While looking online for another book, I stumbled upon a pre-publication notice for Referencing for Genealogists: Sources and Citation by Ian G. Macdonald. It went on sale just last month.
I surmised that this little manual would focus on citing UK-based genealogical resources and, for the most part, that is what it does. However, Macdonald’s book is definitely not in an Evidence Explained-type format, whereby one looks up the type of record for citation examples. There is actually a fair amount of related text in this book.
Although only containing 144 pages, there are 18 chapters in this book and the chapter topics aren’t always quickly identifiable to American readers. I’ve added some commentary to those that aren’t:
1. Introduction – covers definitions or primary and secondary sources, why citations are important and when they need to be used. I like that one section is devoted to plagiarism. One other section of the introduction was interesting, as there are a couple of paragraphs devoted to the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ concept of the Genealogical Proof Standard, identified as “not much seen outside their circle” and criteria for its success is called “unclear.”
2. The Materials We Use and the Places We Find Them
3. Creating Individual References: Principles
4. The ‘Harvard’ Style – This chapter discusses MLA and APA citation styles, as well as Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained. Macdonald describes the Evidence Explained style as “more prescriptive than European taste typically prefers” and that she “eschews generic approaches and specifies a way of creating a reference for almost every imaginable source. . .making it difficult to use and that some would describe as an exercise in pedantry. . . though. . . it is a classic.”
5. Using Our ‘Harvard’ Style in the Digital Age
6. Using ‘Harvard’ Style for Secondary Sources
7. Cloud Sourcing
8. Referencing for Genealogical and Archival Sources – defines nominal, material and procedural records
9. Nominal Records – having to do with people
10. Material Records – having to do with things
11. Procedural Records – having to do with procedures that enhance smooth running of society and businesses
12. Other Primary Records: Guidelines
15. Using the Referencing Principles in Your Own Writing
16. Working with Software
17. Future Citation – touches on social media, DNA analyses and newly created types of records
18. Endpoint: Or a New Beginning
This book is mainly aimed at the UK audience and it’s an interesting read. I noticed that while Macdonald mildly knocks the 800-page Evidence Explained (which is thoroughly indexed so that citation examples for a multitude of record types can easily be found) as being somewhat overwhelming and unwieldy, Elizabeth Shown Mills’ citation formats pretty much match the format given in his own examples. The main difference between them is that Macdonald’s examples all use UK records.
Would I recommend this book for American genealogists? Well, maybe. It’s available, new, on Amazon for as little as $18.
Referencing for Genealogists isn’t going to replace Evidence Explained as the classic go-to volume. However, if you frequently use UK genealogical resources and would like examples of strong citations of some of those unique records, then this book is an inexpensive guide to keep handy on your bookshelf.
Having said that, I am not particularly obsessed with having every comma or colon in the right spot in my own source citations. While I follow basic bibliographic principles, my belief is that if I include enough detail in those citations that everyone else is able to locate them, I’m not particularly bothered if a bit of info in it is considered in the wrong order by someone else.
If you are a stickler for detail and want to be sure to correctly cite your UK sources correctly, then $18 is well spent. If you already own Evidence Explained and find an example that is close to your UK source and are happy to use that format, save your dollars for some other purchase.