Complete, Accurate Citations

The Genealogical Proof Standard requires a complete, accurate citation of sources.  While finding the sources in the first place may be a more difficult task than citing the sources, even the most skilled genealogists get stumped from time-to-time on how to format source citations.

Why should this task be so difficult?  Many publishers and professional organizations have style guides for publication that include proper citation of sources.  Different organizations have adopted different conventions and formats for citing sources and, in general, one format is not necessarily better than another format.

Genealogical sources suffer from the complication that, rather than simply being references to books and journals, these sources are incredibly varied and usually not cited as sources in fields other than genealogy.  Just as researchers in other fields have citation style guides for their particular professions, so do genealogists:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Quicksheet: Citing Online Historical Resources. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2005.

In Evidence!, Elizabeth Shown Mills mentions that the citation examples provided therein are based on The Chicago Manual of Style (The Chicago Manual of Style. 14th edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).  Even with these resources, the best way to cite a genealogical source is not always straightforward.

To start with, Elizabeth Shown Mills provides examples for three different formats:  Primary Citation (Endnotes or Footnotes), Subsequent Citations (Endnotes or Footnotes) and Bibliographic Entry.  Which of these formats should be used depends on the context and intent. 

Whenever I make a copy of a document, I include source information directly on the copy.  But which format (Endnotes/Footnotes or Bibliography) is more suitable for this purpose, since the source citation is not for either of those purposes?

The citation formats for endnotes or footnotes generally include page numbers while the format for a bibliography does not.  For that reason alone, I would generally format the citation according to the Endnotes/Footnotes format.

Let’s look at some actual examples of source citations for the documents I used to evaluate Great Aunt Mary’s birthdate:

Birth and Baptismal Record

Book of Births and Baptisms, 1884: entry 5, Church of the Immaculate Heart of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Dubiecko, Poland

Hamburg Emigration Record

Marjanna Danko entry; SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, June 16, 1909, line 830; in Hamburg Emigration Lists 1850-1934, Volumes 209-211, Direct Lists, microfilm 473,001, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Passenger Arrival List

Marianna Danko entry; SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Passenger Manifest, June 26, 1909, page 36, line 4; Micropublication T715 (Washington: National Archives), roll 1293, frames 513-514.

The 1910 Census

Samuel Carsenberg household, 1910 U.S. census, Worcester county, Massachusetts, population schedule, city of Worcester, enumeration district 1880, supervisor’s district 119, sheet 6B, dwelling 39, family 98; National Archives micropublication T624, roll 632.

The 1920 Census

Paul Golinski household, 1920 U.S. census, Worcester county, Massachusetts, population schedule, city of Worcester, enumeration district 193, supervisor’s district 3, sheet 22A, dwelling 194, family 470; National Archives micropublication T625, roll 749.

The 1930 Census

Paul Golinski household, 1930 U.S. census, Worcester county, Massachusetts, population schedule, city of Worcester, enumeration district 14-23, supervisor’s district 8, sheet 1A, dwelling 3, family 3; National Archives micropublication T626, roll 968.

The Copy of Record of Marriage

Copy of Record of Marriage, October 4, 1915, Barre, Massachusetts, register no. 23, vol. 633, page 358, Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The citations above are based on the examples in Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence!, but the citations for the passenger lists and the census records don’t indicate that I actually found these documents online, not on microfilm.  Also, there are two confusing citations listed here:  the 1910 Census recordis cited as “Samuel Carsenberg household” not as “Mary Danko”, and the citation for the record of marriage doesn’t list the names of the bride and groom.

Perhaps these issues will be better resolved in Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Quicksheet or in the next edition of Evidence!

This entry was posted in Daily Journal. Bookmark the permalink.