Do You Cite Your Genealogy Sources?

I don’t mean to harp on the genealogically themed New Year’s resolutions, but this is an important one.

Do you cite your genealogy sources?

Why do we need to cite our genealogy sources? Well, for three reasons: First, so we know that we’ve already researched a record and either found what we needed or didn’t and that we don’t repeat the same search for no reason other than we forgot we’ve already looked at it. Second, so that we know exactly where to look if we must look again, for whatever reason. Third, so that others know where items were found and can be assured that information is accurate and well documented.

I have to admit I’ve gotten much better at this. Not that I didn’t cite them before – I did, but in my notes in my genealogy software program. I rarely used the templates already available in the program to create citations.

Having said that, I would still recommend using your genealogy software templates as your first option. If you are unsatisfied with those templates, try the suggestions offered here. [As my multi-year clean up of my family trees has moved along, I’ve become much more skilled at navigating those templates!]

How do you create your citations? Whether you craft them the old fashioned way – by hand, using the Chicago Manual of Style or another academically mandated format – are an Evidence Explained groupie or are somewhere in between, there are multiple options to help create the perfect source citation.

Let’s take a look at the most common helpers available, which are pretty much free, so very budget friendly.

Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills, 3rd Edition Revised, Genealogical Publishing Company, 2017 ($59.95, new)

For those who follow the Evidence Explained format, particularly if you have less common items and artifacts to cite, then a copy of Evidence Explained should most definitely be on your reference shelf.

I would also recommend two other books:

Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, National Genealogical Society, 2013 ($35.00, new)

Mastering Genealogical Documentation, by Thomas W. Jones, National Genealogical Society, 2017 ($35.95, new)

These books will provide practice exercises with lots of examples so that not only will you recognize a well cited source when you see it, but you’ll be able to create one on your own if need be.

However, modern genealogy software programs usually come with source citation templates to make the process of creating citations much easier, but they all work somewhat differently. Given my own experiences (often frustrating while trying to figure out the nuances of a program), it took quite a while for me to switch from academic bibliography styled lists in my genealogy notes to using those templates. For those more technically oriented than me, you might find the templates very user-friendly.

If you don’t feel bound to strictly follow Evidence Explained and, like me, you’re a fan of academic styled bibliographies, then there are several other resources to make source citation very easy.

For these websites, I pulled a book off my shelf – Paul Robert Magocsi’s Carpathian Rus’ A Historical Atlas, published by the University of Toronto in the Czech Republic in 2017. You can compare the look of each of the programs that created a source citation.

First up – Zotero, which I highly recommend. Zotero is free and was developed for use in the academic community. It’s easy to use, both to create source citations and as a research organization tool. It calls itself “Your personal research assistant.” Zotero is a powerful program that offers many options. Citations can be tweaked to meet EE format.

Magocsi, Paul Robert. Carpathian Rus’ A Historical Atlas. Czech Republic: University of Toronto, 2017.

Easybib is another free program that both creates citations and checks for grammar errors and plagiarism. There are individual tabs for Website, Book or Journal plus MORE, which is a drop down menu of types of other resources for which you need to create a citation. Very easy to use.

Magocsi, Paul Robert. Carpathian Rus’: A Historical Atlas. University of Toronto Press, 2017.

Cite-Builder is a program with a basic and premium version, developed to create source citations for genealogists. It’s based in Australia and is easy to use. It’s a yearly subscription of AUD$20, which is less than $14 U.S. at the moment. I subscribed during RootsTech a couple of years ago and like the program.

Magocsi, Paul Robert. Carpathian Rus’ A Historical Atlas. Czech Republic: University of Toronto, 2017.

Genealogy Citation Builder is the last citation program and is the one with which I have the least experience. There is a free 48 hour trial that doesn’t require a credit card with a $15 subscription rate per year. I did notice that this website is a bit slow loading. Speed wasn’t an isuse with any of the other sites included i this post.

Magocsi, Paul Robert. Carpathian Rus’ : A Historical Atlas. Czech Republic: University of Toronto, 2017.

Don’t quote me, but I’m not sure that either Cite-Builder or Genealogy Citation Builder create perfect EE formatted citations, as neither website touts that as a benefit. Genealogy Citation Builder also has a very short looping video demonstrating how easy it is to choose from their 500+ templates, add the bibliographic details and then cut and paste the citation into another document or software program.

Except for the punctuation marks after Rus, the citations are identical. How would this title look in Evidence Explained format? The same!

Magocsi, Paul Robert. Carpathian Rus’ A Historical Atlas. Czech Republic: University of Toronto, 2017.

One final suggestion to learn more about creating correctly done source citations is the FamilySearch Research Wiki: Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes), which provides a “how-to” mini-lesson with examples.

There are a lot of options out there to create well crafted genealogical source citations. Now is the time to try out the options, choose one, and then regularly cite your sources.

One thought on “Do You Cite Your Genealogy Sources?”

  1. I do cite … in general, I use Ancestral Sources in concert with Family Historian (the former being a complementary program developed by a FH user)…but for quick citations on the go, I’ll turn to CiteBuilder, as well as the WikiTree Sourcer extension. The latter I use when I’m working in WikiTree or I need a fast citation in my research notes, but don’t want to open AS and FH.

    That said, when doing saving newspaper clipping images, I now in general will open FH and bring up my newspaper citation template so I can add the citation below the image.

    It’s taken me years to develop this discipline and I’m still not perfect, but I’m far further along than I was! The stock FH source templates can be cloned and edited, which is what I often do, and then imported into Ancestral Sources. I don’t use EE, however, but a modified Strathclyde style.

    Even so, I’d love to get a hold of Thomas Jones Mastering Genealogical Documentation, but since I boycott Amazon it’s very difficult to get north of the border. I borrowed in via ILL a few years ago and found it very worthwhile reading as far as understanding source analysis. I think that’s part of the issue, which people forget – we have to understand what we’re citing before writing the citation. ESM makes this clear as well – it’s not just a matter of plugging information into fields on a template.

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