CITE YOUR SOURCES
Please I beg of you, learn from my mistakes!! When I started, I just wrote down names and dates. I didn’t write down where that information came from. Do you have any idea how many headaches that practice caused me? I should have asked my parents for stock in a pharma company rather than luggage as my high school graduation gift. I’d be a millionaire and would be able to pay for all the vital records I want. No, really.
Why is it so important to cite your sources? Believe it or not, kids, genealogy can be a tricky hair-pulling out hobby, full of conflicting information.
Conflicting data is a regular occurrence in genealogical searches – not something to be afraid of, just something to be aware of. It’s going to happen and citing your sources so you can easily go back and look at everything again is HUGE in reconciling those discrepancies.
The Federal Census takes place every 10 years. I have lost track of how many of my relatives “miraculously” aged more or less than 10 years in that 10 year time span! So if you jot down that Auntie Lou was born in 1890 because she is listed as age 10 in the 1900 census, what happens when you get to the 1910 census, and the whole family fits yours but suddenly Auntie Lou is only 18, when she should be 20? You are going to start going cross eyed and think you have the wrong family when you have the right one.
BUT, if you cite that the 1900 Census is where you got that she was born in 1890, you can look at that and say “oh, hahahah, she probably fibbed, or the enumerator goofed, or the neighbor might have reported for the family and though she was younger than she was” and go right along on your merry way. Enumerators were in a hurry, they didn’t stop and spell back names and work out the math of how old the person really was. Neighbors would provide information on neighbors who weren’t home, so there’s no guarantee your ancestor reported the information at all. This is all part of why the Census records aren’t generally considered vital records, and also why we take information from Census records with a grain of salt.
I took a long break in my research. When I came back to it I had scads of information but no idea where I’d found most of it. Guess what I had to do? Yup, go research it all AGAIN so that I could properly cite my sources, because I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out why that date didn’t match that date and how the bloody hell had I gotten *that* date to start with. Save yourself time, money, and headaches and get into that most excellent habit of citing your sources from day 1.
“But Cradles and Graves lady,” I hear you ask “just where and how are we supposed to cite our sources?”
I’m glad you asked, dear Cradles and Graves reader. Parts 4 & 5 are going to cover the answers to that question!