More questions re: How to write subsequent reference notes to original document images in Ancestry databases

Hello again, EE,

Thank you for pointing me to several sections in EE4, Chapter 11, that provide explanations and examples re: the questions I asked in . (I’m posting this as a separate thread because I read that the Forum’s software sometimes misses follow-up responses.) I’m embarrassed that I didn’t recognize the appropriateness of the sections you specified on my own and very much appreciate your suggesting them.

However, studying those examples has led me to more questions as I try to understand the reasoning behind the rules in order to learn how to craft better reference notes on my own. Could you please tell me, regarding:

§11.39, Online Images, 1st Reference Note 3 and Subsequent Note 13: What does the person’s age add to the value of the note and is it a necessary element in this type of citation? It doesn’t seem needed for finding the record, and the information is presumably in the text to which the citation is attached, so it seems superfluous to me.          

§11.39, Online Images, 1st Reference Note 3: It leads with the database but Subsequent Note 13 leads with the creator of the original record. Why is the leading element changed? Is doing so always permissible and why would one want to?

§11.39, Online Images, 1st Reference Note 3: Why does it include both the direct URL to the exact image and the path to it?

§11.39 Online Images, 1st Reference Note 3 and Subsequent Note 13: I understand including the county as part of the path in the 1st Reference Note, but why is it needed in the phrase “death certificate, Shelby Co.,” in the Subsequent Note, which leads with the county and state and doesn’t include the path?

§11.39, Online Images, Subsequent Note 13 vs. §11.47, Subsequent Note 12:  Why does the Subsequent Note in §11.39 not repeat the path while the one in §11.47 does? Both are citations to online images using Template 5: Complex Website. Is the difference due to the fact that the 1st Reference Note in §11.39 includes both the direct URL to the exact image and the path to it? Or is it because the catalog search for the database in §11.47 involves a path including a screen with many links to specific church book groups while the browse path in the 1st Reference Note in §11.39 uses a simpler drop-down menu? Or something else?

§11.39 vs. §11.40 and §11.53: Why does Subsequent Note 13 in §11.39 not include the website name while Subsequent Notes 13 in §11.40 and 11 in §11.53 do? How does one decide whether or not to include it?

Thank you again for your patience and generosity in helping me understand these issues.


Submitted byEEon Fri, 07/05/2024 - 19:42

F.T.C.,  citations to historical materials and complex websites always involve judgment calls. 

As researchers and writers, we'd be much more comfortable if there were prescriptive formulas to be followed exactly for each record-type so that we don’t have to exercise judgment; but both historical materials and websites are infinitely variable.  There is no formula that fits all situations. There is no database that can only be handled in one specific way.  Even within the same database, one document may trigger differences in our citation because of the nature of the document and its inherent issues.

With every source, we analyze the document, we analyze how it’s archived, we analyze our access. If it’s an online image or database, we analyze the identification of the database (how completely it’s identified, whether or not it has a title deceptively similar to another database title from a different source, etc.), and the construction of the database itself. We analyze the construction of the website (for example, with FamilySearch, whether there are multiple and radically different paths to the same image appearing in different record sets, as a result of FS converting from film to digital images and, now, to indexed imaged groups).

Everything is a judgment call.

Your 1st §:

Whether to include age at death or year of death (or the year or the date in a citation to any other record) are examples of those variables and judgment calls. Whether to include them depend upon the circumstances and upon the safeguards we want to include in our citations. If there are no problems with identifying a certificate then it could be omitted. Not including some distinguishing identifier other than the name can be a problem if we (or someone who uses our citation) makes a typo in the certificate number or the URL. If there are multiple individuals of similar name who died in the same year, or other identification problems, we might include it. &c &c &c 

Your 2nd §:

I owe you thanks for calling my attention to this.  Please strike the first three words “Shelby Co., Tenn.” from subsequent note 13. That was an artifact from an editing process that should have removed it; one that neither I nor my proof-readers caught. I have now corrected it in my master, so that it will not appear in the next printing.

Your 3d §:

As stated in the construction notes for Template 10 … Named Database: “The path and waypoints (see 2.35) need not be cited if the URL is an ARK or PAL linked to the exact image.”  Using both is a safeguard that many people prefer.  2.35 provides more extensive guidance.

Your 4th §:

When we cite state-agency collections of vital records or statewide databases online, the county or local jurisdiction is usually an essential piece of information. 

Your 5th & 6th §:

Again, these are judgment calls, based upon the construction of the database and whether or not a user would be able to access that particular record, without a problem, if the path is not cited.  

Submitted byF.T.C.on Sat, 07/06/2024 - 12:40

Many, many thanks, EE! You've given me the information I need to be more confident in making the judgment calls that source citation requires.

As for your reply to my 2nd §, I'm glad to have helped in some small way.