documenting sources

Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.

During the research process, a variety of sources are consulted such as census records, vital records, land records, etc. Keeping track of this research is the purpose of documenting sources. Documenting sources is the practice of accurately recording what information was obtained and from what source, and then creating a description or "citation" of that source such that another person using your citation could independently locate the source. Documenting sources is also important for giving credit to the work of others; crediting the work of others is an important ethical practice.

In genealogy, as with any branch of research, documenting sources can save time and reduce duplication of effort; it also lends credibility to the research so that anyone who questions the information can return to the source for verification. A considerable amount of misinformation is perpetuated through undocumented research and through accepting information at face value without verifying its accuracy. Well-documented research is the hallmark of a good researcher.

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