Concision in Style, Precision in Thought, Decision in Life

Thanks to Victor Hugo, we have a philosophy which sums up how to approach creating genealogical citations. We need to use a concise citation style which tells anyone looking at our data where to get the information. Why? If you don’t know where it came from, how are you going to know where to go to get a copy of it? If you don’t examine a copy of it, how are you going to know if it’s right?

There is no record which is intuitively obvious, so that a reader just knows the origin. There is no person whose memory doesn’t fade. There is no fact, which is included in your database, which can have the source ignored. For example, just because it came from the work of Aunt Emmy Lou, who never cited anything, don’t omit a citation crediting Aunt Emmy Lou’s work. Once you confirm her work add an additional citation or citations. Even if you have pages and pages of paper which back up everything you have in your electronic database, you still need to take the time to include the source of every piece of information in the electronic database.

A good citation tells the reader exactly where to find the document. In my database, there is a record for a marriage which illustrates this very well. The marriage occurred and was recorded in Clark county, Missouri in 1867. It is included in the images, on ancestry.com, for Clark County, Missouri in 1865. Looking at the actual record, transcribed below, and the citation which ancestry.com provides, the latter obviously lacks detail. Suppose one was missing the year, and had only the original information provided by ancestry.com to try to find the marriage record. Could the viewer find the record? Possibly, after going through every film reel at the archives or image on ancestry.com.

Here is the record:

This certifies that the rite of Holy Matrimony was celebrated between James S. Walker of the County of Lee and State of Iowa, Aditha A, Miller of the county of Clark & State of Missouri at the residence of Aditha A. Miller on the 4th of August A.D. 1867. By Thomas J. Musgrove Minister of the Gospel, Filed August 16, 1867 H. M. Hiller, recorder.

and the Citation from Ancestry.com:

Ancestry.com. Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.
Original data: Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. Microfilm.

Finally, my citation:

Ancestry.com. Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.
Original data: Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. Microfilm.
Clark, Record Images for Clark, 1865, image 69. Apparently from Reel C (County) 1718 or 1719, Clark County Marriages 1856 – 1872, Indexed

Keep your citations concise and clear and they will always serve as a road map to good data.

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