[APG Public List] Online death certificate - citation help

eshown at comcast.net eshown at comcast.net
Mon May 10 12:59:15 MDT 2010

An earlier poster wrote:
>I question why the example citation says "imaged from the FHL microfilm
Arne then wrote:
>FamilySearch gives the source of the collection at
where it says, "Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953," database, FamilySearch;
(http://familysearch.org <http://familysearch.org/> ), from Ohio Department
of Heath. Digital images of originals housed in the Ohio Historical Society,
Columbus, Ohio. FHL microfilm, 1207 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake
City, Utah.
>Would it be appropriate for the final part of the example citation be
changed to read "imaged from originals housed in the Ohio Historical
Society, Columbus, Ohio" and delete the reference to the FHL microfilm
Arne, in answer to your specific question: no. The digital image was not
created from the original at the Ohio Department of Health. It was create
from FHL microfilm. The image we get from past film (which often has imaging
flaws) can differ seriously from the image one would get from a current
digital scan. Conversely, the original microfilm might be quite readable and
yet a specific image scanned from that film might have dark or light edges
that obscure the text.
Incidentally, the citation you use above is the one "suggested" at the
FamilySearch wiki website, but the citation formats suggested  there have a
number of core problems. Many involve missing identification. Most represent
a "mish-mash" of principles for bibliographic (source list) entries that are
mixed in with reference note entries. The above citation, for example, 
-       tells us that it's FHL microfilm consisting of 1207 reels, but it
doesn't tell us which of the 1207 rolls this specific image is found on. 
-       presents part of the data in bibliographic form (using periods
between elements) and part of the data in reference note form (using commas
between elements. This makes a difference because, in reference note format
(where data is presented in 'paragraph' form and several sources may be
cited in that 'paragraph' ), the period (a full stop) "tells} our readers
that we are done with citing one source and we're about to cite another.
The combination of data in this "suggested" citation actually "tells" the
reader that we have used two separate things-the first of which is cited
incompletely in footnote/reference-note style; and the second of which is
cited, incompletely, in bibliographic/source-list entry style.
"Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953," database, FamilySearch; (http://familysearch.org
<http://familysearch.org/> ), from Ohio Department of Heath. [sic]"
"Digital images of originals housed in the Ohio Historical Society,
Columbus, Ohio. FHL microfilm, 1207 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake
City, Utah."
The 'suggested' citation is also muddled by the fact that  the name of the
publication/website, FamilySearch, is not in italics (whose use tells the
reader that the words represent the title of a publication); and the
semicolon that FS tells us to put between "Family Search" and the
open-parenthesis is not only extraneous but it misleads us in two ways:
-       A basic rule of punctuation is that no punctuation mark goes before
an open-parentheses mark. When we present something in  parentheses, that
punctuation tells us that the words inside the marks explains what comes
immediately before the parenthesis, but could be dropped and the immediately
preceding data would still be identifiable or self-explained. Conversely,
putting a semicolon between the two tells us that they are separate things.
Neither semi-colons, nor commas, nor any other punctuation mark separates a
parenthetical statement from its antecedent.
-       The semicolon is misplaced. When semicolons are used between items
in a series, their purpose is to mark a major break between items that have
internal commas, so that readers can tell where one item ends and the next
starts. In citations, we use them for several purposes. They are especially
common in archival citations that have many elements. We also use them  to
mark a break between the details that identify a source and our own analysis
of that source.  When citing databases and website pubs, they mark the break
between the website we are actually citing and the subsequent comma-riddled
citation of "the source of our source." 
For all these reasons, and more, Susan's Example 1 remains a far better

There's also another general principle to bear in mind here:  We are
immensely grateful to the online data providers who offer us digitized
records and database entries, but it's not wise to simply do a 'cut and
paste' of their suggested citations. Too often, the employees assigned to
create these suggestions don't really understand the material they are
trying to cite and don't have time to gain that experience before creating
the citation.  Just trusting whatever they suggest means that we often have
essential elements missing, sometimes have totally erroneous citations, and
always end up with a hodgepodge of citation formats---caused by the
variances between suppliers---that leave our own readers wondering what we
Wisdom suggests that
-       we learn, for ourselves, the essential elements for citing different
types of materials; 
-       we thoughtfully analyze every 'suggested' citation to see what's
missing and what's askew; 
-       we do whatever background research necessary to understand our
source and identify the missing information; and 
-       we, then, construct our own citation consistent with the style we
have adopted for our own work.
Best wishes,
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
The Evidence Series
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <../attachments/20100510/a6c49817/attachment-0001.htm>

More information about the APGPublicList mailing list