Don’t Cite My Site!

For decades, I’ve made the results of my genealogy research public via my website. I think that’s a necessary aspect of the whole endeavor. I want people to take advantage of my research. In my opinion, it is fundamentally wrong to do all the work and keep it to oneself.

Now and then, I come across information on the internet that clearly originated in my research. Sometimes, it’s clear since it’s an older version of my results. But lately, I’ve seen cases where my website, boldts.net/gramps,  is cited in someone else’s work.

On the one hand, it’s good to see my work being credited. And it’s good to see other people citing their research.

But on the other hand, this is not correct. Wherever possible, you should cite primary sources in your research, not secondary sites like mine. We all know what the difference is. A primary source is something like a civil registration record or a baptism book, written by an official within days or hours of the event. Secondary sources include published genealogies or history books.

We all take advantage of research done by others, and that’s fine. But in a secondary source, there’s always the chance of errors slipping in. I’ve certainly found a goodly number of errors in published genealogies, in print and on-line. That’s why it’s standard practice in my own research to cite only primary sources wherever possible. And use trusted secondary sources only when the primary document is not available.

For researching ancestors from the Netherlands and Mecklenburg in particular (my specific areas of interest), most primary documents are on-line. When I include a fact in my database, I normally download and edit the scanned image of the primary source record, and include that image in the citation. When Gramps produces the website for my data, it includes all data, including the primary source images.

So please do use the information on my website. But don’t cite boldts.net/gramps. Instead, download the images and cite them in your research.

To remind people, I even added a note at the bottom of each page of my genealogy site:

Note: If you find this information useful, do not cite this web site. Instead, cite the primary sources listed here. Feel free to download the images and include them in your own database.

Cheers! Hans

2 Replies to “Don’t Cite My Site!”

    1. Being credited is nice. But for the purposes of research, it’s more important to cite primary sources. The biggest risk in citing a website is that the site may well disappear. Before primary sources started showing up on familysearch and Ancestry for my areas of interest, I did cite a few websites that subsequently disappeared. I’m still cleaning those up.

      Cheers! Hans

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