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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: Share Your Sources
by Rhonda R. McClure

July 19, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Sources. I have talked about them often, usually as it pertains to properly citing them when you are publishing your family history. Many, though, may be considering a narrow meaning for the word publish.

You publish something whenever you share information. It need not be in a formal setting, such as a book or a family history Web page. If we share information through correspondence, isn't this also publishing?

Sharing information should mean sharing sources.

What Is Publishing?

Most of us do think of publishing as the formal presentation of our family history. This may be in the form of a book, but more and more we are now publishing our family history on the Internet.

Even those who would cite sources in a book form tend to overlook this important step when it comes to publishing on the Internet. To my way of thinking, it is more important to cite sources online.

Publishing online is not limited to a genealogy report in either the NGS Quarterly or Register formats that can also be used to publish a book. More often than not, we publish our family history via one of the GEDCOM databases such as World Family Tree.

Because it is so easy to dump these GEDCOM files into our own database, we soon have a large database, but perhaps few sources.

Sharing Through Correspondence

Another area that I consider a method of publishing is when we share with other researchers through correspondence. Much of our research is done through letters or e-mail.

Of course, seldom do we take the time to include source citations when we are corresponding with each other. A look at many of the messages on the various online bulletin boards and mailing lists will reveal that information is flying back and forth, but seldom do the sources go with the information.

While the author of the message may allude to "the will" or other records in general, seldom do you see a proper source citation as detailed in Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence!. Even if you do not want to go to this extreme, you should at least include enough information so that others reading the message can tell where the information came from.

Don't Be Stingy

When corresponding with another researcher, do not misunderstand a request for source information. The person making the request is not questioning your research skills. They are not saying they doubt what you have shared.

Usually it means they appreciate what you have shared and they now want to carry it to the next step. They want the chance to view the records on their own. They may have read a column or two about verifying information by viewing the original sources.

In Conclusion

When you are publishing your information in any form, take the time to mention the sources you used to compile the information you are sharing. If you do get a request for the sources you used, it is simply a researcher wanting the whole picture. Help them by sharing your sources ahead of time, but don't be upset if, when you haven't, they ask you for them.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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