If you ignore the footnotes in the articles of a genealogical journal, you will likely miss some of the power in the articles. Footnotes are like a secret second narrative in a scholarly work. Many of the footnotes refer to the sources the author used for gathering data. Others will contain interesting or useful insights that didn’t fit neatly into the body of the article. Delving into the sources contained in these references can even provide clues for continuing your own research.

A person could read a journal article, ignoring all footnotes, and still understand it. After all, the article is the sum of the sources, organized, mixed together in a specific order, baked, and served. Perhaps you could even say it is partially digested. But when you also study the sources, footnotes, and the accompanying commentary, your knowledge of the material and the research process can grow exponentially. Who knows but what one of the sources or research methods in an article will help you solve your own research problems. Consider this a plea for you to see footnotes as an integral part of any article.

Comments (7)

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  1. Excellent and one of the few things in this modern world with which I am familiar. I do use these extensively I just wish I could improve my computer skills. Rather, I intend and therefor need to prioritise getting to grips with improving my computer literacy. Thank you

    Sally m 04 February 2012
    12:33 pm
  2. thanks for that very important reminder.

    jesse 04 February 2012
    2:46 am
  3. Thanks HendricksonP for that very important reminder.

    Jesse P 04 February 2012
    2:42 am
  4. Footnotes must be listed numerically and consecutively, both in your essay and in your Footnote citation. Footnote numbers must be superscripted. In your text, add a superscripted number immediately after the quote or reference cited with no space. It is recommended that you use Endnotes in place of Footnotes. This will eliminate the need to allow sufficient space to accommodate all the required Footnote entries at the bottom of the same page where your citations occur. If your instructor has no preference, use the much simpler Parenthetical Documentation in place of Footnotes or Endnotes.

    Verrna 22 January 2012
    1:37 pm
  5. Excellent article and reminder And often times, there is a way to find the source online for future study, i.e. Books on FamilySearch.org, Internet Archives and Google Books. Thank you

    Carol B. Moss 18 January 2012
    5:06 pm
  6. very true.

    bill kennedy 16 January 2012
    1:37 pm
  7. Nice reminder. Personally, I end up highlighting the footnotes. They also give me ideas as to where else to go to uncover clues, documents and data.

    Kathleen Brandt, a3Genealogy 15 January 2012
    7:46 am

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