Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Working With Citations

Good good good good citations
I'm pickin' up good citations
Your giving me excitations
Good good good good citations [1]

Here is how I write family history articles and books using citations. This works the best for me and is meant only as a suggestion. When working with citations you must find the method that is the most productive for you.

I develop a Word document (or a document in any text editing program) called my Master Citation File. When I purchase a book, find a document, census, etc. I cite it immediately (it only takes a moment and you never have to do it again). Exactly as Elizabeth Shown Mills has done in her QuickCheck Model in Evidence Explained, I create a Source List Entry (Bibliographic), a First (Full) Reference Note, and a Subsequent (Short) Note for each source. (See below.)

Under the category Book it would look like this:

Source List Entry – Bibliographic Citation:

Ashenburg, Katherine. The Dirt On Clean: An Unsanitized History. New York: North Point Press, 2007.

First (Full) Reference Note:

1. Katherine Ashenburg, The Dirt On Clean: An Unsanitized History (New York: North Point Press, 2007), XX.

Subsequent (Short) Note.

11. Ashenburg, The Dirt On Clean, XX.

NOTE: Proofread to make sure the citations are correct. You only want to write a citation once.I use XX’s in place of numbers, as numbers will not always be the same.

-- Book
Dirt On Clean

Ashenburg, Katherine. The Dirt On Clean: An Unsanitized History. New York: North Point Press, 2007.

X. Katherine Ashenburg, The Dirt On Clean: An Unsanitized History (New York: North Point Press, 2007), XX.

X. Ashenburg, The Dirt On Clean, XX.
-- Census
-- Death Certificate
-- Magazine
-- Newspaper
-- Etc.

When I begin writing I open a new Word document and pull the sources I will be using from the main citation document and drop them in my new project document. This cuts down on the number of sources I have to draw from.

I keep this document open as I write. When I reach a point where I need to insert a citation I highlight the correct citation, copy, and paste in my project document as I write making sure to enter the correct page numbers.

I learned this the hard way. In one of my first projects I wrote my paper placing a red X in the spot where I needed a citation and continued writing until the document was finished. Then I had to go back and try to remember what the red X meant and create a footnote. Twenty pages into the paper I had to use one of the first citations again. I had to search the document for the original citation. It took three times as long to write the paper and I vowed I would never do this again. I developed this method and for me it works.

What are the first and subsequent references and how do you use them:

First and subsequent references to a source:

The first time you cite a source, the note should include publication information for that work as well as the page number on which the passage being cited can be found.

1. Katherine Ashenburg, The Dirt On Clean: An Unsanitized History (New York: North Point Press, 2007), 85.

For subsequent references to a source you have already cited, give only the author's last name, a short form of the title, and the page or pages cited. A short form of the title of a book is italicized; a short form of the title of an article is put in quotation marks.

4. Ashenburg, The Dirt On Clean, 188.

When you have two consecutive notes from the same source, you may use "Ibid." “Ibid.” is short for the Latin "Ibidem", meaning "the same". Use "Ibid." alone if the page number is the same. (When used, ibid. replaces as much of the immediately preceding citation as is identical with the current one.)

5. Ibid.

If the source is the same but the page number is different use “Ibid.” plus the page number.

6. Ibid., 61.

When an intervening source has been cited or more than two or three pages have elapsed, a short citation should be given. Then “Ibid.” may be used again.

6. Ashenburg, The Dirt On Clean, 250.
7. Ibid., 64

How To correctly Use Block Quotes:

Short Quotations

If a quotation runs fewer than ten lines of typed text, does not involve more than one paragraph, and is not an epigraph or a quotation of verse or poetry, enclose the quotation in double quotation marks (“ Quote ”), but do not otherwise set the quotation off from the text.

Longer Quotations

If a quotation runs more than ten lines of typed text, involves more than one paragraph, and is an epigraph or a quotation of verse or poetry, it is usually set off from the text.

A way of indicating this is to indent from the left, with either a justified or a ragged right margin, or to indent from both the left and right. The block of quote should be single-spaced. Do not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of the block quotation. Separate the block quote from the text below and above with a double space. (Chicago Manual of Style.)

Using Templates For Citations:

Randy, GeneaMusings, has written an interesting article on citations and given links to citation templates. There is nothing wrong with using a citation template.

That said, there are several things to consider.

First, the most important thing is to always cite your sources and be consistent.

-- Being consistent makes creating citations much easier, even with templates.
-- Consistency can lead to learning how to write citations without the assistance of templates.

Secondly, not all templates are created equal.

-- Just because a template is offered online "for free" doesn't mean it is correct.
-- Check its output against Evidence Explained by the Goddess of Citations, Elizabeth Shown Mills.
-- If it doesn't comply - adjust or don't use it.

As Family Historians we are trying to establish standards. Ms. Mills has set them, we should use them.

Below I show a comparison of the method used in the ProGenealogists' template and that used in QuickSheet: Citing Online Historical Resources, Elizabeth Shown Mills. Please note the difference.

ProGenealogists Template:'s 1880-1930 Census Images online, Population Schedules. The _underscore_ means that the phrase should be italicized.

[Year] U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), [City], [Twp.], [County], [State], ED xxx, Sheet xxx, Dwelling xxx, Family xxx, [Head] household, jpeg image, (Online: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], , accessed [month year].

QuickSheet - Elizabeth Shown Mills (My template):

"Year United States Federal Census," database, ( : accessed Day Month Year), entry for Name, [b.] Year, City, County, State.'s 1880-1930 Census Images - All three:

Source List Entry:

"1880 United States Federal Census." Database. : 2007. [2]

Full Reference Note:

1. "1880 United States Federal Census," database, (Http:// : accessed 22 January 2007), entry for Leung Tung Wong, [b.] 1861/1862, holyoke, Hampden County Massachusetts. [3]

Short Reference Note

11. "1880 U.S. Federal Census," database entry for Leung Tung Wong, [b.] 1861/1862, Holyoke, Hampden Co., Mass. [4]

You could just as easily create your own templates for the most common sources you use based on the Evidence Explained standard as I did above.

I adhere to the Evidence Explained Standards in my family histories and papers. I am not as cautious in my blogs and I should be, as more people read my blogs then my papers. So do as I recommend not as I do.

As Family Historians let's establish some standards and stick to them.

[1] Wilson, Brian, and Mike Love. “Good Vibrations.” Lyrics. Good Vibrations, Single. Brian Wilson, 1966. Copyright ©1966 & 1978, Brian Wilson and Mike Love. Lyrics Freak ( : accessed 18 October 2007).

[2] Mills, Elizabeth Shown. QuickSheet: Citing Online Historical Resources. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 2007), 2.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.



Blogger Thomas MacEntee said...

Great post. I started doing the same thing by dumping sources and cites into a Word file but then I found EasyBib ( which allows me to do the same thing. Better yet, it lets me choose from 50 different types of sources and I can look up books using ISBN numbers.

I've posted about EasyBib here:

November 19, 2008 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Hey Thomas:

Sorry, I'm a purist. I write my own, and they are all based on the Chicago Manual of Style which I believe is the most effective for history researchers. EasyBib does not have that choice available.

I'm really advocating standardization, which is Evidence Explained for family historians. EE is rooted in the Chicago Manual of Style.

As you know, lawyers have a style guide for their regional areas. I consider EE the style guide of family historians.

I also believe people should not use programs such as EasyBib until they understand and can write citations on their own. I know you can, but I don't believe beginners should start this way.

Just my opinion.


November 19, 2008 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Sheri Fenley said...

Thank you fM for making things easier. A big old lightbulb went off in my head - you know - duh! I was making the whole thing harder than it is if you look at it logically. Kinda of like the way I finally caught on to algebra - one day I just "got it".

November 19, 2008 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Great post, footnoteMaven. I appreciate your suggestions on this topic. I began a similar Word file for all of my genealogy sources, but am far from completing it. I had relied on the "source" field in my genealogy software for many years but found I was very inconsistent. Starting from scratch was refreshing and has given me a new look at my research. I like your suggestion to create all three reference formats at first using Elizabeth Shown Mills' manual. I plan to add that step into the continued work on my master bibliography.

Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture
Small-leaved Shamrock
A light that shines again
100 Years in America

November 20, 2008 at 2:16 AM  
Blogger Family Curator said...

fM, great article on a much-maligned subject! I have always loved citations; alas, my students hated to bother with the proper MLA format. Instead of looking up the proper format, they liked to be "creative." ugh.

I like to think of citations as a puzzle or a math problem. There is only ONE answer. If you are a historian, this may be different from an English critic (Chicago vs MLA), but there is only ONE right answer for your usage. It's like a game to find the right answer.

I love your idea of making a master Word file for citations -- now that's Creativity that works!

November 21, 2008 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Family Curator said...

Just had to write more on this topic at The Family Curator...

November 21, 2008 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Loved your article and glad you are an advocate of standardization. I would like to see, and am working on, a method of using citations in blogs. (I tend to be really sloppy on my blogs.)

My research and writing professor, nationally known, had exceptionally high standards. Ex.: The punctuation in a section that is italicized is not italicized. And you were marked down if it was.

Incentive: There were judges who would refuse to read a motion if the citations were not correct. Explain that to a client.

I think if students had to create a Master Citation file at the beginning of a writing assignment (write it once correctly) and then only had to drag and drop, we might have a few more citation converts.

Read Denise's article, she knows what she's talking about.


November 21, 2008 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Terry Thornton said...

Foot, I'm nearly 70 years old. What little creativity I have left is spent making up my own citation formats.

Some of us hold to the theory that since we are not writing for academe, because we are not writing for editors who all swear by Kate Turabian, and because I know there are more ways than one to do a thing, I'm probably in a great huge minority of one who says "don't sweat the details" when it comes to adding footnotes to blog articles. [Why do I know you are not surprised with my position? LOL!]

While I think it MOST IMPORTANT to provide references and sources in our blog articles, I don't think that the MLA, Chicago, Campbell and Ballou, Turabian, AMA, PMLA, AIP, Strunk, and Columbia Guides have a place on my desk when I am blogging. YES, I include author, title, publisher, place, date, and page numbers whenever I cite from a reference source be it a hard copy or a digital online copy --- but I'm not at all concerned about following a specific format/style.

I spent more than a decade "forcing" graduate students to follow a specific style manual in their writings --- they had no choice but to conform with the university's requirement. As a blogger that conformity is not needed in my humble opinion. As you said, "you must find the method that is the most productive for you."

Thanks for bringing up the problems of footnoting --- and of the importance of giving credit where credit is due. Just the name of your blog and of your nom de blog gives daily testimony to the importance of adequate citations. This [what is adequate] is an issue we should all be most aware of and one to which we should all lend our support.

Terry Thornton
Fulton, Mississippi USA

November 23, 2008 at 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Angelique said...

Excellent blog post! A friend recommended this post after I sent her my "Master Source List" and I am so glad I checked this out! This is exactly what I am doing and it is helping greatly. I have separated the source lists into two Word files now. One for my Maternal sources and one for my Paternal sources.

I recommend this idea and am so happy to read of someone else doing the same thing. It is awesome to be on the same brain-wave :) Woot!

I read some other posts too and just want to say, well done and thanks for blogging :)

June 1, 2011 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Angelique - Thank you and well done!

I hate repeating efforts. Do it once, do it correctly.

Yes, so glad we're both on the same brain-wave.

And thank you to the person who recommended me.


June 1, 2011 at 4:31 PM  

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