Birth registers on FamilySearch

I was revisiting some of my citations, but I still feel insecure about citations, so I wanted your thoughts on this one:

Williamstown, Orange County, Vermont, "Record of Births 1897-1903,"  p. 8, Sabra Margaret Cross; digital image,  "Vermont, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1732-2005," FamilySearch ( 6 Nov 2023). 

Submitted byEEon Mon, 11/06/2023 - 08:39

mbcross, can you tell us why you are insecure about this citation?  What's making you uneasy about it?  (Yes, I see an issue; but you'll have a more productive long-range learning experience here, if you first try to define why you think there may be a problem.)


mbcross, the item that first caught my eye might be filed under the Don't Mix Peas with Apples Rule.  We discussed this a week or so ago with Matches at

Rule 1

When we cite online images of record books, we have two separate things to cite:  (a) the original record book; (b) the website that provides the images. We put the details for each in its own layer. Details that describe one of these should never appear in the layer for the other. 

In this case, your Layer 1 cites the original volume, while your Layer 2 cites the image provider. That's logical. The problem you faced is that the original volume carries no label at all on its cover. Inside, there is a printed title page with blanks left unfilled for all the critical information, so quoting that is pointless.

For want of a title on the cover, you backed up to the filmer’s target board and copied what’s there, in quotation marks.  That means, you used information created by the image provider as a label for the original book.  What now happens when someone who lives in Orange County, Vermont, tries to use your citation to locate a volume called “Record of Births 1897-1903,” in the local record office?  They won’t find a volume by that title.

EE 2.22 discusses these situations under the header “Untitled, Unpublished Manuscript, Register, Etc.”:

“When a manuscript or record book has no title, you should create your own generic description. You do not place your words in italics, because the item is unpublished. You do not use quotation marks because you are not quoting anything.* You may want to add an explanation in square editorial brackets.”


*In the case at hand, you were quoting something; but you were quoting the target created by the filmer, which goes back to Rule 1 above.

Re your worry that you may have omitted something: Yes, one thing is missing. You need a final “Citing …” Layer (aka Location Layer) to report whatever your source identifies as the location of these records.



I'm beginning to doubt the majority of the citations I have now and am discouraged. I feel like I don't know what to include or what not to include in a citation. I guess it's a good thing I have no intentions to publish my research.

mbcross, for simplicity, we could consider that "wherein?" to be just another Where?  For all of the who, what, when, where questions there are several points to be answered. With a simple book, for example:

  • Who? includes both Who wrote the book? and Who published the book? Sometimes, it would include Who edited the book?
  • What? could include both the book's title and the series in which that title appears, or a photo or map or table within the book.
  • When? could include both an original publication date and a reprint/revision date.
  • Where? would include where the book was published and where in the book we found a certain piece of information.

All are straightforward questions. The one that calls for deep thinking is that last one: Why should I believe this?

I decided to try with a different record set entirely:

Mower County, Minnesota,  Deaths vol. A, p. 13-14, Austin Hutchinson; digital image,   FamilySearch ( accessed 7 Nov 2023), image 818 of film 007552443.

One thing I am slightly unsure about is the title as shown here:

Submitted byEEon Thu, 11/09/2023 - 08:36

Interesting example! The volume was originally leather bound, with gold stamping placed horizontally. Then it was rebound in the heavy cloth that became commonplace in the mid-1900s, with lettering running vertically.

The cloth has now torn away, leaving fragments of letters with only A and Rec____ remaining. Underneath that torn fabric, from the original cover we can see _____R _____ and ____TH____.

Obviously, we can identify what the register is from those fragments, from the content, and from the filmer's target. But, again, we don't have an exact title to quote. Your identification as Deaths, vol. A, p. 13-14  (or Deaths, vol. A, pp. 13–14, since you are citing multiple pages) is a logical way to handle the situation.  To this citation, Evidence Style would add a final "Citing ..." Layer to report what the provider tells us about the location of the original volume.

Question: Is there a reason why you prefer not to cite this as part of the FamilySearch database, "Minnesota, County Deaths, 1850–2001" with the subsequent path > waypoints as per FS's example?   (Either approach would be "correct."  I'm just curious about what researchers prefer and why.)

Death Register


I am certainly open to using the database-level citation, and it might work in my favor in case I find any other relatives, such as Austin Hutchinson's wife, in this same database, but I'm not entirely sure how that would look:

"Minnesota, County Deaths, 1850-2001," database and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 9 Nov 2023); Austin Hutchinson (1871); Mower > Death register, 1870-1899, vol A > image 5 of 133.

Would I need an additional layer, i.e., "citing Mower County Recorder"?

So basically:

"Minnesota, County Deaths, 1850-2001," database and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 9 Nov 2023); Austin Hutchinson (1871); Mower > Death register, 1870-1899, vol A > image 5 of 133; citing Mower County Recorder.

Submitted byEEon Fri, 11/10/2023 - 10:35

mbcross, if you choose to feature the database, then the pattern (in both EE and in the FamilySearch suggestion) is this:

"Minnesota, County Deaths, 1850-2001," database and images,  FamilySearch  ( : accessed 9 Nov 2023) > Mower > Death register, 1870-1899, vol A > image 5 of 133, Austin Hutchinson (1871); citing Mower County Recorder.

Coloration marks each layer. Boldface marks the section where your path went astray.

Two very basic issues here are both covered in EE QuickStart Guide (see example for "Layered Citation: Database") and demonstrated throughout EE:

  • The path follows the website & URL, in the same order that you access it online. That's why it's called a path because it's the path you follow to get you from the URL to the specific item that you want. You don't go straight from the URL to Austin Hutchinson. You have to follow the path from the URL to get to the image where you find Austin Hutchinson.
  • If you feature the database, then you have only two layers, not three.  Layer 1 cites the database in the same basic format used for all publications, putting all details for your item of interest in the Specific Item field where you would cite a page number in a book. Layer 2 then reports whatever the database tells you about the source.

If you prefer to feature the original record book and its creator (as you did to start with), then there are three layers because you added a layer at the start in which you discussed the record book before you got to the point of identifying the online provider and its source.