There has been some debate over the past few years about the need to cite sources. I think it safe to say, from my perspective, that it is now accepted that citing sources is important, maybe even required, for our family history databases. But what about our blog posts? Does the same apply? Should bloggers be required to cite the sources they used for each blog post?
These questions arose following my recent series of posts about my mother’s family and the different experiences that the Irish Catholic branches had when immigrating to Canada. One branch, the Fitzgeralds, had immigrated in 1825 to Cape Vincent in New York State and then made their way to Toronto around 1843. The Foley branch on the other hand appears to have been one of thousands that escaped Ireland around the time of the famine in the late 1840’s.
A blog reader, Jennifer, questioned some of the facts stated in one of my posts, specifically the stated fact that of the 100,000 Irish who were traveling to Canada, 30,000 died enroute. I did not cite a source for this and I admit that although I had a source, I have been unable to find it again and provide a citation. I had also stated that “almost 6,000 Irish immigrants died and were buried in a mass grave” on Grosse Ile. Jennifer tells me that a maximum of 5,424 were buried in 1847 on Grosse Ile, although the exact number of burials varies according to different sources. Not being able to locate my information source admittedly is not good on my part. But it also does not make it incorrect. Estimates that I have since found suggest that perhaps the number ought to be 20,000 that died “from disease and malnutrition”, lower by a third than my original information source stated.
The point in all of this is that the Irish fleeing the ravages of their homeland caused by the potato famine traveled in extremely poor circumstances and conditions. Arguably these conditions were worse for those destined for Canada as American ships operated at higher standards for passengers than did British ships. I have seen nothing to strongly suggest to me that my Foley ancestors came directly to Canada but then the Foley name is not unique enough to allow me to definitively identify the ancestors on ship’s lists who immigrated from Ireland during this terrible time.
I try to describe the general type of record, if one exists, that I rely on for my family’s history in blog posts or in the alternative, state that no record exists save a family story. I haven’t done the same for all of the general history facts contained in every blog post, nor have I seen that as a practise in other genealogy blogs that I read on a regular basis. While I can see some merit to citing blog sources I tend to think it unnecessary with the caveat that I remain open to providing those sources if a reader requests them. It’s more work I suppose to also keep track of general history sources but perhaps it provides a more scholarly approach to genealogy blogging.