Introduction: In this article – the second in a four-part series – Jessica Edwards gives tips for creating citations for your genealogy research. Jessica has had a lifelong interest in her family’s history – especially on her father’s side, which goes back to the first settlers in Pennsylvania, Jamestown and New England.
Using Style Guides for Sources
A style guide can help you follow the standards that the publishing industry uses for source citations. Style guides offer the following advantages:
- They can help you decide what information to record about each type of source
- They contain examples
- Standards help other people understand and use your source information
Here is a good example of a style guide in English:
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence: Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997 (2006 reprint).
Examples of Citing Sources
Sometimes the best way to understand how to cite sources is to see a few examples. The following three examples (more examples will be shown in Parts III & IV of this article) contain formats in which many genealogical sources are stored. If you do not see the exact record that you need, choose an example that is stored in a similar format. For example, if you have a copy of a will, you might use the “Birth certificates and similar records” example.
Important: Record enough information that you or another person could find the source again to evaluate the accuracy of the information. The examples suggest what information you should record and which field to put it in.
Birth certificates and similar records: The following information lists key fields that you might want to fill out for a birth or other type of certificate. Important: If you used a transcription, index, or abstract, cite that rather than the individual certificate.
- Source description.
- Source title. Type a descriptive title.
- Type the institution that created the source.
- Type the name, address, and telephone number of the agency from which anyone could order a copy of the certificate.
- Film/Volume/Page Number. Type the certificate number, file number, or other identifying information.
- Date record was made. Type the date on which the certificate was issued. This may or may not be the birth date.
Multi-volume books: The following information lists key fields that you might want to fill out for a multi-volume book.
- Source description.
- Source title. If the series as a whole has a title, type that title.
- Type the author’s name. The author may be one or more individuals or an institution. If each volume in the series has a different author, type the name of the editor or compiler of the series.
- Publication information. Type the place where the books were published, the publisher, and the copyright date. You can typically find this information on the book’s title page and copyright page. Include edition numbers and reprint dates, if needed.
- Source call number. If you used the book in a library or archive, type the call number.
- Type the name, address, and telephone number of a place in which anyone could find the books. If you type the name and address of a private individual, please obtain the individual’s permission first.
- Film/Volume/Page Number. Type the volume number and page number where you found the information.
Privately published books: The following information lists key fields that you might want to fill out for a privately published book.
- Source description.
- Source title. Type the title as it appears on the title page or cover.
- Type the author’s name. The author may be one or more individuals or an institution.
- Publication information. Type as much information as you can find. You could include the words “privately published” to clarify the information. Sometimes you can find publication information in the catalog of the library or archive where you found the book.
- Source call number. If you used the book in a library or archive, type the book’s call number.
- Type the name, address, and telephone number of a place in which anyone could find the book.
- Film/Volume/Page Number. Type the page number or any other information needed to find the information in the book.
Upcoming on this blog: the next two parts in this four-part series on citing sources in genealogy.
2 thoughts on “Easy Guide to Citing Sources in Genealogy, Part II”
Great articles! I love how you have presented the information and that you’re breaking things up so there’s no information overload.
Might I also suggest Ian Macdonald’s “Referencing for Genealogists: Sources and Citation (https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/referencing-for-genealogists/9780750986885/). It’s a good companion to EE and presents things from a UK POV. These two books, along with Tom Jones’ “Mastering Genealogical Documentation” are a must read for everyone who is serious about learning all aspects of citing sources for our genealogy research.
Thank you for the suggestions. I am always interested in adding to my library (I just added 10 new books that I have to go through as yet). No matter how much you do there always seems to be more to learn. One thing my mentor drilled into me was to DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. A tree should be done in such a way that someone can pick it up and follow in your footsteps and see what you saw (they may choose a different date if there are conflicts such as one source has them being born Aug 2, 1938 and other have Aug. 2, 1939 for example). When sources are slightly difference I try to make a note on my tree (like in the Lifestory section on Ancestry.com) as to the discrepancies and that I am choosing to go with the most common date so as they note I am aware of the differences and why I chose that particular date (I add my name and the date the note was made as well). I hope this article helps others learn why documentation is important and an easy to follow method to do so.