Footnotes! Footnotes! Footnotes!

Do you manage your footnotes or do they manage you?

When writing my Kinship Determination Project (KDP) for my portfolio, I had trouble keeping  the footnotes “complete and accurate.”[1] They should add “consistent’ to this rubric.

I thought I had a plan. I didn’t; or the one I had didn’t work so well; or maybe it worked as well as could be expected.

Nevertheless, I thought I would outline my process. Hopefully, you can find some ideas you can use or perhaps learn from my mistakes.

I would also be interested in how you manage your footnotes when writing  a footnote intensive paper. I would like to improve this process.

Note: I don’t use RefNote or any specialized software. I used Word.

I did OK for most of the KDP in keeping my footnotes consistent.   I attained what consistency I did have by keeping a record in Word of every type of footnote and using the style as a template for future footnotes of the same type.  The footnotes were arranged by record type in the Word document–all the death footnote types were together, all the electronic ones were together, etc.

But, I learned as I wrote and some things shifted in the footnote creating inconsistencies.

Every footnote was entered as a full footnote. I did not make it a shortform, even if I knew there was a similar reference before it, until I was completely done with the paper. If I knew (or thought) that a footnote was previously used, I put the letters SF, for “short form,” at the beginning of the footnote.  If the footnote was a candidate for Ibid., I put that at the beginning as well. But I  did not convert it to a SF or an Ibid. until the very end of the writing process. Reason? I was moving around paragraphs of information right up until the end.  At one point I removed about 1000 words from my KDP. I knew I had to be careful. It also didn’t matter if I made a mistake because I knew I had to check every one.

By the time I got to the end of writing the document, inconsistencies in my formatting of even the typical footnote templates, had slipped in. I had also knew that there were consistencies, even if accurate.

So, I re-reviewed every footnote at the end of writing the paper. (Which I think you would have to do anyway.) Here is how I reviewed all my footnotes:

I first made sure that all footnotes were the same font type, size and black in color.

Starting with footnote number 1 and going in order:

  1. I made all my footnotes into endnotes and copied them into a single Word document (I called this document the “Endnotes”). Then I changed the document with endnotes back into one with footnotes.
  2. Working back and forth between the document and the Endnotes, I checked to make sure that footnote #1 was accurately reflecting the content of the cited work, complete and in a format that was most consistent with the narrative.
  3. I re-checked each one against Evidence Explained [2] so I knew where I deviated and why.
  4. I used the Find feature to see if I had any duplicates of that footnote. Since even the most typical footnote had a unique identifier, this was not hard. (Obviously, the first footnotes were unique, so this happened later in the writing.)
  5. On the Endnotes, I changed the color of that particular footnote to green, when I was completed with checking for correctness, accuracy, consistency.
  6. Repeat, until you find a source that has already been cited. Create the shortform. Copy the shortform and paste into the Endnotes, under the first full citation.
  7. As you go, adjust the footnotes to include Ibid., if appropriate.
  8. When you are done, all Endnotes will be green; all shortforms and Ibid.s will be entered and you will have checked all against other similar footnotes for consistency. And you will have checked each type against Evidence Explained.
  9. Pat yourself of the back and repeat for the Case Study! [3]

I hope it doesn’t sound confusing. It went quite smoothly and quicker than I thought.  I am visual so the color coding was essential. The Find feature was a godsend. If I discovered an inconsistency, I could identify all of the affected footnotes and change them one-by-one.

That describe how I handled them when the document was finished.  Next we will look at how I did ciations during the writing process so they didn’t put a full stop on the flow of the writing.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I know it has been some time since I posted but I have traveled to the Eastern time zone 3 times in about 10 days.  Plus made presentations in about 10 venues. I also am Seattle Genealogical Society’s president.  It’s been an active fall, but is now winding down as we get ready for our daughter’s wedding in Boston.  Looking forward to it and to a little relaxation afterwards.

[1] “Rubrics for Evaluating New Applications for BCG Certification, revised 18 January 2016,” Board for Certification of Genealogists ( : accessed 9 November 2016).
[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, third edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2015).
[3] I wanted to make this a 12-step program, but I just couldn’t come up with two more steps to my process! 🙂




NGS: The FAN Club

2014 ESMI attended a number of Elizabeth Shown Mills‘s presentations this past week at the NGS 2016 annual conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (see photo at left). [1]  ESM rarely works with direct evidence and is usually in the extreme ends of the lineage trying to solve her research question. Her presentation on identifying John Watts, “Reasonably Exhaustive Research: The First Criteria for Genealogical Proof,” soon to be a NSGQ article, is a study in extremely complex FAN Club research. [2]

What is a FAN Club? Friends, Associates and Neighbors comprise any person’s FAN Club. These are the individuals who surround us and who we interact with regularly. We call upon them to assist us in our dealings that generate documents that survive to today. More importantly, we find our FAN Club being kin, especially before the 21st century.

For example, when it is time to fill out the request for the Civil War pension and you need to have some attestations of your service and good character. Who are you going to ask to give character witness? –your comrade in arms from your unit. Your unit was comprised of individuals from your state and often included kin.

Or, you are a member of a church. Who is on the church rolls with you?—other church members, many of whom may be family members

It is time for you to emigrate. Do you just pick up and go?–no, you probably entice others from your small town to emigrate as well and all appear on the passenger manifest together. Do you shoot darts at a map to determine where you are going to settle?—again, no. You instead pick an area you have heard about, because others from your parish have migrated before you to that place.

These are just 3 examples of different FAN Clubs. As you can see one person can have many FAN Clubs at the same time and individuals may “occupy” overlapping groups. In very difficult problems, such as the identification of John Watts, not only did the FAN club include multiple types of clusters, but it grew in numbers of individuals as more evidence was found. A FAN Club is never static. It will increase in size as new information is obtained and new names are added. It will shrink as individuals are identified who do not answer the research question.

The reason why someone would drop from the list is if they defied Newton’s Laws of Physics:

Principle 1: and object (individual) cannot be in two places at the same time.

James Smith #1 farms on Smith Creek and James Smith #2 farms on James Creek in 1850–at the same time. These are two different James Smiths. Understanding the distances one could travel in the time frame of investigation is necessary to eliminating individuals from a FAN Club.

Principle 2: one object (individual) cannot occupy the same time twice as someone else. James Smith #1 resides on land from 1812 to 1850. James Smith #2 resides on land from 1830 to 1860. These are probably two different James Smiths because their timelines are not in alignment.

These are extremely simplistic examples and are only used to illustrate a point of identity of same named individuals; not to illustrate reasonably exhaustive research, which would be necessary to actually eliminate John Smith #2 in each instance.

Same named individuals can only be separated by using reasonably exhaustive research and having alignment of geography, time AND the FAN Club.

I would also suggest that you probably use it more frequently than you think. Your FAN Club size may be small and you can quickly eliminate all but one. This type of research is particularly critical for Irish and Scandinavian ethnic groups whose naming practices result in many individuals having the same name.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: attended the NGS 2016 conference, blogged about the conference, presented twice and became inspired as I read the submissions of others for certification at the BCG booth. Next up? Whidbey Island GS and Jamboree! Next blog (probably)—coincidence and decision-making.

[1] Photo of Elizabeth Shown Mills & Jill Morelli, taken at the request of Jill Morelli by an attendee, May 2014.  Photo taken NGS 2014 conference in Richmond, VA.

[2] FAN Club is a group composed of friends, associates and/or neighbors devised by Elisabeth Shown Mills, also called “cluster research.” The use of FAN Club principles are used repeatedly in solving genealogical problems.


Book Review: Genealogy Evidence by Noel C. Stevenson,

Gen Evid bk StevensonStevenson, Noel C. Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigrees, Ancestry, Heirship and Family History. Laguna Hills, California: Aegean Park Press, 1979, revised 1989.

What can you learn from a book written almost 35 years ago and revised 25 years ago? A lot!

To state the case most simply: if you are working on your portfolio, you need to have this book close by. Let me explain why.

Noel C. Stevenson, J.D., FASG  is one of genealogy’s icons of the most recent past generation, serving as President of the American Society of Genealogists from 1985-1986. [1]  His book, Genealogical Evidence is recognized as a pioneer in defining a common genealogical vocabulary, constructing a standard for source analysis and providing guidance for assessment of evidence.[2]  Thus, in the genealogy of genealogy, this book is an “ancestor” to Evidence Explained  by Elisabeth Shown Mills and Mastering Genealogical Proof by Tom Jones. [3]

The content covers common genealogical problems and establishes guidelines for their assessment.  For example, The first chapter on “Paternity, Maternity, Legitimacy and Illegitimacy” discusses “Age and Paternity” and “Age and Maternity,” where Stevenson discusses the ages one can expect parents to be within and ones that are outside that realm.  When you are looking at the age of the father at 16 and the age of the mother at 13 in your case study, what do you say about the likelihood of that happening? Stevenson will give you guidance and his work is a respected source. Is your case study a question of identity?  If so, Stevenson has an entire chapter on that topic.

Stevenson then breaks down records into two groups — public and unofficial records, the latter being everything that isn’t public, such as bibles, church records, tombstones etc., and covers types of records within those two broad categories. With each source type he begins with a short history of the development, and then describes their relative accuracy. Another great inclusion is the list at the end of these chapters which describe the various locations one can obtain the information desired if the single source does not exist.  The list for location of evidence of marriage, considered a public record, is 21 items long.  These other locations for marriage records may assist you in breaking down some of your brick walls or verify that you have truly completed your “exhaustive research.”

As a lawyer, his narrative concerning court records is especially note worthy. Stevenson brings a depth of understanding of the types of courts, their history and the records found there. He covers the types of marriages and the legality by state of common law marriages.  In this era, laws of marriage are changing so rapidly this list may be outdated, but it gives you a place to start.  This section (and others) are laced with examples which focus the reader on the analysis and the conclusions that can be drawn from the court records.  He even discusses, with examples, false pedigrees and some of the genealogical hoaxes that have been committed and still exist today.

Val Greenwood’s book, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, another iconic book, looks at source types; Stevenson’s addresses source types but then investigates each source type for the type of information it might contain and discusses the inherent validity of the evidence you may find within that source type. It is true that Stevenson uses terms like “circumstantial evidence” which now are dated, but this does not obviate the quality of the contents within.

If you are “on the clock,” this book will provide you with a basis for assumptions, will give you a basis for analyzing your sources and give you hints as to other locations to find records which make for a more complete research effort.  In addition, his citations may lead you to other documents, articles and books to assist you in solving a particular problem.  However, this is not a “brick wall problem solvers guide” as it is not focused on a particular problem you might have but rather the book provides us with a road map for our every day genealogical assessment.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I made my research plan for the holiday weekend.  I also listened to Ron Arons Legacy Webinar on mapping.  He did a nice job and Geoff Rasmussen, the host, gave my webinar presentation on fire insurance maps (scheduled for April) a shout out to all the live listeners.

[1] American Society of Genealogists, “Past Officers” ( : accessed 25 November 2015).

[2] John (surname not given), “Elements of Genealogical Analysis,” Our Blog (Allen County (IN) Public Library Genealogy Center), blog,  13 November 2014 ( : accessed 25 November 2015).

[3] Do I really need to provide a citation for you?

How Do You Handle URLs in Citations?

CMOSWe had a discussion in our ProGen class about how much to include of the URL of a website in a citation.  There were a variety of opinions and so I went searching for an answer.  The uniform resource locator or URL is the series of numbers and letters that forms the web address.  It appears in your browser window and begins with http://.  Sometimes it is very short but sometimes it is very long.



The options discussed were:

  1. Use a TinyURL.  (If you are not familiar with TinyURLs check them out here.)
  2. Use only the homepage URL (e.g. and
  3. Use the entire URL address.

Here is what I found.

Option #1: TinyURLs
Citation for this blog using a TinyURL:
Jill Morelli, “How Do You Handle URLs in Citations?” Genealogy Certification: A Personal Journey, 7 March 2014 ( : accessed 7 March 2014).

TinyURLs take a long web address (URL) and turns it into a small one.  For example, the Permalink for this posting is  I shortened it to  by using going to the TinyURL website and putting in the longer web address into the field and the site generated a unique but shorter address.  The address for this blog is not particularly long but compare that address with this citation for an image at

Include the citation information around this link and you end up with six to eight lines for every footnote, sometimes consuming half of the page.

Why not use a TinyURL if you only wish to locate the source in the future–that works, doesn’t it?  No, it doesn’t.  What if the link is broken?  What clues are you or the reader given to enable you to find the source again?  The TinyUrL gives no clue as to which source you consulted to obtain the information.  However, the long URL in the example above has embedded within it the site name of ancestry and information about the type of record and the name of the individual of interest.

Tom Jones, in his book, Mastering Genealogical Proof doesn’t even mention ease of retrieval as a reason to cite your sources.  Instead, he describes citations as indicative of an exhaustive search and our use of “least error-prone sources” and to document our findings. [1]  But if the citation uses a TinyURL, how can you determine if you have done a thorough search?  You have no idea if the author cited Wikipedia or a peer reviewed journal article. You also are hampered in predicting the probability of error. The use of a TinyURL also does not assist in documenting findings.

I do not recommend using a TinyUrl in any citations you are writing.

Option #2: use of only the homepage URL
Citation for this blog using only the homepage URL:
Jill Morelli, “How Do You Handle URLs in Citations?” Genealogy Certification: A Personal Journey, 7 March 2014 ( : accessed 7 March 2014), searched for citations & case study.

Elizabeth Shown Mills in her book, Evidence Explained, discusses web addresses (URLs) in section 2.37, page 59. [2]  Her assertion is that long URLs are subject to change  more easily thanthe  shorter homepage address and may not link correctly at a later date.  We all have encountered the ERROR 404 on a broken link.  Broken links are not uncommon even in the most cared for site.

Ms. Mills proposes that we use the address of the home page but include any additional descriptors for finding the particular item cited.  You can see in the example for this web site the search criteria of “citations & case study.” In a citation for a census image from, you might add “search for John Smith, Winchester County, Indiana.”  If using the homepage appraoch, Ms. Mills offers no guarantees as websites can still be rearranged, but even if the homepage changes it might be possible to locate the document in the future through the use of Internet Archive Wayback Machine. The use of the Wayback Machine is an option not available if a TinyURL is used.

Option #3: Use the entire URL
Citation for this blog using the full URL:
Jill Morelli, “How Do You Handle URLs in Citations?” Genealogy Certification: A Personal Journey, 7 March 2014 ( : accessed 7 March 2014).

In EE, Ms. Mills indicates the need to use the full address for journal articles and journals themselves.  She continues by saying that most style manuals use the full URL  [3]  I found it difficult to tell if she was only talking about Journal citations or it was a more global statement.  I analyzed each (yes, I really did!) of the QuickCheck Models in EE that pertained to online citations to try to discern a pattern of full URL vs. just the homepage URL.

Four observations:

  1. At no time did I find an example using a TinyURL.
  2. The full address was used more often, by a ratio of 2:1 (n=34,) than the homepage URL for citations that were related to online resources.
  3. In many, but not all, where the short address was used, the citation described the database and not a specific image.  In my recent blog about “What is Context Anyway?,” citations have to be responsive to what is being cited.  In some cases the “short form” was being used because…it would have been inappropriate to do anything else.
  4. but there were examples where, for example, was cited using the homepage URL and the image was the focus.

I checked ESM’s EE web page ( and didn’t find any specific information on this topic, but you can read what I did find by going to this link: .  And, if you find a relevant article somewhere, please share!

The Chicago Manual of Style provides, to me at least, the answer:
“URL or DOI. [4]  Many of the examples in this section include a URL or a DOI at the end of the citation.  A DOI, if it is available, is preferable to a URL.  If using a URL, use the address that appears in your browser’s address bar when viewing the article unless a shorter, more stable form of the URL is offered along with the electronic article.”  [5]

Three observations seem now apparent:

  1. Whatever is decided, be consistent across types of citations.
  2. The BCG certification “fear factor” makes each applicant ultraconservative in writing citations, resulting in full URLs more prevalent (observation based on my reading of several BCG portfolios.)
  3. I need to think about the context of the citation.  If I am citing just the database or have a narrow site focus, use the homepage URL; otherwise…
  4. I will be using the long URL or DOI.

I would be interested in your thoughts, especially of those who are “on the clock” or already certified.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: spoke to the Eastside Home Economists’ Club on “Soldier, Spies & Farmwives: the Changing Roles of Women in the Civil War.”  It was well received;  computer was down for 1.5 weeks. I suffered from major withdrawal; worked on my draft no. 2 of my Proof Argument for ProGen;  tried to set up a time to meet with my business counselor but had to cancel;  encouraged a friend to consider running for Vice President of SGS;  worked on presentation of GPS Element #2 for SGS to be given on Sunday.  I hope some folks come–its DST!

[1] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013), p. 7.

[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2007), p. 59.

[3] Ibid, p. 799.

[4] DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier and is tied to the image, not to the website.  The link is extremely stable.

[5] University of Chicago, Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) section 14.184.

What is “Context” Anyway?

Context of the source, context of the citation, and context of its reader should all inform the decisions we have to make while crafting a citation. Different contexts will lead to different decisions about what to include and how to format the elements of the citation. — Tom Jones, email to the author, 31 December 2013. [1]

Citation is an art, not a science. — Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained, p. 41.

What?  Dr. Jones speaks of “crafting” a citation and Ms. Mills describes it as an art!  In my genealogical infancy, I confidently looked up the type of source in a style manual, found a suitable template and filled in the blanks–no need to read all that text!  Now, Dr. Jones and Ms. Mills challenge us to thoughtfully create citations that are responsive to the text and regard the reader–the context.  But, this word “context” still has me puzzled.

I thought “context” was the sociological or historical or political environment within which we make decisions.  How can a source or a citation or the reader have a context?  What is “context” anyway?

Let’s start with the Oxford English Dictionary:

Root of the word: “Latin contextus (u-stem) connection, < participial stem of contexĕre to weave together, connect. (author’s emphasis)”
[2]  I love that!  Weave together–how beautiful!
Definition (noun): “The weaving together of words and sentences; construction of speech, literary composition”

So what are we actually weaving?

In 1425, a Middle English writer combined the word “context” with “historical.”[3]  Today, genealogists are also introduced to the phrase “historical context.”  For example, the decision by Ulysses Grant to stop the exchange of Union and Confederate prisoners confined many individuals in Civil War prisons. More contemporaneously, the decision by the US Congress to reduce spending on research can negatively impact the numbers of young investigators entering the field.  A soldier kept in prison for months may become sickly for the rest of his life; a promising student may decide to enter the familial business rather than have a life in research.  These are real world individual decisions that are affected by the decisions of politics and history.  The individual decision is inextricably tied to the macro event–tightly woven together.

So, how does this apply to citations?

In Evidence Explained, Elizabeth Shown Mills has three references to “context”– cemeteries  and censuses and their physical context of the neighbors and the differences of the context of the original church record as opposed to that of a certificate of marriage. We may be able to obtain the certificate but a review of the original church entries may include information that wasn’t included on the certificate and reveal information about the recorder (e.g. shakey handwriting, level of literacy) which lead us to conclusions about the quality of the source. She covers the issue of context of the citation without a direct use of the word in Section 2.1 Art vs. Science. [3]

Let’s look at a relatively simple example–the blog– to illustrate how the context of the item being cited can drive the format of the citation.

If the context of the information that is being cited concerns a specific posting, the citation, according to EE, might look like this:
“What is Context Anyway?” Jill Morelli Weblog: Genealogy Certification: A Personal Journey, 11 February 2014 ( : accessed 11 February 2014).

If the information that is being cited is focused instead on the blog as a whole, the citation might look like this:
Jill Morelli Weblog: Genealogy Certification: a Personal Journey, 2011-2014, [6]

If the information or the article is focused on the author, the citation might look like this:
Jill Morelli, “What is Context Anyway?” Genealogy Certification: A Personal Journey, 11 February 2014 ( : accessed 11 February 2014).

We can look to the templates provided but ultimately we must think about what are we citing, why are are citing it and what impression do we want to leave with the reader.  Thus, the development of the citation is one of mindfulness of the source, the narrative, the reader and the citation.

Happy Weaving!


What I have done since the last posting: worked on the SGS newsletter and getting it ready for publication.  The feature article is about the Spring Seminar featuring Jeanne Larzalerle Bloom.  I met Jeanne at the APG Professional Management Conference prior to SLIG and interviewed her.  It should be a good issue. Continued to work on the ProGen assignment–a genealogical proof argument.  My topic is the Irish village of birth of Mary Coyne.  The client provided me with many family traditions related to their location from which the family emigrated but I am writing a proof argument without the use of any of the clues provided.

[1] Tom Jones [(e-address for private use)] to Jill Morelli, e-mail, 31 December 2013, “blog posting comparing article with EE citation templates,” digitally filed, Blog file; privately held by Morelli, [(e-address) & street address for private use], Seattle, Washington, 2013. cited in blog posting “GPS Element #2: Informative Citations,”,
[2]  OED Online. December 2013. Oxford University Press. ( : accessed 9 February 2014).
[3] The OED cites the first usage in 1425, “In the contexte historicalle….” Almost 600 years later, we, as genealogists, use the word similarly.
[4] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007). For blog postings, see 811-813; for cemeteries, see 229; for censuses, see 260; and for church records, see 340.
[5] As our internet vocabulary matures, I believe the word “weblog” has evolved to “blog.”  I would suggest handling the word “blog” similar to the word “digital image” or “database”.  This might the citation looking like: Jill Morelli, “What is Context Anyway?” Genealogy Certification: A Personal Journey, 10 February 2014, blog ( : accessed 11 February 2014).

Have you ever looked at the Chicago Manual of Style?

2014 0125 CMOSI recently purchased the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. [1]  This was partially due to Tom Jones’s urging at SLIG but also because issues kept coming up which (I was told) could be answered within the CMOS, as it is sometimes referred.  Why did I need CMOS when I had Elizabeth Shown Mills’s Evidence Explained? [2]

Major Misconception:  CMOS is only about citation form.

My copy arrived while I was at SLIG and I am amazed at the information it contains.  And, I am equally amazed that this book is not in more genealogist’s libraries.

Some sections are particularly interesting to me…

  1. The parts of a book.  Since I am doing more self publishing and publishing for clients, I am finding this section validating and helpful.
  2. How to proof your work.  I think this will be very helpful as I get closer to BCG submission.
  3. Tables and illustrations.  I was learning from examples published in NGSQ etc. but here is how to do them.
  4. Copyright information.  While I look to Judy Russell’s blog and webinars to education me, it’s nice to have this as a backstop.
  5. Little things.  The authors discuss when to write out numbers and when they can be in numerical form, when certain words are capitalized and when not, and how to handle quotations.
  6. and of course, citations.

There is also an e-book but the hard copy will suffice–for now.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: cleaned up my desk after reinstalling my desktop computer, discussed with hubby my criteria for a laptop computer, worked at the SGS Library as a volunteer, wrote up my interview with Jeanne Bloom, the Spring Seminar SGS speaker and worked on my case study. I also ordered and received Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.  I had a copy but my daughter “shopped” my library and now has it in hers. The color of the cover of the CMOS is actually a light turquoise–very distinctive on my shelf.  My thoughts are with those of you in the Midwest and East as the storm comes your way.  Stay safe.

[1] University of Chicago Press, The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010). See p. 701, CMOS for this citation.

[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007).

GPS Element #2: Informative citations

This is the second in the series that looks at each of the five elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard.  The first posting was GPS Element #1: Thorough Search

In the mid 1980’s, I was recording my genealogical sources in numerical order in Access on a “sewing machine” portable computer. I used that number to link the source with the data–all on paper, of course.  I had generated a Master Source List–not a citation list– but at least I knew where I got the information and I knew what I was missing.  (I still have that initial list of 38 sources!)

Fast forward to February of 2002… I was bored with writing an assignment in my final year of my master’s degree program.  I decided to “take a break” and determine if genealogy software programs could handle source citations better than my attempts 15 years earlier. My immediate goal was a momentary diversion from a tedious paper.  My long term objective was to restart my genealogy journey that I had stopped about 10 years before.  That night I purchased The Master Genealogist (TMG) software and almost didn’t get the class assignment completed!

Why was I so focused on citing my sources?  Early in my genealogy career, I understood that genealogy was original research–no different than the paper I was writing for my class.  If one approached family history as a scientific endeavor then weren’t the parallels obvious?

My thought process has evolved (matured?) since the early 2000’s.  Originally, I cited my sources to allow finding the original document quickly (How does one catalog all the ephemeral one collects as a Genealogist?).  Now I see that criteria was too narrow of a perspective.  Thomas W. Jones, in his book Mastering Genealogical Proof, instructs us that proper citations reveal whether we have:

  1. accomplished “a reasonably exhaustive search” (scope)
  2. utilized “the least error-prone sources available” (quality) and
  3. document the research question (linkage) [1]

Two sources help us with the development of strong citations.  The present “gold standard” for a citation style manual for genealogists is Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (EE). [2]  Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones illustrates the principles of citation building so they can be built with a reasonable accuracy even without a style manual.  The combination of understanding the fundamentals and having templates to assist has given me a greater confidence in the creation of my own citations.

For “fun,” let’s compare four citations from Tom Jones’s article “Logic Reveals the Parents of Philip Pritchett of Virginia and Kentucky” [3] with the EE citation templates.  Since National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the journal which published the Jone’s article, follows EE as a standard, one should expect them to be similar in composition with only some variations to respond to the context of the source or the article.  Both Dr. Jones (TJ) and Elizabeth Shown Mills (EE) agreed to allow the use of their material for this blog. [4]  They also read the draft of this posting in advance of publication.  This document embodies their comments. but, as they say, the mistakes are mine.

It should come as no surprise that there is strong consistency between the citations addressing specific sources in the article (TJ) and those of the style manual (EE).  The variations that do occur are often attributable to the context or clarifying inclusions. As Dr. Jones stated in his email, “Context of the source, context of the citation, and context of its reader should all inform the decisions we have to make while crafting a citation. Different contexts will lead to different decisions about what to include and how to format the elements of the citation.” [5]  This is the “art” of citation building.

Bold typography highlights the differences which are then followed by my observations.    I recommend you read the Pritchett article to place the citations in their context and to read about the templates in Evidence Explained.  I have placed the page number below in parentheses following the “TJ” or the “EE” for your convenience.

TJ (29):        1810 U.S. census, Montgomery Co., Ky., p. 377, Philip Pritchet; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication M252, roll 7.
EE (247):     1810 U.S. census, York County, Maine, town of York, p. 435 (penned), Line 9, Jabez Young; NARA microfilm publication M352, roll 12.


  • The differences are minor in nature. The reader can easily determine if the citation adds to the scope, reveals the quality and documents the question. And, I easily found the entry for Pritchet in the 1810 census.
  • Location: the state name is spelled out and the town name given in EE.  EE includes the method of placing the page number (penned or stamped) and includes the line number of the household on the page.  There are no line numbers on the Montgomery County census digital image listing of the households.  I probably would have counted down to Philip and included the entry number in the citation as a alternative to a line number.
  • There is no page number shown on the original Montgomery County document, but the page number is given as 377 in Ancestry (open image, click on “s” to get source information). [6]
  • Head’s Up!  TJ’s entry was the first entry citing NARA and so he has written the acronym out and placed NARA in parentheses.  EE shows it abbreviated.  Another common abbreviation is FHL for Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.  She discusses this principle on page 73 of Evidence Explained.

TJ (36):         Joan W. Peters, The Tax Man Cometh: Land and Property in Colonial Fauquier County, Virginia: Tax Lists from the Fauquier County Court Clerk’s Loose Papers: 1759-1782 (Westminister, Md.: Willow Bend, 1999), 3.
EE (646):      Joe Nickell, Detecting Forgery: Forensic Investigation of Documents (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996), 123.


  • The two are the exactly the same form.
  • I puzzle about when and how to indicate the state of the publisher.  For example, see the citation below for Black’s Law Dictionary–should I have included Minnesota?  Is the correct abbreviation Mn.?  See page 72 of Evidence Explained for a short discussion on the usage of postal codes for the abbreviations of states in citations.  It appears that TJ could have used MD for Maryland.  I have a tendency to write out the state name if it is not foretold by the name of the publisher or obvious by the name.  In his email of 31 December, Dr. Jones referred me to the Chicago Manual of Style for a more complete discussion of this topic.  I will blog about my findings in the future.

TJ (32):         Fauquier Co., Deed Book 8:179-81, Butler to Baker (1784); County Court, Warrenton, VA.; Fauquier Co. microfilm 4, Library of Virginia (LVA), Richmond.
EE (489):      Perry County, Alabama, Tract books, 1: unpaginated entries arranged by legal land description; see Township 21 North, Range 8 East, Section 27, “SW Fraction E of Cahaba,” James J. Harrison, 1833; Probate Judge’s Office, Marion.


  • These two citations are much more alike than I initially thought.
  • In the context of the article the need for the inclusion of the state (Virginia) is minimal, as the citation is within a map labeled northern “Virginia Counties and Pritchett Locations.”
  • TJ included both the buyer and the seller.  I like this as I get confused sometimes when I am reading deeds as to the roles of various individuals.

TJ (37):      The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed. (New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911), s.v. “next friend.”
EE (694):     World Book Encyclopedia (1998) “John Wesley.”


  • TJ gave us more information than the EE template.  He did not place the edition in parentheses. EE states that either the date or the cardinal edition can be used.
  • TJ included the publisher and the date.
  • TJ used the abbreviation “s.v.”  This was new to me.  Black’s Law Dictionary defines s.v. as sub voce or sub verbo: “under the word: used in references to dictionaries and other works arranged alphabetically.”  [7]

Comparing these citations was a terrific exercise for me.  The importance of evaluating the context of the “source, the citation and reader” and their impact on good citation writing became more obvious to me.  I will continue to improve my “citation discipline” (nit picking?) about the details, but I received comfort in knowing that there is flexibility in the development of a citation within the principles of citation building.  I do feel that I understand citations better for having conducted this comparison.  I also understand that there is not a template for every situation–  I just have to write thousands of them to get really comfortable!  🙂

Ultimately, the writing of a citation is an art and not a straitjacket.

Thanks to Elizabeth Shown Mills and Tom Jones for taking a bit of their time to assist me in the writing of this article.


What I have done since the last posting: I worked very hard this weekend on my Case Study for certification.  It is slow going but coming along.  I would say that I am half way through a good first draft.  It is shorter than some I have seen (you can look at examples of successful portfolios at conferences).  I hope that “elegance” of presentation is more important than “weight”. On the recommendation of Karen Stanbury, my mentor in the MGP class, I decided to read some of the Jacobus Award Winners, given annually for excellence in family history writing.  What surprised me was the I had difficulty getting any of the books from my local or university library.  I recommended to the librarian at the Seattle Public Library that he purchase the complete set of winners.  I registered to attend the NGS conference in Richmond.  I wasn’t going to go but then decided to cancel out of another trip to Richmond in March and substitute this instead.  I will stay with my friend Mary so accommodations are not an issue.  I am getting ready for Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) where I will be taking the Advanced Methodologies course from Dr. Jones and others.  I am excited and hope to do a little research as well.  I am talking to a new client about doing the layout for the memoirs of her father; this seems to be a niche that is a vacuum I can fill.

[1] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 33.

[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing  Company, 2007).

[3]  Thomas W. Jones, “Logic Reveals the Parents of Philip Pritchett of Virginia and Kentucky,” National Genealogical Quarterly, 97 (March 2009), 29-38.

[4] Elizabeth Shown Mills [(e-address for private use)] to Jill Morelli, e-mail, 28 December 2013, “requesting permission for use of EE templates for a blog posting,” digitally filed, Blog file; privately held by Morelli, [(e-address) & street address for private use], Seattle, Washington, 2013; Tom Jones [(e-address for private use)] to Jill Morelli, e-mail, 29 December 2013, “blog on comparison of citations,” digitally filed, Blog file; privately held by Morelli, [(e-address) & street address for private use], Seattle, Washington, 2013.  (note to self:  find out why parentheses are placed around the word “e-address.”)

[5] Tom Jones [(e-address for private use)] to Jill Morelli, e-mail, 31 December 2013, “blog posting comparing article with EE citation templates,” digitally filed, Blog file; privately held by Morelli, [(e-address) & street address for private use], Seattle, Washington, 2013.

[6] 1810 U.S. census, Montgomery Co., Ky., p. 377, entry 9, Philip Pritchet; digital image, ( : accessed 31 December 2013); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication M252, roll 7.

[7] Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1968) 1500.