Randy Seaver started another round of the citation storm with a post entitled, "Inflaming Source Citation Passions." Never one to shirk a contest, I decided to jump right in with my opinions. Before getting to the meat of my opinions about citations, I think it would be nice to know who we are talking to. Here is a breakdown I call the Citation Awareness Chart, before getting into the battle, you might want to rank yourself and see if you really care: (please understand that I am not going to be very serious about this whole subject, so don't go getting yourself offended).
Level One: Can't read, can't write, can't type, doesn't know what a computer is and has never heard of genealogy.
Level Two: Can read and write, but hasn't ever heard of genealogy and thinks that it means studying rocks and minerals. Can play computer games and watch Netflix movies on a computer.
Level Three: Has read more than books assigned in school. Can copy written material if given time. Has heard of genealogy but cannot spell it. Uses a computer to check the weather and write on Facebook.
Level Four: Has an interest in genealogy and if asked, would know to look the word up before writing it or at least, use the spell checker in a word processing program. Has an e-mail account and can write a complete sentence.
Level Five: Has read several books. Uses the computer for writing checks. Has an active interest in genealogy and has entered names into Personal Ancestral File, but has lost the files several times and does not know how to find them on their own computer.
Level Six: Has graduated from Personal Ancestral File to some other program. Thinks that everything in the family trees online is scripture. Has a vague idea that genealogy involves research, but has just copied a complete line from FamilySearch and thinks the genealogy is all done.
Level Seven: Has realized that some of the information online is not accurate and is frustrated with the inaccuracies. Has a stack of photocopies of documents but doesn't know what to do with them. Has submitted his or her genealogy file to at least six online family trees.
Level Eight: Attends genealogy conferences and classes. Has heard about citations and tried a few but not found them easy to do. Knows that genealogists should use citations but hasn't figured out how to do them in his or her genealogy program.
Level Nine: Has recorded some of source citations for obvious sources but has never heard of Elizabeth Shown Mills and has put all the citations in the Notes section of the genealogy program.
Level Ten: Has listed citations for everything in the genealogy file. Has used the citation forms suggested by the program but doesn't really know or care if they are correct. Has never heard of MLA, Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style.
Level Eleven: Has meticulously listed every book, record, document or paper he or she ever touched and has complete and exhaustive citations to everything. Is worried whether or not the citations are correctly formatted.
Level Twelve: Has personal copies of the Chicago Manual of Style, Mills' books and several others. Stays awake at night worrying about citations.
Level Thirteen: Has all of the above books and is an editor for a genealogical publication and dictates the proper citation style.
OK, so who are really talking to? I would guess that for anyone lower than about Level Six, you are wasting your time. I don't think that it is wise to equate a genealogy file with a doctoral dissertation. If a citation has enough information to find the source, who (except those in Levels Eleven or above) cares if the citation conforms to somebody's idea of correctness. Having been a college professor for many years, I know how to be picky. I can argue periods and commas with the best, but who are we kidding? Do we want the general public involved in genealogy or do we want to turn it into a cult? See Kerry Scott.