Sunday, May 20, 2007

Citing a website: Is the date necessary?

Thanks to the reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, for immediately replying:

Thank-you for your dissection of the Gail Staples' footnote in your blog:

I cannot help but make note of Chicago’s statement about the use of a date with reference to a web address in source citation. See page The Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition page 646 section 17.2 which reads:

Access dates. Access dates in online source citations are of limited value since previous versions will often be unavailable to readers (not to mention that an author may have consulted several revisions across any number of days in the course of research). Chicago therefore does not generally recommend including them in a published citation. For sources likely to have substantive updates, however, or in time-sensitive fields such as medicine or law where even small corrections may be significant, the date of the author’s last visit to the site may usefully be added.”

How do you reconcile this style notation in Chicago with the footnote dissected in your blog?

It is wonderful that you have jumped into this discussion. I have four responses.

  1. An article published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register must conform to the style of that journal. Chicago's allowance for such an exception was referenced in my original blog on this topic. Apparently the date of viewing a web site is required by NEHGS.
  2. Indeed, web pages come and go, and at the very least are modified more easily than a book or journal article. Dates may seem superfluous.
  3. Elizabeth Shown Mills provides a variety of citation formats in her book titled Evidence! Citation and analysis for the Family Historian, also mentioned in the original blog. She speaks of printing out the online source and uses that printed date in some of her citations, particularly on pages 80-82.
  4. A genealogy researcher must use some reasonable method of citation to explain the source of a lineage assumption.

Again, I refer readers to the original blog, where I’ve quoted Chicago’s overview for intent to cite a book.

In summary, as competent genealogists, we should make every effort to provide enough ancestral source documentation so folks can follow our tracks to see if they arrive at the same conclusions.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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