Canadian Homestead Files

The FHL has the early Saskatchewan and Alberta Homestead files as browsable images of a collection based upon of microfilmed versions of the original file folders and contents. To facilitate ordering an image copy of the individual file contents (if desired) from the provincial archives, I would like to highlight the file identification and not the online FHL collection. That is; I would like to describe the file in a first layer and then where it is viewable online in a second layer.

Could I cite it in the following manner, when referring to the content of the entire file?

First Reference Note
Saskatchewan homestead file, no. 1654619, John Hoffos, 10 September 1908; viewable online as, "Canada, Saskatchewan Provincial Records, 1879-1987", browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 September 2022), items 69–74 of 1015.

Submitted byEEon Tue, 09/20/2022 - 08:11

History-Hunter, in our own working files, we can do what we please.

That said,

  • Evidence Style citations present the original document in the first layer only if the image (or image set) provides all the information needed to create a complete and reliable citation to the original.
  • If we are dependent upon the website that provides the image to tell us essential details about the identity and whereabouts of the original, then the website should be the first layer. The details of the original then go in a final layer of the citation, prefaced by the word "citing ..." to clearly indicate that what we know about the original is what the website is telling us.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Tue, 09/20/2022 - 11:30

Your statement opens up a logical "can of worms" for me. Perhaps the following illustrates why.

While citation may be an art, there are usually just a few key characteristics that define an artistic style. It is identifying those that are essential for me to mimic the style. I suspect that citing what was viewed directly, in the first layer, is one of them.

So; since websites use a published book paradigm and can stand on their own, no second layer is required. That answers one nagging question.

However; I have often seen Parish Register citations with a first layer describing the register, as if it were a separately viewable entity, and a second layer giving the website where the images reside. I would have expected to see them cited as a website, since the physical register was definitely not viewed. I imagine the same would be true for any item viewed on a website.

The saying about citation being an art and not a science may not be sufficient to help me to faithfully replicate the EE style. Perhaps you could help me understand the reason I see such variations and when they are permissible?

Submitted byEEon Wed, 09/21/2022 - 09:27

History-Hunter, you ask why a parish register might be cited in the first layer of a citation, rather than the website that delivered the images. The answer is in my second bullet above:

  • If we are dependent upon the website that provides the image to tell us essential details about the identity and whereabouts of the original, then the website should be the first layer.

A filming project might include the cover of the register that specifically identifies the church, the location, and the title of the book. The page images might show explicit page numbers. Within those images, we might have all the details needed for a full citation to the register, just as though we were in the church clerk's office, holding the register in our hands.

In many cases, however, the filming project does not image all the details we need and we are dependent upon what the website tells us. Those details may or may not be correct.

There is also the issue of organizational complexity within the archive that holds the original. When parish registers are still held by the parish, the "archive organization" is likely to be minimal; citation details will also be minimal. Conversely, materials created by a state, provincial, or national government are more commonly kept in archives with a highly structured system of files within folders within boxes within collections within subseries within series within record groups.

If we are physically in an archive, using the materials first-hand and copying the labels off each folder or box we use, we have the details we need to construct a complete citation to what we are using. If we are using those records online, we rarely can see all those details for ourselves. For identification, we are dependent upon what the website tells us--which may or may not be accurate or complete. Therefore, the safest practice is to cite the website first, identify what we are using there, and then add a final layer saying that the website is "citing [whatever]. 

The overriding "artistic principle" is always this: We cite what we use.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Wed, 09/21/2022 - 10:51

Thank you, so much, for the explanation. It helps me a great deal.

If I may reflect it back in my own words, to make sure I understood you fully...

1) If what was imaged on the site contains sufficient information, within the item images themselves, to create a complete conventional EE citation to an item, then one may consider using that citation as an initial layer and provide the website info in a subsequent layer. Alternatively; one may choose to cite the material as part of the website.

2) If what was imaged does not meet the criteria in point 1, then one must cite the material as part of the website.

This would appear to mean that for online records; one may always use the a website form of citation, but placing the item first is only usable in a restricted set of circumstances.

(Parenthetically; I should note that some imaged documents no longer exist anywhere than on the site, so meeting the criterial of point 1 may not be particularly helpful in finding a copy. For physical materials, one would then typically state precisely where the item could be viewed and a reference/call number. I suppose the same to be true for materials imaged online, which tends to lend weight to citing the item as part of a website.)

Ultimately; for me, the next-to-last sentence of your response is key to my goal of creating citations with a somewhat consistent look-and-feel across an entire report.

"Therefore, the safest practice is to cite the website first, identify what we are using there, and then add a final layer saying that the website is "citing [whatever].

Submitted byEEon Wed, 09/21/2022 - 13:26

History-Hunter, the only point left to discuss is your use of the word "must" under 2).  EE has used that word liberally in its evidence analysis chapter, because there are a number of hard-fast rules for determining what constitutes reliable research. But in the rest of the book just about every "rule" has its "it depends" situations. :)

Yes. I'm sure that I'll find situations that cause issues. No plan survives first contact with the enemy :>). However; I don't mind working the odd issue. At least they stand out more clearly, when I use a consistent initial approach for citing online information.