Researchers love Ancestry and similar websites. Attorneys, biographers, genealogists, medical scientists, professional historians, and students all turn to them as the world’s largest shopping malls for historical records. These providers offer censuses, deeds and land grants, legal suits, medieval manorial rolls, military records, probate proceedings, prison files, vital records, and thousands of other types of materials for studying the past and reconstructing human lives.
“I’m totally confused about citing online images,” he wrote. Why do some cite ARK numbers, some cite paths or waypoints, and some cite neither?”
Of course, DNA is evidence. Prosecutors and defense attorneys use it daily to build cases for guilt or innocence. Forensic genealogists and police use it to build cases for the identity of human remains. Some historians and millions of genealogists use it to build cases for historical identity and kinship.
“What citation template do I use?” the student asked—just before launching into his complaint. “Research would be fun if it weren't for citations. They're too nitpicking. There are too many formats. History researchers need software that has no more than ten templates and will automagically decide which one best fits.”
Okay, Dear Student. You’ve vented. Can we now have a friendly little Attitude Adjustment Session?
Attitude Adjustment 1
The research process has three basic steps: preparation, performance, and reporting. If we use database management software or spread sheets, we add a fourth: data entry. In the popular mindset, Steps 2 and 4 get all the hype. News flash, everyone! It is those neglected Steps 1 and 3 that determine our success long-term.
Humans have adopted clothes for protection. They are adaptable to circumstances. We can layer them to fit the environment or weather. Society has created all sorts of ‘rules’ for when and where to wear certain items of clothing. We don't wear white after Labor Day. We don't wear jogging shorts to a formal wedding. Yet the layering process remains flexible. On a fall day, we may put on a sleeveless vest or short-sleeved tee atop a long-sleeved shirt; as the sun climbs, we’ll peel off the lighter item and keep on the long sleeves to ward off the chill.
Yes. Seriously. From Boston University to Brigham Young, and across the waters to the UK’s Strathclyde, Dundee, and Open University—as well as many lesser-known institutions in between. A century-old wall is crumbling between academia and family history. Should we be concerned? Or should we embrace the possibilities?
Sources give us information, from which we identify evidence. All undergo the evaluation process to produce proof.