Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes)Edit This Page

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Source footnote citations help us document, organize, and analyze the evidence gathered. They are the hallmark of quality family history. 

Ideally, every event on a family group record would have one or more source footnotes. The information about the event came from somewhere (even if it was guessed), and that source should be cited properly.

Contents

Value of Source Citations

The best way to judge the quality of a family group record is by its source footnotes.

Citing your sources makes it easier to correlate and analyze sources against each other. It helps other researchers vet your work. It is a partial acknowledgment of the contributions of the authors you cite. Citing sources is the best way to avoid plagiarism. Also, the source in which an ancestor appears is one of the identifiers of that ancestor (like his name, date, place, and relationship identifiers).

When to add source citations

Add a source citation every time you add an event to a family group record. Add a source citation for every event mentioned on each source. The best time to enter source footnotes is at the same time as you enter the event information. Document AS YOU GO!

Link each source citation to the event(s) it documents. For example, a marriage license may also divulge birth information and should be cited for both the marriage and the birth. Cite the census source for each member of the family listed. (This is easily accomplished in Personal Ancestral File (PAF) by using the Memorize Citation button, and Use Memorized Citation button.)

What to Cite

In theory a good source citation is simply a matter of including five normal, and two optional elements:

  • Author
  • Title
  • Repository (for publications the place published and publisher; for unpublished material the repository and address)
  • Date
  • Page
  • Optional library or archive call number
  • Brief preliminary evaluation comment about the source (optional, but especially valuable)

In practice the first five elements are sometimes complicated and may be hard-to-find details. For example, who is the author, what is the title, and what is the date of an untitled parish register kept over many years by several ministers?

Most archives and libraries have already used these elements to describe the source in their catalog. So using the repository catalog helps the researcher cite the elements of the footnote in a way that will help other researchers find the same source at the same repository.

On the other hand, as researchers rely more and more on the Internet, new questions arise about how to cite sources from a “repository” that changes so often.

Source Footnote Style Guides

There are several handbooks that can help you improve the style of your source footnotes. They are guides, not commandments from deity. They differ slightly in their suggestions. Please encourage your fellow researchers to cite sources, and avoid being overly fussy about the minutia of their citations. If you see a citation that needs improvement, encourage the author to consider one or more of these guides:

Citation Examples

Here are some idealized example citations as they might appear in the Sources field of a Family Group Record printed using the Personal Ancestral File (PAF) program. These footnotes mostly follow the Chicago Manual of Style. Following the first citation in each category there is a list of the fields used in the PAF Edit Source and Sources—Citation Detail windows to create that source footnote. All footnotes in this list are only models—other researchers may choose different ways to render the same footnote information.

Books (published)

Ideal format: 1. Author(s), Title (Place of publication: Publisher, year of publication), volume: page number(s), [book call number; microfilm call number]. Digitized by Repository at URL (accessed date). Comment.

1. Clement Luther Martzolff, FamilySearch Books Online (New Lexington, Ohio: Ward & Weiland, 1902), 144-46. [FHL book 977.159 H2m; FHL film 897280 Item 2]. Digitized by BYU Family History Archives (accessed 20 January 2009). Laudatory biographical sketch.

PAF Edit Source Source Title: History of Perry County Ohio Author: Clement Luther Martzolff Publication Information: (New Lexington, Ohio: Ward & Weiland, 1902) Repository: [empty] Call Number: [FHL book 977.159 H2m; FHL film 897280 Item 2] Actual Text: [empty] Comments: [empty] Sources Film/Volume/Page Number: 144-46 Date record was made: [empty] Comments: Digitized by BYU Family History Archives(accessed 20 January 2009). Laudatory biographical sketch. Actual Text: [empty].

Computer databases (published on compact disc)

Ideal format: 2. Author(s), Title (Place of publication: Publisher, year of publication), volume: page number(s) or other data needed to find the entry. [CD call number]. Comment.

2. California, Department of Health Services, Vital Statistics Section, California Death Indexes on CD (Sacramento, Calif.: CDHS, [2002]), 1969: Gee, Eva. [FHL CD-ROM no. 406 pt. 1]. Evie in some sources.

PAF Edit Source Source Title: California Death Indexes on CD Author: California, Department of Health Services, Vital Statistics Section Publication Information: (Sacramento, Calif.: CDHS, [2002]) Repository:[empty] Call Number: [FHL CD-ROM no. 406 pt. 1] Actual Text: [empty] Comments: [empty] Sources Film/Volume/Page Number: 1969: Gee, Eva Date record was made:[empty] Comments: Evie in some sources. Actual Text: [empty].

Internet sites

Ideal format: 3. Author(s), "Page-Title" in Site-Title at URL (accessed date). Comment.

3. National Genealogical Society, "Standards for Sharing Information with Others" in National Genealogical Society (Internet site), at www.ngsgenealogy.org/comstandsharing.htm (accessed 11 November 2003). Emphasizes getting permission.

PAF Edit Source Source Title: Standards for Sharing Information with Others in National Genealogical Society (Internet site) Author: National Genealogical Society Publication Information: at www.ngsgenealogy.org/comstandsharing.htm (accessed 11 November 2003) Repository: [empty] Call Number: [empty] Actual Text: [empty] Comments: [empty] Sources Film/Volume/Page Number: [empty] Date record was made: [empty] Comments: Emphasizes getting permission. Actual Text: [empty].

Ancestral File
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Family Group Record: Aaron Disney" in FamilySearch Ancestral File,E: Secondary source, estimated birth date and birthplace, but exact marriage date and place.
Census index online (1880 United States)
5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "1880 United States Census: Individual Record: Carrie L. Gilbert", in FamilySearch 
International Genealogical Index
6. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "International Genealogical Index v5.0: Individual Record: Johann Phillip Augenstein" in FamilySearch information is available
New FamilySearch
7. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,“Family Group Record: William Cullum” in newFamilySearch at (accessed 24 January 2009). Born about 1798. G. David Dilts has a photocopy of a letter from Cullum's wife’s mother listing the mother's children, and new husband.
Pedigree Resource File
8. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Pedigree Resource File: Individual Record: Walton M. Rueckert" in FamilySearch
Social Security Death Index
9. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "U.S. Social Security Death Index: Individual Record: Genevieve HALL inFamilySearch
Vital Records Index 10. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Vital Records Index: Individual Record:  in FamilySearch : Catholic Church christening records.
Record Search 11. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953: Phoebe Augsfuerger" in FamilySearch Record Search—deathPlace Ohio
Ancestry.com 12. Ancestry.com,"World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918 for Frank Cullum Dilts" in Ancestry.com at (accessed 23 January 2009). Original source: United States. Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918, National Archives Microfilm Publications M1509, (Washington, D.C.: NARA, 1987-1988). !NAME-RESIDENCE: Frank Cullum Dilts, Hesston, Harvey, Kansas.
HeritageQuest Online 13. HeritageQuestOnline, "Trabert, Mathias (1900 U.S. Census)"  (accessed 23 January 2009). T623 Roll:439 Page 115. Iowa, Jefferson, Lockridge Twp. !Original SOURCE: United States. Census Office. 12th census, 1900 population census schedules (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census Micro-Film Laboratory, [197-]).

Interviews (unpublished)

Ideal format: 14. Interviewee, interview by Interviewer, description or type of interview, place of interview, date, page, repository of the interview. Comment.

14. Katie Beller, interview by Bryan Dilts, interview notes, at Hesston, Kans., 12 August 1973, 2, in possession of G. David Dilts, Salt Lake City, Utah. From her memory but matches well with most written sources.

PAF Edit Source Source Title: interview by Bryan Dilts, interview notes Author: Katie Beller Publication Information: at Hesston, Kans., 12 August 1973 Repository: in possession of G. David Dilts, Salt Lake City, Utah Call Number: [empty] Actual Text: [empty] Comments: [empty] Sources Film/Volume/Page Number: 2 Date record was made: [empty] Comments: From memory but matches well with written sources. Actual Text: [empty].

Letters or email (unpublished)

Ideal format: 15. Author, author's residence, date, letter (or email) to Recipient, recipient's residence or repository, page. Comment.

15. Robert Frazier, Wichita, Kans., 10 May 2003, email to G. David Dilts, Salt Lake City, Utah, 3. Invitation to family reunion in Iowa.

PAF Edit Source Source Title: 10 May 2003, email to G. David Dilts, Salt Lake City, Utah Author: Robert Frazier, Wichita, Kans. Publication Information: [empty] Repository: [empty] Call Number: [empty] Actual Text: [empty] Comments: [empty] Sources Film/Volume/Page Number: 3 Date record was made: [empty] Comments: Invitation to family reunion in Iowa. Actual Text: [empty].

Manuscripts (published on microfilm)

Ideal format: 16. Author(s), "Title" Date of manuscript creation (Microfilmed by Filmers at Repository, Repository place, filming date), volume: page number(s). [Microfilm call number]. Comment.

16. Juab County (Utah), Recorder, "Deeds, 1947-1948" (Microfilmed by the Utah State Archives at the State Capitol Building, Salt Lake City, Utah, [199-?]), 454. [FHL film 1654244]. Filmed backwards. Find out when the family sold this property.

PAF Edit Source Source Title: "Deeds, 1847-1948" Author: Juab County (Utah), Recorder Publication Information: (Microfilmed by the Utah State Archives at the State Capitol Building, Salt Lake City, Utah, [199-?]) Repository: [empty] Call Number: [empty] Actual Text: [empty] Comments: [empty] Sources Film/Volume/Page Number: 454. [FHL film 1654244] Date record was made: [empty] Comments: Filmed backwards. Find out when the family sold this property. Actual Text: [empty].

Manuscripts (unpublished)

Ideal format: 17. Author(s), "Title" date of manuscript creation, name of the manuscript collection (if applicable), repository name, repository place, volume: page number(s). [call number (if applicable)]. Comment.

Nebraska, Seward County, County Court, "Petition for Letters of Administration" (Jacob ZIMMERMAN), 13 July 1885, photocopy in possession of G. David Dilts, 274 "Q" Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84103-3952, USA. 1-2. Died 1 July 1885. Photocopy obtained by correspondence.

PAF Edit Source Source Title: "Petition for Letters of Administration" (Jacob ZIMMERMAN) Author: Nebraska, Seward County, County Court Publication Information: [empty] Repository: photocopy in possession of G. David Dilts, 274 "Q" Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84103-3952, USA Call Number: [empty] Actual Text: [empty] Comments: [empty] Sources Film/Volume/Page Number: [empty] Date record was made: 13 July 1885 Comments: 1-2. Died 1 July 1885. Photocopy obtained by correspondence. Actual Text: [empty].

Periodicals (published)

Ideal format: 18. Author(s), "Article Title," Periodical-Title volume: page(s). [call number]. Comment.

18. G. David Dilts, "Citing Sources Using the Chicago Manual of Style", UGA Genealogical Journal 24 (1996): 149-61. [FHL book 973 D25gj v. 24]. Limited Internet examples.

PAF Edit Source Source Title: "Citing Sources Using the Chicago Manual of Style" Author: G. David Dilts Publication Information: UGA Genealogical Journal Repository: [empty] Call Number: [FHL book 973 D25gj v. 24] Actual Text: [empty] Comments: [empty] Sources Film/Volume/Page Number: 24 (1996): 149-61 Date record was made: [empty] Comments: Limited Internet examples. Actual Text: [empty].

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  • This page was last modified on 7 May 2014, at 17:09.
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