Monday, July 4, 2011

Document it!

Even though Rule 3 in my new book, Crash Course in Genealogy is “document it”, I make no pretense of trying to cover the proper format that documentation should take. Genealogical Publishing Company (GPC) has a variety of solutions. That topic has already been covered on various levels by Elizabeth Shown Mills, the grande dame of documentation. The best thing I can do for you is to refer you to her prolific writings. Her magnum opus on the topic, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, runs almost 900 pages and should satisfy the detail lovers among you. For the rest of you, some of her shorter works and Quick Sheets may suffice. Two recently updated ones may be particularly helpful for documenting what you find online:

These two Quick Sheets come plastic covered for use/abuse on the go and are small enough to slip into any briefcase without weighting you down. 

Or you can chose to take the easy way out and order the latest version of a good comprehensive genealogy software product such as RootsMagic or Legacy. At about half of the cost of Evidence Explained, you can get templates that cover almost any conceivable source you might encounter. Even better, these are bundled with database software that will store all your information about your ancestors. They also will help you organize and publish all kinds of reports.

There is no real excuse for researchers to fail to document except for laziness and perceived lack of time. However, if one continues researching a family for very long, the time factor will reverse and come out in favor of the researcher who documents. In other words, not documenting each fact, and so forth, as it is collected is penny wise and pound foolish.

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