Alternatives to Genealogy Software Source Citations

Genealogists have a common goal:
For others to be able to replicate their work

Everyone, from a professional genealogist publishing a study to a lone family historian who wants to share stories with other family members, needs to document his/her work so that others may confirm the research results.

How do you cite YOUR sources?

In the past, I’ve written about my difficulties navigating certain aspects of source citation templates found in several genealogy software programs and my frustration trying to use them properly.

I had pretty much settled on creating my own citations in the old-school bibliography style used in school papers and then pasting them into the Notes section in my software program.

I still use this method, but there is a faster way to create citations than by longhand.

Did you know that there are quite a few programs, mostly free, that have templates set up so that all the user needs to do is type in the fields?

How is this different than what is offered in a genealogy software program? The process is much simpler. There is no naming master sources and such, just the creation of a well crafted source citation.

There is one caveat before we begin. Most of the websites that generate bibliographic citations are geared towards university research, not genealogy research. Therefore, most don’t exactly fit citations in Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained format and will need to be tweaked. However, that is an easy workaround if you have her book Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace and can compare with the EE format.

What programs and websites are out there?

BibMe – It’s described as an online writing center and is a free site to create citations and save/store bibliographies. Geared towards students, it also allows them to check papers for grammar errors or plagiarism.

EasyBib – This site is very similar to BibMe, but offers a free plan plus two paid levels. To simply create source citations, EasyBib is free.

Citation Machine – This website looks just like BibMe and EasyBib and offers the same services as EasyBib.

Scribbr – an APA citation generator which will check a citation and allows citation editing

Zotero – This program was created for university use and is a “free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite and share your research sources.”

There is a companion book written by Donna Cox Baker, Zotero for Genealogy. If you choose to use Zotero and decide to purchase the book, I’d recommend the paper version, not Kindle, because it is much easier to flip through the pages to find the help you need. You will also need to tweak the citations to achieve EE format.

There are two websites for specific kinds of citations:

Ottobib – This free website will create a source citation for a book if you have the ISBN number. How cool is that?

RecordSeek – This site is also free and will create source citations for an individual website. Also cool!

The last website on this list is the one that offers the most for genealogists – Cite Builder. There is a free version, but genealogists will want to subscribe (about US$15.00 per year) as it allows access to many types of templates useful for genealogists AND one of the styles to create the citation is Evidence Explained. I wrote about my experiences using Cite Builder last year – I really like the simplicity of the program and I simply paste the citation into Notes in my software program. This program fits my needs the best.

Have I missed a good source citation program? Please leave a comment.

3 thoughts on “Alternatives to Genealogy Software Source Citations”

  1. While I use Zotero, I’ve never figured out how to easily create EE citations. Donna’s book Zotero for Genealogy is great and has instructions on how to do it, but I don’t have time to do everything necessary to make it work.

    I do use Cite-Builder for certain citations, or to create a base citation I can then build on to write citations in my preferred style.

    Ancestral Sources (source-based data entry) is now my go-to whenever possible as it creates citations in Family Historian for me while also allowing me to add details and produce a decent transcription I can then perfect.

  2. I have been writing my own citations and use the free form template in RootsMagic. I started that when Randy Seaver complained about how the citations created with the built-in templates did not transfer in GedComs. I have never minded writing citations. My problem is not being consistent in form.

  3. I would love to find a program that uses APA style. For citations, it is very quick – something like (Author, year) so for Huckberry Finn it’s (Twain, 1884). Most of the other information is in the bibliography, except it’s called RESOURCES.

    It goes something like this, except the title is italicized:
    Twain, M, (1884) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Harper & Brothers Company.

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