A Better Way to Cite Online Sources

Thursday, 16 Apr 2009 | by Mark Tucker


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

Further Explanations

What Others Are Saying


Lisa Louise Cook

Randy Seaver


Dick Eastman

The Wandering Genealogist


  1. [...] [...]

    Pingback by Video: Better Way to Cite Online Sources | ThinkGenealogy — 20 Apr 2009 @ 6:11 am

  2. I’m curious, does this system use XML? I vaguely remember seeing something recently about an XML standard for citations in the book world and was wondering if this is in any way similar.

    Comment by Denise Olson — 20 Apr 2009 @ 12:47 pm

  3. This would either use XML as the file format or an updated version of GEDCOM.

    You might be thinking about Zotero which is a Firefox plug-in for citation or the following link from Taneya’s Genealogy blog:

    There are a number of tools to do citation including EndNote and RefWorks but to my knowledge none support templates from Evidence Explained.

    Many websites like support source citation:

    In fact, I see citing sources as an important feature of the soon-to-be-released GenSeek catalog.

    Keep thinking!


    Comment by Mark Tucker — 20 Apr 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  4. Hi Mark,

    I live in Phoenix and have used your Genealogical Proof Standard chart; I think it is really great. I teach a family history class at ASU and am the current president of the Arizona Council for Professional Genealogists. I hope that you will consider joining our group. Annual dues are $5 a year. We have a chat group on Yahoo where we can discuss genealogy issues. Let me know if you are interested in joining us. We would like to hear about your work


    Comment by Daniela Moneta — 20 Apr 2009 @ 8:21 pm

  5. Yes, please, I’ll have one of those for TMG, and I’d seriously consider switching to any software that could provide this functionality.

    Comment by Carole Riley — 22 Apr 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  6. Hi Mark,

    I am an experienced genealogist, and I teach genealogy at the Family History Training Center in Provo, Utah. How and why to use sources is one of my favorite soapbox issues. One of the things I am strong about is creating sources that are generic enough to be linked to several events for multiple people in the database. Each person in a genealogy database has the possibility of up to five source links just for the basic life events, ie birth, christening, marriage, death, burial. Multiply that by the number of people in the database and it is easy to see the need for being able to use a given source repeatedly wherever it is possible.

    Which brings me to the concern about the automatic source creation you have explained. I have some questions:

    Once the source is created for one event in one individual’s life (as in your example), can it be linked to another event for that person or for another person?

    If you find further data about the same person in the same source, but it is on a different page, do you need to go through the whole process and add another set of images, etc., to your source list?

    What happens when you create a personal data sheet for that person which includes the sources? Will your “sheet” be one page of genealogy data and several pages of source information, some of which is duplicated?

    What about a family group sheet? How will it look?

    While I like the idea of having digital images along with the text of a source, I can see a possibility of the sources becoming redundant and overwhelming, and therefore useless to the ordinary family historian. It looks good with just the one individual in your example file. How does it look in a file of a few thousand individuals. The redundancy is one of the problems that has been revealed in other programs which have automatically created sources and added them to a database, such as PAFInsight. People don’t bother to read source information unless it is simple and clear, and the pertinent data is easy to find. Our progenitors will need to know what document we looked at to find the genealogical assertion we made, and where they can find the same document to confirm that data. Everything else is bells and whistles.

    If there were a way to use your basic reference, “The History of Emery County,” with the pertinent publication information, etc., as the source, then personalize it for each citation with the page number and perhaps the page image and quoted text, you could really be on to something! You probably have several ancestors mentioned in that book. Why create a whole new source for each mention?

    Just my opinion, of course.


    Comment by Venita — 24 Apr 2009 @ 9:19 am

  7. [...] have been a number of comments from viewers of the video, “A Better Way to Cite Online Sources”, asking about how things work behind the scenes. Being a geek by nature, I tend to be technical [...]

    Pingback by Better Online Citations - Details Part 1 | ThinkGenealogy — 28 Apr 2009 @ 11:43 pm

  8. [...] Episode 64 of the Genealogy Gems podcast, Lisa calls online downloadable source citations a “Gem of an [...]

    Pingback by Better Online Citations Video Spotlighted by Genealogy Gems | ThinkGenealogy — 29 Apr 2009 @ 10:07 am

  9. [...] programmer I lean slightly to the side of XML and that is what I used in the prototype shown in the video. But I am open to either [...]

    Pingback by Better Online Citations - Details Part 2 (GEDCOM) | ThinkGenealogy — 3 May 2009 @ 9:24 am

  10. [...] would like to give Dick Eastman a big “Thank you” for blogging about the online citation video. It appeared in today’s post titled “Video Teaches Correct Citations of Online [...]

    Pingback by Dick Eastman Spreads the News about Online Source Citation Video | ThinkGenealogy — 6 May 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  11. [...] spent any time recently looking at genealogy blogs you will have come across Mark Tucker’s A Better Way to Cite Online Sources video on his ThinkGenealogy blog. Mark Tucker is starting a crusade to get online providers to [...]

    Pingback by Online Source Citation: my thoughts « The Wandering Genealogist — 8 May 2009 @ 2:01 pm

  12. No video link comes up on your web page. Is your server on overload from all the response to Dick’s article?

    Comment by Malcolm Young — 12 May 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  13. [...] 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, [...]

    Pingback by Better Online Citations Video - Text Only | ThinkGenealogy — 14 May 2009 @ 6:55 am

  14. [...] Hi everyone, I just completed an online survey from Mark Tucker about citing sources. Here’s the link to it. It would really help him out alot if you would take the quick [...]

    Pingback by Citing Sources – Online Survey « From the seed to the branches — 15 May 2009 @ 7:06 am

  15. The video makes the common mistake of omitting to cite the website where the source was viewed. A source is what you have viewed with your own eyes. In this case Mark Tucker has seen the images on the website, not the original pages in the edition of the book held in the library at Utah. It is always important when citing any information from a website to include the exact URL of the website as well as the date when the information was accessed. This applies to Ancestry and any other online databases just as much as to any other website. This page from the Harvard referencing system provides some guidelines about using online sources:

    The whole point of including a source in genealogy research is so that other people can check out your sources for themselves. What is the point of directing someone to a library in Utah when the source material is readily available online? I’ve sometimes been given similar obscure sources, and then subsequently discovered that there was no need to cross the Atlantic to check out an obscure book or database but that the information was readily available online on Ancestry or some other website.

    If you want a good example of a website which automatically provides source citations in the correct format using the URL and date then try copy and pasting material from the British History Online website:

    Note that the full citation including the precise URL and date are automatically generated. This is the format which companies like Ancestry and Find My Past should be encouraged to follow.

    Comment by Debbie — 28 May 2009 @ 6:00 am

  16. [...] about how to make citing online sources easier.  You can find out more about this on the page, A Better Way to Cite Online Sources.  Some of the suggestions that came from the survey and posts Details Part 1 and Details Part 2 [...]

    Pingback by Better Online Citations – Details Part 3 (MARC) | ThinkGenealogy — 20 Jun 2009 @ 12:05 am

  17. [...] In this post, we continue our exploration through existing bibliographic standards to see how they might work as a format for online sites to easily share citation information.  To see the journey we have made so far, visit the page, A Better Way to Cite Online Sources. [...]

    Pingback by Better Online Citations – Details Part 5 (MODS) | ThinkGenealogy — 22 Jun 2009 @ 8:24 am

  18. [...] 2009, I created a video that showed my dream for how citing online sources should be done (see blog post).  It would be a partnership between online record repositories and desktop genealogy [...]

    Pingback by A Better Way to Cite Online Sources–Reprise | ThinkGenealogy — 10 Feb 2011 @ 11:14 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress | Theme by Roy Tanck

Copyright 2010 Mark Tucker. All rights reserved.