Better Online Citations Video – Text Only

Thursday, 14 May 2009 | by Mark Tucker

I’ve been immersed in technology for so long, that sometimes I forget that not everyone has a high-speed internet connection. Thanks A A Bowen for reminding me of that.  Below you will find the text of the video, A Better Way to Cite Online Sources, in script form.  Before I recorded the video of the PowerPoint and demo using Camtasia Studio 6, I wrote a script to get my thoughts together and try to be more concise. The text is likely not 100% of what was said on the video, but it is close.  That is why I am calling it a script instead of a transcript.

Between the script and the detailed description of the demo, you should be in a good position to answer the survey questions without the need to see the video.

Take the Survey!

Please take a few minutes to complete a survey about citing online genealogy sources.

  • Click Here to take survey for individual genealogists or family historians
  • Click Here to take survey for companies and organizations that provide genealogy software or services


Sooner or later anyone doing genealogy or family history research will meet up with the challenge of source citations. Some will immediately dismiss the topic and move on. Others will find the topic too big of a challenge to even try. Still others will set out with the best of intentions but will get bogged down in the complexity. The numbers that face the learning curve of source citations and conquer its intimidating slope are relatively few.

This has lead many to believe that citing sources is only for the professional genealogist. You may hear them say: “I’m just a personal family historian, no need to cite my sources.” The last time most of us were asked to create a bibliography or cite a source was for a paper we wrote in high school or college.

Researchers at every level should seek for credibility in their research. How else will we be able to separate fact from fiction? Citations are a minimum for our work to be considered as credible. The question is not “do we need to cite sources?” its “how do we make citing sources achievable by all?”

Currently citing sources is just too difficult. In recent years this is getting easier with the creation of genealogy citation guides, quick sheets, and software. But it needs to be even easier still.

There is another problem when it comes to online genealogy database websites like FamilySearch, Ancestry, Footnote, WorldVitalRecords, GenSeek and others. Similar sources on each of these websites have different citation formats or even no citations at all.

The amount of genealogy information currently on the internet is like a swimming pool full and in just a few years that will grow to an ocean full. To avoid adding more confusion to an already confusing situation, there needs to be standardized citations across these genealogy database websites.

In this demonstration I would like to show how easy it can be to cite online sources in your desktop genealogy software. What I am showing is prototype code. I am using RootsMagic 4 because of its support for citation templates from Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained. Other desktop genealogy applications that support these templates are: Legacy Family Tree 7 and Family Tree Maker 2009.

First I will create a new database in RootsMagic and will go ahead and close it. Now I will visit a sample genealogy website that contains some information on my ancestor, Worth Tucker. This website represents one of the larger online genealogy database sites mentioned earlier or could be a site containing someone’s personal research. On this site we find information about Worth Tucker’s property ownership in Elmo, Emery County, Utah. There is an extract from the book, A History of Emery County, as well as images of the book’s cover, title page, copyright page, and page 179. Notice also that there is a source citation for the book following a format in Evidence Explained.

Because the website contains the citation and supporting documents, I could use my desktop software to create a person entry for Worth and a fact or event entry for property ownership. I would then create a source and detail entry for the citation and link it to the event. I could also download the images to my computer and associate them to the source. But that is even more complicated than it needs to be.

This website supports a “Quick Cite” feature that allows easy import of the citation and associated files into my desktop genealogy software. When I click the button, the information is downloaded to my computer and the import begins. Since I have other genealogy software installed on my computer, I will be asked to select which program to use. In just a few seconds the information will be imported into my software and when I open my database then I will be able to see all the information properly cited.

Here is my entry for Worth Tucker showing the property fact. This fact has one source following the “Book, Basic format” template from Evidence Explained. The template fields are filled out correctly. Also imported was the source media. Here you find the three images for the source and here the image for the page that was cited. It even imported the extracted text from the source.

Now that is the way that citation of online sources should be done!

Is this a feature that interests you?

The technology to do this exists right now.

What is needed is for us to speak up and let the creators of our genealogy software and the online database websites know that this is a feature that we want. When the genealogy community unites to petition for records preservation and access, numbers count. The same is true when we want solutions to difficult challenges like source citation.

Contact the companies and organizations whose products and services you use. Let them know what you want. Send them a link to this video. Share this with friends and associates via e-mail, social networking sites or blogs.

Another way to participate is to complete a 5-minute survey that describes your level of interest in such a feature. The results will be shared with any individual, organization or company that completes the survey.

1 Comment »

  1. That would be great!

    Comment by Rosemary — 6 Aug 2009 @ 7:30 am

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