Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Randy Seaver recently posted an entry on his blog illustrating how websites provide source citations. It  begins like this.

Which Site Provides "Best" Census Source Citations?

I've been accused of being a "Source Citation Nazi" by email correspondents, which I deny!  I do like well-crafted source citations, however.

Using Randy's example, this is what the Evidence Explained version looks like.

1930 United States Federal Census, San Diego County, California, population schedule, San Diego City, enumeration district (ED) 116, sheet 5A, Dwelling #142, Family #148, Lyle L. Carringer household; digital images, ( : accessed 19 June 2012); citing National Archives microfilm publication T626, Roll 192.

This is how I would footnote the same census.

Lyle L. Carringer, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, San Diego, CA, District 116. Page 5A, Dwelling No. 142, Family No. 148. NARA Microfilm Publication T626, Roll 192. Image digitized at 

Name first, so reader knows it’s the right footnote. I don't say "household" if I'm citing the HoH. City name only where appropriate. Abbreviation for state, and I don't use USA. I know this is standard, but I work only within the United States.

I often leave out the dwelling and family numbers. I think the reader can usually find the listing anyway.

Instead of “Enumeration District” I usually just say “District.” I omit “population schedule.” Most people don’t even know there are other schedules.

I have a personal dislike for hashmarks to mean Number. I either use “No.” or omit. 

Perhaps spell out NARA in first footnote, acronym thereafter.

I can’t see spelling out in every footnote, why not use and let it go at that? The reader can find the listing easily without a link.

I’m sure there are reasons for every item, such as “What if this note is read by someone in another country?” and “What about those rare occasions when…?” If there’s a problem, I can add more to the footnote. My aim is to enable another person to find the source and the data, and I think this will do it most efficiently for a census. 

Just my opinion, and I could be wrong, but I hope I’m not. It’s hard to change an ingrained habit.