Usernames, Screen Names, Pseudonyms, Nicknames, Epithets, and Avatars.

I have been having a private discussion with History Hunter about citing usernames. The discussion started over citing a photograph from a Public Member Tree at Ancestry.

The first try of the citation is on Facebook in the Genealogy – Cite Your Sources group started with “Iveybet,” “Public Family History Content,”.

My first thought was why the quotation marks around Iveybet? It just didn’t look right to me. After several hours of looking at EE and the Chicago Manuel of Style online the following was found.

EE 2.72 Quotation marks p 85 of the PDF. “The genealogical convention for writing nicknames is to place them in quotation marks immediately after the formal name for which they substitute—e.g., Margaret “Peg” Monroe.”

EE 3.44 Research Files & Reports, Personal File Copy p. 156

Clarise Beaumont, avatar,

EE 3.44 p. 158 Citing Second Life and Similar “Web 2” Sites. A Web 2 apparently is a site the emphases’ user generated content. I would suggest that Ancestry’s Public Member Trees are a type of “Web 2” site. The protocol for Second Life is to “mask the identity of its participants behind pseudonyms (or ‘representative figures called avatars’).”  

EE 14.4 Author Pseudonyms p. 792 places the pseudonym in quotes,

“Aurelius,” “Communicated,”

however, EE 14.20 on page 804   Magazines, Antiquarian (Online Images) the pseudonym is not in quotes.

Mary F****, “Female Teachers,”

Chicago Manuel of Style online:

8.34 “Epithets (or nicknames and byname” shows,

the Wizard of Menlo Park (Thomas Edison)

“When used in addition to a name an epithet is enclosed in quotation marks…”

George Herman “Babe” Ruth

14.209 Citing social media content

The author of the post. List the real name (of the person, group, or institution), if known, followed by a screen name, if any, in parentheses. If only a screen name is known, use the screen name in place of the author’s name.

14.80 Pseudonyms

AK Muckraker [pseud.]

14.81 shows the following for pseudonyms.

——— [Anthony Morton, pseud.]

CMOS does not have a reference to avatars.


This led me to looking up the definitions of the various terms.

Definitions from Oxford Languages

Epithet, noun: an adjective or descriptive phrase expressing a quality characteristic of the person or thing mentioned.

Username, noun: an identification used by a person with access to a computer, network, or online service.

Screen name, noun: a name or string of characters by which a person chooses to be identified in an online communication service such as an instant messaging application or internet forum

Pseudonym, noun: a fictitious name, especially one used by an author.

Nickname, noun: a familiar or humorous name given to a person or thing instead of or as well as the real name

Avatar noun: an icon or figure representing a particular person in video games, internet forums, etc.

If I meld EE and CMOS the best approach for the author would be to use one of the following for the authors slot:

agilchrest [pseud.]

agilchrest [pseud], account holder

agilchrest [username]

Depending on what I want to emphasize and the specific website the authors name would be followed by the appropriate title.

Do you have any more thoughts about this approach?

Submitted byEEon Sat, 05/21/2022 - 10:01

Ann, repeat after me: Citation is an art, not a science—EE2.1 😊

Question: Should pseudonyms (fake names) be placed in quotation marks when an author uses one?

Answer: Like much else in life, necessity depends upon context.  


You cite EE 14.4 Author: Pseudonymous, which states:

Journals of the past often published pseudonymous letters to the editor that were signed with a classical or descriptive name. In these cases, you cite the pseudonym in the author field—placing it within quotation marks—as with Aurelius in the example below:

     1. “Aurelius,” “Communicated,” Natchitoches (Louisiana) Courier, 24 July 1826, p. 2, cols. 1-2.

To understand why the quote marks were used, I'll ask  you this:  What would you think if you read the citation below, without any other explanation?

     1. Aurelius, “Communicated,” Natchitoches (Louisiana) Courier, 24 July 1826, p. 2, cols. 1-2.

Would you not wonder why the author had just one name?  Did I, in citing my source, carelessly omit Aurelius Jones’ last name? The quotation marks tell us that we are quoting exactly what was there. Questions and doubts are eliminated.


Against the 14.4 example, you posited 14.20, where one magazine article is cited this way:

     1. Mary F****, “Female Teachers,” The Lady’s Repository, April 1844, 107—8.

Here, would a reader wonder whether I accidentally omitted the author’s name? No. The reader would understood from the context that the publication presented her name this way to preserve her anonymity.


Within this framework, let’s consider a social media user-name—say HistoryHunter. To create a citation:

    . 1. HistoryHunter, “Citing a photo from an Ancestry user account,” forum query, Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : posted 20 May 2022).

When you read this citation, does it trigger any question about the accuracy of the name supplied for the author?  No. We are all accustomed to the fact that users of social media, online forums, and the like often post under user-names rather than actual names.

As a similar example for a different type of online presence, I’ll pull from EE’s Ancestry QuickSheet:

Family Trees:

     1. Luroy14, “Gilliam Family Tree,” Ancestry ( accessed 1 January 2017), “Peter Shown, Schaun,” death date undocumented.

Again, from the context, the nature of the author’s "unconventional" name is quite clear.  It has, in fact, become the convention for social media.


You also offer a comparison from CMOS 8.34 “Epithets (or nicknames and byname)”

George Herman “Babe” Ruth

This use of the nickname in quotation marks, following the given name, is exactly what genealogists have always been taught to do. As you note, EE 2.72 states:

The genealogical convention for writing nicknames is to place them in quotation marks immediately after the formal name for which they substitute—e.g., Margaret “Peg” Monroe.

Does this help the debate the two of you are in the midst of?





I have to admit that there are times when the art of typography overrides punctuation standards. 

For me having quotes around an author's name even if it is a single name just looks weird. While I appreciate your explanation for “Aurelius,” “Communicated,”. When I first viewed it the question that occurred to me was why are you emphasizing the author's name? I am so used to seeing people's names as a single name that it didn't even occur to me that the quotes were because it was a single name.


Submitted byEEon Sat, 05/21/2022 - 10:25

Anne, as an aside, on the issue of "melding CMOS with EE," a phrase you and HistoryHunter both used in your queries from last night ...

In what field is it a practice to "meld" one style guide with another style guide? Each field develops its own conventions, based upon its needs and the kinds of materials that it needs to cite. Editors, publishers, software developers, and experienced practitioners all expect the use of their field’s style.  If we were writing for a legal journal, would we think we should “meld” Blue Book with MLA?

Evidence Explained, as a citation guide for historical researchers, was based on Humanities Style citation as opposed to Scientific Style citation or Legal Style.  Those are broad categories that transcend any one guide.  CMOS demonstrates all three of these styles, to a limited extent. EE focuses on Humanities Style and goes considerably beyond CMOS (or MLA or Turabian or any of the other guides that treat Humanities Style). As a comparison with CMOS, specifically:

  • CMOS, as its subtitle states, is a Manual of Style. As such, it has 16 chapters, only 2 of which treat citation, with several citation styles demonstrated. 
  • EE, as a guide to citation and evidence analysis, has 14 chapters. One chapter focuses on evidence analysis. Thirteen chapters focus on the citation of historical materials in a way that allows the analysis of analysis. All the citation chapters follow Humanities Style. Two of them treat the types of published sources that CMOS covers. Ten of them treat artifacts and documents that CMOS does not cover or else makes just a passing reference to.

This link may help:


Re: "In what field is it a practice to "meld" one style guide with another style guide?"

I would advise against implying that no field "melds" styles or standards. That would be an unsupportable generalization. The practice of "melding" or other similar terms is an "uncomfortable", but a sometimes required, part of the field of engineering. From over 40 years of experience in engineering, I can say that one cannot implement a transition abruptly between designs executed to different standards without doing so. I can also say that one often consults similar standards, when the current standard does not clearly or adequately address the situation at hand. As in historical writing, this is part of the the "art" of engineering.

Now; if, as in the EE response to the post,, one is made aware of an applicable portion of the current standard, which appears to address the issue-at-hand, then consulting another standard is no longer required. This is why, after all, one posts a proposed solution and asks for feedback or peer review.

History-Hunter, fields do borrow and adapt ideas and concepts from each other. Genealogy, as one example, draws from law, science, history, geography, psychology, and others.

However, the borrowing of ideas or methods is different from "melding" citation guides to create one's own individual approach to this-or-that individual source, a treatment that might not be understood by those who use our work. The purpose of a citation guide, for practitioners of a particular discipline, is to describe a "standard" set of practices, a common language that all can understand.

That said, the purpose of this forum is definitely to help users find a particular piece of guidance in EE that they may have missed. This forum also tries to help users think through issues. A discussion of why Guide A follows this practice, while Guide B follows that one, while EE recommends something else can be very useful to those who want to understand citation and evidence analysis principles.