Friday, October 24, 2014

Facebook: A Valid Source to Cite or Not?

Recently the "The In-Depth Genealogist" published an article by Christine Woodcock titled "That Online Tree is NOT a Source!"1 While I agree with most of her article I do disagree with the last sentence in the following paragraph where she wrote [underlining is mine]:
"I’ll tell you what is NOT a source: Someone else’s research. Someone else’s tree. Someone else’s educated guess or deductive reasoning. Neither is information received in an e-mail, from a message board, mailing list or Facebook group."

I find that the last sentence is overly broad since, at least to me, it treats all information received over those media as invalid sources that cannot be cited. Although I do hope that the sentence applies to received information stated previously in the paragraph. Even a simple change to "Neither is the same information received..." would link that statement to the previous sentences as to what is not are sources to cite and I would, in principal, agree with the paragraph.

Earlier she had written "A source is a record of the event, documented at the time of the event with information given by a witness to the event." What makes the mode of communication that is sent by e-mail or posted online any less valid than placing an announcement in a newspaper or writing and photocopying a letter for sending by postal mail? Given that in today's modern world many family announcements are made by e-mail or Facebook why wouldn't an announcement distributed by any of those mediums be not considered a source? As discussed on the Evidence Explained forums, Facebook is accepted as a source for information and can be cited (

What needs to be evaluated, just like with any other document that is received, is who provided the information and when it was create in terms of proximity to the event. If the information being sent or posted is concerning an event from a bygone era or is a repeat of something said elsewhere then, as a good researcher, you should locate the document or post that is being talked about and cite that instead. Unless that too points to another document or post ... follow the chain until you get to the true source of the information.

Yet what about if I am an actual witness to an event and I post the information online or sent it out in an e-mail? Can and should someone else cite what I have stated as a source? I know I have received or seen those announcements of births, marriages, and deaths via e-mail and Facebook posts. Knowing the person that has posted the information and the fact it was posted the same or next day after the event, in my mind, has the same weight as receiving a letter in the mail announcing what has happened. I just make sure I save the information as a screen shot or in a text file just in case someone asks me to show my source for the recorded fact.

I do agree that hearsay information passed over those means of communication should not be cited. At best they should be treated as possible clues and follow up questions need to be asked such as "Where did you find that information?" and "Can you share the source of your information?"

As always: read, analyze, and think when using any potential source of information.

1. Retrieved 24 Oct 2014 at 11:41 am EDT

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Ottawa Shooting ... a few thoughts

Unfortunately Ottawa has joined the list that no city wants to be part of ... that of a target of violence and terror. I'm not going to repeat the details, rumours, and comments of what occurred on October 22nd, 2014. You can easily find them online from your favourite news source or from CBC at

While it is important to reflect on what has happened and to seek answers as to why it occurred it is just as important to not become fixated on this event.

So reach out to your loved ones by phone, text, Facebook, Twitter or in person. Give a smile to those you pass on the street, greet your neighbours with a kind hello, and say thank you to all those that stand in harm's way as part of their duty and calling. However, don't just do it when a tragedy strikes but reach out when all is good in the world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Canadian Gravemarker Gallery - Beechwood National Cemetery photographed

From the Canadian Gravemarker Gallery Update Newsletter that came out October 1st:

"We are very pleased to announce that The Beechwood National Cemetery in Ottawa is now completely photographed and online. There are over 50,000 grave marker photographs to browse; and the cemetery owners report that there are over 90,000 burials in this "park-like" beautiful cemetery."

For those that don't know about this wonderful resource for images of grave markers in Canada they have almost 865,000 images from over 1,400 cemeteries across Canada and they are constantly adding more images every month.

Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada was established in 1873 and is the home of the National Military Cemetery and the RCMP National Memorial Cemetery. The cemetery registers for Beechwood Cemetery can be found digitized and indexed on Ancestry in the "Ottawa, Canada, Beechwood Cemetery Registers, 1873-1990" collection.

John D. Reid has mentioned he is slowly exploring the lives of the 98 soldiers of the Great War of 1914-18 that are buried in Beechwood Cemetery. He will be posting some of those details on the anniversary of their death in his well-known blog Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections. On September 21st John gave details on what he was able to find about the first WW1 Ottawa soldier, Thomas William Hardingham, that was buried at Beechwood Cemetery.