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Citing US Census Records Found on FamilySearch

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#1 jseymour84

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 07:57 AM

Greetings!

 

I understand source management is a big topic, but I have a very specific question that I am hoping to get some help with.  I am just starting to research my family history and am doing most of my searches on FamilySearch.  I want to make sure that I cite my sources with enough clarity so that a different research can reach the same conclusions I do.  

 

I know I want to have as few master sources as possible, and use detail sources to provide the most information.  I would like to achieve one master source per US Census, such as a master source for the 1940 Census, a master source for the 1930 US Census, and so on and so forth.  I use FamilySearch to do all my searching and they provide a citation on their page.

 

The question I have is actually two part:  on the master source record using the website with databases I have to fill in a citation line, and it looks like on FamilySearch Census records from different enumeration districts would have different citations line, which would invalidate my goal of one master source per census.  Would I be better off creating a master source for each Census and enumeration district?

 

The second part of the question:  is the website with databases the best way to cite census records found on FamilySearch?

 

Thanks in advance for any help!



#2 zhangrau

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 06:20 PM

I am what's known as a source lumper, who seeks to SIMPLIFY my documentation to just the essential info someone would need to re-find the source info. As such, I use the Book, Basic Format template almost exclusively to construct my Master Sources. Some other researchers (including certified genealogists) think it is important to use a wide variety of templates to very specifically include what they consider to be essential details about the source info in their Master Sources. You will probably want to decide which school of thought you want to implement in your database documentation.

 

I have documented census info from multiple Repositories: Ancestry.com; FamilySearch; RootsWeb; microfilm at the State of Michigan Library, microfilm at the Port Huron library, microfilm at the Mount Clemens library; etc.

 

From my point of view, the Repository is distinct from the source. The Master Source is the 1930 US Census; the Repository is the building or website where I accessed the census info.

 

RM allows me to connect only 2 Repositories to each Master Source, so I include additional Repository info in the Master Source comment notes.

 

I have only ONE Master Source for the 1930 US Census. Each citation has the enumeration district & page number data in the Source Details line. Over the years I have varied my exact presentation in the Source Details line, but my goal is always to be minimally specific. I then copy or transcribe a summary of the census data into the Research Notes section, and finally I attach a scan of the census page to the Master Source citation.

 

I'm sure that if you've read my notes carefully, you've recognized several areas where reasonable and competent researchers will vary from my habits. That's just fine with me.

 

My point is that your documentation style needs FIRST to be intelligible to YOU. Second it should be intelligible to your audience (family and readers of your reports). THIRD, you may also want to meet the exacting requirements of some professional organization. That 1-2-3 sequence is my priority. Clearly other researchers will have other priorities.



#3 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 09:58 PM

I need to vent a little  bit here. I normally don't use familysearch.org for census images, using ancestry.com instead. But both of them (and numerous other online sites) have what I consider to be a pretty serious problem. Namely, they will produce citations for you, and the citations are pretty worthless. Well, the citations are pretty worthless in my opinion. I'm fully aware that I may the one that's completely wrong on this issue, and sites such as familysearch and ancestry may be in the right. To that end, I looked up my ancestor Peter Bryan in the 1900 census for Sevier County, Tennessee. Here is what familysearch.org says the proper citation should be.
 
"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch...9101,1032094101 : 5 August 2014), Tennessee > Sevier > image 5 of 27; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
 
I just don't think that makes any sense whatsoever And how would you put it into RM?
 
Here is my own footnote sentence for the same census entry. If I had looked it up at familysearch.org, then my citation would have been identical except for the name of the Web site.
 
U.S. Federal Census: Sevier County, Tennessee, 1900, Dist. 8, Enumeration Dist. 143, page 119a, ancestry.com (1900 U.S. Census) viewed on 17 January 2015.
 
Now I'm just a simple country boy, but it seems to me that my citation contains all the relevant and salient information required to find the census entry and that the citation provided by familysearch.org does not. Well, my citation does not include the NARA film number, but I'm not sure that it needs to.
 
But as to how to put the data into RM, I assume that with the ancestry.com citation that "United States Census, 1900" would be the master source in RM and that "database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch...9101,1032094101 : 5 August 2014), Tennessee > Sevier > image 5 of 27; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.)." would be the citation detail in RM. Many users call these two parts "the source" and the "citation" respectively, but I tend to think that the footnote sentence as a whole is the citation.
 
I'm a source splitter, so my entire footnote sentence becomes a master source in RM and I obviously have lots and lots of Master Sources. But if I wanted to be more of a lumper, it would be straightforward to divide up my footnote sentence at any point I might wish between the master source in RM and the source detail in RM. Well, one criticism I would make of my footnote sentence is that it should really read as follows.
 
U.S. Federal Census: 1900, Sevier County, Tennessee, Dist. 8, Enumeration Dist. 143, page 119a, ancestry.com (1900 U.S. Census) viewed on 17 January 2015.
 
Having made this improvement and if I wanted to lump my sources, then my Master Source in RM (my level of lumping in RM) could be any of the following, with the rest of the footnote sentence going into the source details in RM.
 
U.S. Federal Census
U.S. Federal Census, 1900
U.S. Federal Census: 1900, Sevier County, Tennessee
U.S. Federal Census: 1900, Sevier County, Tennessee, Dist. 8
U.S. Federal Census: 1900, Sevier County, Tennessee, Dist. 8, Enumeration Dist. 143
 
I use a very simple source template of my own design to implement my footnote sentence for census records. If I wanted to become more of a source lumper, the only thing I would have to change would be to flag some of the fields in my source template as detail fields instead of master source fields. The way I would enter the sourcing data into RM and the appearance of my footnote sentences would not change.
 
Jerry
 
 
P.S. Another criticism I would make of my footnote sentence is that somewhere in the sentence it should really say "Population Schedule" because I'm beginning also to cite "Agricultural Schedule" and other such schedules. I'm not sure how familysearch.org handles these other census schedules.


#4 zhangrau

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 10:56 PM

Thanks, Jerry. You amply demonstrate the range of variation between lumping and splitting sources. Well done.



#5 jseymour84

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 07:31 AM

Thanks guys!  Very detailed and very informative answers that gave me a lot to think about.  It is important for me to capture as much information as I can about where I find the information in my database.  Your responses also show me that I need to learn a bit more about source management.

 

So let's take the 1930 US Census for example.  Let's say I find a scanned page from the census on FamilySearch.  In this case, the master source would be the 1930 US Census as a whole, the repository would be FamilySearch, and the film number and page number would be in the source details along with the date I looked it up?

 

I think I am going to go look around for some webinars or blog posts to learn more about this stuff.  I would hate to get a huge database and find out that my source citations are missing important details or worse yet, there is an error in my research because of a discrepancy between FamilySearch and say the National Archives.



#6 zhangrau

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 01:53 PM

As for date of lookup, I think I find this less essential than many researchers do. For websites that seem to come & go (some news sites, personal family trees, etc.), would the date of access help someone search the Wayback Machine? I don't know, I've not tried it. For a major (permanent?) source such as the 1930 census or Britannica Encyclopedia, I don't see how the date of access makes any difference at all, nor needs to be recorded. If the 1930 census is properly recorded at Ancestry, at FamilySearch, and in the National Archives, they should all be IDENTICAL. Therefore, neither the Repository nor access date should matter in documenting the Source.

 

But the folks who develop source templates clearly disagree with me and track info that I find irrelevant. Again, there is cause to consider your documentation philosophy/strategy before you get too far into your database.



#7 jseymour84

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 05:18 PM

I guess I am not experienced enough yet to know what it is I am really trying to accomplish with my source documentation.  I did find a better template in RootsMagic for documenting Census sources, and I tweaked it a bit because I really wanted to capture the URL to the specific record I was looking at as a Source Detail, so I copied it and added that field to it.  This is the footnote it generates for my father-in-law's father (passed away in 2007):

 

"United States census, 1940," database with images, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/1940census : accessed 23 April 2017), Douglas W Tveten in household of Ole Tveten Elcho, Elcho Town, Langlade, Wisconsin, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 34-11, sheet 10A, line 19, family 175, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 4492.

 

Short Footnote: "United States census, 1940," database with images Douglas W Tveten in household of Ole Tveten Elcho, Elcho Town, Langlade, Wisconsin, United States.

 

This format lets me maintain just one source for the 1940 US Census at FamilySearch (I want to include that information since the FamilySearch images are a derivative of the actual US Census).  This way, if I choose to look up the same census record at my library via Ancestry.com I can document that (on the very rare occasion that there is a difference in the information indexed at one of the sites).

 

So overall, one source per census, and the source details contain all the information needed to locate the exact page that I found the information on.  I think this will work, at least until I get more experienced and come across a scenario where it doesn't work.



#8 John_of_Ross_County

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 06:11 PM

I have found a few transcribed entries on familysearch.org where the transcribed name does not agree with the handwritten name. In some cases, you have to know the correct spelling and are able to determine that that there is a mismatch.  In other cases, there is no way to show that the handwritten name is correct and that the transcribed name is a best guess.

 

I found another case where the transcriber made a decision to use the ditto marks ["] for several individual family member surnames, but there was another surname in the middle.  This caused the transcription to have the wrong surname for an entire family.  It was necessary to use the census records for the prior census and the following census to prove that the wrongly transcribed family had never moved.

 

In defense of the transcriber, it was an easy mistake.



#9 uberdorf

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 06:25 AM

Over the years I've found that I want more detail for my sources now than I used to, and with each change in genealogy programs I've done the sources get garbled.  When source citations add up, and with the changes in detail and garbled source citations, it gets more and more difficult to go back and fix each citation.  That is why now when I enter things, I use the rootsmagic template for "Census, US Federal (Online Images) when I cite census records I download off of FamilySearch. 

 

I cite every fact with detail now.  I've had people come to me years after I entered the fact data and say, "where did you get this fact" and I had no idea because the source citation either wasn't there or wasn't adequate to get a meaningful reference from it.  As someone with a history degree, it is very embarrassing for me for that to happen, so I am going through and trying to fix every citation for every individual.  That is tedious work, much more tedious than just entering everything in detail the first time.

 

I used to keep the source citations simpler, and tried to just have one master source for each year of the census.  I am not pleased with it for several reasons.  The main reason is that when I cite it multiple times, to get enough detail in the notes to find the census again or get meaningful information off the citation years later after I forgot everything, I have to re-enter a lot of repetitive information into the individual source citation notes.  Even if use the memorize and paste function, there can still be minor differences to go into and edit.  It saves time when entering lots of source details to have a master citation for each county.  So my master citation list titles for recent entries goes "(year) (country) census, (state), (county); (website)"  That is what works for me since I occasionally revisit the data and share it with family so I need lots of information to prove connections and to doublecheck things when there is disagreement.  So while I still have some generic free form census entries that just say for example, "1870 Federal Census" with a few more details in the individual source notes, I hope to delete those eventually after everyone has been revisited and cited better.

 

I actually don't know which would be better to do now, check each source or just start over when I have 2,550 people with 409 sources, 4,510 events, and 6,918 citations.  Maybe I should have just started over when I switched to rootsmagic, but it might be too late now.  So my recommendation is, don't be me in the past, don't take shortcuts on source citations.



#10 MIKE0301

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 04:19 PM

<snip>

1930 US Census as a whole, the repository would be FamilySearch, and the film number and page number would be in the source details .

 

Yep. I use "1930 Census" as a Master Census . I add the stamped page number as an assist along with the line number(s) if applicable. , The scanned image shouldn't change, I don't believe access date is necessary. I do add the date the family was enumerated (but that's just me).



#11 Nettie

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 06:56 AM

Hi! 

I never use the citations for census records from either Heritage Quest or Family Search/FHC and partial from ancestry.com.  Why?  They do not follow the guidelines of Who, What, When and Where developed by Tom Jones. 

 

I have 1 master census form for all censuses found in one census year.  I use EE Templates to create the template which in this case is renamed to 'a Cen  014 1920 EE'

 

My footnote, Short Footnote: and Bibliography look like this.Using Census, U. S. Federal, 1880-1930 (filmed).

Footnote:
Oliver M and Katherine E ______ he age 47 she age 44, 1920 Federal Census, United States, population schedule, Waterbury Township, Redwood County, Minnesota, 41 [s], 9365 [p], 7251 [p], Enumeration District (ED) 199, SD 157, sheet 5A, household 76 family 76; Microfilm = (digitized by ancestry.com) T625, roll 851 (accessed Aug 1985 at Family History Center). [which back then were only on microfilm and not available via digitized]

Short Footnote:
Oliver M and Katherine E ______ he age 47 she age 44, 1920 Federal Census, United States, population schedule, Waterbury Township, Redwood County, Minnesota, ED 199, SD 157, sheet 5A, 41 [s], 9365 [p], 7251 [p], household 76 family 76.

Bibliography:
United States, 1920 Federal Census, population schedule. Microfilm = (digitized by ancestry.com) T625. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records.

 

Short footnote in RM Template did not show enough information so I could find the record again, so I changed it so it would give me  what I needed.  How I set this up is in the Hints, Tips in RM forum for 2005.

 


Genealogy:
"I work on genealogy only on days that end in "Y"." [Grin!!!]
from www.GenealogyDaily.com.
"Documentation....The hardest part of genealogy"
"Genealogy is like Hide & Seek: They Hide & I Seek!"
" Genealogists: People helping people.....that's what it's all about!"
from http://www.rootsweb....nry/gentags.htm
Using FO and RM since FO2.0 


#12 KFN

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 07:02 AM

Zhangrau,

The date of lookup in citation comes into play when dealing with sources that are "mash ups" or secondary sources. What this means is that if you put information on the web stating that you think xyz occurred on a specific date and I cited your website, rather than the source you used, or where you came to a conclusion and I did not personally vet that conclusion, a date of look up is important.

Why? Because you may change your conclusion or update the source information and I would need to tell my readers that the source I used, "your site", they will know how old that reference was.

Just my Librarian view on the subject.

#13 zhangrau

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 04:06 PM

Zhangrau,

The date of lookup in citation comes into play when dealing with sources that are "mash ups" or secondary sources. What this means is that if you put information on the web stating that you think xyz occurred on a specific date and I cited your website, rather than the source you used, or where you came to a conclusion and I did not personally vet that conclusion, a date of look up is important.

Why? Because you may change your conclusion or update the source information and I would need to tell my readers that the source I used, "your site", they will know how old that reference was.

Just my Librarian view on the subject.

 

Using the Book, Basic format template, I do frequently list the date as "Accessed 28 Apr 2017," or something similar, particularly when I am documenting an undated website. Otherwise, I cite the date of the website. If I cite a news article dated 01 Mar 2017, and the article is later updated (but I don't notice and update my database), my readers will know which version of the article I used. I do agree that info is important.



#14 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 06:23 PM

Well, one criticism I would make of my footnote sentence is that it should really read as follows.

 
U.S. Federal Census: 1900, Sevier County, Tennessee, Dist. 8, Enumeration Dist. 143, page 119a, ancestry.com (1900 U.S. Census) viewed on 17 January 2015.

 

I meant to mention this earlier, but an advantage of using one's own Source Templates is that this kind of correction is easy to make throughout your own database, all at one fell swoop. Originally I had the place before the year and upon composing this message realized that the year should go before the place as in my corrected footnote sentence that I'm quoting immediately above. So I changed [Place], [Date] in the Source template to [Date], [Place] and the improvement was made throughout my database.

 

Jerry



#15 KFN

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 06:30 PM

Zhangrau,

I'm not sure I understand your point, or maybe you did not understand mine.

You said you found the lookup date in a citation to be "less essential" than others.

I was pointing out that when citing a website as a secondary source that the date a person took the information from that site to use in their genealogy was important to show their readers how old the data may be.

For example:

Before actual images of census data were placed on the web, Norwegian clubs would regularly go down to the archive and create lists of census data. They would do this for entire books of census data, copying down each line in the census, to help fellow club members so that others would not have to run down to the archive and look up one line from the census.

Later when computers became prevalent in these clubs people would transfer the written data to simple databases, or Lotus 123 spreadsheets.

Even later when clubs created "list services" or later websites these spreadsheets were made available to members from other clubs.

All of these data lookups would require a "date of lookup" because as "Secondary Sources" club members could find data translation errors or even real errors in the census and fix them. So if I went to the club and looked up in a Lotus 123 file some piece of data that was later updated when placed on the web, my "lookup date" of the Lotus 123 file would/could tell my reader that they better check my work. Even after the data got to the clubs website years later a revision of the data could be published. Thus lookup dates are still important for web material.

#16 zhangrau

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 09:40 PM

Zhangrau,

I'm not sure I understand your point, or maybe you did not understand mine.
. . .

Thus lookup dates are still important for web material.

 

I don't disagree with your point - lookup dates can be important.

 

However, I do think that the massive number of templates serves largely to complicate the documentation process, without adding significantly to the ability for re-verification. I'm neither a librarian nor a certified genealogist. Nor is my audience.

 

And, I've said a couple times (above), I offer my philosophy/strategy of documentation not as the "right" way to do it, but as one of many similar methods.



#17 PeggyF

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 07:12 AM

Hi jseymour84,

 

This is a little bit different than your original question, but it is something that I wish I knew earlier.

 

RootsMagic 7 now has Web Tags (a button at the top of the Edit Person screen). You can link the web address of the census record that you are looking at to everyone in the family group. Then you will be able to revisit the copy of the census you referenced with one click.

 

I have used RM for a long time, and my census citations are inconsistent because the way that I access census data has changed (yes, some of my citations date back to the time that you actually went to an archives and looked at the page on microfilm).  So I won't give advice about the best way to create those citations. And I am NOT recommending that you skip the citations and only use web tags!  Web sites disappear even more frequently than microfilm crumbles.

 

Also, I don't know how these web tags export (more experienced users encouraged to chime in), but when you are just starting work on a family line, you use census data a lot.  It will be nice to have a single click to verify that I copied spellings and dates correctly.

 

Best regards,

 

Peggy Mosinger Freedman

 

 

 

,


Peggy Mosinger Freedman

#18 Don Newcomb

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 05:15 AM

RootsMagic would like you to create a master source for each county of each census and different master sources depending on where you found the record (e.g. Ancestry, Family Search, Microfilm, etc). If you actually did this, it could result in a totally unmanageable master source list containing tens of thousands of different master sources for US census records alone. I have created one master source for each census from 1850 to 1940 (9 in all) plus one miscellaneous census source for all other censuses: state, foreign, etc. This may not be perfect in the eyes of some but it keeps the master source table from ballooning totally out of proportion to reality. As long as the master source manager is just a flat table structure, I'll do it this way. 



#19 GrandMarie

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Posted 30 June 2017 - 11:32 AM

I didn't want to add Census sources for each individual location either.  I used the  for example source template Census,US 1850-1870 filmed and created a source template for each state that I research.  This does allow the population schedule reference to be included in the citation.  So I have a template for each state, Tennesse, Alabama, Florida, etc. with the census year.  Then when I find a census document for an ancestor, I use the copy source function to copy the state template and edit the copy to show the county.  US Census 1850. Florida, Duval.  I use the information provided by Family Search, Ancestry or another provider to record the data, Film number, roll number, household id, page, head of household name, etc.  I also use the detail notes to record if the name that was shown in the index was recorded incorrectly for some reason.  This way anyone looking at my sources can go to any posting of census images and find the same image.

 

The NARA identifying information will not change whether you are looking on line at different websites or on microfilmed data.

 

This way I can also sort and find all the families in a particular county for a particular year.

 

I don't include the date I viewed it for census documents.  I may look at an individual document several times to verify household membership, neighbors, etc. 

 

Once the microfilm data has been entered for a county, it pulls forward the next time I access it and I only have to add the enumeration district, household id number. etc.  This helps because if more than  one family is in the county at the same time there is less information to be entered.

 

Hope this idea helps

 

 

 

 



#20 Kester

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Posted 30 June 2017 - 11:34 PM

I found these posts very informative.  I took over my mothers work, hers was all handwritten and typed, she had had written notes for her sources which she obtained from libraries and through the mail.  I started back in the early 80's, not alot on the internet at first for years, but I tried out all the programs out at the time.  I started to photocopy/scan source documents and put them into the first programs that allowed it.  I at first made a master source, for like say the 1930 Census.  Years later, I myself wanted more information, but also I was getting contacted by more and more people asking about sources.  I would look for better programs, that allowed better sourcing ... I wish RM was out back then.  I would find a better program, upgrade, I had last used was using UFT, ROOTS and TMG.  I would transfer data between programs, to be able to use each printing feature of those programs.  I had a break in my genealogy work for a few years ... when I returned, my old programs were no longer supported, and what I had would not work with what was on the internet today.  I shopped around, read up on all of the current programs, picked RM ... been using it for several years now.  I would say that about half of my data sources did not transfer over from any of my saved data, and I tried all my saves and backups.  In going back and re-entering sources, and using what is now on the internet ... I have scanned in all the hardcopy documents (many of which you can now find on the net, but not all the Birth, Marriage, Death documents I had mailed away for over the  years, those are still gold.  But I make a entry for each source, I agree with all the above posts, but the longer I do this, more is better, and with each one I put ALL the information I can find into it.  Take advantage of all the source templates in RM, use them ... years and years from now you will thank yourself.  That is just my two cents worth.  Again, I do agree with all the above posts, we all have our own way, and you do what you need, it is good that we are able to all do it the way we want with RM, it is a much greater program that those I started with so many years ago.