I think that we need to have some historical perspective in this regard and understand that adding source citations to genealogical data has not been such an active issue as it is today. The genealogical community is, of course, laboring mightily to position itself in the face of the publication of an 887 page definitive book on the subject.
See Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2007.
It is interesting that we have such an amazingly complete treatise on a subject so few genealogists are even aware exists. Let's see why that may be the case.
Individual participation in genealogical research has historically been extremely limited. If you would like one of the few historical studies of genealogy as a profession and avocation, see
Weil, François. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. 2013.
It is amazing what a little bit of history will do to quell self- righteous indignation over the lack of source citations in online family trees and elsewhere. To give you an idea of where genealogy is coming from and why there may be some problems such as lack of source citations, let me give just one quotation from the Weil book.
From the 1860s to the mid-twentieth century, racial purity, nativism, and nationalism successfully dominated the quest for pedigree and gave genealogy more contemporary ideological relevance than ever before. The language of race, heredity, and later eugenics invaded the genealogical sphere, helping many white Americans describe themselves self-consciously as Anglo-Saxons and claim racial and social superiority over others. This new language was so pervasive that many of these “others” (African Americans and European migrants) came to share some of the tenets of racialized genealogy. In this new context the market for genealogy experienced tremendous , though unregulated, growth, which in turn helped develop frauds on a scale unknown in the United States until then. Some reacted and attempted to regulate the field. Other Americans, true to alternative visions inherited from the antebellum period, persisted in connecting genealogy to moral, religious, and democratic concerns, but by the late nineteenth century they were in the minority.
Only when the racial and nationalist foundations of genealogy were undermined in the middle of the twentieth century did the configuration of the genealogical interest in the United States change once again. It took decades, the civil rights movement, and the new interest in ethnicity and heritage for American genealogical culture as we know it today— popular, multicultural , and multiracial family history— to settle in. As the family history market has developed with the advent of the computer revolution and the Internet, genealogy has become a major component of the American economy of culture. In the age of DNA, the return of biological evidence to genealogy also raises new, fascinating, and troubling questions about the identity of individuals and groups within American society. Weil, François (2013-04-30). Family Trees (Kindle Locations 122-126). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.Truly, genealogy in the United States has a troubled and very complex history. Condemning pedigrees and compiled genealogies from before the 21st Century is a currently popular position, but from this quotation, it is evident that a scholarly, carefully documented approach to genealogy is not only presently a rare commodity, but has been almost since the beginnings of populist genealogy. Converting the huge masses of online family tree submissions to the need for careful source citations would take nothing less than a restructuring of the entire United States' educational systems and a radical change in the value system. Advocating adding source citations to genealogical submissions online involves much more than a simply educating genealogists.
In addition to these cultural and social issues, we have the plain fact that the addition of a source citation in no way assures the accuracy of the online entry. Adding and evaluating the reliability of any particular source is a skill that is learned either through relevant educational experience or through trial and error in practicing research.
The real question is whether or not genealogy is an inclusive or exclusive pursuit. If we take the position that genealogy is an academic discipline, it must needs be exclusive in the extreme. We would have to be like lawyers and pass unauthorized practice of genealogy rules and enforce them. On the other hand, if genealogy is inclusive, then perhaps we need to recognize that errors and bad online family trees are part of the trade-off. Railing against a particular online program because it does not "require" source citations is definitely an exclusive approach. Perhaps those of us who view genealogy as needing sources should be a little more tolerant of those who have not yet reached that point of understanding the process.