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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)""

Why was Simple Citations created?

Simple Citations was created because none of the software applications for maintaining family history data has ever incorporated (or developed) a standardized, simple-to-use, method to cite genealogical data in a consistent manner. Indeed, citing sources has always been a nightmare. Part of the reason for this is that the first software application to receive widespread use was Personal Ancestral File (PAF) which advocated the use of GEnealogical Data COMmunication (GEDCOM) as means to share genealogical data between computer programs. Unfortunately, GEDCOM became the de facto standard despite the fact that it was so poorly designed. (Having used the earliest versions of PAF myself (which was a DOS program), the problems with inconsistent data entry were evident from the very beginning - since then, there have been many revisions of the GEDCOM "standard," none of which have adequately addressed the problems - especially those surrounding how sources should be cited. Periodic attempts to replace it with something more usable have yet to be successful (we can only hope).

Another problem is that traditional citation systems (i.e., APA, Chicago, MLA, Turabian, etc.) are all very usable for traditional sources (books, magazines, journals, etc.) but were never intended for use with genealogical materials. The information that family historians must cite are extraordinarily diverse and range from gravestones to census records: documenting these materials is nearly impossible with traditional citation systems.

How much does it cost?

Absolutely nothing. It's FREE!

What other citation approaches are there?

  • Richard Lackey's Cite Your Sources: A Manual for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records remains, arguably, the best book on citing genealogical sources. Unfortunately, it is now obsolete as Dr. Lackey passed away before the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of electronic records. His book, however, is very well written and useful.
  • Elizabeth Shown Mill's Evidence Explained!: Frustrated with the lack of a solid citation system, Ms. Mill's developed her own system that was, arguably, the first to consider electronic records. While she put considerable effort into her approach, it is very complex, requires that a lot of thought must be put into citing every source, and is extremely time consuming. In addition, it produces citations that are not standardized and often inconsistent. Even the promotional materials from the publisher state that there are "more than 1,000 citation models"! (No, that's not a misprint - here's a Google search for "Evidence Explained" "more than 1,000 citation models"!) Simple Citations, on the other hand, has just ONE MODEL (subdivided into three smaller templates)!

Are there any "standards" for citing family history sources?

No, there are no widely accepted standards on how genealogical sources should be cited.

What genealogy software programs can use Simple Citations?

Simple Citations was created for use with RootMagic as that was the first program that introduced templates for citing genealogical sources. That, of course, was a major step for users wishing to cite sources consistently. While it is possible to manually enter information into other programs using the approach advocated by Simple Citations, things are simplified greatly with the use of templates. (As noted elsewhere on this site, Simple Citations was developed around just one template which was then split into three smaller ones to simply data entry.)

Shouldn't I just use a free form template instead of trying to use a citation system?

Absolutely not! Free form templates are simply that, a place to dump a mishmash of information about sources. Doing so has great potential to leave your documentation a mess and, therefore, has the potential to make a veritable rats nest of "stuff" that may confound even the most experienced and astute family historians. Shortly after Simple Citations was introduced to others on a RootsMagic Forum, one of their users, Tom Holden, launched a campaign to promote his "free form template" and then grossly misrepresented Simple Citations in a highly unscientific and biased "study." Mr. Holden's "study" proclaimed his "free form" template to be superior. Given his refusal to acknowledge that a "free form template" is not a citation system, a response to his critique may be found elsewhere on this site.

In short, family historians (ranging from beginners to advanced genealogists) should make every effort to find a way to accurately, consistently, concisely, and reliably document every source they list in their family histories. Simple Citations was created simply because there is no standardized way of doing so and is an attempt to make documenting genealogies easy and fun.


© 2013-2016 All rights reserved by Jeff La Marca, Ph.D.