Oh, and an admission: some of my source entries, not very many, though, could be tighter, but since I don’t need them very often, I also follow the YAGNI principle: “You ain’t gonna need it.” So I haven’t fixed them. If it’s not broken ….


© 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research

Sunday’s Obituary – Louise K. Pries

Louise K. Pries

Louise K. Pries, 91, died at her home, 3723 Wetmore Avenue, following a short illness. She was born in Elma, Kansas, October 24, 1859, and came with the family to Everett in 1932. Mrs. Pries was a member of the Episcopal Lutheran Church. Surviving relatives are a son, William Pries of Redlands, Calif.; two daughters, Mrs. J. L. Coyne of 3723 Wetmore Avenue and Mrs. F. C. Noller of Topeka, Kansas, and five grandchildren. Funeral services will be held at the Chapel of Challacombe & Fickel Wednesday afternoon at 3 o’clock. The Rev. Edwin J. Johnson of Trinity Lutheran Church will conduct the services. Burial will be in Rosehill Mausoleum. Washelli, Seattle.

Louise K. Pries - Obituary from Everett Herald

Louise K. Pries - Everett Herald, 5 March 1951.

Everett Herald, Everett, Washington 5 March 1951, page 15, column 5.

Follow Friday – WordPress Genealogy Blogs

Apparently this is NaBloPoMo, or in English, “National Blog Post Month,” so I’m going to not quite participate, but encourage others to at least post some.

My current favorite blogging platform is, a hosted version of the blogging platform. A whole lot of genealogy blogs are there and I spent the other day looking at a couple hundred of them. A couple hundred? Yup! It was fun, and I now follow most of them. I’ve also added them to my list under the keywords “genealogy” and “blogs.”

One, “Stanczyk – Internet Muse,” has recent, and interesting, op-ed piece about The Stanczyk blog I read pretty much weekly because the writer has interesting materials and things to say way outside of my own research interests. Another, “Potato Roots,” has such an interesting name that I shared a comment with it’s owner. encourages responsible and reasonably accurate blogging. It also enforces a good no-ads policy. A couple of tools I especially like on are the Zemanta content suggestion feature and the After-the-Deadline spelling and grammar checking feature.

The Zemanta feature is a huge collection of material from your own and others’ blogs and websites that can be re-used without fear of copyright infringement. It can suggest images from a bunch of popular sites, including Flickr, Picasa, Wikipedia, and other Creative Commons-oriented repositories.

The After-the-Deadline tool takes your text and runs it through a well-maintained dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar checking tool and offers up corrections and improvements to better match online reading habits and writing styles. While the A-t-D extension doesn’t work on the scale of the tools in a regular word processor like Writer, it is a good final check to help you look better online.

These two tools, Zemanta, and A-t-D, are also available as Chrome and Firefox extensions, so they are useful even if you don’t use the best integrated blogging platform. The A-t-D extension even works on regular websites and social media spots like Google Plus.

Another feature I really like on WordPress is it’s media library. No more flipping about in Google Docs for links and sharing permissions and posting those links into your Blogger blog. Yuck! In the WP dashboard, a well-designed cockpit, you can upload and manage materials sharable by the blog as a whole or on a post-by-post basis. Each entry for the media items shows which part of the blog it is attached to, so you can find things easily.

While WordPress blogging won’t make you a better genealogist, it will make what genealogy stuff you post look better.

Hoping to see more genealogy blogs on WP, soon.


© 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research

Congratulations to the APG folks

Congratulations to all of the new, present, and past Association of Professional Genealogists officers.

Press release about the APG elections.

Picking a Professional Genealogist, Redux

The Association of Professional Genealogists is composed of members who choose to be called professional. Does that, in fact, make them “professionally designated”? No. That makes them self- designated professionals. The APG does not screen for anything other than paid membership and signature on a piece of paper.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists does not “professionally designate” it’s members. The people who go through the certification process choose to be professionals, or not; their own designation, not the Board’s. Many of the members of the BCG have chosen to test their skills against the Board’s requirements so they can demonstrate to others that they are qualified to do other highly specialized work, but, they are not practicing professionally as genealogists. That makes them self-designated non-professionals, doesn’t it?

The International Commission for the Accreditation of Genealogists does not “professionally designate” a member of their group. The members choose to be called professionals on their own. The members who practice professionally, again, are self-designated, like they are with the APG and BCG.

One of my favorite librarians is a member of these organizations. She is not a practicing professional genealogist. She got these postnomials to prove to herself and others that she knows the subject. Is she a non-”professionally designated genealogist”? She is one of the best I have ever met, but she doesn’t take clients. That’s her choice, not the APG’s, the BCG’s, or the ICAPGEN’s.

Taking the following quote and facts from the LDS church’s own standards:

 “Years of education, research experience, and satisfactory service to clients may be just as important as credentials.”


Professional genealogists include those who are experienced researchers having:

  • some unique research specialty
  • credentials that show advanced skills
  • years of education and professional development
  • access to facilities with many records

Where is it necessary to have a specific degree here? Nowhere. Where is it necessary to have a specific postnomial here? Nowhere. Where do “professionally designated” genealogists fit in this picture? It does not matter. Period. If you do the job well, the client is happy, and all parties involved are satisfied, great. That’s the point of doing business, satisfying the customer.

Put simply, the customer’s satisfaction is all that matters in business. Will you chose the appropriate genealogist to work with? A genealogist, self-designated as professional or not, who has years of experience and satisfactory service?

I am not a member of any of the groups mentioned, yet I adhere to the ethics and sound business practices advocated by the APG and BCG. They are worthwhile organizations to recognize and follow because they have strong ethical standards for all genealogists to adhere to.

Thank you for reading.

© 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research