"NARA" vs. "National Archives" in Ancestry.com census citations

I have seen NARA both spelled out and abbreviated in Ancestry.com census citations:

(Note: items in bold for this question only, not actually bold in published citations.)

A) 1870 U.S. census, Neosho County, Kansas, population schedule, Ladore Township, pp. 14–15  (penned), dwelling 132, family 132, James Schafer [Shaffer]; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 2 November 2018), citing National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 440.

B) 1900 U.S. census, Stark County, Ohio, population schedule, Sugar Creek Township, enumeration district (ED) 146, Sheet 16A, Beach City Village, p. 267 (stamped), dwelling 338/340, family 345/349 (numbers corrected by enumerator), James Shaffer; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 November 2018), citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1323.

Is there a rule/guideline for using the abbreviation vs. spelling out?

Thanks much!

Submitted byEEon Thu, 02/28/2019 - 10:03

stepmom43, whether we use the acronym or write out in full the name of an administration or archive is governed, first of all, by EE 2.57 Acronyms & Initialisms:

The first mention of that entity should state the name in full, followed by the acronym in parentheses. Example: Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

This basic rule exists in all forms of writing, not just when writing citations. 

Amid our work-in-progress, when we create a citation, we would write the name in full in our Source List Entry. Then, in our Reference note, we would use the acronym to save time and space. EE 2.45 provides an example.

(As an aside here for our readers who may not yet have EE, chapter 2 does not deal with census records, which you are specifically invoking. Chapters 1 and 2 lay out the ground rules for all types of sources and citations. Subsequent chapters then focus on specific issues created by specific types of records.)

When we cite Ancestry's images of something created by someone else—usually in our citation's source-of-the-source field—we have one of two choices:

  • Copy exactly the source information that Ancestry gives, using the exact words with quotation marks around them.
  • (More commonly) summarize the extensive source information that Ancestry gives, using our own words.

If we are quoting exactly and Ancestry writes "National Archives," that's what we use. If we are quoting exactly and Ancestry writes "National Archives and Records Administration," that's what we use. If we are quoting exactly and Ancestry writes "NARA," then that's what we use.

If we are summarizing Ancestry's source-of-the-source info, then we can choose whether to write out the words in full or use the acronym. Most researchers, in their working files or personal database, will use the acronym for all source citations. Then, when they prepare something for publication or for a client, or a formal report to file, they invoke the basic rule: write out the name of the agency in full at first usage and then use the acronym thereafter.