I guess your first thought is that citations and sources are not the same thing and cannot be in opposition. But, in fact, they are in opposition when someone fails to provide a source merely because they are afraid to "mess up" the citation. Yes, that really does happen. People are intimidated by the forms asking for details about the source and they have no idea what the form is asking for and therefore elect either to forego adding the source or to leave off the citation.
I must admit that some of the systems for citations used by genealogy database programs are intimidating in their complexity. If a program elects to use a simple form for entering a citation, then it is criticized for failing to provide for all the variations found in the Mills book. (Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2007).
OK, before you get all huffy, I am 100% in favor of citing sources and I have a copy of the Mills book sitting here, always within reach. I fully realize that I use Turabian format for all my book citations and that you publishing folks probably use Chicago or MLA or some other format. I use Turabian to annoy all of you anyway.
But there is a problem. Consistent with our desire to attract new, younger genealogy adherents, shouldn't we look at some of the areas of genealogy that might be made a little less intimidating. Isn't an 800 page book on citing sources intimidating? How about we decide that the source is important and as long as there is enough information to find the source, then the source is cited and leave it at that? Maybe the programs with the complex citation formats could be optional and a simple form would be sufficient for most purposes. Aren't the complex citations formats more suited to publications than family trees?
Now lets see, the idea is that we want to know where all this weird stuff came from, isn't it? Wouldn't it be nice if we had some idea whether all these lengthy pedigrees back into the Middle Ages and beyond had sources? Do we want to know or do we want perfectly formatted citations? I know, you want both. Knowledge and Perfection. So what if this is a multiple choice test and you can only choose one? As for me, I would rather have some idea where the stuff came from rather than worry about commas and colons. I'll leave the citation issues to the journal editing folks.
By they way, most of the people I know who are doing genealogical research have never read or even seen a genealogical journal article and wouldn't know where to go looking for one. So the whole idea of a formal citation is missing from their experience. The last time they did a citation was doing note cards in high school. Personally, I was used to citing everything I said in a law brief but, as lawyers, we use our own proprietary method of citation and it is pretty loose. If an attorney uses some weird format, nobody really cares. All they do is make disparaging remarks in the answering brief.
It also helps a whole lot that many of the journals use different citation standards and I find that I am always looking for a citation standard in Mills that seems to be one of the ones she left out of the book. For example, how do you cite comic books? No, just kidding. No comments please. I know how to cite comic books.
So what is the point of this blog post? I never thought you would ask. My point is that citation formats are nice but are really intimidating to most researchers. Let's try to be a little more inclusive and less strict. As long as we can find what they are talking about, it should work. If someone wants to come along and correct all my citations, and has nothing better to do, they are more than welcome to do so.