[APG Public List] Online death certificate - citation help

eshown at comcast.net eshown at comcast.net
Fri May 7 20:28:46 MDT 2010

Susan also wrote:
>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.
Susan, I hope my last response clarified this.

>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.
You've fingered a definite issue that exists when using Ancestry, Footnote,
and other large sites that offer many different collections--as opposed to a
relatively small site that presents its own records and identifies them
fully, such as the state- or county-level vital records offices.
One of the first things we notice when we analyze offerings at the large
sites, as well as the citations they give to their own sources, is that they
often change the title of the collection that they have digitized. A second
thing we notice is that they often (very often!) do not give us all the
information we need to find the original at NARA (or wherever else they
digitized the material).  
Consequently, even when we use an image, the citation often can't lead with
a correction identification of the original record. Under these
circumstances, the surest way to make sure that the record is relocatable
there at Ancestry/Footnote/SimilarSite, is to follow this pattern:
-       cite the collection name that the website uses
-       identify it as digital images from Ancestry/Footnote/SimilarSite
-       add URL & date, 
-       identify the document
-       add whatever 'citation' the site gives for the source of its source.

For example (drawing a "Reference Note" from the Ancestry Quicksheet):
     2.  "Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865," digital images,
Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 January 2009),
unidentified manuscript register, p. 308, headed "New Orleans, La., Roll of
Prisoners of War," entry for Louis Rachal; citing National Archives
microfilm publication Selected Records of the War Department Relating to
Confederate Prisoners of War, 1861-1865, M598, roll 3.
Obviously from the above, there is no way that we could give a correct
citation to the original NARA document. Instead, for relocation purposes, we
have to cite the Ancestry collection in which the digital image is found,
then we identify/describe the actual record as best we can from the
information supplied to us---followed by a notation of the incomplete
citation that Ancestry provides.
>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).
This, of course, is the point I just made. We can't cite the NARA document
because there are several pieces of information we would need. As explained
at 11.1, a NARA citation calls for the following items, which NARA needs
cited in exactly this order:
-       Item of interest, with relevant names, item description, dates, page
-       File Unit Name, date (or inclusive dates);
-       Series Name, inclusive dates;
-       Subgroup Name, inclusive dates;
-       Record Group Name, inclusive dates, record group number; and
-       Archive, location.

>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. 
Yes. EE 3.1 (pp. 116-18) covers this. It is the format long used for
reference notes by national, state, and academic archives in the U.S. It's
not the format that has been typically used for local government materials
in the U.S. and it's not the format conventionally used throughout most of
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
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