Byram discusses citing your sources — an essential research
to all of us. You are working on your database and come to
an entry and ask, “Where did I get that piece of information?”
You failed to document the source. Thereupon follows minutes
or hours of searching to find a document or note that answers
We need to document where we find our data for a number of
reasons. First, undocumented data is hearsay and lacks credibility.
Second, there is the problem of constantly reinventing the
wheel. If we document the data when we record it, we won’t
need to spend our time searching for the missing source. Third,
we want our work and the countless hours invested to have
some longevity as a genealogical record. How many times have
you obtained data from another person’s work that was
not documented and then spent many hours or even years tracking
down the original sources?
1900 US census record for the household of Thomas Gardner.
Every genealogist should have the following two books on their
shelf: Lackey, Richard S. 1980. Cite Your Sources: A Manual
for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records.
Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press and Mills, Elizabeth
Shown. 1997. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family
Historian. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company.
Both of these books offer guidance as to how to document your
sources, and, although both are US-centric, they offer lessons
that can be applied in any locale. Lackey is a ‘lumper’
and divides sources into 14 general-purpose categories. Each
of the types of sources is discussed with numerous examples.
Lackey does not cover the newer types of electronic information
such as e-mail and web pages, although even these sources
can be fit into one of the 14 categories. One of Lackey’s
categories is an open-ended catch-all titled miscellaneous
Mills is a ‘splitter’ and provides examples of
well over 100 source categories and subcategories including
the newer electronic source types. It is not unusual to find
a person puzzled as to what Mills category to fit a particular
source into. Mills intends for these to be examples to guide
the reader and she notes that “given the breadth of
resources available, it is not possible to cover all variations…”
Another way of looking at this is to realize that once you
start ‘splitting,’ the possibilities are endless.
Mills has tables showing the basic patterns of citations and
a set of rules for arranging the citation elements and includes
a sample documented family group sheet and an ancestor chart.
The citation styles constitute only one-half of Mills’
book. The first half is an in-depth discussion of understanding,
evaluating and using genealogical evidence that every genealogist
should read repeatedly.
The first of two additional useful guides to citing sources
is the National Archives and Records Administra-tion (NARA)
General Information Leaflet Number 17: Citing Records in the
National Archives of the United States, 22 September 1997.
Available online (www.nara.gov/publications/leaflets/gil17.html).
The second is Maurice Crouse’s Citing electronic information
in history papers, 2 May 1999. Available online (www.people.memphis.edu/~mcrouse/elcite.html).
The NARA guide can be obtained in an earlier printed form
at the National Archives branches. If you search the Internet
for guides to citing electronic information, you will find
several dozen useful websites. Crouse’s document is
a stellar example covering all types of sources and is a work
in progress with frequent updates.
The above publications give examples of citation styles for
various sources of genealogical information. Styles include
which citation elements to use, the arrangement of these elements,
the punctuation and text formatting. Another question frequently
asked online is “What is the correct way to cite this
source?” The answer is that there is no one correct
way. If you publish an article in a genealogical journal,
then you will need to conform to the style guidelines specified
by the journal editor. Otherwise, the style that you use is
up to you. For purposes of clarity and esthetics, you should
chose or devise a consistent style and stick to it.
So what citation elements should you include in your citations
for a particular type of source? My personal guideline is
that you should include that information necessary for another
person to locate the source — no less and, preferably,
no more. The reason that I say no more is that when you add
footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography to a report, you
will find that the size of the report has suddenly increased
two-fold or more.
You should ask yourself two questions: 1) What information
did you have that allowed you to find the record? 2) When
you accessed the record, what additional information did you
discover that would make it easier for others to find the
same record? For example, with census records, which we’re
going to use as our citation examples, you might find more
than one set of page numbers have been added to the census
pages (one handwritten and another rubber-stamped). Some families
are recorded near the end of one census page and are continued
over to another. I have found such a family where the census
pages were microfilmed out of order and the two pieces of
the family entry were several pages apart. Notations of such
problems should be added to your citation.
To look at examples of citation styles, I have chosen US census
records. These are reasonably complex records to cite and
may be cited in a variety of ways that will successfully lead
another researcher to the data.
Entry for Parthenia Gardner; p. 4, line 95, Enumeration District
22, Ward 5, Bossier Parish, Louisiana; Census of Population
(National Archives Microfilm Publication T623, roll 559);
Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900; Records of the
Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives —New
The NARA citation style is focused on each particular individual
on the census sheets and the page number refers to the sheet
number within each enumeration district.
very simple source definition for the 1900 US census
as recorded in The Master Genealogist.
An amalgam of several of Lackey’s examples: 1900 US
Census, Bossier Par., La. (Ward 5); p. 195, Family 82, Dwelling
82, Lines 93-95; [National Archives Microfilm T623, Roll 559]
US Bureau of the Census (R.G. 29), National Archives and Records
Administration, Washington, D.C.
Lackey’s citation style points to the entire household.
The page number here refers to the stamped or handwritten
number added to the census pages. More recent census sheets
include two physical pages and the stamped page numbers and
sheet numbers will only be on the first of the pair. It is
useful to add an A or B to the page and sheet numbers to reflect
this. Page or sheet A includes lines 1-50 and B includes lines
Primary citation, footnote or endnote: 1. Thomas Gardner household,
1900 US census, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, population schedule,
Ward 5, p. 195, enumeration district [ED] 22, supervisor’s
district [SD] 4, sheet 4, dwelling 82, family 82; National
Archives micropublication T623, roll 559.
Subsequent citations, footnotes or endnotes: 1. 1900 US census,
Bossier Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 5, ED
22, SD 4, sheet 4, dwelling 82, family 82.
An alternate abbreviated form for subsequent citations: 1.
1900 US cens., Bossier Par., La., p. 195, line 92.
Bibliographic entry: Louisiana. Bossier Parish. 1900 US census,
population schedule. Micropublication T623, roll 559. Washington:
The Mills example is a very complete and disciplined approach
to census citation. Mills’ notes encourage the researcher
to evaluate the particular source in question and suggests
other sorts of information that might be added to the citation.
In line with those suggestions, I have added the stamped page
number to the sample that was shown in her book.
Her samples make another important point — citations
are used in several ways in a report and require several different
forms for those uses. The primary citation is used the first
time that a source is used in a footnote or endnote and contains
the most detailed information. Subsequent uses of the same
citation in footnotes or endnotes may be abbreviated to reduce
repetition. The latter two citation forms are linked directly
to specific data in your report. The entry in the bibliography
may be generalized and does not require the citation details
since it is not linked to the actual data.
Authors of genealogy software were slow to add methods to
document your research and, initially, it was necessary to
add citations to note fields if you wished to keep a record
in the program’s database. Over the last five or six
years, all major genealogical programs have added features
to cite your sources.
Family Tree Maker version 5.0b allows one or more sources
to be attached to each ‘fact.’ The source citation
screens for each fact include ‘citation details’
and allow you to edit the footnote used in narrative reports.
The source screens include a field for the source location.
Legacy Family Tree version 2 includes a source screen listing
sources for a person’s events, notes and death cause
field. One or more sources may be attached to each event with
citation details and a repository may be recorded in the details
or comments fields.
The two academic-quality genealogy programs, The Master Genealogist
(TMG) version 4.0 and Ultimate Family Tree (UFT) version 2.9,
include sophisticated tools for recording source citations
including citation details and master source lists. TMG includes
a master repository list. Both programs include source templates
with citation elements arranged appropriately for differing
source types. TMG includes sets of source templates modeled
after Lackey and Mills that can be customized from a large
pool of source elements. UFT has source templates and version
2.9 added additional templates that follow Mills’ examples.
The ‘citation details’ field is an important labor-saving
device. A source may be recorded and specific information
such as page numbers may be recorded in the citation details
field for each linked event. For example, I frequently use
one of the Massachusetts town published vital records books,
Vital records of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, to the Year
1850. From this book, I have found a number of records for
birth, marriage and death events to add to my database. The
book is recorded in the master source list. When I add an
event to my database from that source, I add the page number
for the page containing the appropriate data to the citation
details field for that link.
Master Genealogist’s Tag Entry Screen and the
associated Citation Entry Screen for the 1900 US
census record of the household of Thomas Gardner.
the Census Example in TMG
Perhaps the major impediment to recording source citations
is the time and self-discipline required. There are a number
of different methods for recording census source citations
in TMG and the following example illustrates a simple technique
to record these citations.
The 1900 census is entered into the master source list simply
as “1900 US Census” and this source is linked
to “National Archives — New England Region”
from the master repository list. Some researchers might prefer
to enter each census year and state as their sources while
others might prefer to enter each census year, state and county.
A census event for the 1900 census is added to the head of
household, Thomas Gardner. The two other household members
are linked as witnesses to the event (a witness in TMG is
simply another participant in the event). A new citation is
added to this event on the Citation Entry Screen. The 1900
census source is linked and a text macro “ST, Co, Tn,
p. n, ED n Sh n Ln n (Nat. Arch. Film #)” is pasted
into the Citation Detail field. This template is edited into
the citation detail “LA, Bossier Par., Ward 5, p. 195b,
ED 22 Sh 4b Ln 93 (Nat. Arch. Film #T623-559)” to be
recorded. Surety values are added if desired and the citation
When a narrative report is generated, footnotes or endnotes
are attached to all events linked to this census source with
the appropriate citation details.
Primary Citations: 1. 1900 US Census, LA, Bossier Par., Ward
5, p. 195b, ED 22 Sh 4b Ln 92 (Nat. Arch. Film #T623-559),
National Archives—New England Region.
Subsequent Citations: 5. 1900 US Census, LA, Bossier Par.,
Ward 5, p. 195b, ED 22 Sh 4b Ln 93 (Nat. Arch. Film #T623-559).
Bibliographic Entry: 1900 US Census, National Archives —
New England Region.
The source entry only needs to be entered once; the text macro
for the census citation details only needs to be entered once;
and the forms for the citations and bibliography are set to
default and required no editing. These parts of the data entry
process can be used over and over and only the census citation
details template needs to be edited when a new census event
Citing your sources is an important and necessary component
of your genealogical research. You need to develop a consistent
work pattern for recording your source citations and a consistent
style to provide clarity for the reader. Use common sense
in choosing the citation elements to record and constantly
ask the question, “Have I provided the reader with the
information necessary to locate this source?”
article originally appeared in the July/August 1999 issue
of Family Chronicle.