Posts tagged ‘URL’

March 22, 2014

What’s in a URL?

Standards for genealogical citations say that we are to use the main site only in a citation. For example, the Will of William Crane, found on FamilySearch.org is cited something like this:

“South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977, Volume C, page 75, Image #53.” Will of William Crain, 27 Jan 1842, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 2014) citing Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Note the shortening to https://familysearch.org rather than the complete URL to the image on FamilySearch, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-19422-18732-26?cc=1919417&wc=M6NW-ZNL:210902701,210952301

The problems of the impermanence of a Uniform Resource Locator, aka the URL, is a subject of many articles. One such, published in 2011 the abstract of which is located on PubMed.gov, gives some insight into the problem. The url’s cited in 121 studied scientific articles found that 15% were “inaccessible at the time of publication.” A loss of “35% of the original URLs” is observed over the eighteen month time period of the study. The authors recommend the use of webcitation.org to archive articles. Their study reports no loss of the archived articles during the study period[1] when using webcitation.org . According to  the FAQ’s on WebCite® they are “operated and supported by publishers” so there is high likelihood that their site persists.

Personally, I find drilling down through  a site to be time consuming and fraught with wrong turns. I prefer clicking the link in the document and being taken directly to the document. Lately, I have noticed that two of the sites I frequently visit, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, seem to be using permalinks. I have not observed instability of links in my citations to those two sites in the past 18 months. However, the links can be very long. To remedy this, the hyperlink can be edited, so that the display text matches the short link, displayed above, while the hyperlink is preserved in the Address text. To locate the hyperlink editor in word, right mouse click on the link in word and select Edit Hyperlink from the menu. The top box is the display text while the bottom is the Address.

“South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977, Volume C, page 75, Image #53.”  Will of William Crain, 27 Jan 1842, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 2014) citing Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Edit_hyperlink

The text in the citation was edited to achieve the shortened style but with the information for the permalink imbedded in the URL for ease of access.

Until such time that Persistent URLS, or PURLS are used with consistency, in which URLs persist across time, we need a way to access links in citations quickly and accurately. Also, the link in the citation needs to be short so that the citation doesn’t fill the page. For my citations going forward, I plan to archive sites using  webcitation.org and edit the hyperlink when necessary to shorten the citation.


[1] US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health citing abstract of Thorp AW, Schriger DL. Citations to Web pages in Scientific Articles: The Permanence of Archived References. Ann Emerg Med. 2011 Feb;57(2):165-8. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2010.11.029. PubMed PMID: 21251524. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21251524. Accessed: 2014-03-22. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6OGqLquWL)