Genealogists have learned that "genealogy without documentation is mythology." We are taught to document our findings by entering a source citation for each piece of information we enter into our genealogy management software.
Some genealogists fall short when it comes to labeling each document, printed or digital, with its complete citation. In Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Elizabeth Shown Mills explains:
"Full citations should appear on every photocopied or scanned document and on every page of a research report. To avoid altering the face of a photocopy, some researchers place the source label on the blank back side. As that photocopy goes into circulation, however, the inevitable happens: someone in the circulation chain fails to copy the reverse of the record. Thereafter, others have a document with no identification." (pages 66-67)
Sound familiar? Have you ever received a copy of an obituary, only it lacks the name and date of the newspaper?
It is simple to attach a citation to a printed document. Today's practice is to write the citation into the margin of the photocopy's face, or attach a printed label to it. However, as more and more documents are digitally distributed, this becomes more of a problem. Some researchers attempt to adequately identify a digital image by giving it a descriptive digital file name. Evidence Explained comments that "aside from the insufficient identification of the source, another problem ensues. As the file is distributed electronically, others in the chain are likely to change the file label to suit their own filing system, thereby eliminating all clues to the source."
Adding the citation to a digital image is certainly possible using your photo editing software. On the right is a scanned image of an 1865 Minneapolis, Minnesota city directory. Without the full citation, it is impossible to determine the correct year.
To add a citation to the image with your photo editing software, follow these general steps (not all photo editing software works exactly the same, but the same concepts apply. PhotoShop Elements 5.0 is demonstrated here):
1. If there is not enough space in the margin of the digital image, make space:
Click on the Image menu > Resize > Canvas size. Change the anchor and width (see image on below). Change the Canvas Extension color to white. Click OK.
2. Using the text tool, type the citation, rotate it, and place it appropriately in the margin.
It takes a couple of extra minutes to add the citation to a digital image, but the citation will always accompany the image when it is distributed with others.
To learn more about Evidence Explained, or to purchase your own copy, click here.