Monday, June 27, 2011

Blog 91: Citing Sources

So You Can Go Back and Verify

Anyway, it’s Blogging Time! This is a blog I meant to do for a few months, but it kept getting put off. I figured not it’s about time that I address this issue!

Knowing where you got your information is important, it helps to verify the information and when you want to go back to see if any of your sources are updated. This is especially important considering most of us do our genealogy research on the Internet and sometimes sites shut down. With my history background, I know that it is VERY IMPERITIVE that you cite your sources to prevent plagiarism. I prefer Chicago Style and used Chicago Style when I wrote my Hoffman Book, and it’s really difficult for me to go back to APA or MLA. We should bring that concept into Genealogy as well and cite everything we possibly can. It prevents us from making mistakes and spreading misinformation.

Yesterday, I peaked at my Dad’s family tree maker and found that he was redoing it. It drove me crazy with how he was doing it. For example for Edward Reinhold he put “son’s death certificate.” That is all, his sources are either “daughter’s marriage certificate,” or “Son’s obituary.” It literally drove me up the wall. He’s redoing his genealogy too to make it neater (vs. me who wants every little thing I can possibly get), and he’s citing his sources the same way. For me, I cite dates and not names usually where I get my dates I can get names!

I mainly use Family Tree Maker for imputing my genealogy. You may have your own way to cite your information, and I have mine. I usually use Chicago Style for genealogy, but sometimes I make up my own. It’s the one I used in my history courses…and I really don’t like to go back to other forms. So Thanks a lot Professor Kersten and Professor Voelker!

Citing Sources for Family Tree Maker


When I cite censuses, depending one whether it’s federal or a local census, I keep it simple and straight forward.


1900 United States Federal Census. National Archives Administration. Washington DC.

1880 United States Federal Census. National Archives Administration. Washington DC.

If I listed every single state that I found these censuses, it would clutter up my Master Source List, so I don’t do that. I usually list residential area instead with the dates if I had them and then cite the census at the time. For individual state censuses I’ll list the year and the state and follow the same pattern, who published it and where was it found. Sometimes for both types of censuses I’ll list “Microfilm” under the format button, but because that doesn’t show up in the genealogy report, I leave it alone.


For books, I use the same standard way that has been pounded into our heads throughout our school careers. Basic form is book title, author, city: publisher, publishing year and source location. If I downloaded a book from Google Books, I usually see a source location stamp and I use that for the source location. I’ll put book down for the books I downloaded.

Examples (how it appears on my master sources):

A Genealogy of the Warne Family. George Warne Lahaw. Frank Allaben Genealogical Company, 1911. Wisconsin State Historical Society.

A History of the Cutter Family of New England. Dr. Benjamin Cutter. David Clapp & Sons, Boston, 1874. Wisconsin Historical Society.

Vital Records

Vital records (Birth, Marriage, and Death) I keep simple and straight forward. I differentiate between a Birth Record and a Birth Certificate. Birth or Death records I’ll list Birth Record-County (I Drop the Vowels, except for counties that start with Vowels), Location


Birth Certificate-DKLB. Dekalb County Courthouse, Illinois.

Death Certificate-OCNT. Oconto County Courthouse. Oconto, Wisconsin.

Marriage Certificate-MCDNGH,IL. McDonough County Courthouse. Macon, IL.

Sometimes states post their indexes online; if that’s the case I’ll just cite the state index, the available years, author, where it can be found. I was surprised that there were several states where I could access the indexes to birth records, especially for individuals that are still living and are famous.


For Obituaries I list the relatives name and obituary. The newspaper or website I found it on, where it can be found and on what form. Sometimes I’ll list the newspaper, especially if I got it off a message board.


Amelia Scanlan Obituary. The Oconto County Reporter. Farnsworth Library, Oconto, WI

Appleton Post Cresent-OBIT. Appleton Post Cresent. 2007.

Messages Board Postings

For message board postings, I’ll post the Subject Title, the author or the reply, the website and message board I found it on. I usually use or for my message boards. I only have one example of message board postings, but I hope that it gives you a good idea on how I cite message boards.


Adna and Clarissa (Cutter) Colburn of MA/IL/MN Family. Deborah Marlett. Colburn Message Board.


Websites and Gedcoms I do a little differently, so I’ll address them separately. Websites, I do the title of the site, the author, and where it can be located. I put the web address in both the publication and source location boxes on Family Tree Maker.


The World According to Jeff Babcock. Jeff Babcock.

Descendants of Michael Meyer. Brian Meyers.


My main rule with Gedcoms is that whenever I import a new one, the first name that matches what I have gets cited. If I import a Gedcom on Isabel Cutter, my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather Richard Cutter’s sister, I’ll cite her name with the gedcom I imported. Then when I get around to getting all her descendants cited, I know that I got this information from this particular gedcom. Gedcoms sometimes will come with extra information that I don’t necessarily want (like record changes), so I clean them up before I import them into my main family tree maker.

Okay, how I format my gedcoms: Title, Author, web address for both publication and location. If I have a note to where I started the import, I’ll put that down too.


Ray Stevens Gedcom. Ray Stevens. Note: Starting with Lydia Harrington going back in time.

Judy’s Gedcom. Judy Blackman.


This is for general stuff that doesn’t quiet fit into a nice neat little category. Self published books, family documents and family members. For citing those items, I’ll post title, author, and where it can be found. For letters, I’ll post who wrote the letter in the title. For individual family members, I’ll post the name and the date I talked to them. If a family member gave me a genealogy report, I’ll post who the genealogy report is about and who gave me the report. I hope I gave you enough of a general idea that I don’t really need to provide any examples.

There you folks have it, blog on how I cite my sources. You may take it anyway you want, but I hope that I educated you on how to cite your sources and provided examples of how to do it. Even while writing this blog, I see that there are some problems I have with some of my citations and I plan on getting those until next week! See ya later!

PS: Prevent the spread of the flu: Constantly Wash Your Hands!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tags: Family Tree Maker, Ancestry, Elsye’s Genealogy Blog

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