How to Create Source Citations for the FamilySearch Family Tree
You can use online records to add richness to your family tree. Seeing your ancestor’s name on a record can increase your awareness that your ancestors were real people and that you really are connected to them. Adding sources also proves the accuracy of the information in your tree.
Examples of sources include government and church records, cemeteries, your own memory, the memory of others, and so forth. Sources provide you with the following benefits:
- They increase your sense of connection to your ancestors and their place in history.
- They allow you to evaluate the reliability of your information. For example, an original record created near the time when an event occurred is probably more reliable than a biography written after the event. Knowing the source can help you identify information that you want to verify with other types of records.
- They provide a history of the sources you have examined. You can then focus research efforts on sources that have not yet been used.
- They help you evaluate conflicting information. When you find conflicting information, such as two different birth dates for the same individual, you can use your sources to determine which one is the most likely to contain the correct information.
- They acknowledge work done by others.
What to Enter in Source Fields
Each field in a source contains important information that can help you and others understand what the source is, where to find it, and how to understand its reliability. A source can either link to an online record or simply be a citation telling you where to find a copy of the record.
An example of a source with a link might look like this:
If a source is not online but you have a citation, you can leave the Web Page field blank and enter information in the other fields.
Important: When you add a source, describe the one that you actually use. If you used an abstract or index, cite it and not the actual record. Abstracts and indexes may contain errors. They may contain more information than was included in the index.
The Source’s Title
Enter a title that will help you recognize this specific record later.
"Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1956," Helen M. Richards (1909)
Source titles are often the only information that you see about a source. You usually have to click to see the citation and other details. Good titles accurately identify sources and help you recognize the one you want in your source box. The following guidelines will help you write good, useful source titles:
- The source title is required.
- The source title must have between 5 and 100 characters.
- Include details that distinguish this specific record from other records that are about the same people or that are from the same collection of records. The following types of information are especially helpful:
- The type of record.
- The names of individuals or families contained in the record.
- Dates, places, and other information that identifies this record.
- Include the official name of the collection of records that the source came from. If you are using an unpublished source that has no official title, create a descriptive title.
- If the record contains information about many different individuals in a family, create a title that lets you reuse the source. You want to find a balance between making a source specific enough to be meaningful and general enough to be reusable.
The Source’s “Describe the Record (Citation)” Field
Enter information that will help people find this source again, even if the website where it now is goes down.
"Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1956," index and images, FamilySearch (accessed 15 April 2012), Helen M. Richards, 1909; citing Utah State Department of Health; FHL microfilm 2,229,322.
Enter as much information as you can. You will never regret adding too much information. The following are useful types of information to include:
- The name of the book or collection that the record is part of
- The name of the person or institution that created the record
- Who published the record
- Where the collection is located
Many different style guides explain how to cite sources. Use one if you find it helpful. In English, a comprehensive style guide for how to cite sources for family history is:
Mills, Elizabeth Shown.Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Revised edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009.
If you do not have a style guide, simply enter what you know in the best way that you can.
You can copy citations from the index entries in FamilySearch.org, the FamilySearch Catalog, and the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
The Source’s Notes Field
Enter any other information that will help others understand or find the information in this record.
Certificate number 1759; Family History Library microfilm number 2229322
In notes, it is often useful to include the following types of information:
- Fees required to access the record.
- A transcription of the record, particularly if the image is located on a site that requires a fee or subscription for access.
- A translation of the information is in a language that your relatives may not read.