Monday, June 17, 2013


I admit it.

I'm a citation slacker
I have my copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence! nearby and occasionally I
use it, but for the most part I am a slacker and let my genealogy programs
RootsMagic6 and Ancestry do the work for me. When I'm researching online
I enter the information into Ancestry and then two or three times a year I
download the tree into the RM6 on my hard drive.

Here on my blog I cite information I've found in books using what I suppose
could best be described as a mish-mash of what I remember from use of Kate
Turabian's Manual for Writers of Research Papers that I used in college. I'm
sure purists throw up their hands in horror when confronted with it but I get
the important information in and acknowledge the source where I found it.

I do admit I have a problem, though. Back when I first started and was adding
information I found at FamilySearch into the tree, I had a
conundrum. I'd create  a citation source file on site and in the
Detail box I'd enter the film # and other information for the record. So, for
example, for the marriage of my great grandparents Philip J West and Clara
(Ellingwood) Tidswell(mispelled as Tigswell on the record) I entered

Indexing Project (Batch) Number:     M73156-1
System Origin:     New Hampshire-VR
GS Film number:     1001321
Reference ID:     2:1V4P54S

It wasn't until much later I noticed this at the bottom of the FamilySearch screen:
Citing this Record
"New Hampshire, Marriages, 1720-1920," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Jun 2013), Philip J. West and Clara J. Tigwell, 25 May 1894.

I'm not exactly sure which is right. I'm sure the second is more correct. But isn't the information I entered just as helpful?

Sigh. This is why I' think of myself as a citation slacker. I give myself a headache just thinking
about this stuff.


Carol Yates Wilkerson said...

No worries, we can still be friends you citation slacker. :)I imagine you are in a somewhat large "club".

John said...

Even your 'slacking' citations are better than what a large number of researchers seem to provide.

Personally, I copy and paste whatever citation the online database provides, and usually stop there, figuring it is enough.

If the online database doesn't provide an easy-to-copy-paste citation, I come up with my own based on what I recall from my days in school,

I don't have a copy of Evidence! If I were to attempt to write an article that I would want published in a magazine, I'd buy a copy and make certain my citations met the standard. Otherwise, the citations are only for me, and for any relative I pass the information on to. So it doesn't matter if I follow Evidence! or not.

Unknown said...

ESM's "Evidence Explained" aside ... the citation given by FamilySearch is probably the better of the two ... only because none of those four items you included will help someone find this record. (There are 13,000+ records in that indexing batch, and 25,000+ records on the film).

The citation from FS includes the URL, and that takes a person straight to the index entry for this particular record, which is much more useful.

One drawback of the FS citation is that it does not include the microfilm roll number, which would be helpful in case the website or that record could not be accessed for whatever reason.

If you click on "About this collection," and then click on the "citation example for a record in this collection" link, you will get a sample citation, from which you can create this:

"New Hampshire Marriages, 1720-1920." database, FamilySearch ( accessed 17 Jun 2013). Philip J. West and Clara J. Tigwell, 25 May 1894; citing Marriage Records, FHL microfilm 2,168,531; Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records.

... which, in my opinion is MUCH more accurate.

Gould Academy Class 1966 said...

Join the crowd. When I started I knew most of my info was town histories and vital records so never documented it. Naughty.....

Celia Lewis said...

Ohhh, Bill, there's a lot of us in this club! We all started before we knew what we were doing, I think, and slowly learned what we 'shoulda/coulda/woulda' done for proper citations, much much later! Oh well. Every day in every way we're getting a little better, right? Cheers.

John said...

Many years ago as a graduate student I taught a couple of courses at the college level and then later I taught legal research and writing at a Paralegal school and a local Community college. The college and later courses were from different disciplines so, of course, each had their own citation peculiarities. I was once told that many of the citation conventions were holdovers from days when typesetting demands, labor and costs drove spacing, abbreviation, and other citation "rules." I don't know how true this explanation is, but I dutifully taught "proper" citation form and then always told the students that the MOST important thing is really not the format because proper format can still contain errors. The most important thing is to provide enough ACCURATE information that anyone wanting to go to your source can find it quickly, easily and precisely -- so get the info right first and foremost and then worry about the format -- especially if you are trying to publish. Purists will cringe at "improper" formatting, but the true test is can one find the source with the info supplied no matter whether it meets citation code or not. ;-)