How to Properly Cite a Source.

How to Properly Cite a Source.

Not citing sources is one of the main downfalls the plagues amateur genealogists. It’s easy to forget to cite a Source when researching if you get in to the swing of things and are adding more than one fact to a person at once and yes, it seems tedious at first but once you start, it becomes second nature and will benefit you and anyone else looking at your tree in years to come.

Like the majority of people, when I first got in to genealogy my goal was to go as far back as possible (Within the time that my Ancestry trial ran out) and rest in the knowledge that I knew my ancestors names. However like a lot of people that trial quickly ended and I still needed to find out EVERYTHING ABOUT THEM TOO.

Because I’d blitzed through accepting every hint under the sun I now had a disorganised tree with various notes attached to different people that I couldn’t remember where I got them from.

First of all it helps to know what a source actually is. 

Most people use “source” and “fact” in the same way on their trees. However they are two very different things. A source is a document, snippet, photo or absolutely anything that is related to and enriches the profile of a particular ancestor or person. A fact is something that we know, a conclusion that we have come to based on the sources we have. A fact could be something simple like, the father of a child. We could have a birth certificate that doesn’t show in concrete the fathers name, i.e the fathers name is abbreviated and could be one of a few people. This would be a source but not a fact. We could then make this a fact by finding other sources related to the birth certificate like census’s or baptisms and when we have enough evidence we create the fact. A fact does not have to be sourced, but a description of how you came to the conclusion is often very helpful for others.

What should I cite in my source?

All a citation is at it’s core is information related to a Source that will allow you or someone else find the source again. There are five main parts to a good citation, but any other optional information needed that will help someone locate the record is worth noting.

  • Author: This may not always be applicable, i.e if you find an old hand written document in an attic and you don’t know who wrote it. But most of the time it will be clear who wrote or compiled the source.
  • Title: The title of the source could be the name of a book or a more generic “1891 Census”
  • Collection: This is what the record has been compiled with. For example if you were looking at a probate record in the UK it is probably from the “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966″ 
  • Date: The date in which the records were recorded, for example “1911 Census”
  • Page: The page in the collection that the relevant information is on.
  • [Optional] Library or Archive Call Number
  • [Optional] Comments about the source, this could be observations which will help someone else find what they are looking for if it is not immediately clear.


How to Properly Cite a Source.
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How to Properly Cite a Source.
Not citing sources is one of the main downfalls the plagues amateur genealogists.
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