Genealogy Source Citations Made Easy

Mastering Genealogy Source Citations

Many genealogists seem to have issues when it comes to creating source citations for their genealogy data.  I suspect that the reason is rooted in a lack of formal training by most researchers when they are getting started in genealogy.  The purpose of this article is to help educate genealogists on some of the best resources available to make genealogy source citations easy.

When it comes to citing sources for our genealogy data many of us have flashbacks to writing high school research papers.  Do you remember creating your bibliography on index cards?  Armed with the resources described below, source citations should be a breeze from now on.

I realize that citing sources is not exactly the most glamorous part of genealogy work, but it is one of the most important components of your research.  Properly cited sources are what make it possible to locate your sources again and allow others to recreate your research, if needed.  Names, dates and places lacking source citations should be treated with caution and never accepted as fact until proven so with hard evidence.

Evidence Explained Templates

The reference book Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills is the definitive guide to the citation and analysis of historical sources.  This single reference is all you need to properly create source citations for just about anything.

It’s simply matter of locating the specific chapter of the book that corresponds to the source type you are looking for and using the provided templates to show you exactly how the source citation should be formatted.  The provided templates (on gray pages) serve as a guide to the content and format of the source notation but also provide real world examples.  There is no substitute for an example in illustrating how the notation should look.

Source Citations from Data Services

Most of the larger genealogy data services such as or will provide a source citation when they display index information for a particular record.

Simply highlight and cut the source citation and paste it wherever you store your genealogy data.  There is absolutely no reason not to have a proper source citation for any record found in one of these data services.

Web Resources

If you need to cite sources from books or other media, there are several good web based resources that can be useful.  Both repositories contain massive collections and are free to use for locating resources.  I have actually found several obscure limited printing published family genealogy books using these websites, so they are worth a try.

WorldCat is a global catalog of library collections and is a great resource for researching just about anything.  To create a source citation, look up the resource you are interested in and click on the “Cite/Export” link.  The perfectly formatted source citation can be cut and pasted into your work.

Citation Machine
Creating a genealogy source citation first involves choosing the style for your citation.  I generally choose the Chicago Manual of Style.  Then search for your resource and then hit the “Create Citation” button.

There is really no magic to creating genealogy source citations.  The book Evidence Explained should be a part of any serious genealogist’s reference library as it is invaluable for properly creating sources.  With it as your guide, there is no excuse for ever improperly sourcing or omitting sources for your genealogy data.

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