Friday, January 6, 2012

To Cite or Not to Cite, That Is The Question

It seems that the citation debate, among others, is making the rounds again. As with the other debates that make the rounds in the genealogy community, there seems to be a lot of opinions on the issue.

Why I Cite

You probably have noticed that some of my posts here at Ancestrally Challenged have source citations. I don't do it because it's expected. Nor do I do it so I can lord over all the non-citing bloggers. I do it for myself. 

When I first started researching my family history, I made a newbie mistake. Who hasn't? Mine was entering information without citing where I found it. As a result, I've found myself backtracking and trying to relocate my sources. For the most part, I've been able to. In a few cases, though, the source is no longer available or I can't find it.

Now that I understand the importance of citing my sources, I've been trying to make it a habit. To that end, I decided to include source citations in all of my writing, regardless of whether it's for my personal files or here. My theory is that the more I do it, the more ingrained the habit will become.

Just because it works for me doesn't mean it's necessarily the right way, just the right way for me to instill a habit.

Why I Don't Care if You Cite or Not

I love reading other genealogy blogs. Even though in most cases I'm not related, I still feel an impact on some level. I may be excited about your discovery, share your frustration with a tough brick wall or get a laugh about one of your crazy ancestors (we all have at least one). I don't need a source list to get that.

If I think we have a connection and want to know your sources, I'll ask you. After all, don't we all on some level blog because we're hoping a connection will find us? If I contact you, it's a win-win. I get to find out the sources and you get contacted by a possible connection. We may each be holding the pieces the other needs. What's not to like about that?

When it comes down to it, your blog is yours to do with what you wish. Whether you cite your sources or not is completely up to you. To be honest, I was probably too caught up in reading your story to even notice whether they were there or not.

Final Thoughts

What drew you to genealogy as a hobby/obsession/addiction/career? Was it the yearning to know more about your heritage? The need to share your family's stories before they're lost?

I bet it wasn't the desire to write everything down and get a pat on the head for doing it the "right" way.

One of the things that I love about the genealogy blogging community is that it encompasses all levels of expertise from the newbie beginner to more experienced professionals. I read blogs that cover the entire spectrum and I have got something-a tip, a new tool or sometimes just a smile- from every one.

Just because someone is doing something a different way doesn't mean their way is wrong. It's just different. Instead of focusing on what someone is or isn't doing right on their blog, why not do what we came here for? Share your stories and enjoy the stories shared by others.

If a fellow blogger asks for help, feel free to offer your advice, but don't feel like you have to correct them because they are doing something differently than you. Remember, we were all newbies once and even among experienced professionals, there are differences.


  1. Oh, I agree. It has to be a blogger's choice what s/he wants to do. I've included citations for some posts and not for others. It seems less important to me in a post that it does in my own research. We all have keyboards and can all leave a comment if we want to know a source. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic.

  2. As a newbie to blogging (and leaving comments), I want to say thank you for this post! I was unaware of a debate, but I am getting more tips and ideas every day. Your reason for citing makes sense to me.