Friday, October 14, 2011

Objects in the Mirror Are Not Authoritative: The "Indirect Citation"

Earlier I updated the Homer and Charry ahnentafel entries with citations to church and vital records indexes. Each of these citations noted what the index stated about where to find the original record. I write as I research. This indirect citation is thus an interim step. If an index provides a volume and page number, I put it in the working citation. If a book cites gravestones or vital records, I quote the book's information in the footnote. This is a useful habit for the "res-write" process,[1] that is, synchronized research and writing, because it stores that interim step. The next research step is to use that index information to find the original record.

Sadly enough, if I am working on my family, I sometimes go no farther than the indirect citation. Connecticut is my specialty area and my family's origins. It is in Connecticut that the massive Barbour index to vital records to 1850 tempts me every time. I can do four Barbour look-ups in the time it takes to mount a microfilm reel and view the record itself. If I viewed it, I could cite it. But I don't view it so that citation stays indirect and quotes the slip index citing the location.

The credibility of my work product would improve if I went to the vital records (or their microfilm copies) every time. As genealogical standards state, "The original is the most authoritative source."[2] Not much room for argument there.

[1] This is a term I coined for my speech "Research and Reporting the Right Way -- Together!"  It reminds me of Research-Write/Right, which I like.
[2] Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Washington, D.C.: Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2000), Standard 21, pp. 8-9.