When do we not need to cite a repository

I have lost the plot about when it is not necessary to cite a repository. I thought I heard once that we cite what we use. In this case, I used a database with images at FamilySearch. I still cited the repository. Did I need to?

"Texas Deaths, 1890-1976," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K397-6BT); image, certificate no. 41285 for Ben “Zeno” Zuinault [Zumault], 16 Aug 1953, Houston, Harris, Texas; parents, George Zumault and Emery [Emily?] Floyd; citing State Registrar Office, Austin, Travis, Texas; FHL microfilm 2,113,981.

Submitted byEEon Sun, 04/05/2020 - 22:08

Kohlerbj, the basic rule for citing repositories is this: (borrowing from EE 2.19)

  • We cite repositories for manuscripts that exist only in that one place because otherwise nobody would be able to find the manuscript.
  • We cite a repository for a book only if it is so rare that others would not be able to find it.
  • In our own working notes we can add anything and everything we think might help us. The citation police have no control over our working notes.

As for "citing what we use," that's what you've done. You used an online database. You cited the database and the website where you found it. However, any time that a provider tells us the source of their source, we should it record that information because that helps us evaluate the validity of what we have been given and informs us where the original is, in the event that we need it.

In your draft above, we'd tinker with punctuation. Semicolons mark the break between layers. Your five semicolons suggest that your citation has four layers. It doesn't. You have only two layers:

  1. What you used:  "Title of Database," Title of Website (URL = Place of publication: Date), specific item;
  2. What you didn't use: source-of-the-source data that is introduced by the word citing, to make it clear that everything that follows is what your source says it used.

Following this pattern, you'd also need to italicize the title of the website and identify the date on which you accessed that database.

Whining as I reply, FamilySearch was italicized in my original citation, but I used the filtered HTML option to remove all of the spellcheck underlines once I pasted the citation.

I didn't say it, but I used the citation in a client report, where I didn't think the date of access was necessary or desired.

I used an extra semicolon between "Texas" and "parents" because, before we started talking about layers, we used to talk about a citation being like a long sentence. I thought it might be too much run on to leave it as "Houston, Harris, Texas, parents . . . 

kohlerby, I figured the lack of italics was not intentional. But for the benefit of new researchers who read our posts and haven't yet learned basic rules, I try to cover every point that might confuse them.

Incidentally, in this forum the "Full HTML" option gives us the most control over our formatting. (It still doesn't give me as much as I'd like—as with hanging indents—but my tech guys insist that these "editors" that are built into online forums weren't designed to be as robust as commercial editing software. I whine about that, too.)

Re the semicolons and the rules for "long sentences": those basics still apply with reference notes:

  • Items in a series are all structured alike and are separated by commas.
  • If one item in that series needs internal commas, then each item in the series is separated by semicolons.
  • In the case of layered citations, the items in the series are the layers. Each layer is separated by a semicolon. Each part of that layer is then separated by a comma or other appropriate punctuation (such as parentheses around publication data).