Is there an accepted way to add census records?

+8 votes
I have seen many different ways to add census records. Inline, as sources without inline references, as a separate section in the Biography and as a separate section under sources. Is there a best practice for census records?
WikiTree profile: Rachel Lukens
in The Tree House by Nancy Wilson G2G6 Mach 4 (40.9k points)

10 Answers

+8 votes

I do not know if there is an acceptable way to add census records.  However, I have my own personal standard as to how I have been adding them.  I use a named reference to the census on the first 'fact' for which it provides support and than repeatedly use that named reference for each and every 'fact' for which it provides support.  I also include a == Residence == section and include a separate line for each residence that can be supported including each census record.  This might have been obvious since you referenced one such profile I have used this approach on, but I figured I would state it anyway.  If you get better answers I have lots of profiles to update. :-)

Jeff Timmons
by Jeff Timmons G2G5 (5.5k points)
I like the way you did this Jeff. That is what made me ask the question.


Nice job on the profile! There is a lot of flexibility allowed when composing the Biography, and I believe that having a Residence subsection is within the guidelines.

But Residence shouldn't be a level 2 heading/section, which is reserved for the highest level headings/sections. See the Biographies Help Page for more information.

Going forward, you may want to make the Residence subsection a level 3 heading (=== Residence ===), which would put it under the level 2 == Biography section ==. Or if you don't believe that it belongs within the Biography section, you could add an optional level 2 == Research Notes == heading under which you could place a level 3 Residence subsection. I don't use a Residence subsection but I usually abstract the census records (and the other sources) in a Research Notes section.

That's a really nice profile, Jeff! I like to do the same, track residence. It also helps keep the full citation out of the narrative. laugh

+7 votes

I do something similar, formatted a bit different but the same level of detail and referencing. For example, Jessie L. (Fuller) (Loring) (Sylvester) Merritt.

by Stu Bloom G2G6 Mach 6 (60.8k points)
Wow, Stu, that is one of the best examples of a profile I have seen. Very detailed. But, I don't think I could do that much work on each profile.
I don't, but Jessie's life piqued my interest, so I spent a day or so with her. Thanks for the compliment.
+4 votes

According to the help page on sources, you can list them at the bottom, but the preferred way is to use inline citations.

by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (421k points)
I cannot find any statement in the various sources style guidelines that say that inline citations are preferred.

Could you provide a link to the relevant Help page that has that statement?

This page Help: Sources, at least infers, that it is preferred.  

In the "Embed them as references (footnotes) section

As you become more experienced and start to collaborate with other WikiTreers you will need to learn how to create references, i.e. footnotes, endnotes, or citations.

Later in the Advanced Sourcing section, it discusses the Repeated use of the same source, which is inline citation, also.

The Help:Sources_Style_Guide  describes the difference between Sources and References

Sources are the Source List

References are called the citations, reference notes, inline references, etc. 

A reference provides a source for a specific statement in the text. Ideally every fact related to a person has a reference.

The same source is often used multiple times to support different facts. Instructions for doing this are on the Sources page.

I don't agree that any preference is implied by our sources style guidelines.

In my opinion, if a preference isn't explicitly stated in the guidelines, then we should not be advising our fellow WikiTreers that one exists. We can be expected to follow guidelines that are stated, but not guidelines that are not stated.

Inferring a preference is merely a matter of opinion.
+5 votes

Sometimes I create a Residence or Census section, but frequently, I include it in the biography as the year and location with the inline citation.  

I 'usually' include a copy / paste of the family list section for the US census from 1850 forward.  Having the family list helps to 'prove' the parents, spouse, children, as well as when birth, marriage, and death occurred within the family.  It also helps with spelling variations as seen in sources. For 1900 and 1910, I frequently add information to the family list lines with information from the census, ie birth Month / Year, marriage year, parents birth state, number of children and living children (for the wife).

For those US census prior to 1850, I have the person's name, then a line with Male and a line with Female, showing how many people in each category using the Column Headers for US Census 1790-1840

Wikitree allows you to decide how you would like your sources to appear in your profiles, as long as the profiles have sources!!  
by Linda Peterson G2G6 Pilot (474k points)
I usually like to have a Census section.  There is definitely great information from 1850 forward.  I especially like 1900, which gives the number of children born to a mother and how many children are living.  That's helpful in finding children who may have died young.
+6 votes
I prefer to arrange my profiles chronologically so I've been trying to extract the census information as fully as possible wherever it falls in time. Occasionally I may need to refer to it earlier or later but the full extraction is still "saved" for where it falls chronologically. As for the extractions--sometimes I've done it totally narratively and sometimes I've done it with a table combined with some narrative--I'm beginning to like the latter better since Ian Beacall's table-maker is making it so easy to produce a table. Sometimes I put the table in the bio and sometimes I have the table in with the the sources. I'm working to transition all my source citations to inline, so the first "fact" the census confirms or the first time it is mentioned is where the initial source citation will be placed with "named source citations" for where it is mentioned next. Also, I'm beginning to remove all my sub-headings except those required because I really do not like the "Table of Contents." I am using bold font where I previously used the === sub-heading === so a Table of Contents is not produced.

It really is about personal preferences, usually. WikiTree does have some style guidelines and some "rules" which are required, but how the census is presented/sourced is not one of them yet.
by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (295k points)
Hi Nelda,

I believe that the Table of Contents is automatically generated if there are more than 3 headings/subheadings within the profile text. You can suppress the TOC if you prefer by adding the __NOTOC__ statement (note that there are 2 underscores at the beginning and end of that statement). I usually place it on a separate line at the very top of the profile text (not sure if it's required to be in that position for it to function correctly).
I guess I didn't say that very well, Rick. I know the table of contents is generated automatically if there are more than 3 headings/subheadings which is why I do not use any except the required headings/subheadings but just use bold text instead for sections I might need or want to set apart. But thanks for the coding tip to suppress the table of contents.
Nelda, I would recommend putting the 'citation' at the end of the census / address line, instead of after the table, since the reference isn't seen there are well

It looks very nice with the table
Will consider your suggestion, Linda. Thanks!
+5 votes


Like many others I have my own method, using in-line citations of course  

an example - Herman Willis Smith (1877 - 1965)

by Philip Smith G2G6 Pilot (278k points)
+4 votes
I agree. There are many different, but acceptable ways of presenting census info. I personally like to see them in chronological order and expanded with all household members, as well as occupations, as that provides family context. If the profile is lengthy I often put them under sections, so they show up in the TOC.

by Christine Pike G2G6 Mach 1 (14.5k points)
edited by Christine Pike
+2 votes
This is how I do it. I like the way it looks and I like to see all the information on the profile.  Every once and a while someone comes along and thinks it's too much and they remove all but the reference.  I put it back.  Once someone changed it *again* and I asked them nicely to knock it off and they did.
by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Pilot (114k points)
+1 vote

I think the best practice is to remember that we live in an age of sound bites and biographies should have complete sentences.  Census data is what the government wanted to know.  What do I want out of that data?  The rest goes in footnotes, which by the way, is very handy for creating related profiles.  Here is one I just started, with the marriages, then the census data.  By lining up the sources by year, I can tell where I left-off and someone else can tell where to jump-in. (Oh. And, this method is called a 'proof summary.')

Hezekiah Goodin

Add:  Thank you so much Nancy!  i applied your method and was able to, finally, do one profile that is not a cookie cutter biography:  Wade Hampton Goodin

by Anonymous Britain G2G6 Mach 2 (25.1k points)
edited by Anonymous Britain
+2 votes
It's personal preference. I find that how I display census information depends on what other information I have on the person. For a simple bio, arranging census info in chronological order throughout the bio works. That can look clumsy on a more complex bio, especially when discussing different stages of a person's life. Then I tend to put them all in a section at the bottom.
by Leandra Ford G2G6 Mach 9 (96.1k points)

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