Citing Ancestry's United States Federal Census database

Since I refer to both Ancestry's database and the provided image for census citations, I use "database with images" within my citations.  But the transcription provided often provides incorrect information.  Especially regarding the spelling of names and page numbers.  I have found the page numbers are very frequently incorrect.  If I correct the page number in the citation, and it differs from the transcribed information, have I placed a stumbling block in front of future users of my data?  And when answering, keep in mind if I cite only the image, I would have to re-do thousands of citations.  

Submitted byEEon Wed, 12/01/2021 - 17:03

allenawilson, EE would never recommend spending the time to "re-do thousands of citations" to fit an e-world situation, given the fluidity of that world.

The basic rule is this: We cite what we use. If we use the images, we cite the images. If we use a provider's "database entry," then we cite that, using whatever detail is essential to (a) relocate that database entry and (b) evaluate the accuracy of that database entry.  You might, going forward, add an explanation of problems you see.

I am assuming that you've also seen EE 6.20 "Correcting Database Entries," which was intentionally placed in the census-records chapter.

As an aside, I might also point out that a database entry at Ancestry and elsewhere is not a "transcription." As noted in EE's glossary, a transcription is "an exact copy of a record, word-for-word, preserving original punctuation and spelling."   What we have with these database entries is a selective extraction of certain information, to the exclusion of other information, with details taken from their original sequence or context and rearranged to fit the format designed by the provider.

Submitted byallenawilsonon Wed, 12/01/2021 - 19:50

Thank you so much for your quick reply.  

As you have probably heard often, I missed that.  Especially that one particular paragraph.  By the way, it's p. 271 (stamped)!  Ha!  

Going forward, I will use the database information as a tool, but extract the information from the image directly.  And, I'll start using "image" instead of "database with images."  

If I still have your attention, I would appreciate comments on the following sample citation.

1850 United States Federal Census, Pickens County, Alabama, population schedule, Southern District, p. 66A (stamped), dwelling 805, family 837, line 41, Isaac Taylor household; database with images, ( : accessed 01 Dec 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 13.


I'm not EE/ESM, but your sample is really close to how my citations come out! I typically don't specify the line number since I'm usually citing to the household which would be multiple lines. And since I'm already specifying dwelling and family numbers, I decided to omit the line number.


1880 U.S. census, Greene County, Indiana, population schedule, Marco (village), ED 312, p. 22 (penned), p. 245-B (stamped), dwelling 199, family 201, Frank Hunter [household]; image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 Mar 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 281.

Submitted byallenawilsonon Wed, 12/01/2021 - 21:17

Thanks for the comments.  I've read that about the line number.  Will consider that.  And I like putting "household" in square brackets.

Submitted byEEon Thu, 12/02/2021 - 08:25

allenwilson, EE will rubber-stamp niteowl1851's suggestion.  EE uses "database with images" after the title of a database, as a descriptor to say what that title represents. In your case, you're not citing a title so that modifier has nothing to modify unless you are saying that everything that came before it was a "database with images"—which you don't mean to say.

Submitted byallenawilsonon Fri, 12/03/2021 - 19:19

EE, that makes perfect sense.  I will be more careful in the future to identify exactly what I am citing.  Thanks, Allen.