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Tuesday's Tip - Source Citations

  TT - Source Citations

Tuesday's Tips provide brief how-to's to help you learn to use the Legacy Family Tree software with new tricks and techniques.

Source Citations

Some people get overwhelmed and stressed out when it comes to citing their sources. If you know WHY you are citing a source it will make more sense to you. There are two reasons why you cite your sources.

1) You should craft your citation so that anyone coming behind you has the information they need to be able to find the source for themselves.

2) Your citation needs to contain the information other researchers needs to have to be able to weigh the evidence. It will also help YOU weigh your evidence.

The second one actually hangs more people up. For example, I need to know if you looked at the original document in a courthouse or if you looked at the document on microfilm, or if you read a transcription of the document online or if you read an abstract of the document in a book, etc. Knowing exactly what you used as a source gives me the information I need so that I can weigh your evidence.

The first two chapters in Elizabeth Shown Mills' book Evidence Explained will help you understand both concepts ("Fundamentals of Evidence Analysis" and "Fundamentals of Citation"). The book goes on to give countless examples of all of the different types of sources you will encounter making it very easy to figure out what you need to record in your citation but it is still very important to understand the rationale behind it (those first two chapters). Legacy's SourceWriter templates are based on the examples in Ms. Mills' book. It is a shortcut to getting consistent citations that contain the needed information.

The biggest challenge is figuring out which template to use. If you are looking at an online index of births you would not choose the birth certificates template because you are not looking at birth certificates. We get a lot of questions from people who are at a loss on how to fill out the fields because they don't have the information that goes in those fields. It is because they are using the wrong template for that source.

Having said that, you might have a choice between two templates based on where you want the emphasis (which piece of information comes first in the citation) and you might want to fill out the fields in a certain way to get the citation to read out the way you want. Understanding the hows and whys of putting together the citation will help you make those decisions. Crafting a good citation is an art.

I highly recommend Ms. Mills' book. It is an investment in your education. Please don't make the mistake of skipping those first two chapters. There is also an Evidence Explained website and an active forum where you can ask citation specific questions. There are a lot of very helpful articles on the webpage you can read with real life examples.

Geoff did an excellent webinar on Legacy's SourceWriter templates that will answer your questions specific to how the SourceWriter templates work. Sources and Citations Made Simple, Standard and Powerful. You don't want to miss this one and it is FREE.
Citing your sources should not be stressful.
  Source Citations

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For video tech tips checkout the Legacy Quick Tips page.  These short videos will make it easy for you to learn all sort of fun and interesting ways to look at your genealogy research.

Michele Simmons Lewis is part of the technical support team at Millennia, the makers of the Legacy Family Tree software program. With over 20 years of research experience, Michele‚Äôs passion is helping new genealogists get started on the right foot through her writings, classes and lectures. She is the former staff genealogist and weekly columnist for the McDuffie Mirror and now authors Ancestoring, a blog geared toward the beginner/intermediate researcher.


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Years ago when I was using Family Tree Maker I hated sourcing but from the very beginning of using Legacy I actually enjoy it. The SourceWriter makes it very easy if you use common sense. I actually make a word doc for myself with all of the examples of the way I use it so all of my sources for a particular item are all done the same. I love the consistency.

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