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Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Graphic Example of the Need for Sources and Citations

A recent remarkable example of the need for accurate sources and citations is the release of a new edition of the English Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although there were several reason cited for the new edition, one of the most significant is the fact that "Historical or factual information has been corrected and updated. " If you need a reason why, as genealogists, we talk about the need for accurate sources and citations, this is a prime example of the importance of this issue. It may seem a small thing to have an unsupported date or event in your family history, but to the greater historically oriented community, accuracy and correctly cited information is crucial to historicity.

In the case of the new edition of the Scriptures, the reason for the changes is summarized, in part, as follows:
Since the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, historical research, much of it conducted by those working on the Joseph Smith Papers, has led to new information on many of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. Adjustments have been made to correct inaccurate facts, to provide more precise dating of many sections, and, in some cases, to supply historical context that better aids in the understanding of the sections.
 The prior edition of the Scriptures was done in 1981. How many of us as genealogists have files dating back to 1981 that have not been updated or correctly cited or sourced? I venture to say that many of the sources and citations lurking in data files across the world have been copied from earlier sources when there was far less information available than there is today.

There is, of course, a religious foundation for the involvement of Church members in genealogical research. But, like many in the genealogical community, members of the Church are not much better about citing sources and supporting their conclusions with evidence. Hopefully, this example of the need to correctly cite sources and make adjustments where new research shows changes necessary will inspire some of the genealogists to renewed vigor in supporting a more historical basis for genealogical research.

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