Leaving a Paper Trail – Document your Sources!

Location, location, location – is what they say in the real estate world when you are looking to buy or sell.  In the genealogy world it is about the same, but with a slightly different twist – documentation, documentation, documentation.  In other words where did you get your information? Documentation brings legitimacy to your hard work.  Is your research based on strong primary sources, or secondary findings?

Two books often referenced in family history research – Fred Lackey’s, Cite Your Sources and from the genealogy world’s own  Southern belle – Elizabeth Shown Mills – her books Evidence!  have become the new standard in documentation.  I would highly recommend her books. 

Basically – and I mean basically – to document your source enables the average person to find your source, so they too can verify the facts you have based your conclusions on. Critical review of sources become increasingly important as you build your family tree.  To base a pedigree on poor research and possible mistakes, puts a shadow of doubt on all your hard work.

Below is an example of documentation for a newspaper article/obituary.

John Doe obituary, Morning Register (Eugene, OR), 2 February 1906, pg. 7, col. 1; University of Oregon, Knight Library, Eugene OR. 

Title of article, Name of Newspaper, Location of publication (if not clear in title), the date of publication, page and column numbers and an optional note of where you found the film.

Ideally you want this reference printed on the face of the page – and not on the back.  Too often with photocopies the citation on the back and isn’t copied and the documentation is lost.  If there is clear area on the front you can write in that area or try sticking on an address label and writing on it – a simple solution. 

Documentation is all about leaving a paper trail that will aid yourself and others in the future when questions arise about facts.



About gtoftdahl

Researching in Oregon Newspapers
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