[APG Public List] Online death certificate - citation help

Michael Hait michael.hait at hotmail.com
Fri May 7 17:22:51 MDT 2010

> ...  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.

If you are citing an essay that is published as part of an anthology, to put 
it into the common "book" citation format that most of us have used most of 
our lives, we would first cite the essay, then cite the book in which it 
appeared.  Likewise, a magazine or journal article would be cited first, 
then the magazine issue citation.  This is the standard for parts of a 

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).

The same principle, in my opinion, should hold for online images - first 
cite the document that you are viewing.  If it is an image copy, cite the 
document being imaged, then the collection of which it is a part.  This 
principle, in my opinion, does not change simply because it is online as 
opposed to on paper.

The example in EE of the census records on Ancestry.com demonstrate this: 
First they cite the actual census record, then Ancestry.com's image & URL, 
then the notation of the source of the image (the NARA microfilm).

Michael Hait
michael.hait at hotmail.com
Hait Family History Research Services
National African-American Genealogy Examiner

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