01 April 2014

Citation Conversation - MPG 2 - Study Group 2 - Chapter 4

This post is part of DearMyrtle's Hangout on Air series, MGP2 Study Group 2, studying Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones.[1] Hangouts are every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM Eastern US time. Join us to learn more about the discipline of genealogical work and how adhering to its standards will improve your family history results. Your family will thank you. 


Source citations are the second element of the Genealogical Proof Statement. There are different views on the essential purpose(s) of source citations. The first most commonly stated purpose is to be able to find the source in which a piece of information was found and from which its evidence was derived. However, according to Thomas W. Jones in Chapter 4 “GPS Element 2: Source Citations” of Mastering Genealogical Proof, citations perform a greater and more complicated service by supporting our “genealogical proof statements, summaries and arguments.”[2] In order to do this our citations should show the scope of our research, the validity of our sources as well as document where we found our information and how we came to our conclusions.

  “to transmit information, thought, or feeling
  so that it is satisfactorily received or understood”[3]

The thing that resonated with me in this chapter was Dr. Jones’ use of the word communicate in reference to the role performed by “complete and accurate genealogical citations.”[4]  I imagined a little citation cheerleader cheering from the bottom of the page. Whenever you arrive at a new reference number in the text, the dude at the bottom shouts up more information about what preceded the number. You hear what he said, reread what came before the number, then reread the citation at the bottom and make your own conclusion about whether or not the author’s statements were based on sound research practices.

Citations are part of a back and forth, a conversation. Although placed apart from the text they support, source citations are a part of the whole. They aren’t stagnant, they are talking. Just like a good cheerleader at a sports game can help lift the level of play and the spirits of the fans, a clear, complete, standard citation assists in elevating a statement, summary or argument to the level of proof.

Citation Conversation:

If we want to give our family history summaries more credence, should we not include a vital part of our work, our source citations, in what we post online? Are we doing ourselves, our readers and our future family members a disservice? I talked about my thinking in My GPS Bad! Read Chapter 4 and tell me what you think. Chapter 4 includes extensive details on what should be included in source citations and standard formats for how to form them.

Jennifer Shoer aka Scrappy Gen
Let's Remember!

[Book available from the publisher, http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/mastering_genealogical_proof in both print and Kindle versions.]

[1] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013).
[2] Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof, 33.
[3] Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Company, 1980), 225.
[4] Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof, 33.

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