As genealogists, we hear – ad nauseum – all about citing our sources.  This is a good rule to live by, and one that I strive to follow diligently with my own research.

A particular event – let’s say a birth – can be referenced in many sources, with not one single source giving an exact date.  After careful analysis of several sources, you can reach a conclusion that the birth occurred either on xx date or between xx and xx dates.  Still with me?  Okay.

Yesterday, Michael John Neill published this post about sourcing his conclusions when no single record provides evidence of an event.  I get where you’re coming from, Michael, but I’m confused.

He says, “… I think that there are times when my analysis and my conclusions are my source.”  Here’s where my brain gets twisted up.

It should be noted that I’m not criticizing Michael’s post or his methodology – merely asking for clarification.  I have the utmost respect for Michael’s expertise, which is why I’m trying to get it straight in my head.  This was originally going to be a comment on his blog post, but it got a little lengthy.

He has Document A, Document B, Document C, and Document D, all of which make some reference to his ancestor’s birth date.  Taken together, he has reached a conclusion that his ancestor was born between 1825 and 1828.

He created a nice chart (one which I’m pretty sure I will steal at some point in the future) to illustrate how he arrived at his conclusion.  Then he says “The source is summarized in non-citation form in this chart.”

Correct me if I’m wrong – it wouldn’t be the first time – but aren’t Documents A, B, C, and D actually your sources?  Or does the chart now become a source?  Or does the blog post now become a source, as alluded to in the next-to-last paragraph?

Wouldn’t it be prudent to list your documents as sources, include your conclusion in your report, and perhaps annotate your footnotes or endnotes to reflect your analysis?

At some point, I will have to perform an analysis similar to this in order to prove … well, everything … and I want to make sure I understand what I’m doing.  I appreciate any and all feedback!

Do we share ancestors? Email me: lostancestors AT gmail DOT com

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