[APG Public List] Online death certificate - citation help

Susan G. Johnston zacathan at comcast.net
Fri May 7 22:16:54 MDT 2010

Thank you for your detailed comments, Elizabeth.

>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

Not only did my e-mail system turn the URL into a hotlink, etc., it 
removed my italics from the website title as well.

>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"
>.         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.

We actually discussed the differences in these Shelby County citation 
examples, but none of us really picked up on the fact that one 
referred specifically to the database and the other to the 
certificate!  If the certificate image is available, I would always 
use that, unless the database adds information not found on the 
certificate, so the word "database" vs. "digital image" didn't 
register.  Your summary definitely clarifies the issue for me and 
points out where I went wrong.

>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.

I'm working from the first edition of EE, but I'll see if I can 
borrow a copy of the second edition to study these sections.

>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.

So this citation pattern, which feels to me like citing a publication 
instead of an image, is imposed by the lack of complete, accurate 
source-of-the-source information provided at the site.  We still 
identify our source as a digital image, but in order to make sure our 
reader can find the cited document, we need to give preference to the 
web site - the source we can accurately identify.  Assuming this is a 
reasonably accurate statement, I think things are falling into 
place.  Thank you.

Best regards,
Susan Johnston

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