Citing Everything: Your 1-2-3 Guide

We love the fact that billions of records from around the world are now available to us in one form or another, to access with or without our device of choice. That convenience comes with an inconvenience: citing the stuff can be so doggoned confusing. 

Regardless of what kind of records we use, three modes of access are common: we use the original in physical form, we use a microfilm copy, or we use online images at some website.

By defining those three situations, we have a simple 1-2-3 set of rules:

  1. If we eyeball the original physically, we cite the original.
  2. If we eyeball the original on film, we cite the original in Layer 1 and we identify the film in Layer 2.
  3. If we eyeball the original as online images, we cite the original in Layer 1; in Layer 2 we cite the website that published the image. Then we add, as Layer 3, whatever source-of-the-source data our provider gives us.

The fourteen chapters of Evidence Explained cover just about every type of original document in existence. With that, we can ace Situation 1.

Every source-type chapter demonstrates how to cite microfilm and online images. That takes care of Situation 2.

Situation 3 is more complicated. In addition to all the examples in EE itself, our website's QuickLesson 19 explores the concept of "layers" in much more depth. Our QuickLesson 25 demonstrates how to deal with websites that require ARKS, PALS, and/or paths. Those two lessons help us understand the complexities of Situation 3.

But the simple guidance we need to handle our angst are those rules 1-2-3. Just plug together as needed.

IMAGE CREDIT: CanStockPhoto ( : accessed 7 December 2019), "1 2 3" by Design56, uploaded 13 November 2010; used under license.

HOW TO CITE: Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Citing Everything: Your 1-2-3 Guide," QuickTips: The Blog @ ( : posted 8 December 2019).

Submitted bySheila Benedicton Sat, 12/21/2019 - 12:24

I would like to "see" the correct way to cite a public tree or multiple public trees about the same surname.