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.
Citation Principle: Treat Websites Like Books
Treat major websites like publications (which they are), and titled parts of websites—web pages and record collections—like titled parts of publications (which they are).1 For example,
10. “Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,” database and digital images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 December 2009), search for Lyndon Baines Johnson, died 22 January 1973; death certificate 00340, Bexar County, Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics, Department of Health, Austin.
|Chapter author||Item author|
|Chapter title||Item title||“Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,”|
|Item type||database and digital images,|
|Book title||Website title||FamilySearch|
|Book editor||Website producer|
|Place of publication||Place of publication||(http://www.familysearch.org :|
|Publication year||Publication or access date||accessed 5 December 2009),|
|Page number||Location within item||search for Lyndon Baines Johnson, died 22 January 1973;|
|Source-of-the-source citation||Source-of-the-source citation||death certificate 00340, Bexar County, Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics, Department of Health, Austin.|
Notice that several fields are missing in the web example: item author, website producer, and publisher. These are not specified because they are all “FamilySearch.” This leads to another citation principle.
Citation Principle: Don’t Be Redundant
Citations have two purposes: locate the source and indicate its strength. As we’ve seen, citations to derived sources require inclusion of source-of-the-source citations. This produces scary long citations. The last thing we want to do is make a citation any longer than is absolutely necessary. To that end, avoid redundancy. We saw several common redundancies in the example above:
- If a website and an item on the website have the same author/producer, drop the item author.
- If a website title includes the name of the website producer, don’t redundantly specify the producer.
- Gone are the days when you had to be a professional publisher to publish. Websites are self published and don’t require redundant specification of a publisher.
- Drop information from the source-of-the-source citation when already specified. For example, Lyndon Baines Johnson’s name and death date have been dropped from the source-of-the-source citation in the previous example.
1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 1st ed., PDF images (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 57-8, 127.
2. The Chicago Manual of Style 15th ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003; CD-ROM version 1.2.3), 662. Mills, Evidence Explained, 647.
3. I’ve shown website title and producer in the same order as book title and editor. Mills recommends listing website producer before website title. See Evidence Explained, 94, 126-8. Also see Elizabeth Shown Mills, QuickSheet : Citing Online Historical Resources : Evidence! Explained, 1st rev. ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 1.
4. Robert Raymond, “Citing Online Sources,” research wiki article, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : dated 26 June 2011, 00:35 UTC), the research wiki is in the Learn section of the website.