What is a citation and do I need one?
A citation is simply an indication of the source of material that is not your own and from which you have derived information, analyses, or opinions for use in your own work. You need to use citations even in your unpublished work, such as a family database, for three essential reasons:
There are numerous resources on the web and in print that provide detailed explanations of citation styles, many of which are inconsistent with each other. A well-written citation must give full credit to the source and provide a clear path for the reader to find the original information. Citing web pages is a bit more problematic. For one thing, the web site may change or the information on a specific web page may change. Citing a web page is a bit like trying to pin the tail on a donkey that is running away from you.
For citing material from the web you should always give at a minimum the link to the web site and the date on which you accessed it. Any changes made to the web page after you accessed it are not your fault or responsibility.
Citing material on this web site (http://easternshoreheritage.com) should adhere to the following guidelines.
Deed from George Parker to William Thornman - 7 October 1805. Accomack County Virginia District Court Wills & Deeds 1800-1806, pp. 383, 384. 5 May 2009. <http://easternshoreheritage.com>.This citation lists the title of the document as it is found on this site, gives the date on which it was accessed, and lists the web address. If you are wondering whether to give a more detailed web address, in this case http://easternshoreheritage.com/deeds/Parker_Thornman_deed.htm, you should be aware that addresses change all the time. The best policy is simply to give the main web site address. Anyone who needs to find that web page can easily look in the index. The citation also tells the reader exactly which book at the courthouse was used.
If you check the above web page for the Parker-Thornman deed, you will discover that there is a link to another web site that has an image of the actual deed. Which one should you cite? The answer lies in where you got your information. If you got it only from the image, then cite that; if you got it from the web page here, cite that.
Abbott, Lilly (ca 1790 - ). Genealogical Navi-Bauble Database. Eastern Shore Heritage. 1 January 2009. <http://easternshoreheritage.com>.First, the name of the person is given as it appears in the alphabetical index, including the birth and death information; then the database itself is indicated. Since this is a localized database, the name of the web site (Eastern Shore Heritage) comes next, then the access date and the web site address.
Abbott, Lilly (ca 1790 - ). Genealogical Navi-Bauble Database. Eastern Shore Heritage. 1 January 2009. <http://easternshoreheritage.com>. See especially the information given for her children in the source notes.
Turman, Nora Miller. Marriage Records of Accomack County, Virginia 1776-1854, Recorded in Bonds, Licenses and Ministers' Returns. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1994; p. 72. Cited in the entry "Abbott, Lilly (ca 1790 - )" in the Genealogical Navi-Bauble Database. Eastern Shore Heritage. 1 January 2009. <http://easternshoreheritage.com>.
It is important to cite both Turman and the Navi-Bauble. If you cite only the latter, Turman gets no credit; if you cite only Turman, the Navi-Bauble gets no credit for its use of Turman. Further, if you mention only Turman, and the information from her book was miscopied in the Navi-Bauble, Turman would be blamed for errors she did not commit.
As a general rule, when in doubt, be very specific and inclusive in your citations.© Copyright 2009-2014 by Gail M. Walczyk