Source Citations & the Velcro Principle

14 April 2014

The Velcro Principle? Yes. That's the one we follow when trying to decide how to arrange all the elements of a citation: "Don't separate what ought to stick together."

  • A page number for an imaged document should be part of the citation to the document—not part of the citation to the film or website on which the document was reproduced.
  • An image number within a database should be attached to the database, not the original document.
  • A frame number for a roll of microfilm should be attached to the identification of the film, not the document itself.
  • A citation to a National Archives microfilm, which cites NARA's publication number, should then cite the roll number within that NARA publication—not a roll number or call number that appears on the copy of the film that's in your particular library's microfilm drawer.

All that is just "common sense. Still, "common sense" so often falls off the table when we sit down with a bunch of details about a source and try to fit them all together.

Submitted bygreglovelaceon Mon, 04/14/2014 - 11:57

I have just received copies of some naturalization papers from the South Carolina Archives.  They were copied from a microfilm which appears to be an in-house filming project, as the Family History Library doesn't have the film in their catalog.  Info from the SC Archives website:


"Record Group Number:  000044

Series Number:  .L 44067

Creator:  South Carolina. Court of Common Pleas (Union County)

Title, Dates:  Citizenship petitions, circa 1802-1910

Quantity:  1.00 microfilm reel(s)"


Written on the copies themselves:


"Union County 


Frames 77-78



From what I can gather, UW92 is the film number.

In EE, I can find citations for articles removed to state archives, and I can find citations for articles filmed for preservation.  Since the copies were not made from the actual documents but from microfilm, what information needs to be included in the citation?  I'm having a tough time with this one.

Submitted byEEon Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:18

Greg, let's make it simple: cite the microfilm. QuickCheck Model, p. 104 "Preservation Film: In House," should cover it.

If you want to add, in your working notes, that photocopies of the film were supplied by the State Archives, you can. After all, they're your working notes; you're free to add anything that helps you.

Incidentally, I'm going to add this discussion to the Citation Issues Forum where others can find it later when they have the same problem.

Submitted bygreglovelaceon Mon, 04/14/2014 - 20:31

Thanks, EE...  I'll follow this advice.  BTW...  hope to see you in Richmond!