Historically, genealogists have been remiss in their need to document and cite their sources for compiling family histories and pedigrees. It is not uncommon to find an entire book of alleged genealogical information without a singe reference to where the information in the book was obtained. Subsequent researchers are then forced to either accept the information on faith or redo the research to verify its accuracy. Granted, the idea that all genealogical research should be substantiated by source citations is a relatively new concept. This state of affairs has occurred primarily because of the casual nature of genealogical research in the past. I can give some concrete examples of what I am writing about. In my own library, I have the following books containing information about different parts of my ancestry and family relationships.
De Brouwer, Elizabeth. Sidney Tanner, His Ancestors and Descendants: Pioneer Freighter of the West, 1809-1895. Salt Lake City, Utah (4545 S. 2760 E., Salt Lake City 84117): S. Tanner Family Organization, 1982.
Kleinman, Mary Miles. The Essence of Faith. Springville, UT: Art City Pub. Co., 1973.
Nelson, Melba Madson, William Smith Tanner, Emma Elena Tanner Madson, and John Joshua Tanner Family Association. Descendants of John Joshua Tanner: Born December 19, 1811, at Greenwich, Washington County, New York, Died 9 September 1896 at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah. [Salt Lake City?]: John Joshua Tanner Family Association, 1979.
Overson, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis. George Jarvis and Joseph George De Friez Genealogy. [Mesa?, Ariz.]: [M.G. Jarvis Overson], 1957.
Parkinson, Diane, and John Parkinson. James Parkinson of Ramsey: His Roots and His Branches : England, Australia, America : A Biographical History and Genealogical Record of the Family of James and Elizabeth Chattle Parkinson. Austin, Tex.: Published for the James Parkinson Family Association by Historical Publications, 1987.
Richardson, Arthur M, and Nicholas G Morgan. The Life and Ministry of John Morgan: For a Wise and Glorious Purpose. [Place of publication not identified]: N.G. Morgan, 1965.
Salisbury, Lois Peterson Horsley. The Brigham Young and Stella Jarvis Peterson Posterity. Provo, Utah: Family Footprints, 2002.
Tanner Companies, and J. Morris Richards. Tanner Companies Collection, 1920.
Tanner, George S. Henry Martin Tanner; Joseph City, Arizona Pioneer, Born June 11, 1852, San Bernardino, California, Died March 21, 1935, Gilbert, Arizona. [Place of publication not identified, 1964.
———. John Tanner and His Family: A History-Biography of John Tanner of Lake George, New York, Born August 15, 1778, Hopkinton, Rhode Island, Died April 13, 1850, at South Cottonwood, Utah. Salt Lake City: John Tanner Family, 1974.
Tanner, Maurice, and George C Tanner. Descendants of John Tanner; Born August 15, 1778, at Hopkintown, R.I., Died April 15, 1850, at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah; [Place of publication not identified, 1923.
Udall, John Nicholas, John N Udall, Rosly Lillywhite Udall, and Fred C Pinnegar. The Wonder of It All: The Autobiography of John Nicholas Udall. Orem, Utah: FCP Pub., 2006.
Almost without exception, not one of these extensive books contain more than very sketchy references to the sources for the thousands of pages of history and family names. Most people would be thrilled to have any one of these books about their family. Over the years, all this has done for me is give me more work verifying the information contained. The tragedy here is that much of what is in these books is anecdotal in nature and cannot now be reconstructed.
My conclusion is not a reflection on the ability, sincerity or dedication of any of the compilers or writers, but the fact still remains that without source citations the information must be independently researched and verified.
But there is a further and more serious issue here. The list of books I provide above are "correctly cited." In fact, the citations conform to the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition. See the following:
The Chicago Manual of Style. 2010. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
But here are some questions. Is the 16th edition the latest edition available? The answer is yes but here we get into an interesting issue. Where would you go to find a copy of any of the books I have listed? The citation formats are correct according to one particular citation format, but they fail to tell me the one essential detail needed for research: where can the books be located?
Now, I told you that I have copies of all of these books, which is exactly correct, but the citations, although "correct" do not tell you that piece of information. Some of these books are really rare. There were a very small number of originals printed and locating a copy of some of these books could be a major challenge. I will give you one hint however. All of these books can be found on WorldCat.org.
As I read genealogical journal articles and review online publications by scholarly genealogists, I see some considerably amount of discussion about citations and sourcing, but many times (most of the time?) these carefully cited and sourced works do not give a hint as to where the cited material is physically located or where I might view the source.
Let's think about this a little and see if we need to start being a little less academic and particular about the format of our citations and focus more on providing information about where the information was obtained.