Does Sourcing Really Take That Much Time?

Someone, in another forum, asked how to cite a source. Someone else asked “Why?” as in Why bother?  In their opinion,  “Sourcing takes too much time!”

Does it really?

The inquirer had found something of interest in a back issue of  Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, for which Ancestry offers images within a database. She helpfully included a link.

As always in such cases, we have 2 things to cite:

  • Layer 1: the original publication;
  • Layer 2: the website that publishes the images of the original

Both layers follow a basic pattern. For a reference note …

LAYER 1 calls for Basic: Journal Articles (EE 14.16):

Author’s Name, “Title of Article,” Title of Journal Article  issue no. (Month Year): page number.

LAYER 2 (citing the database at a website) calls for the same format as citing a chapter in a book (EE 2.32):

“Title of Database or Chapter,” [Creator/Editor if Applicable,] Title of Book or Website (Place of Publication = URL : Date), image or page number.

So how long did it take to create a citation for the inquirer, using her image link and the two basic patterns? 

This is the citation:

Barbara Vines Little, “Importations in the Orange County, Virginia, Order Books 1-8, 1735–1770,” Magazine of Virginia Genealogy 26 (November 1988): 248, citing Order Book 3:346; imaged in “Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 July 2018), image 15.

It took 2 minutes and 55 seconds, starting from the moment I opened her link at Ancestry’s website. Part of that time was spent flipping back to find

  • the page that identified which order book 
  • the title page for Little’s article; and
  • the title page of the journal—which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is not the same as the title of Ancestry’s database.

Once we learn the basic pattern, the time spent on most citations is far less than the time we spend (or should spend) analyzing the source itself.

HOW TO CITE: Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Does Sourcing Really Take That Much Time?," blog post, QuickTips: The Blog @ Evidence Explained ( : posted 19 July 2018).