Documenting Sources

You may need to review your sources again, someone may want to verify your research, your work may imply something to someone who will need to access the same records, or someone may need to pick up where you left off. Too many people underestimate, or never consider, the importance of documentation. If you have found information in a reference book, make sure you keep enough reference material to enable you to walk back into the same place five years later, locate the book and find the reference again. When you publish the results of your research, cite the exact sources (e.g. particular census returns, probate records, etc.) which you have used and on whose accuracy you are relying.

Keep a careful record of what searches you have done so far, even if you found nothing. It may well save you from searching the same record or source again in the future. And sometimes you may need to use so-called "negative proof" (effectively a list of all the unsuccessful searches you have done) in order to convince yourself that, because of the absence of evidence to the contrary, some particular supposition should now be taken to be correct.


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