[APG Public List] Citing Sources - Your Opinion
laboswell at rogers.com
Tue Jun 29 12:29:31 MDT 2010
I think part of the problem with subscription services is that sometimes we
seem to be asking them to do our work for us. There's usually enough
information there that the original records can be fully identified, and the
current location then found, but sometimes it takes a little effort to do
so. That's nothing compared to what it used to take (first going somewhere
like an archive to see the record, or order in a microfilm through an FHC,
and in the latter case, also identify the original and where held etc). So
now we only have to do a little bit of sleuthing to fully identify the
To use information taken from a subscription database without fully
identifying the record that contains the information (even if that means
having to do it on our own) is going to negatively impact on any evaluation
of that information as evidence.
And it's because the partial information can't be trusted that you have to
do more digging. Exactly for that reason. Enough can be gleaned from
Ancestry (for example) in most cases, to allow the full identification,
including current location of the original record itself. And in the
process of doing that bit of work, the payback can be discovery of new
sources or a new understanding of what was collected from Ancestry. Win-win.
----- Original Message -----
From: linda at fpr.com
To: Cindy Leigh
Cc: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 2:06 PM
Subject: Re: [APG Public List] Citing Sources - Your Opinion
> 2. Do you think one solution would be to lobby the largest subscription
> services, such as Ancestry.com, to provide more up-front and visible
> to add ANY kind of information as to where the information as obtained -
> their public family trees?
I don't know about lobbying subscription services about policing the
degree of documentation on family trees, etc. Restricting what
individuals can publish isn't something I'd be interested in supporting.
However, I am interested in accurate source descriptions. Right now it
seems that the subscription services are the "author" for any and all
source description available when using their products. I do not trust
the reliability of the information in those descriptions, and I think
the underlying issue is that the service provider is "authoring"
material it is not an expert in. It makes more sense to me to lobby
major repositories, such as NARA, to include in their partnering
agreements the requirement that the partner provide visible links back
to source descriptions provided by the "original" repository. Those
links would be provided to the subscription service by the "original"
repository for each record group or collection, or however the home
repository deems most accurate.
This way the service provider can write about what it knows about (the
database organization, the database entries associated with it, search
tools, whatever--the stuff it did to make the record group available to
its users and any fields that were added. And the original repository
can be the source of the descriptions about the actual records which
came from their collections
In addition to resulting in hopefully more accurate source descriptions
for users, this approach might also raise the awareness about different
repositories, their collections, etc. and the *structure* of the what it
is a researcher is looking at. At least for the users who are
interested in reading this information in the first place. It might
also have the extraordinary benefit of preventing a service provider
from lumping a bunch of record groups together and just listing the
many, many "sources," with no way for the user to accurately determine
the specific collection the record came from without "guessing" or doing
more research. Ancestry's "Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S.,
1895-1956" is one such example.
If a clear convention could be adopted by the many players in the
various aspects of the information business whereby each player is
responsible for the description for *their* "value-added" portion, it
might avoid the current fuzziness in the source descriptions and knowing
which information came from what source. Lobbying the major
repositories to make this requirement of any partners which make their
collections available makes sense to me as a reasonable way to work for
change on this issue. I could also see major professional and research
societies making this an issue they publicized and supported. For this
non-professional-trying-to-do-the-right-thing-researcher, such an
approach would be a major quality of life improvement.
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