"Application for Search of Census Records"

A distant cousin of mine just sent me a copy of a document that I have never seen before.

It is an “Application for Search of Census Records.”  My cousin’s dad didn’t have a birth certificate so he had to fill this form out to get social security benefits.  I guess this was in lieu of obtaining a delayed birth certificate.  This form was completed in 1952.  

I found this at NARA

This is a newer form than what I have but it is basically the same thing.

I am trying to figure out how to cite this properly.  I could site it as an artifact since it was found in the personal effects of this man’s father but it is a government form so I would prefer to site it that way. 

Submitted byEEon Sat, 01/14/2017 - 09:36

miclew, your first instinct is correct: cite it as a family artifact. That's how it came to you. It may be a government form; but you did not get it from any government office. There is no government collection in which you would find that form.

Submitted byHeidi Corningon Mon, 01/16/2017 - 13:12

Is this true of any document I hold? I'm working with my own family's papers, which include things like displaced person documents, or certificates of naturalization. I received them as their personal items upon their deaths. Thanks.

Yes, Heidi. Any time we use papers in someone else's "collection" and any time we inherit family papers, we cite them for what they are—papers held by an individual. Rarely do those papers or artifacts come with documentation that tell us the agency that issued them, what collection in that agency the record is filed in, or the chain of custody that verifies authenticity. We may make "educated guesses" about what office or agency issued a particular piece of paper, based upon its internal data, but that educated guess can easily be wrong.

Of course, if you, yourself, acquired those papers directly from a government agency or archive, then you cite the agency that officially provided it or the archive and archival collection in which you found it.