Friday, October 23, 2009

Citation Geeks - Elizabeth Shown Mills Bats Cleanup

As for tickets, I don’t give them out. In fact, in my own lectures on sourcing,
I give folks that same advice about not getting so uptight
over the citation police.

~ Elizabeth Shown Mills ~

When you give advice you want it to be the best advice possible. Such was the case with my article, Good Citations - A FindAGrave Question. As we all know, there's always room for improvement.

That said, thank you Elizabeth Shown Mills (ESM). After some wonderful discussions via email, we have liftoff regarding a citation for Find A Grave that has the consensus of both ESM and fM (like she'd ever need my consensus). We are that strange breed that enjoys discussing the finer points of citation late at night. I think that makes us citation geeks.

First, ESM thanked Thomas and me for our "excellent points" and agreed with the enhancements suggested. Whew! No ticket!

The following is the citation consensus for Find A Grave:

Source List Entry:

Find A Grave, Inc. Find A Grave. Digital images. : 2009.
Find A Grave, Inc. Find A Grave. Databases. : 2009.

First Reference Note:

Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image ( : accessed 21 October 2009), photograph, “gravestone for Mary Nancy McCaskill Massey (1881-1974), Memorial No. 15616487, Records of the Llano Cemetery, Amarillo, Texas;” photograph © Walter Dunn.

Subsequent Note:

Find A Grave, Inc. Find A Grave, photograph © Walter Dunn, “gravestone for Mary Nancy McCaskill Massey(1881-1974) Memorial No. 15616487.”

So, what has changed?

Several things. After going back and checking the Find A Grave website and reading the About page, it was determined that the name of the website was Find A Grave rather than While Inc. is not generally added after a company name; here the website and company name are the same so it is added to differentiate.

In the First Reference Note the punctuation following Texas should be a semicolon rather than a period and photograph should then not be capitalized. (Llano Cemetery, Amarillo, Texas;” photograph). Rationale: In a reference note, when we cite a source and then put a “final stop” (i.e., the period), we mean that we are through with our citation of that source. If part of the detail about that source appears in a second sentence, then most readers will read it for what it appears to be—a different source. ESM

Now regarding the Source List Entry; I ascribe to the Tim The Tool Man, School of Citation. More power information. That is not a pristine definition of a source list. A source list is a master list of the materials we've used and does not document any particular fact. The above is a more correct reflection of a Source List Entry.

Note: I have differentiated between the digital image portion and the database portion of Find A Grave for the Source List Entry. ESM says, "seems to work just as well as combining both types in one source list entry. Which one might be preferable could depend upon how our own gen software handles citations." Our discussion was that a Find A Grave Source List Entry was analogous to a Census Source List Entry.

Here is how I would do A Find A Grave Database Reference:

Source List Entry:

Find A Grave, Inc. Find A Grave. Databases. : 2009.

First Reference Note:

Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, database ( : accessed 16 October 2009); Record, Roscoe Benton Martin (1911-1957), Memorial No. 8494172, Records of the Taylor Cemetery, Vienna, Illinois;” record copyright Ann Brown. (Provided she hasn't relinquished.)

Subsequent Note:

Find A Grave, Inc. Find A Grave, database, “Record, Roscoe Benton Martin (1911-1957), Memorial No. 8494172.”


Now, do any of these work for those of us who blog our family history? Or do we need a new citation note called a Blog Note? This is a question I've been struggling with and that I've discussed with Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogical Society and Library Blog.

If we number within the article and footnote, then the First Reference Note and Subsequent Note would work. I don't think Source Note entries would be necessary for every blog post/article.

Writing a blog is its own unique brand of writing. Writing a blog we are not always structuring for a publishable quality product. Yes, we should, but if we edited and rewrote to achieve that level of writing we'd never get the information out there.

What is our goal as blog documentors of family history? Aren't we striving to get important information regarding our family history online so that we can make those necessary and wonderful connections? Yet, we want our work to reflect our excellent research and show our sourcing stuff. You're only as good as your sources.

So, would an Enhanced First Reference Note work for blogging if used as a Source List Note listed in the order used and placed at the end of the blog post/article? Enhanced by the addition of links where applicable. I'm asking, do you have an opinion? Sound off in the comments.


Blogger Caroline said...

Me, be lazy and all, I would prefer some type of Enhanced First Reference Note used as Source List Note. Also, it would be easier for newbie genea-bloggers to grasp [and not scare them away]. Now, if the blog post is more technical and/or long, First and Subsequent Reference Notes would probably be better.


October 23, 2009 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


You are my favorite kind of woman; one with an opinion.

Thank you!


October 23, 2009 at 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


First, let me just say that I wish I knew you when I was in college and grad school.

So, would an Enhanced First Reference Note work for blogging if used as a Source List Note listed in the order used and placed at the end of the blog post/article?

Yes, I think so. But, as you say...there's no citation police and no tickets. I think if we write our family histories for publication, then we should try to obey all of the known rules for citations. But blogging is a different animal. I love having guidelines, but sometimes you have to tweak it (provided that you do know your source material and have it available for occasions where someone asks or you "formally" use the post for printed publication).

Donner, former English major who should probably like citations more than I do

October 23, 2009 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


I agree with you completely and this points up one of my pet peeves.

You must understand citations to understand their problems. Plug and play citation templates, forms, and programs are completely useless if you wouldn't know a correct citation if it appeared on your desktop.


October 23, 2009 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Michael Hait said...

I would really hate to disagree with a consensus by the two top "citation geeks." Nonetheless, I do have a question/suggestion, in regards to consistency. First, though, I must ask if you are citing the gravestone photo in the above note style, or the user-submitted information that accompanies the photo (i.e. the database)?

In terms of Reference Notes, when citing the photograph, why not use the format:

So and so gravestone, So and so cemetery; digital photograph, Find A Grave ( : accessed 25 Oct 2009); photograph submitted by So and so, dated ...

I will have to do a little more research - these are just a few preliminary thoughts, but here is my thinking:

Most sources follow the pattern:

Original record[; media[; source of media]]

For example, a census record on is cited (using EE here; don't yet have the Quicksheet):

1850 U. S. Census, Sucha Co., State, population schedule, Town, page, dwelling, family, household; digital image, ( : accessed 25 Oct 2009); citing NARA microfilm ....

Likewise an FHL microfilm would be cited:

Original record citation; FHL microfilm number.

Both of these follow the same pattern, just using different media.

Shouldn't a Find A Grave photo be cited using the same pattern?

All of the above now being said (at length; sorry), if you were referring to the actual user-submitted database entry rather than the stone photographs, then forgive me and forget everything.

(I will also admit that I am not consulting any references while writing this. A little too comfortable where I am sitting. Just working from your posts and my memory, which I hope has not played any tricks on me as I write this.)

October 25, 2009 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Love you citation geeks. You did all that off the top of your head? Wow!

Cited to the memorial database. ESM discusses this in EE at pg. 229 I believe, in reference to Virtual Cemetery.

How I see this is Find A Grave is an online database containing digital images and written information under a specific memorial database number. EE has a standard for it and I used it with online enhancements.

The citation is to a specific memorial and I have differentiated between the two types of information, depending on what was being used. ESM would not. It is, however, as she said analogous to the census.

Now I do see where you're coming from and I think it might also be similar to LOC photos that have bibliographic information.

Hmmm. I think I'll ponder this in the morning.


October 25, 2009 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger Michael Hait said...

Definitely more in the morning - nearing midnight here & I have to be up in 5 hours. The fact that I even care at this time of night PROVES my geekhood.

Look forward to discussing this a bit more, as I often create my own citations to online databases/images not specifically mentioned in EE using this formula.

October 25, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

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