Search or Browse

Dear Editor,

Working on crafting citations, based on the records that I have found, reviewed, analyzed, I have figured out, for myself, when to you Way Points. I wanted to see if the my thought process was close.

If I can search for, or find hints for a record of a person of interest, my citation would include the Specific Item of Interest entry, as shown in the QuickSheet, Citing Ancestry Databases & Images, 2nd Edition.

However, if I use a Browse feature from Ancestry or FamilySearch (for example), then I would use Way Points.

I have tested this thought process myself, but wanted to make sure that my understanding of Way Points work. My test for both has been to see if I can find that record again, based on my citation or Full Reference Note.

Thank you,


Submitted byEEon Fri, 07/03/2020 - 10:37

Russ, the one basic rule for citations is this: we describe what we use. That rule also applies when we are trying to decide whether or not to use path citations with every waypoint identified.

Almost always, our decision depends upon the complexity of the website. When there are a series of menus that we must click through, to get to the item of interest, then it’s logical to cite the “path” that we followed through that series of menus. Each choice along that path is a waypoint to cite.

Beyond this, there are other variables to consider. For example:

  1. The nature of the “item of interest” (image, entry in a database, page or paragraph in an article, etc.)
  2. The complexity of the website structure.
  3. Whether we want our “Master Source” to be (a) a specific original record set; or (b) an online database that contains many different record sets.
  4. Whether the item of interest is self-explanatory without identifying the path.
  5. Whether imaging is done completely enough that, without the path, the imaged item can be identified and located elsewhere.
  6. Whether the item would be discoverable from an exact URL, if that URL were to go bad or someone were to make a typo while copying it.

You may have followed EE’s discussion with Hendrickson over the past several days (“Unidentified Register” Hendrickson’s example speaks to several of these points.

It is human nature to want exact rules that we can apply in every case: If this then that.  If not, then do this other thing.

However, source identification (i.e., “citation”) is like any other form of identification. There are endless variables. We cannot say, for example, If the person mentioned in a record meets this one criteria, then we can accept him as the John we seek. If not, it must be someone else. A clear and accurate identification requires us to consider all the variables and make a decision as to the best way to describe what we are using.

Does this create additional work or angst that's unnecessary? EE would say No. Thoughtfully considering all aspects the source we are using is how we avoid mistakes—both misidentifications and missplaced trust.