Citing multiple dates

 
 
 
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trashound
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Citing multiple dates

Hello - Add this to the dumb question/newbie file. I am working on a book about a series of people. I am providing short bios and any other interesting information I can find on them.  My question is this.  If I write "All the following children were baptized at St. Anne's on Mackinac Island." Do I still have to cite it in an end note?  I am not intending this to be an academic research book but as an aid to Mackinac area researchers. Other than some minor conclusions, this is strictly a family history book.  Any suggestions?

EE
EE's picture

Trashound, if a cluster of children are said to be "baptized at St. Anne's on Mackinac Island," then where exactly, will each baptismal record be found? Must everyone who reads your work be forced to read multiple baptismal books, page by page, to ferret out each baptismal record? Would every reader of your book even know where to go to find that set of records? Would they have access to it? If they aren't allowed to read the registers for themselves and--on the basis of your generic reference--they must write the church for the record, then the church clerk must read the registers again and again to find what would be easily locatable if you had only said "Book __: page ___." While I've not personally worked that set of records on Mackinac Island, I've worked the registers of hundreds of early Catholic churches from Canada to Mexico City to Cuba and beyond--and in most, it's not a simple matter of one nicely indexed book to go to for a certain date. In many of them, without a book and page (or entry number, if unpaginated), locating a single record could take hours. Many exist in varied forms--original registers, copied registers (often with "helpful" but wrong additions made long after the fact by those who made the copies), transcriptions, abstracts, etc., with varying degrees of reliability for each. If we don't say exactly what we used, no one knows.

Or, to put things another way: {smile here} Do you expect all your readers to just "take your word for it" that everything you say is totally accurate, that you've gleaned all possible clues from each record, and that they therefore have no need for anything else other than what you say? {end smile}

Beyond that, an even more important point exists:

Identifying our sources precisely, not off-handedly, is not a matter of "academic" research. Indeed, academics, these days, are far more likely to demonstrate the "you can just take my word for it" approach. Because their focus is on the interpretation of broad patterns, they are less concerneed about errors on "small things" such as personal identifications. Their rationale is that an error here or there is not going to affect their broad interpretations (a point that's valid for their particular work, but misleading to all who use their work and believe particular asssertions).  But when genealogists assemble families, any misidentification, any assignment of a child to a wrong same-name couple, or a similar error will mean that every bit of work done thereafter on the ancestry of that person will be wrong research.

The root of the issue here is that, way back in middle-school when we learned to write research papers, we were taught that citations were important so others will know where we got our info. The far more important reason is this: We identify our sources so we can keep ourselves straight. Across 40+ years of research, writing, and publishing in several academic fields as well as genealogy, I've noticed one thing consistently: Those who say "exact citations don't matter" are those who make the most mistakes. Unfortunately, once they go to print, they cause unrelenting work for everyone else doing research on that topic who can't just present their own accurate research but must, over and again, debate and explain the errors to others who believe what they see in print. None of us are perfect. But the willingness to take the time and trouble to precisely identify our source for each assertion is a very visible sign of whether we took the time and trouble to ensure precision in other aspects of our research and decision making.

Bottom line: genealogical research is not a choice of "academic" vs. "normal."  It's a matter of "accuracy matters" or "it doesn't reallly matter."

The Editor

trashound
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Dear editor - thanks for clearly pointing out my error.  Each date will be cited.  The majority of the people involved in this project have their records at St. Anne's.  The church put out a CD in the late 1990's.  I have indexed it and spent a great deal of time with it.  It is in at least 3 languages - French, English and Latin.  Thank you for your advice.  Trashound

EE
EE's picture

What a wonderful project, trashhound!

The Editor