How to reference records found in

+15 votes

If I want to reference a census record found in, is there some requirement to paste in the "CITING THIS RECORD" text verbatim?  I would prefer to put something like:

1900 Census found in FamilySearch.Org  

as a link, rather than:


"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 1 April 2016), David E Pate, Precinct 3, Millview & Precinct 5, Beulah, Escambia, Florida, United States; citing sheet 6A, family 97, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,240,168.

Has FamilySearch demanded that this reference be added to citations in WikiTree?

in Policy and Style by James Evans G2G6 Mach 1 (10.2k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Hi James,

I used to feel the same way.  I especially did not like the little links that sometimes go to Ancestry from the FamilySearch page.

Now I do cut and paste the entire thing for use as a source.  I have found that it is sometimes very helpful to see the basic information included such as "Sarah shown in the household of Hiram Hathaway" on a census record saves me having to click, read, and figure again to determine what is sourced and the basic information contained in the record.

Also, when finding additional records for sources, it is sometimes nice to note the #s of the records you have already used.  I often look to the last 3 digits of the record # to ensure I've not already posted it to the profile.

I would imagine other people adding to the profile in the future would appreciate the added info as well.

Oddly enough, it's also the easiest way to do it :)

There are those who do it differently, and it really does look great!
I remember the excitement I started out with, prematurely  given my computer skills at the time, to enter what I knew personally about my family.  Then I started to research and enter sources, mostly from  What a mess a newbie made with all of the numbers and figures.  I took literally hours to keep making corrections on a project.  I was  taking computer classes at the local library and asked the teacher to show me how to cut and paste.  After her lesson, I could do in 15 minutes what I had taken three hours to do the night before. This is from someone who took up computers at 75 and was trying to self teach herself.  The whole class got a laugh when I reported on my improvement.  My advise to a newbie like me is to take advantage of the citation and appreciate how convenient it made sourcing for me!

5 Answers

+17 votes
Best answer
I just copy and paste the whole thing for three reasons.

1 it is the easiest

2 It is the closest to the recommended " Evidence Explained" style I will ever attain.

3 And the best reason is they say we should cite it that way in their terms of use.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
selected by Living Terink
Adding to Dale's common-sense answer, my personal view is that it is simply common courtesy to keep the citation intact.

If you found a source at a particular site, use their preferred citation format. That's why it's there.

Why make more work for yourself - just copy and paste!
+4 votes
James, i am no expert by any means but what I am understanding from your question is that you just want to create a link to the source, not actually write a citation. A genealogy citation would include all the information provided by family search. You do not have to include their link. You could shorten it to The citation is an actual roadmap to the source. Sorry if I misunderstood your question. Still waiting the coffee to perk.
by Jeanie Roberts G2G6 Pilot (131k points)
Thanks for the answer.  I probably will include the text from the citation, but someone is indicating to me that there is some legal requirement to do so.  They are saying the FamilySearch has told us to include this text verbatim when referring to that record.  As far as anyone knows, is that true?
I'm going to keep an eye on this question as I am concerned about that word "verbatim." I use the wording provided by FamilySearch (and other websites) as a starting point for the citation. However, I often add or remove extraneous bits (i.e., adding the exact xx of xx reference for the image, adding the sheet number for a census, removing the three line description of the boundaries included in an enumeration district, etc.).

I don't think they have the right to force anyone to cite a source period never mind follow a specific format. This census is  available on multiple pay per view websites, you might have just as easily accessed it on Ancestry. 

When using Evidence Explained as your guide to writing citations the citation for a U.S. census is very different from the familysearch prefab one. It looks more like this:

  • 1940 U.S. census, _________ County, _______ [State], [Location], population schedule, enumeration district (ED) _____, page __ [(stamped)] or sheet __ [(handwritten)], dwelling __, family ___, line ____, [Name of Person]; digital image, ( accessed ________ [Date]); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll _______.
If I were using familysearch as the source, I would replace the with familysearch. This is considered by many if not most serious genealogist to be the proper format. It contains most of the same information, just a different order. 


As Keith said, it's just easier to copy it ... however, I do cut out the URL and paste it back in to the title of the document, inside braces ... just makes a nicer looking bit of text ... so something like:

[ 1940 U.S. census], blah blah

And that gets formatted quite nicely in a profile ... give it a try!!

That 's what I thought.  And I have done that, on an open profile that I personally created.  Then someone else that merged in and became a "Manager" also deleted all of my edits, and put back in the verbatim reference from the FamilySearch census record.  I even had put '''Person Name''' in the text of the record just to bold it to make it easier to find the person out of all the siblings.  This other manager came in an deleted those edits, telling me that wasn't permitted.  I think this person is blowing smoke, but I just want to make sure.  She obviously knows much more than I do about genealogy, but I just don't see any of these hard and fast rules spelled out either on WIkiTree or FamilySearch.  I would say it is probably a "Best Practice" to include the verbatim reference, but if I choose to replace the URL in the reference with a link in brackets back to the source, and to BOLD the name of the ancestor in the text I would think that would be acceptable.  Obviously I'm not going to go to battle over this.  I just want to know if there is anything at all to what she is telling me.


I guess this is why sharing a profile demands alot of patience. You organize your profiles you are working on to make it easy to read for yourself, but sometimes the way you organize isn't satisfactory to someone else. Though one......

I'd say if someone wants to add...please do, but be nice about how others organize. I have gotten pointers and sometime it takes a while to see things different...but if you are nice about it, in the end we all see the light.
+6 votes

I use the whole citation (minus the section that has the access date, ie : accessed 1 April 2016), because I have found that often enough, when you have  just the link, that link changes/disappears over time and with site upgrades etc, and just brings you to an Error: page not found. 

If the whole citation in there, then if the error happens, there is still all the information about dates/location/origin of source etc. etc

In your example, I would delete the part in red, because it is not part of the actual citation, just the date you opened that file.  Personal preference, some people leave it in..

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 1 April 2016), David E Pate, Precinct 3, Millview & Precinct 5, Beulah, Escambia, Florida, United States; citing sheet 6A, family 97, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,240,168.


by Chris Hoyt G2G6 Pilot (790k points)

Good idea.  I also just seem to not like raw URLs, particularly when I can hide them and put a nice link. 

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (Link to record on, David E Pate, Precinct 3, Millview & Precinct 5, Beulah, Escambia, Florida, United States; citing sheet 6A, family 97, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,240,168.

So is there some legal or moral reason I shouldn't be able to do that?  This other manager is telling me that "They have told us to use their citation", and that changes aren't allowed.



I think it is fairly useful, actually, to leave the date in.  Because then you can always *prove* "well, on 31 March 2015 it was there" and the enquirer can always go and look for themselves.  But if you have taken the date out, the whole citation is no longer a real source.  It could be something you have made up - either last year or last month.  But at least, if you have the date, you have the proof.
I always include the date I accessed the record. I even include it if I use findagrave or anyother website. It's showing that details could have been changed and corrected from that time.
I include the accessed date for the same reason, and it came in handy recently because several of my citations for some birth records completely disappeared from FamilySearch and produced a 404 error -  Page Not Found.

I was able to submit a problem report to FamilySearch with the exact date that I had accessed the records, so hopefully, they'll be able to come back to me with an answer as to where they went.

Also, I'm sure I'm not the only person who would appreciate people leaving the URL intact for any records they cite -- whether encased in brackets or not -- so that the rest of us can easily get to that record and do additional research on a family. I use these all the time to comb through census records to find related families.
+8 votes
I keep the whole citation FamilySearch makes, for some reason to me it seems to seem more professional and nice. Plus alot of other people use it that way, to then it's easy for people to read it one way, rather than have the citation all willy washed around. It's easy to recognize the FamilySearch citation.

I've even started doing other sources in near fashion. Congruentcy is huge to me, so having it the same everywhere just help me and whoever else out.
by Davian Pfeiff G2G6 (7.8k points)
+4 votes

I've been a cheerful cutter and paster of FamilySearch's ready-made citations. But as I embark upon my own "genealogy do-over" and struggle to fit these citations into very imperfect pc software, I'm beginning to realize the problems with doing so. More than just the serious, inevitable problem of future dead links, FamilySearch's automated citations often have big holes in the information they include.

As an extreme example, consider the census citation below:

"United States Census, 1930", database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 December 2015), Thomas D Ross in entry for Dennis Ross, 1930.

This citation FamilySearch proposes includes NO household, sheet, enumeration, etc. information in it that you see on the right side of the page to which the link brings you. If the link in this citation ever died, you would no longer have any of that crucial data tied to it.

My point? This blog post has it right:

Maybe cutting and pasting FamilySearch's ready-made citations is NOT the best practice. I am going to have to rethink my habits here...

by anonymous G2G6 Mach 1 (17.8k points)
edited by anonymous
Michael, that's the citation for the indexed record. What's the source for the actual image? (i can't check from my cell phone). I ask because the citation in the original question includes a more complete citation than your example.

That said, thanks for the link to EE.
Michael, many thanks for the link to EE! I've added the site to my main bookmarks, right next to my link to WikiTree.

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