2018 – Mastering Genealogical Documentation

Mastering the Art of Genealogical Documentation

Coordinated and taught by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

This same course is offered June 24-29, 2018, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA and repeated 29 July-3 August 2018, at Daemen College, Amherst, NY. Registration Information.

Course Description

Documentation lies at the heart of respectable genealogy. Without clear and complete citations to supporting sources no family compilation or report can be credible. Therefore, all serious genealogists document their work. Students taking this course will learn how to understand their sources well enough to describe them. Then they will learn how to apply that knowledge to crafting citations. This hands-on course will help students gain understanding of how to create conventional citations with artistry, clarity, completeness, conciseness, and competence.


  • Read Genealogy Standards, numbers 1–8 (pages 5–9).
  • Read Mastering Genealogical Proof, chapter 4 (pages 33–45).
  • Send the instructor information about one source you want to learn how to cite.
  • Come to class with questions about genealogical documentation.

Class Titles

  • Ten Thousand Decisions: The Flexible Nature and Uses of Genealogical Documentation
  • The What, When, and Where of Documentation (Non-citation Aspects of Documenting)
  • What Do Citations Do, and How Do They Do It? (Citation Contexts, Forms, and Shortcuts)
  • If you can write a sentence. . . . Options for Assembling Components into Clear Citations
  • The Role of “Spit and Polish”: Capitalization, Italics, Semicolons, and Other Subtleties
  • What is This Source? (Title, Foreign-Title, No-Title, Vague-Title, and Source-within-Source Considerations)
  • Is This Source Published, Rare, Unique, Unpublished, or What?
  • Who or What Made This Source? (Author-Creator-Informant-Recorder Considerations)
  • Dates—Absent, Hidden, Obvious, and Perplexing—for Sources, Information Items, and Events
  • Collections, Editions, Files, Record Groups, Rolls, Serials, Series (Two Kinds), Volumes, and Other Groupings of Offline Sources
  • Descriptions, Numbers, Searches, Waypoints, and Other Ways to Locate Source-Cited Information
  • Issues with Repositories and Publishers (Commercial, Foreign, Obscure, Private, Public, Unknown)
  • It’s Sooo Simple: Citing Original Online Information
  • An Online Library? (Citing Facsimiles of Previously Published Pages)
  • An Online Publisher? (Citing Facsimiles of Previously Unpublished Pages)
  • Multi-Part Options for Citing Facsimiles
  • Citing Grammaw’s Dish Towel, Other Artifacts, and Sources with Nary a Citation Example

BONUS: Overcoming Citation Anxiety

NOTE: The topics will be covered in eighteen sessions (four each day Monday through Thursday and two on Friday morning). Although some flexibility in scheduling may occur, the course will follow regular institute hours with a break for lunch, resume at 1 p.m., and end at 4 p.m. Homework sessions will commence 4:00-4:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, with morning homework review on Tuesday through Friday.