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Turabian? Shown Mills? Chicago? Oh my!

I'm preparing to launch WikiProject:Linking to Books in the BYU Family History Archives but I don't know which format to use for the inline references which will link to the digital copies of local histories online. Should I use APA? MLA? Chicago? Shown Mills? Turabian? Any ideas? It would be nice to come to a consensus before adding these 1300 references so the community won't have to come back and change their citation format later. Ritcheymt 17:03, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

Is Shown Mills widely accepted outside the Wasatch?  I tried to get a copy through Books-A-Million here in Virginia and was told it was "too obscure a title" for their distributor...  They suggested I get Chicago or Turabian.  That doesn't matter a whole lot in terms of what direction the FS wiki takes.  I just thought it was interesting.  Eirebrain 00:48, 31 May 2009 (UTC)

Your experience reflects your topic, not your geography. In the United States, Mills's (not a compound surname) citation guides have been implemented by every major desktop genealogy database manager except PAF. Assuming PAF has a greater following in Utah than elsewhere, then she is more widely accepted outside the Wasatch than in. (At the most recent BYU conference, a presenter and former Church and Family History Mission trainer lectured on how to record citations in PAF. She admitted afterwards that she had not even opened Mills.) Robert 20:06, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

My preference is to use Chicago as the basic format guide, with Shown Mills as the back-up for citations specific to genealogical manuscripts and specific types of documents peculiar to the genealogical world. That said, I have some additional comments to add.

The whole purpose of bibliographic and footnote citations is to guide the reader to the source of information from whence the statements made in the Wiki page came. For that reason, I guess I am less concerned about which style we use than I am about helping the reader find the source of what we contribute. Remembering that the Wiki is a community project, contributors will add things with no citations, all the way to having so many citations that it is hard to read through an article without losing what is really being said. The latter is especially true of too many inline citations.

I think we should strongly suggest a standard for citations, both bibliographic and footnote, but realize that many of our contributors will simply not contribute if those guidelines are too stringent. We who are pioneering this effort can do much to set the standard by adding the right kind of citation now, so whatever the standard we are going to use, we need to stick by them and try to be as consistent as possible. Jbparker 17:21, 8 June 2009 (UTC)

Both Turabian and Mills are based on Chicago. You can readily use Chicago for anything that it addresses: books, articles, etc. Mills extends the principles in the Chicago manual to cover the myriad manuscript sources we need citations for as genealogists. Wikipedia uses templates so that you don't need to know the format--You just use the template and Wikipedia formats the citation for you. Currently, I do not believe that it is a user-friendly process (but it is a bit easier than doing it from scratch)--but it's on the right track. I believe we should use the template idea and improve upon it. Steven M. Law Bibliostuff  17:27, 17 Aug 2009.

I am all for the use of templates as well. Then, if we change formats, just the template needs to change. I still would really like to see what each of the formats look like though. Thomas Lerman 01:27, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

As Steven points out, the choice among Chicago, Turabian, and Mills is virtually no choice at all. All three are theoretically the same.

What's new in the seventh edition [of Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations?] ... The material on source citation and style has been thoroughly updated to reflect the recommendations of The Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition. It now includes advice on citing a wider range of sources—including online sources—and on other aspects of writing influenced by electronic technology.[1]

And from Mills:

Turabian Style, a standard for college and university students since 1937, is essentially an abbreviated version of Chicago Style.
Among these options, The Chicago Manual’s Humanities Style has been the most effective for history researchers. Evidence Explained is rooted in that style. However, most Evidence models treat original or electronic sources not covered by [the then current editions of] the manuals above, as well as some modifications that better meet the analytical needs of history researchers.[2]

I have the latest editions of Turabian and CMS, and I think it safe to say that Turabian is no longer a branch off of CMS, but is now equivalent, though only a student's subset is presented. To the best of my knowledge, the primary modification that Mills makes to CMS/Turabian is the addition of analytical information at the end of a note describing anything that compromises the information or evidence arising from the source. However, since Evidence was in production at the same time as CMS 15th ed., it is possible that treatment of electronic sources differs between the two. As Thomas points out, we should produce a sample note (note is shorthand for footnote or endnote) in CMS 15 and Mills for the BYU online books and see if the two differ. Robert 17:44, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Citation Styles: The Real Issue

I think the issue needs to be addressed at an even higher level. The Research Wiki is intended to belong to the Community--everyone, not just the scholarly professional genealogist. How can we expect the hobbyist wanting to add something they learned to a page to have to learn the proper style in Turabian? They probably don't own a copy of Turabian, and it might take them an hour to figure out how to add the proper citation when writing the article addition itself only took them 20 minutes. The result will be that many people will not cite sources at all and that others will not want to contribute for fear of being held up to ridicule for improper citations. I especially can't see thousands of our contributors having to buy a copy of Shown Mills and then spend a few hundred hours learning it.

My opinion in both the case of the Wiki and even in the larger issue of citations in genealogical software is simply this -- what's important is the bibliographic information, not the syntax, nor the order of the elements of the citation. If it identifies where it came from, gives credit to its creator, and facilitates locating the source, I DON'T CARE about the format <insert sound of gasps>. Let's get the information in with a scholoarly scope of source information and avoid requiring scholarly discipline in source citation format. I say Turabian, Shown Mills, APA, MLA, Chicago, or Aunt Mary's style are all ok, as long as the full complement of source elements are properly identified. Let's change the thrust of this discussion to say what are all of the elements of a proper source citation for a book, an article, a web page, an email, an audio recording, a forum posting, a blog post, a tweet, etc. etc. Alan 22:28, 9 June 2009 (UTC)

I agree with most of the points previous made throughout this page. I feel:

  • We should use a template to avoid reworking citations if our policy evolves.
  • Ideally, the template would allow the user to choose the display style produced by the template. Until a template of that sophistication is available, the template would display citations in a style that we decide. I recommend CMS with Mills extensions.
  • We should retain the non-template <ref> wiki reference for contributors with enough motivation to enter a citation but not enough motivation to learn the template.
  • We should set a citation style policy that is applied to resolve edit wars. It describes what changes to existing citations are allowed and what is not allowed. I don't like the Wikipedia policy of following the style of the first citation. I suggest our policy be to use the template. Thus, changing a non-templated citation to use the template would be an acceptable change, but changing from template to non-template would not be supported if the issue came to arbitration.
  • On a web page, if footnote is defined as a note located at the bottom of the web page (as opposed to a printed page), then footnote and endnote are equivalent. As long as everyone in a discussion understands that, then the terms might be used interchangably in our discussions. But since that mutual understanding can't be guaranteed, I recommend we use the term endnotes to describe the list of notes that appear at the end of the encyclopedia article. Robert 17:44, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Inline citations vs. footnotes

We may need to cite sources differently depending on whether we're mentioning a great record source within the body of an article or creating a footnote. Ritcheymt 17:44, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

Are there standards for inline citations?  What about citations in bulleted lists?  I assume they follow bibliographic form, which is different from footnotes.  Shown-Mills refers to both Chicago Style and MLA in her book Evidence.  I assume she used them as her basis and made adjustments as needed to cover genealogical applications, kind of like how the GSU took the DD book numbering system and adjusted it to fit the needs of the FHL.  Are Chicago Style and MLA all that dissimilar?  I don't know.  I would vote to use Shown-Mills, if my assumptions about her sources are true.  Bakerbh 22:47, 30 April 2009 (UTC) 

I like the footnote format (author's name in spoken order, parenthesis around publication information). So it makes sense to me to put WorldCat and FHL call numbers in square brackets rather than parenthesis.  Diltsgd 12:19, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

How Wikipedia does it

To see how Wikipedia handles this, see Wikipedia:Citing sources. Ritcheymt 17:44, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

I don't like the example that Wikipedia lists right at the beginning of the article.  To me, the publication date should follow the publication info, not the author's name.  Bakerbh 22:49, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

I don't like the Wikipedia example, either. However, I'm willing to accept the publication date in any of several places--as long as it's there. My real problem with Wikipedia is the concept that an article (page) has to be consistent in the citation style used on that page. That means that if a short article used a single source citation, all later contributors would be forced to learn whichever format was employed for that single citation. See my discussion comments above on Terabian, Shown Mills, etc. Alan 21:56, 9 June 2009 (UTC)

I guess that if I were editing a page where one footnote existed already in some format I didn't like, and I added two footnotes in the format I like, that might give me enough excuse to change the original footnote into the style I prefer too? ;) Cuz then I'd be the major footnote contributor, so what I say goes. (Hehe) There's more than one way to skin a cat. Ritcheymt 03:37, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

Disadvantages of Shown Mills format?

Shown Mills seems to be the most accepted format within the U.S., but is it accepted (or even known) in the rest of the world? Also, formats like Chicago, MLA, APA, and even Turabian are supported by various word processors, software, and Websites such that users can enter bibliographic data into a form and have the system generate a reference. This brings fairly high-quality source citation to the "common man" who doesn't have a printed style manual at home. (But then, it could be argued that this "common man" doesn't cite sources anyway.) Ritcheymt 17:44, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

My opinion on this is above. Bakerbh 22:51, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

Inertia, rework, and Chicago

Sometimes it's easier to just keep doing what's already being done than try to change everything. Chicago format was used for the research outlines -- the paper publications which made up the seed content for this site. Turabian and Shown Mills are both based on Chicago format. So if we went with Chicago, we wouldn't have to change thousands (tens of thousands?) of citations. And really, if Chicago were so broken for citing books and microfilms, would it still be around? Ritcheymt 12:57, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

Standardized Citation Style

I agree that  Chicago style with Shown Mills is  used for most professional reports and is comfortable for us.  Why make matters more complicated by redoing all the work entered from the old Research Guides? Proarenee 10:43, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

Multiple References to Citation

Looking at some pages, you will find a single source referenced multiple times, other pages will have each reference having its own reference to the same source. Does that make sense? An example of what I am referring to is New Sweden. This is an excellent page with excellent sources. I noticed that the first source is cited multiple times and then the second source is repeated multiple times. According to Diltsgd in the Talk page, the footnotes have problems when the second source is referenced once. If this is the case, that is a very bad bug in my opinion. Thomas Lerman 16:33, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for the heads-up Thomas. I've added this issue to my user talk page's list of usability concerns to address with our coders. Ritcheymt 03:39, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

Allow more citation styles than Chicago, Turabian, or Shown Mills?

Wikipedia allows many citation formats, probably because its content is multidisciplinary. FamilySearch Wiki is far less multidisciplinary, so some might argue that it makes sense to limit citation styles here to those designed for history or genealogy. However, this may be a bad idea because one needn't be a genealogist to add value to FamilySearch Wiki, so some contributors who don't have a copy of Chicago or Shown Mills will have access to MLA, APA, or some other handbook because they use it in their profession or in their studies. It seems unwise to say to these folks "You can't play in our sandbox unless you speak our language." Ritcheymt 14:11, 10 June 2009 (UTC)

Online Availability of Books vs. Citations

There is another related issue here, I believe. If a book is totally available online, what is the value of multiple citations to a hard copy of the book? Are we not mostly building an online reference source? I try to think of the user "out there" in the world. If they can have access to a book online, in front of their computer, in their home, how much will they care where the actual book is? I still add the bibliographical information for the book, but I haven't been going out of my way to find the WorldCat number, or even the FHL number, if it's fully cited and linked to the digital copy online. If someone else wants to take the time to do so, I guess that's fine, but I'd rather move on to more content, rather than spending time looking up multiple references. If I have it, I add it. What think ye all? Jbparker 02:51, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

There you go, Jimmy -- thinking again. Nice catch. Ritcheymt 03:41, 15 June 2009 (UTC)


I agree with Thomas that it would be nice to have a fill-in-the-blank form for source references. Otherwise, the Chicago Manual of Style meets the needs of the general public. Charlene M. Pipkin Genguide 18:46, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Or better yet, a dropdown menu of the books most referenced on the wiki. Then all references to that work could more likely be consistent. Charlene M. Pipkin Genguide 18:50, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Dropdown menu does not exist even in Wikipedia. It is not encouraged, to keep it simple worldwide. dsammy 19:20, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
Thank you Charlene. I think the easier it is for someone to source cite, the more likely they will create the citation. I am not sure how practical a dropdown list would be, I would encourage any brainstorming ideas. Even if they are not practical, it may stimulate other ideas. Even if Wikipedia does not have them, it is still technically possible. I am not sure who does not encourage them, it may be a personal preference. As I intimated, I do not think it is very practical due to the number of potential references and who is to say which are most referenced without starting global disputes? Likewise, I am not sure how practical a fill-in-the-blank form would be. It would be nice to see if someone can check out or request such an extension for the editor. This would be easier that going to another website, enter, copy & paste, etc.. Thomas Lerman 19:49, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

I must say that reading through this discussion glazed my eyes over. I really do not remember what all of these source reference formats even look like. It would be nice if examples were shown to remind us about them. In the end, I believe the nicest thing would be to have an extension to the Editor that allows one to enter the source reference in a dialog box and then it formats it in a standard format. Does this type of thing exist? Thomas Lerman 14:25, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

U.S. Professional Genealogist Standard

We don't have to follow it, but we should be aware that there is a standard for U.S. professional genealogists. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual specifies in standard #s36:

Sources for all genealogical and biographical fact statements are cited in The Chicago Manual of Style’s "reference note" format in footnotes or endnotes.10 The Chicago Manual’s in-text and reference-list styles, and formats used in other disciplines, such as the MLA (Modern Language Association), AP (Associated Press), or APA (American Psychological Association) styles, are not standard for genealogical writing.[3]

Footnotes 1 reads:

  1. Source citation models can be found in footnotes and endnotes used in scholarly genealogical journals and in such genealogy-specific manuals as Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997).[4]

and footnote 10: (Sorry if it shows "1" again. This seems to be an editor bug that reverts to "1" when saved.)

  1. Models, using the Chicago Manual reference-note format as applied to the kinds of sources often used by genealogical researchers, are included in the publications mentioned in Note 1 (p. 3).[3]

Robert 20:06, 3 September 2009 (UTC)


  1. "What’s New in the Seventh Edition," Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, web site of the University of Chicago Press ( : accessed 9 September 2009).
  2. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 42; PDF edition.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Washington, D.C.: Ancestry Publishing, 2000), 14.
  4. Ibid., 3.

Related pages

Manual of Style