[APG Public List] Online death certificate - citation help

eshown at comcast.net eshown at comcast.net
Fri May 7 19:16:18 MDT 2010

I'm weighing in late, for all the reasons you might suppose. In the
meanwhile, several of you have chewed and digested the issues even more than
I would have.  First, I'll comment here on the broader points that you
Your first example, in your original posting, is spot on for digital images
that you consult at a website. The only modification I'd suggest would be to
italicize the name of the website, following the principle that publications
are italicized. That helps your reader to know what all the various parts of
your citation represent. (And, of course, your e-mail system turned the URL
into a hotlink and underlined it, which we would not do in a typical
You puzzle over the differences in the models you followed for your first
and second examplea, saying, "The first variation treats the digital image
as an image copy; and I think the second variation treats it as a
Your surmise about the first variation is correct. Your second does miss the
point. Look again at 9.33 (p. 459).  Here you will find models for citing
vital record information gleaned online. Note that the citations are divided
into two groups, with the following labels used as headers for the two
groups (italics are added below for emphasis):
.         "Citing database entries"
.         "Citing image copies of certificates"
These two labels (which are used often throughout EE) spotlight the
difference between the two formats. Your second example took a format for
citing databases and used it to cite images. There are different needs and
considerations when handling each of these. The image depicts the actual
record created by the official agency. The database's
abstract/transcript/index-entry/whatever is a different creation, one
produced by the database publisher. Ergo, 
.         if you are citing the database material, you lead with a citation
to the database. You say you are using the database. Then you i.d. the
specific detail that you took from the database and add whatever 'citation'
the website gives you for where it got that data.
.         If you are citing the image, you lead with a citation to the
image. You say you are using the image. Then you i.d. the website at which
you accessed that image and you add whatever 'citation' the website gives
you for where it got that image.
As you know, the EE examples for online vital records cite the official
agency website for these records. Your situation is slightly different.
Rather than accessing the images at the official site, you accessed them at
the FamilySearch Record Search, which introduces a few other quirks into a
citation. I don't know whether you're working from the first or second
edition of EE, but  issues surrounding the use of images and database
entries at FamilySearch Record Search are discussed, with examples, in the
second edition at pp. 53, 469, 500-01, 598-99.
More to come (if life cooperates J).
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
Hendersonville, TN 
From: apgpubliclist-bounces+eshown=comcast.net at apgen.org
[mailto:apgpubliclist-bounces+eshown=comcast.net at apgen.org] On Behalf Of
Susan G. Johnston
Sent: Friday, May 07, 2010 7:35 PM
To: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
Subject: Re: [APG Public List] Online death certificate - citation help
...  I think the principle I'm trying to conceptualize in my own mind is
something that would help me decide when to place the emphasis on the
original document (citation example 1) and when to place the emphasis on the
website (citation example 2).  I know there's an art involved, but the
scientist in me says that I should be able to identify some general
principles that usually govern when this choice comes up.  In fact, as your
quotation below points out, one needs to learn the principles of citation
before artistic license comes into play.

Here is how I decide -- if it is an image (of anything), first cite what the
image shows, then where it came from.

That is what I was doing with the Ohio death certificates on FamilySearch,
too - until I began studying the QuickSheet on citing Ancestry.com databases
and images and saw how often images were treated as publications - basically
author/creator (frequently omitted because duplicated in the website title),
"chapter title"/"database", book/website author/creator (frequently omitted
because duplicated in the website title), book/website title (publication
place/URL : date), pages/specific image information; credit line.  Then, I
began to wonder if I should be doing the same thing with the Ohio death
certificates.  After all, they are publications - in fact, they're actually
like reprints: digital publications of microfilm publications.

Likewise, to take this a small step further, records from the National
Archives first cite the specific record, then broaden the citation outward,
to the particular collection, then the record group, then the repository (if
I am not skipping a step there somewhere).

My understanding is that this format - Document ID, date, file unit,
subseries, series, subgroup, record group, repository - is more standard for
archival manuscript material; and of course, this format may vary depending
on the citation format preferred by the relevant archives.  It is what I was
doing for online images, too; I simply started questioning whether that was
the best practice.  

Evidence Explained does seem to give us permission to choose, and I
appreciate your sharing your reasoning for your choice.

Susan Johnston
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