"Source Citation" or "Original Data" when both appear equivalent?

"Source Citation" or "Original Data" when both appear equivalent?

Dear Editor:

I realize that this may appear to be a trivial question. However; if there is a proper one to use, I'd like to know and to understand why.

When constructing a citation for records from a Drouin Collection, hosted on Ancestry, I found the "Source Citation" and "Original Data" provide identical information in a different order. Consequently, neither would appear to be "more correct". That said; I tend to favour the "Original Data" format because it reminds me more of the format of a citation to a publication (author first).

In such cases, is there really a correct one to use or is it just personal preference?

Here are the two "options".

Source Citation: Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.

Original Data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.

Submitted byEEon Sun, 04/12/2020 - 19:04

History-Hunter, neither cluster of details is appropriate to simply copy. Multiple modifications are needed in both cases before either would resemble a reference note or a source list entry—regardless of which style manual one uses.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Mon, 04/13/2020 - 10:28

Dear Editor:

In re-reading my post, I realize that I gave you the wrong impression of what I needed to understand. My intention was to determine which of the two statements is more appropriate for use as the "source-of-the-source". I have already constructed the remainder of the citation per Quicklesson 26. Sorry for the confusion.


Submitted byEEon Tue, 04/14/2020 - 10:02


There are so many issues with simply copying one of those two options that I hardly know where to begin. I’ll focus on these four.

Order of elements (EE 3.3)

When citing manuscripts, we either start with the smallest and work up to the largest (U.S. style) or start with the largest and work down to the smallest (most common international style).  Both Ancestry options illogically go in all directions. In the example you present above, the identification includes six elements. If we start with the smallest and work up to the largest, those six are 1-Compiler, 2-Collection, 3-Archive, 4-City, 5-Province, 6-Country. However,

  • Ancestry’s “Source Citation” uses 3, 4, 5, 6, 2, 1.
  • Ancestry’s “Original Data” uses 1, 2, 4,5,6,3.

Citing what we used

Ancestry subdivides the Drouin Collection into six different databases. I could not find your example at any of them. In each case, however, Ancestry identifies the database and the specific set of records that is included in that database.

When we use one of Ancestry’s databases from the Drouin Collection, we are not using the whole collection. The Drouin Collection is not simply "hosted on Ancestry." Ancestry has made it's subdivisions and presents them within the organizational scheme that Ancestry chose. We may be eyeballing individual pages (when we cite the original rather than the database entry), but we are still using Ancestry’s database with images. The example you give above is a generic citation to the whole collection that disregards Ancestry entirely. It also leaves your readers with no idea of what kind of material you have used or where it would be found within the original collection you say you've used.

Distinction between published and unpublished material (2.22, 2.68)

In it’s “Source Identification” for each database, Ancestry puts the name of the manuscript collection in italics.  For example:

That tells users that the Drouin Collection is a publication. It isn’t.  Italics tell the reader: "This is a stand-alone publications: a book, a website, a magazine, a newspaper, an individually published map, etc." When we cite manuscript collections, we use plain roman type for their title, to inform our readers that the material is not published. 

(Side Note: There does exist a published version of the Drouin Collection, published on microfilm. EE uses that for an example at 7.37. But Ancestry does not cite that microfilm publication as its source. it cites the original records at the Institute itself.)

Distinction between a standalone publication & one small part of it (2.22, 2.68)

In each "source identification” for each database, Ancestry uses italics for its own database name. For example:

That also misleads. When we cite an individual part of a larger, stand-alone publication—such as a chapter in a book, an article in a magazine, a database at a website—the title of that individual part is copied exactly and placed in quotation marks. Italics identify for our users or readers the title of the larger, standalone publication. Quotation marks tell our users or readers that this is only a part of the bigger whole and they must locate and access the bigger in order to drill down to the smaller.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Tue, 04/14/2020 - 15:00

Dear Editor;

Thank you for your foregoing response. I would have posted the entire page image with the "Source Information" etc. but was unsure if this was permitted. Thank you for sourcing an example.

You state;
"... The example you give above is a generic citation to the whole collection that disregards Ancestry entirely. It also leaves your readers with no idea of what kind of material you have used or where it would be found within the original collection you say you've used."

Please understand that I already know that this source-of-the-source info provided by Ancestry is totally inadequate to the task. I did not create it, nor would I use it as presented by Ancestry, but it is all that is provided. Acknowledging that it is inadequate, I was hoping to focus on whether there is any remedial action I can take.

Submitted byEEon Tue, 04/14/2020 - 20:06

History-Hunter, the "remedial" action that EE would advise is to write our own citation.