Understanding Sources and Citations

This tutorial was written by Stuart Armstrong based on how he uses Sources in TMGW and is applicable to all versions if TMGW.  
As he indicates in his tutorial, his methods do not always follow the normally accepted methods that are usually recommended for TMG users.  
When TMG was first released, the only Source Types were based on the fourteen models (examples) defined by Richard S. Lackey in Cite Your Sources -- A Manual for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records (published 1980 by the University Press of Mississippi).  Unfortunately, these did not include any direct provision for some of the newer types of media (CDs, Internet, etc.) that we have today).  
To expand on Lackey and to fill this gap, Elizabeth Shown Mills wrote Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian (published in 1997 by Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore).  Ms. Mills increased the number of models (examples) to well over one hundred.  These were based on ten elements variously used in seven different types of documents.
While Mills was an improvement over Lackey in that it gave us an updated standard to go by, many readers and users were even more confused when the document they had did not directly match one of the models (examples) that she gave.  
Thus Stuart's method is much simpler and easier for some users.  While it doesn't quite meet the "standards" of today, it comes close and is very effective.  Some purists may find fault with his method (and I also did at first), but as he notes in his tutorial even Ms. Mills may not completely disagree. Further, Ms. Mills has also stated that most changes would be acceptable if they are consistent.
Hopefully this will help some TMG users who are struggling with Sources and Citations.

Understanding Sources and Citations

by Stuart Armstrong

      The following is presented as a suggestion only. You may not agree with it. It is my own method and is very opinionated <grin>. I think it has merit. My purpose is to present my reasoning and the way I think about sources when I enter them into TMG, as a model that I find simplifies the whole process. This post is long. I hope I do not offend by such a long post.
     The generic source template is the book template. This template is conceptually designed after the standard method of citing sources used in all disciplines for decades (there may be variations in style but the concepts are the same), and follows the concepts we learned in high school before the days of computers when we collected our evidence on index cards. It is conceptually the same as the method used by library card catalogues, the old physical ones with the wooden drawers and brass pull-tabs -- and the computerized ones aren't that different either. To memorize this template and learn to adapt it to various source types and situations is to understand source citing.
     The basic elements of any source citation are the  Author, Title, Details (such as page number), Publication Information, and Repository. In that order.
     To that basic information is frequently added comments, explanations, or evaluations as needed. The Author is followed by a comma, the Title is italicized if it is a true title. The publication information is placed in parentheses and is in three parts, punctuated as follows:  (Place: Publisher, Date). Repository and other information follows. That is the basic concept. Memorize it and you'll never have trouble with sources again. Special cases can usually be adapted to that general format. There are a few exceptions such as newspapers, but for those you consult Mills or some other "authority". Even the exceptions can often be fit comfortably into the standard format with a little thought:
        Author, Title (Place of Publication: Publisher, date), details; Repository, 
        call number. Comments.

     Memorize it.

     There are a few other things which may modify the basic template. You simply need to remember where they are traditionally put. For example, if a work is a second edition, that goes in the publication information in front of the place, separated by a comma. You don't need a different template. You can simply put it in the place field, like this: (Second edition, New York: Sanford and Sons, 1976). The Publish Place field would then contain
         Second edition, New York
     If there is a volume number, it goes after the Title (where else?). For this I use the Subtitle field, so that the volume information doesn't get italicized. Use the Subtitle field for things that aren't really part of the Title, but must go after it to make sense. Usually, if the subtitle of a work is necessary, I just go ahead and enter it as part of the Title, and reserve the Subtitle field for things like volume numbers. It doesn't matter much what the label on the field says -- it's just a way of getting the punctuation right.
        [ITAL:][TITLE][:ITAL]<, [SUBTITLE]>Calloway Bible Records, Volume 2.

     If the book has no author, but instead has a compiler, editor, or some other person or entity that is responsible for the work, the tradition has been to include that designation after the author's name.
        Samuelson, John, comp.
     However, this isn't always adhered to and in my opinion it isn't important. I base my assertion on the fact that the catalog of the LDS Church Family History Library in Salt Lake City seldom distinguishes between an author, compiler, or editor. It links all such under the heading of Author or "statement of responsibility" -- in other words, Who was responsible for this information? It isn't necessary to add the word comp. or ed. in my opinion. It won't effect anyone's ability to locate and identify the document.

     The trick is to conceptually fit all the source information into the fields offered by the standard book template. To do that you ask yourself several questions:

  • Who is responsible for the information? That goes in the Author field.
  • What is the source called, or what label would you use to describe this source? That goes in the Title field.
  • Is a page number or other specification necessary to find the information in the source or describe its particular location? That goes in the Citation Detail.
  • Where was it published or where did it originate? That goes in the place of publication, usually only the city, not the full address.
  • Who made it public, or alternatively, By what means was it made public? That goes in the Publisher field. If it wasn't published, then who made it known (to you) or by what means?
  • When was it made public? That goes in the Publish Date -- usually only the year.
  • Where is the record kept -- by whom and where and under what reference number? That goes in the respective repository fields.
  • Are any explanations or clarifications necessary or helpful? They follow, perhaps in a split citation detail.
     Let's use a typical genealogy example to see how we can make the standard template fit what seems to be nothing at all like a book:
           Aunt Mary called me up the other day and told me her brother Charles died on Tuesday.
  • Who is responsible for this information? Aunt Mary.
  • What do I call this information? Well, it doesn't really have a label or title.
  • Where was Aunt Mary when she made "public" (to me, anyway) this information? She was at home in Rochester, New York.
  • By what means did she "publish" the information? By telephone.
  • When did she tell me the information? The other day.
  • Where is the information kept? It isn't kept anywhere -- I entered it directly into TMG.
Now let's fit that into the standard template:
          Author, Title (Publish Place: Publisher, Date); Repository, etc.
          Mary Jane Smith, Telephone conversation with Stuart Armstrong  (Rochester, 
          New York, 22 Dec 1999).
     There you have it. We put Mary Jane's telephone call into the standard book template and it works beautifully. All you need is a modification of the book template that makes most of the fields conditional (in other words you don't have to fill them in if they don't apply) and does not put italics around the title.
     You can do the same with e-mail:
          Smith, Mary Jane, Message to Stuart Armstrong (Rochester, New York: 
          e-mail, 22 Dec 1999).
I could put her e-mail address instead of Rochester, New York, but maybe she doesn't want the whole world to know it.

Or with a letter:
         Smith, Mary Jane, Letter to Stuart Armstrong (Rochester, New York 22 Dec 1999).

     In this case, the words "Letter to Stuart Armstrong" goes in the Title field, as a description of what it is. The place of publication is moved to the Publisher field because my template requires something in that field to make the punctuation work. This isn't exactly Mills, but it's close, and she probably wouldn't mind it, and it's perfectly clear to anyone reading it. I would consult Mills here though for her example, just because she has some good ideas for what to include about the letter. You could also do e-mail the same way ...
     My own method would be expanded slightly from the above by adding what Mary Jane told me. So my finished citation would read (it's all fiction, by the way):
           Smith, Mary Jane (Rochester, New York: Telephone conversation,
           22 Dec 1999). Data: Charles Smith died 18 Dec 1999 in Rochester
           and was buried the following day at Mount Hope Cemetery. Charles 
           is Mary Jane's brother.

     Let's do another example:
           I searched the 1900 Graves County Census images online at Ancestry.com.

Who is the author? For census records the Author is the US government or the Census Bureau or something like that but it isn't really important to specify it. Census records are self-explanatory so you don't need an author.
What is the source called? Well, it's called, if you look at the top of the page, the Federal Population Schedule (as apposed to the Agricultural Schedule or the Mortality Schedule or some State census). It isn't a formal title so it won't be italicized, and it's sort of a description, as well as a title. The place of the census is also part of the title description at the top of the page. The more specific place description details might or might not go into the Citation Detail, depending on how you decide to break it down. It's a judgment call.
Who published it? Well, the US Government published it I suppose; but the copy I saw was published by Ancestry.com in Orem Utah in the year 2000, from films they obtained from the National Archives in Washington. That information is useful to know so I include it. In fact, I use the Comments field after the publication information for just such clarifications about the publication as I find useful or informative. In this case I want to make it clear that I viewed an actual image of the census, not a transcription of it or an index
Where is the information kept? Well, you could say that it is kept on the internet, but that's already clear from the publication information so it is redundant and unnecessary. There is nothing to put in the Repository field.
  • Author = blank.
  • Title = 1900 US Federal Population Census Kentucky, Graves County, Enumeration District 102. (You may word it differently, so long as it clearly describes what it is).
  • Publish Place = Orem, Utah ...
     In my opinion, the fact that it is an online database is similar to edition information or printing information, so I put it where that would be traditionally found, in front of the place of publication. Therefore,
  • Publish Place = Database online, Orem, Utah
  • Publisher = Ancestry, Inc.
  • Publish Date = 2000
     My complete source then reads:
          1900 US Federal Population Census Kentucky, Graves County, Enumeration District 102 
          (Database online, Orem Utah: Ancestry, Inc., 2000, data imaged from National Archives 
          and Records Administration, Washington DC)<, [CD1]><. Data: [CD2]>.
     So what is my complete generic source template? The one I use for at least 90 percent of all sources (lately about 99 percent) is called *Book, no italics. I put the asterisk in front of it so it sorts to the top of the list, where I can get to it easily.  The templates are as follows:
  • Full Footnote:
  • Short Footnote:
    <[AUTHOR], >[SHORT TITLE]<, [CD1]><.  Data: [CD2]><. [CD3]>.
  • Bibliography:
     I fill in the Short Title field with an abbreviated form of the title. I use CD3 for comments and/or evaluations. Note that the only two required fields are the Title and Publisher. If there is no publisher (not unknown publisher, but when there is nothing logically similar to a publisher to put in that field) then there is usually something corresponding to place of publication or place of origin, so I just put that in the Publisher field instead. The template is designed so the punctuation usually works no matter what other fields are left blank. If there is no Title or description and I can't make up anything appropriate I may put the Author in the Title field, or if that doesn't work I modify the default template. I rarely have to modify it.
    Suppose my uncle Ted sends me a disk of his junk database. It has a lot of good stuff in it because he was personally knowledgeable about many of his relatives. But he didn't document anything. I don't know what data he knew and what is pure supposition or misinformation. I can still use the standard template. Remember,
          Author, Title (Place of publication, Publisher, date), details; Repository ...
          Ted Smith, Personal data files (Detroit Michigan: FTM database, 1994).
     With a little practice I find this template easy to use. If the source has a formal title I use the Book template instead, which I have modified to look just like the above except the Title is italicized. That's the only difference.

     Some more examples:
           Stuart Alan Armstrong, Birth Certificate, State Registrar's No. xxx-xx-xxxxxx
           (Indianapolis: Indiana State Board of Health, Division of Vital Records, Filed 
           3 Dec 1947, amended 14 Aug 1986)<, [CDI]><. Data: [CD2]><. Comments: [CD3]>.
      This uses the exact same template without modification. "Stuart Alan Armstrong, Birth Certificate" is the Title. "State Registrar's No. xxx-xx-xxxxx" is in the Subtitle. "Indiana State Board of Health, Division of Vital Records" is the Publisher. "Filed 3 Dec 1947, amended 14 Aug 1986" is the Publish Date.
      Again this violates Mills in some respects, and will probably engender some hot disagreement; but the same information is in there, in approximately the same order, and in my opinion is clearly stated.
      In fact, I heartily recommend Mills. Whenever I look at her examples, I often get ideas or conclude that her method is better than mine, and I adjust my entries to be more like hers. The standard template is a starting point, but it never hurts to learn more. In a couple of cases I have created a new custom template for records of a certain type, if I have a lot of them, such as the Ontario Archives. Then I only have to fill in the specifics for a particular film. That's when the flexibility of TMG comes in handy.

           Tax Assessor Graves County Kentucky, Graves County Kentucky Tax List 
           1881 (Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society, 1957-1958, 
           Microfilm of original records filmed at Lexington, Kentucky)<, [CD1]>; LDS 
           Family History Library, Film 8365 Item 4<. Data: [CD2]><. Comments:[CD3]> .

     Same exact template. If you study it, you can figure out which fields the data came from.

     The point is, you memorize the basic form, and learn to adapt it. I get many of the ideas how to express the source by simply looking at the online library catalog. I figure if I define the source the same way they did, I can't go too far wrong.

           Tombstone Inscription, Bean Cemetery (Graves County Kentucky: Cemetery 
           visit, 18 Nov 1998)<, [CD1]><. Data: [CD2]>.
Simple and to the point. In the CD I might add clarification of where the cemetery is found, such as "located 2 miles north of Golo on Cook's Store Road" (fiction), and if I took a picture of it I might mention that too.
           GenRef Inc. Genealogical Services and InfoSphere LLC, Marriage Index KY, 
           NC, TN, VA, WV, 1728-1850, Family Archives CD #229 (Broderbund Software, 
           Banner Blue Division, 1995, Version 2.01)<, [CD1]><. Data: [CD2]>.

Same structure works for just about anything. One size fits all.

     Incidentally, for online censuses, I use a template that isn't really a template. I have one generic census source for each year and I make a copy of it and fill in the blanks (location and roll number). It uses the *Book, no italics template. The location of the census would be entered as part of the Abbreviation, Title, and Short Title.

Abbreviation:   Census Online 1900_______ 
Title:               1900 US Federal Population Census________
Short Title:      1900 US Federal Census________ 
Publish Date:  2002
Publisher:        Ancestry, Inc.
Publisher Address: Database online, Orem, Utah
Comments (Supplemental tab): data imaged from National Archives and Records Administration, 
                                                Washington DC, Roll ________



The simplified templates are a starting point. They help you to cite sources effectively while getting comfortable with the general concept. After you get used to them -- that is, after you've memorized the basic form and used it until it is second nature -- you may find reason to start using some of the other templates, because now you will understand why they're needed. Special situations require special treatment, and the logic of it will begin to make sense.


I said I used six source types in all. Book, no italics accounts for 90 percent of my sources.
They are as follows.
      Full Footnote:
            <[AUTHOR], >[ITAL:] [TITLE] [:ITAL]<, [SUBTITLE]> (<[PUBLISHER
            [CD1]><; [REPOSITORY]><, [REPOSITORY REFERENCE]><. Data:
            [CD2]><. Comments: [CD3]>.

      Short Footnote:
            <[AUTHOR], >[ITAL:][SHORT TITLE][:[ITAL]<, [CD1]><. Data: [CD2]>
            <. Comments: [CD3]>.

*Book, no italics:
     Full Footnote:   
            >[PUBLISHER]<, [PUBLISH  DATE]><, [COMMENTS]>)<, [CD1]><;
            [REPOSIT0RY]><. [REPOSITORY REFERENCE]><. Data: [CD2]><. 
            Comments: [CD3]>.
      Short Footnote:
            <[AUTHOR], >[SHORT TITLE]<, [CD1]><. Data: [CD2]><. Comments: [CD3]>.

            >[PUBLISHER]<, [PUBLISH DATE]><, [COMMENTS]><. 

      Full Footnote:
            [TITLE]<, [SUBTITLE]><, [CD1]>; <[COMMENTS],> <[REPOSITORY]>
            [CD2]><. Comments: [CD3]>.

      Short Footnote:
            [TITLE]<, [CD1]><. Data: [CD2]><. Comments: [CD3]>.
            [TITLE]<. [SUBTITLE]>. <[COMMENTS].> <[REPOSITORY]><, 

*Obit/Newspaper Item:
      Full Footnote:
           ADDRESS]<, [PUBLISH DATE]><, [COMMENTS]><, [CD1]><; 
           [REPOSITORY]><, [REPOSITORY REFERENCE]><. Data: [CD2]>
           <. Comments: [CD3]>.

      Short Footnote:
            [ITAL:][SHORT TITLE] [:ITAL]<, [CD1]><. Data: [CD2]><. Comments: [CD3]>.
           <, [REPOSITORY REFERENCE]>.

*Vital Record:
      Full Footnote:
            <, [COMMENTS]><, [CD1]><. [REPOSITORY REFERENCE]><, 
            [REPOSITORY]><, [REPOSITORY ADDRESS]><. Data: [CD2]><. 
            Comments: [CD3]>.

      Short Footnote:
            [SHORT TITLE]<, [CD1]><. Data: [CD2]><. Comments: [CD3]>.
            <, [REPOSITORY ADDRESS]>.

It seems I've never used this.. I have been using the *Book, no italics version instead for wills. So really there are only five. Five is a nice number. On those infrequent occasions where the template doesn't quite work I just over-ride it.

       Submitted by:
              Stuart Armstrong

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