Tag Archives: citations

Getting Organized: Citations

In my last post, I discussed briefly “separation safeguards” as described in genealogy Standard 8, which states that “genealogists prevent mechanical or digital separation of citations from the” materials, whether it be in the form of footnotes or citations on the front of a photocopied document.1 I have settled on two methods of safeguarding my documents and records from citation separation.

One method is to put the image into a word processing document and adding a text box at the top or bottom that includes your citation.

CitationOnPage

I use Mac Pages, but the system is the same for Word or your preferred software. Simply copy/paste or insert the image into the document, and add text wherever you wish. I usually put the citation below the image as shown above.

Sometimes I get an image that for some reason seems easier to annotate directly on the image rather than inserting it into a word processing document. Typically I find I do this when I have PDF or .jpg files with larger images. I will open the image in my image viewer which in my case is Mac Preview, but this can be done in Adobe Reader with PDF files. From there, you can add a text box over the image to add the citation. Of course, you will want to put the citation in a space that doesn’t change the meaning of the document.

Citation Annotation

This can be done using your image viewer of choice, including Photoshop or Adobe Reader. There are no right or wrong answers here with regards to the process. The only wrong way to do it is to not do anything at all to guard against citation separation.

When it comes to crafting citations, I employ the “Touch It Once” method. I described it in detail in this earlier post, and I highly recommend forming a system for yourself of writing your citations once so that when it comes time to write an article or report to a family member, they are already created and ready for use. This step is all part of my overall process.

Next time I will be discussing my overall process that I use to go from found document to binder. You will need to come up with your own process to stay organized, or you will eventually find a lot of piles on your desk or in your computer of documents you need to organize, and basically back where we started. Don’t get behind again! Tips next time…


1. See standard number 8, “Separation Safeguards” in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2019).

Writing Tip: “Touch it Once” Citations

Genealogical writing can be daunting. There are a lot of moving pieces you have to keep in mind each step of the way. This post is going to address just one of those moving parts: CITATIONS.

Do you find citations time consuming? You may find that they stop you from making much progress, or that you just don’t write at all because they are intimidating and/or confusing. This is a tip for applying the “touch it once” principle to citations.1 If you follow the “touch it once” principle, citations can take up much less of your time.

The “touch it once” principle is a time-saving technique established by efficiency experts generally pertaining to the tasks that enter your life on a daily basis. Take an email for example. Typically, we go through our email and if one is particularly hard or time-consuming, we think “I’ll get to that later.” Then one of two things usually happens. It gets lost down your list of emails never to be seen again, or you come back to it later, read it for the second time and again say to yourself, “I’ll get to it later.” It’s the re-reading and redoing that wastes a lot of time.

Let’s look at this from a citation angle. As genealogists, there are a couple of different types. There’s the one who doesn’t do citations at all, or captures a vague title or URL. There’s the one who collects all of the information that may be needed for a citation and determines to “work on it later.” And there’s the one who crafts the citation, every semicolon, waypoint, and accessed date, right then and there.

I’m not perfect. But I’m here to tell you that as I’ve done this genealogy-thing over the years, I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve learned from having to redo things more than twice, and I’ve gotten into the habit of being that last person. I would guess that about 85% of the time, I craft the full citation right then and there. The other 15%, I collect what I think I’ll need and I’ll “work on it later.”

But my “touch it once” tip has one more step. Where do you store that citation once you’ve made it? That is up to you, but I encourage you to store it in a place that is easy to find, easily accessible (stored in the cloud perhaps), and in a system that makes sense to you.

My system utilizes a spreadsheet. I have each crafted citation in its own cell. Over the years, I have accumulated so many citations that I have developed a tagging system. I also capture the surnames involved and a geographic location.

masterfootnotes

As you can see from the screenshot, not every citation is in full EE style.2 This is because some of these I created back when I was a “baby genealogist.” But you can also see some symbols (***) that indicate to me that I’ve checked it against EE and it is more or less up to standard. There are names and initials in purple font in front of each citation. I use that for sorting purposes. Some citation formats don’t begin with something useful for sorting for these purposes and so I came up with this system. I also added the columns for location and surnames. The spreadsheet can be sorted by any column. You can utilize the “find” function to search for a particular word.

As we all know, the “way” we do things change over time. A lot of this has to do with new technology, digitization vs. film, for example. When I began, waypoints were not a thing. Now I find they are quite useful in certain types of citations. Many of these citations will need to be reworked a little bit as things in our industry change. But for the most part, I have a “touch it once” system. Now, when I’m writing an article, entering information into my database, writing a blog post, or anything where I need the citation, all I have to do is cut and paste. No more recreating the citation.

Another thing I do that helps me with citations comes from Standard #8, “Separation Safeguards,” in Genealogy Standards.3 I make sure that somewhere on the face of a document (whether or not I intend to print it), I also affix in a text box, the citation for that source. You can do this by putting the image in a word processor or by annotating images with software like Acrobat, Mac Preview, or Photoshop Elements. Then, if there is some breakdown in my system, at least there is a copy of that citation on that record image.

Like I said, this is a system that works for me. But it also has evolved over time and I go fix some of those old citation styles as I need to. The biggest message here is to not let citations stand in the way of your genealogical writing.


1. “The basic idea behind “touch it once” is that whenever you get an incoming task in front of you, you decide right away what to do with it.” From Zachary Sexton, “The ‘Touch it Once” Principle That Will Skyrocket Your Personal Efficiency,” AsianEfficiency (http://www.asianefficiency.com/mindsets/touch-it-once-productivity-principle/ : viewed 15 January 2019).

2. Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2017.

3. Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards. Nashville: Ancestry, 2014.

BCG Putting Skills to Work 2018

I’ve been in Grand Rapids, Michigan since Tuesday when I attended the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Education Fund’s “Putting Skills to Work” class. What an excellent day! The time was split between two classes.

Connie Lenzen’s class “Planning and Executing Reasonably Exhaustive Research: Or How to Ensure a Successful Hunt” discussed research questions and plans. I have to say that I was quickly reminded of what I should be doing everyday. I get so excited for the research that I forget to focus, slow down, and set forth a path for my search.

Tom Jones made us think about “Citing All Kinds of Online Sources.” This class focused only on sources you find online and really made us look at all of the layers that an online source might have. The original source, the microfilmed version, the scan of the microfilm, an original digitization in color, previously published or not, and so on. We worked through many example citations as a class and discussed each of the parts.

The level of interactive instruction that one gets at a BCG “Putting Skills to Work” class is incredible. If you are interested in certification, are already on the clock, or are already certified, it doesn’t matter. These classes are wonderful examples of hands-on, lecture with discussion with exercises, types of classes many of us enjoy and will benefit for our own continuing education.

The BCG Education Fund’s “Putting Skills to Work” occurs on the Tuesday before the National Genealogical Society Conference every year, so you will want to adjust your schedule accordingly. Next year’s schedule was announced at this years’ class, and will take place in St. Charles, Missouri on Tuesday May 7, 2019:

  • “Meeting Standards with Twenty-First Century Research Reports” with Melissa Johnson, CG
  • “Evidence Analysis: Theory, Practice, and the Real World” with Nancy A. Peters, CG, CGL

For more information on the BCG Education Fund, visit bcgedfund.org.