Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Citation Principles for Genealogy Record Publishers

The Insider's Guide to Citations

Citations have two purposes: locate the source and indicate its strength. This series of articles explains what we must do to accomplish these purposes for genealogical sources.


Yesterday I reviewed the fields displayed in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) by and (See “SSDI: vs.”) Next week I would like to review their citations for this collection. Before I can do that, I have to present the criteria against which I will judge their citations.

To that end, here are my citation principles for record publishers.

  • Like professional genealogists, professional publishers of genealogical records must provide professional quality citations. Mills style is the standard used by most all of the professional community.
  • Publishers must provide citations for their record collections and for the individual records within their collections.
    • I’d better explain what I mean by “record collection” and “individual record.” According to Webster, a record is “something that recalls or relates past events; an official document that records the acts of a public body or officer; an authentic official copy of a document deposited with a legally designated officer.”1 For genealogy record publishing, I include a published derivative of a record.
    • A record collection is a titled group of records. The “Social Security Death Index” is a record collection. uses the term database, which is the name of the technology used to implement a record collection.
    • Here are examples of user interface or record-level citations from various websites:
       Wikipedia cite this page tool Cite popup Cite article popup Cite this page, hover help Citation text insertion
  • Citations to published collections differ from citations to the sources of the collections. The two should not be equated or mislabeled.
  • Citations to published collections should include source-of-the-source citations to the sources of the collections.
  • Citations to records must contain the information necessary for users to locate the published records, notwithstanding website changes. 
  • Citations to records must also enable location of archive originals. If records from multiple archives are published as a collection, each record citation must specify the source archive.
  • Source list (bibliography) citations differ from reference note citations. Publishers may wish to label citations appropriately.

Next time I’ll review the citations provided by and FamilySearch with their SSDI collections.


     1.  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, online edition ( : accessed 23 November 2009), “record.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.