Citing an entry in a microfiche statewide vital records index

My local library has microfiche copies of the Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001. The original data is from the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, in Jacksonville. I'm attaching a sample of an index page.

Image removed.

I'm trying to cite a specific entry within the index. I'll use the first entry above as an example. Referring to EE 11.40 (4th ed.), sort of following the Illinois example on page 452, but also Template 11. Here is what I've come up with:

Florida Department of Health, "Divorce and Annulment Index," 1962, page 291, entry for Milton and Luise Postel, August 1962, citing volume 998, certificate no. 13570, imaged, MFH 72, Florida History & Genealogy Library, Tampa.

(MFH 72 is the call number)

Do I need to include the County somewhere? The index uses a numerical coding system for counties. Here, County #23 refers to Miami-Dade County, Florida.


Submitted byEEon Sat, 05/25/2024 - 09:45

rtkoehler, let's start with a question so we can understand what you have used.

Your first sentence says you are using a microfiche copy of Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001. The italics you use signify that you are citing a published source, a standalone publication, which carries that title.  (The rest of the publication's details do not appear.)

Meanwhile, your actual citation cites an unpublished source of a different title, placed appropriately in the quotation marks that signify the quoting of an exact title to an unpublished work.

If you used the Florida Department of Health's  "Divorce and Annulment Index," on fiche, then how does a published source called Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001 get involved here?

Submitted byEEon Sun, 05/26/2024 - 10:26

EE asked:

If you used the Florida Department of Health's  "Divorce and Annulment Index," on fiche, then how does a published source called Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001 get involved here?

rtkoehler responded:

Florida Divorce Index 1927-2001 is the title the library uses for the collection.

Ah, as so often the case: asking one question leads to another—and a tangle ensues.  The issue, again, is our need to understand a source before we can cite it in a manner that enables us and others to relocate it (as well as, to understand its nature and limitations).  So, since you asked for guidance in citing this source and, since the best way to learn something is to think through what we are doing and why we are doing it, my original one question now turns into two:

  1. If, as you say, “the library uses [this title] for the collection,” what would be the reasoning for not including this title in your citation?  Would not users of your citation need that title to locate the “collection” at the library? 
  2. Can you point us to the catalog or a fiche image in which “the library” cites this title, so we can see the context?

When I seek “the library” cited in your original post (“Florida History & Genealogy Library, Tampa”), I find that it is actually a “division” or “collection” within the Hillsborough County Public Library, Tampa.  Because that internal division is not a standalone library, HCPL needs to be included in the citation to materials found in that division of HCPL.

When I seek the title Florida Divorce Index 1927-2001 in that library’s online catalog, I get no hits with that title.

When I seek the title Florida Divorce Index 1927-2001 via Google and other web-wide search engines, I get just one exact hit. That exact wording was chosen by FamilySearch Library for its particular collection (and subsequently by for its online database) of Florida divorce records. However, renders it as “Florida Divorce Index, 1927–2001” rather than Florida Divorce Index 1927-2001. Again, here, the use of quotation marks vs. italics makes a difference. (See EE4 §2.27, 2.57). In brief:

  • Italics signify a standalone publication—i.e. (1) a book, film, or CD-publication that should be found under that title in many different libraries and available for purchase through book dealers; or (2) a standalone website for which a URL is needed.  
  • FamilySearch’s use of quotation marks tells us that its offering is a dependent collection within some larger publication or larger website—i.e., “Florida Divorce Index, 1927–2001” is a named database at the website FamilySearch.

When I search for the key words Florida +divorce, I find one collection/database titled "Florida, U.S., Divorce Index, 1927–2001," that cites its own source this way:

  • Original data: Florida Department of Health. Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001. Jacksonville, FL, USA: Florida Department of Health.

Ancestry is the only place I find those words italicized as though it is a standalone publication. However, that title cannot be found as a publication at either the Library of Congress’s or  Unfortunately, when first began decades ago, someone decided to ignore standard citation practices and italicize all titles or descriptive words for every source regardless of whether it can be found as a publication or must be sought differently as a manuscript.  That decision has caused problems for millions of users since then.

When I search the Hillsborough County Public Library’s online catalog using the keywords Florida + divorce, I do find your cited MFH72, but it is titled “Florida Combined Divorce Index, 1927—" (different title and no italics). It is described as “microform” and credited to the Genealogical Society of Utah at Salt Lake City, 1991. It would appear from this that the library uses “Florida Combined Divorce Index, 1927—” as it is title for the whole set of microfiche and that individual fiche present volumes that carry individualized titles. 

When I search the FamilySearch database that carries the exact title you cite, to see if FS has imaged the microfiche, I do not find the actual fiche online—only this FS database entry:

Considering all the issues involved and the uncertainties about the title for the fiche that you cite (something we cannot resolve without going back to the Hillsborough County Public Library to reconsult the fiche), you might wish to cite the FS database.  As you’ll note, FS provides a thorough citation in a sidebar to the database entry.

As a postscript, you’ve provided us with a wonderful example of why we need to be quite exact and complete when we copy the identification of a source. Any source may exist in multiple forms, with different titles—and with internal variations—in multiple places.  Users of our citations (and we, ourselves, at a later date after our recollection of the source has gone cold) may have to spend considerable time relocating what we’ve used.

Submitted byrtkoehleron Mon, 05/27/2024 - 16:01

You're right - it's the "Florida Combined Divorce Index, 1927—".

The reason I'm citing the copy at my library as opposed to the FamilySearch or Ancestry database is two-fold - first, Ancestry and FamilySearch do not have image copies of the index for all years, even though they may have a typed database entry; and second, the scans I have were made by me in the library, from the original microfiche. I don't know if the microfiche at my library are exactly the same as what is on Ancestry/FamilySearch, so I am trying to cite them from the actual record I viewed.


Submitted byrtkoehleron Fri, 06/07/2024 - 12:50

Just for information, I went to the library, and here's what I ended up deciding to go with:

State of Florida, Department of Health, Combined Divorce Index 1927–2001, "Divorce and Annulment Index," 1962, p. 291, entry for Milton and Luise Postel, August 1962, Dade County, citing volume 998, certificate no. 13570; imaged, MFH 72, Florida History & Genealogy Library, Tampa.

I think this covers: 1) the creator of the original record, 2) the title for the collection actually used by the library, 3) and the title on the record itself, along with all identifying information from the record.

FWIW, I left the repository as Florida History & Genealogy Library because it is a separate and distinct library that happens to be within the Hillsborough County Public Library System (which consists of 33 libraries).