Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What is a Repository?

The nature of a repository is an issue or question originally raised by the Ancestry Insider. He said, "Repository. No repository need be given for publications. For printed publications, the only time I would specify the repository is if the publication wasn’t listed in That’s the only time. Uh… I guess the other only time would be if I were quoting an annotation someone had written into a particular published book. (Penciled corrections and additions to family histories used to be an acceptable practice.)" See SSDI Citation Review. Although he is probably extremely tired of my responses, he also said, "Listing the Family History Library as a repository is not only unnecessary, it is untrue." See the same post.

OK, so this brings up a question of the definition of a repository. I worked for many years in both the University of Utah Library and the Arizona State University Law Library. Both of these libraries have extensive collections of government documents. However, in Arizona, the Federal Government's Regional Depository Library is the The Law and Research Library, Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. The Library houses Arizona's regional Federal Depository Collection designated to receive all of the publications distributed by the U.S. Government Printing Office through the Federal Depository Library Program. See Law and Research Library. Quoting from the Federal Depository Library Program,
The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was established by Congress to ensure that the American public has access to its Government's information. Since 1813, depository libraries have safeguarded the public's right to know by collecting, organizing, maintaining, preserving, and assisting users with information from the Federal Government. The FDLP provides Government information at no cost to designated depository libraries throughout the country and territories. These depository libraries, in turn, provide local, no-fee access to Government information in an impartial environment with professional assistance.
So if I cite a government document, where is the repository? Or depository? Or whatever? Isn't each library across the country a separate repository? Isn't a citation to any one of them sufficient even though they are all just copies of copies of copies?

Note the two words "repository" and "depository." Let's see if there is any real difference between these two terms. A "repository" is defined as a place, building, or receptacle where things are or may be stored. So this is a general term and not very useful for the basis of an argument over what is and is not a repository. So, is there a more limited or special use of the term "repository" that applies only to genealogy? Well, we can jump out to the extensive discussion on's Portal talk:Repository If you are really interested in this subject you can read the whole long discussion about whether is a repository or a source. The conclusion: it is both a repository and a source. The discussion on goes on to conclude that "A genealogical repository is simply a place in which genealogical sources are kept and used. There are many difference repositories for printed sources: it is essential to understand and use each type of repository."

Later on the same page in, the participants cite's article, "Cite Your Genealogy Sources." This article uses the term repository to indicate where you found the source. Under all of these definitions, the Family History Library most certainly would be a repository.

Now, is it a depository? The definition: A place where things are stored. OK, so this is even more vague than the definition for repository. Trying to argue that something is or is not a depository or a repository is somewhat like straining at a gnat. The terms are both broad enough to include my closet much less the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Mesa Public Library, the Family History Library and most of the millions of rented storage units across America.

Here is my point so, hopefully, it will not be missed. The purpose of a citation is to give anyone reading it a map or explanation as to where to go to find the document used or cited. Period. That's all folks. How you say it, what format it takes and all the rest is not relevant if the content is sufficient for me to go find where you got your information.

If you want to run your own genealogical publication (journal, newsletter, blog, etc.) and require anyone who contributes to do things your way, that is your privilege. If I don't want to jump through your hoops, that is my privilege. Notwithstanding all that I have said, I still think everyone should tell where they got their stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Citing the repository can be crucial in the case of microfilm editions, which may differ. A case in point:

    The microfilmed Florida State Censuses of 1935 and 1945 are available on microfilm at most of the larger public libraries in the state. However, the editions are not necessarily the same. The 1935 and 1945 state census editions held by the Alachua County Public Library in Gainesville are separate - 1935 on one set of rolls, and 1945 on another. However, the edition of these censuses at the Jacksonville Public Library main branch has both years on the same run of microfilm. You may have part of Duval County for 1935 and part of Escambia County for 1945 on the same roll of film, for example. The roll numbers between the sets at Alachua County and the set at Jacksonville are also not the same. Therefore, if someone writes a citation to the Alachua County edition without mentioning the repository, and another person attempts to follow that citation using the Jacksonville edition, they will not find the same information, and will very likely be on the wrong roll of film.

    There is a case where you definitely want to cite the repository!