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Simplified Citation Templates


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#1 APerson

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 06:11 PM

Hi Everyone,

First, Iíd like to thank Renee for creating a web site to post templates Ė itís terrific! She has just posted the templates I created over the past couple of weeks. At the moment, I'm calling it ďSimplified Citations for Genealogical Sources."

Renee has posted the templates on a special RootsMagic web site.


Iíve been pulling my hair out, for years (since the mid-1980ís), agonizing over how to cite my sources. I published my family history back in 1995 (just before the Internet took off) and had used PAF (and, perhaps, an early version of Ancestral Quest) along with another DOS program, GenBook to create it. I do know that I was struggling with citations even then.

Since then, a lot of genealogy software applications have been developed but Iíve been unhappy with most of them as theyíre simply too complex and/or do a miserable job when it comes to citing sources in a simple manner. In fact, I had put my genealogy work aside simply because converting things to a useful format has been such a pain. I was thrilled when I decided to look into RootsMagic (just a year ago) and like it a lot Ė in comparison to almost everything else, itís simple to use and I also liked the use of templates to cite sources. At the same time, I also came across the book ďEvidence Explained.Ē Iím also familiar with the book by Richard Lackey and others but havenít used them in a long time.

After trying to use the RootsMagic templates for Evidence Explained for the past year, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated Ė although Elizabeth Shown did an exceptional job, I believe her system really is too complex and the manner in which sources are cited is inconsistent. Itís often difficult, if not impossible, to tell what the information the citations are referring to. For example the lead element of each citation can vary greatly Ė sometimes it refers to the author, other times, itís the name of the person the document refers to, it might be the name of the document, the type of the document, etc. Sometimes, important information (such as dates) can be missing from the citation while at other times, a lot of very specific information (such as the location of repositories) is included but not needed.

After getting frustrated trying to cite a couple of newspaper articles a few weeks ago, I threw up my hands and simply gave up trying to use Evidence Explained. I didnít know if I could come up with a system that was simpler and knew that traditional citation methods really donít work well with genealogical sources as we deal with too many ďstrangeĒ things (okay, so how many other citation systems need to document tombstones?)! So . . . Iíve spent the past couple of weeks pondering the problem (it was either that or keep banging my head against the wall as Iíve already done for the past few decades) and came up with my ideas for a new system.

My intent was:

1. Citations should be kept as consistent as possible, regardless of the type of source.

2. It should easy to use and not require hours of thought trying to figure out what information should be included or what template to use.

3. The purpose of a citation should help provide others with a reasonable chance of locating the same record. Of course, we deal with so many unique one-of-a-kind items, many of which only one copy exists, that this can also be a difficult task (for example, I have the original copies of my great-grandparentsí naturalization papers, as well as one of my great-grandfatherís actual passport from Italy.

4. Minimize the level of specificity required to cite each document while, at the same time, providing enough information to find the source again. In my opinion, citing census records can really get out of control Ė there are far too many templates as a result - some cite the country, state, county, township, institution, supervisorís district, enumeration district, page/sheet number, visitation number, household number, line number, name of each individual, etc. Not to mention that itís always very easy to start citing the sources of sources (in other words, the records was viewed on one site but the scanned copy originally came from microfilm, housed at a land-based site, at a different repository). The variations, of course, are endless.

5. Although errors can be made when filming, scanning documents (as so many are), the actual format of the document is not important to cite and, as long as the document is adequately cited, itís not important to note the format (microfilm, microfiche, scanned, etc.) Future researchers looking for the same document should be aware that pages can be left out, scanned out of order, etc. and should also seek out multiple copies of the same document if there are any questions.

Traditional citations (books, magazines, newspapers) donít provide every last bit of detail to assist readers in locating information (at most, page numbers are provided) and, while genealogical citations may need a bit more information, they also donít need to hold the hands of all future researchers. For example, how much information is really required to locate a census record? Are visitation and household ID numbers really needed? Do we really need to know the line numbers of each individual on sheet? I donít think so.

With that in mind, I then looked at my own records (I keep copies of everything) and tried to find commonalities (yes, I'm probably a ďlumperĒ) between very disparate records (driverís licenses, census records, club membership cards, books, articles, prayer cards from [Roman Catholic] funerals, marriage certificates, etc., etc.) . Essentially all records have a creator/author, a title or a description (and sometimes a person's specific name or names must be included), and perhaps a location where it was created/published/stored (it's unlikely that we donít know who made the gravestone but we often do know the exact location where it can be found Ė which will also likely never change). More often than not, we also know the date or approximate date a source was created. As dates are very important, when possible, it is most helpful to note the greatest amount of detail (year, month, date).

These four items (author/creator, date, title/description, and place of publication/creation) are common to nearly all genealogical sources) so Iíve group them under ďmaster source.Ē

Other information, however, can also be extremely useful and also needs to be cited (okay, so I have a bit of splitter in me too). Again, as I examined very different records, I found some commonalities: page numbers, the name of each specific individual a source refers too, the exact location where an event took place (this is DIFFERENT than where a source was published). The name of the repository (only needed for one-of-a-kind items and/or online sources), Miscellaneous record numbers (i.e., certificate number, case numbers, file numbers, grave locations [section, plot, grave numbers, etc.]) Ė this might also be a good field for other information that splitters have to have Ė census line numbers, microfilm numbers, etc.). There should also be a place to attach a personal ID number Ė while this is NOT printed in citations and is found in other places on RM templates, it really should be attached to your data within you own collection of materials. Also, it would be GREAT to be able to sort sources by this ID number. I struggled (and still do) with the need to include census enumeration districts, household ID numbers, and family numbers and have included them here only until I can decide if they are really needed (besides, this information will make splitters happy too).

All of this additional information may be included under ďSource Details.Ē In summary, much of this information is optional and is lumped under: page number, information about individuals, location, census information, repository (only if needed), misc. numbers, and Personal ID (also fully optional).

Now that I had identified what I believe are key components, I also realized that there are two kinds of records we deal with Ė "traditional" ones (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) and "non-traditional" ones (gravestones, Aunt Myrtleís diary, photographs with notes written on them, etc., etc.) and that there are often differences between them. For example, traditional records often have a formal title, non-traditional records do not but can be described (e.g., death certificate). Traditional records often have an author whereas non-traditional records were often created by an entity (i.e., churches, government agencies, etc.) or the creator is unknown but the place responsible for the source is known (e.g., we know the name of a cemetery where a gravestone is located). All of these can, arguably, be listed as the ďauthor, creator, or maintainer of a sourceĒ and should, therefore be listed as the lead element in any citation. The date (if known) is crucial. We know the title of a source or can give that item a useful description to serve as a title (i.e., birth certificate, passport, passenger ship record, etc.), and we often know where the item was created.

Because of these similarities, and yet because ďtraditionalĒ and ďnon-traditionalĒ records are slightly different in the manner we assign descriptors to each field, I created a template for each one. Census records, of course, are so common, that I also created a template for them too. The most important thing, however, is that I created a ďmaster templateĒ that included all of the information I could think of that might be needed to cite nearly all sources. In order to keep things very consistent (which Evidence Explained does not Ė and that drives me NUTS), I created the master template first and insisted that all other templates be created from it. In essence, the other templates (e.g., traditional, non-traditional, and census) were created by deleted unnecessary fields from the master template (and I had to tweak the code so that they printed correctly).

I tested these templates by first creating a fake genealogy and, using real records, created a list of sources for my imaginary person. Once that seemed to be going very well, I then started using the templates on my own real data. At the moment, I trying to use just three templates for everything (traditional, non-traditional, and census). Please note that, even then, it's not necessary to fully complete every field - just the ones that are relevant to the source. What Iíve found is that it is now much easier (and faster) for me to cite my sources and I no longer spend hours trying to figure out which template to use. Iím also finding that my citations seem to be giving me enough information that will, hopefully, allow others to find the same information later. Interestingly, some of the citations are a bit longer but also provide needed information (particularly dates).

One final thing Ė I had to determine what order to present each element in the citations as well as the syntax to use. Briefly, the master source information (which is perhaps the most important information used to find a source again) is listed first and always in the same order. Second, any source detail information is provided but is separated from the master source information by double bars || (I thought that would be useful). Although this information is also always in the same order, some elements are not listed as not all sources require them. Each element should usually begin with a capital letter and end with a period. I looked at how other citation systems handled similar information.

There are many other things I looked at and have written much of them down (far too much to list here now). I donít know if this will work for others but, so far, Iím having a lot of success with it and have stopped stressing over how to consistently cite my information. Iím sure itís impossible to make everyone happy (lumpers vs. splitters) but Iím happy enough with what Iíve created so fare that Iíve started using it with my own real data and have so far been very pleased. Iím still not sure if some information (e.g., census enumeration and household ID) is needed and am looking for records that cannot be cited using these templates.

Anyway, this is a work in progress. Constructive criticism is much appreciated! Thanks!

#2 Renee Zamora

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 09:22 AM

https://sites.google...e/rm4templates/

001 - Simplified Citations - Census.rmst
002 - Simplified Citations - Master Template.rmst
003 - Simplified Citations - Non-traditional.rmst
004 - Simplified Citations - Traditional.rmst
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#3 TomH

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 07:43 PM

I had a very brief look at your simplified source templates and have these observations based on a little experiment with just the Traditional Sources template:
  • Users will have to review what the implied, inferred or defined division is between a Master Source and its Citation Detail and determine if it suits their own use. If not, e.g., they lump more together under one Master or want to break down among more finely divided Masters, then they will have to customise the templates and probably modify the templates. This is no different than determining if a RM standard template is suitable.
  • You use "||" in the sentence templates to divide between Master Source and Source Details. I wonder how acceptable that is for publication. I do like how one's eyes can readily jump to the Source Detail but I think I would remove it.
  • Your Bibliography sentence template is the same as the Footnote s.t. It should not contain any Source Detail, else the Bibliography just becomes a list of all the unique citations. It should be just the list of Master Sources cited in the document, formatted according to appropriate convention. I'm not an expert but I perceive that Bill Bienia wrote the standard templates such that author's names go one way in the footnote and the opposite in Bibliography, presumably after EE et al.
  • Export of database and import to RM seems to work not too badly, because your sentence templates are designed with all the Source Details following the Master Source fields. Of course the Bibliography is stripped of the Source details and is left with a trailing
    . ||
    .
    that needs fixing. Also, the Footnotes end up with something like
    . ||
    ,
    dividing Master Source sentence from the Source Details fields which does not look good, but all the Source Detail does comes out separated by commassemi-colons, in the order the fields appear in the entry form. So your templates are potentially more compatible with third party GEDCOM software than many of the built-in templates; what I mean is that the resulting footnotes may make more sense, provided the field order is not inappropriate for different kinds of sources.
Has anyone else given them a go? I'd like to hear other feedback on your very good efforts. The goal is desirable; I just have not studied citation styles enough to be able to judge if these come close.

Edited by TomH, 21 February 2011 - 08:05 PM.

Tom user of RM7550 FTM2017 Ancestry.ca FamilySearch.org FindMyPast.com
SQLite_Tools_For_Roots_Magic_in_PR_Celti wiki, exploiting the database in special ways >>> RMtrix-tiny.png app, a bundle of RootsMagic utilities.


#4 TomH

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 08:49 PM

You have done a very comprehensive job of making punctuation marks invisible where fields are null. A little test on the Master Template (maybe Universal might be less confusing with Master Source terminology already in use) does show some residual: an empty citation of an empty source using this template results in:
Footnote:
().  ||
Short footnote:
().
Bibliography:
().  ||

Tom user of RM7550 FTM2017 Ancestry.ca FamilySearch.org FindMyPast.com
SQLite_Tools_For_Roots_Magic_in_PR_Celti wiki, exploiting the database in special ways >>> RMtrix-tiny.png app, a bundle of RootsMagic utilities.


#5 TomH

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 08:53 PM

Export of database and import to RM seems to work not too badly, because your sentence templates are designed with all the Source Details following the Master Source fields. Of course the Bibliography is stripped of the Source details and is left with a trailing

. ||
.
that needs fixing. Also, the Footnotes end up with something like
. ||
,
dividing Master Source sentence from the Source Details fields which does not look good, but all the Source Detail does comes out separated by commassemi-colons, in the order the fields appear in the entry form. So your templates are potentially more compatible with third party GEDCOM software than many of the built-in templates; what I mean is that the resulting footnotes may make more sense, provided the field order is not inappropriate for different kinds of sources.

I should have said:

Export of database without RM specific features and import to RM resulting in Free Form sources seems to work ...


Tom user of RM7550 FTM2017 Ancestry.ca FamilySearch.org FindMyPast.com
SQLite_Tools_For_Roots_Magic_in_PR_Celti wiki, exploiting the database in special ways >>> RMtrix-tiny.png app, a bundle of RootsMagic utilities.


#6 FOVeteran

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 11:24 AM

I have run into the same frustrations a the originator of this thread. You go to the "experts" to get their advice and they give you very inconsistent examples and then in the same breath tell you to be consistent.

I think what they are realy doing is giving examples rather than setting a standard. But what I am looking for is guidance and a standard, not a listing of popular ways people have done it.

I liked how the thread originator broke the subject down into basics. And I agree it would be a lot easier just to stick to one format of author first rather than playing around and considering all sort of options like Item first, person of interest first, etc.

As I have been struggling to achieve some consistency myself, you have challenged me to rethink my approach. How has your method been working out for you since you posted? Have you stuck to just a few templates? Or have you found they were not enough to handle all situations?

How have others found their way to consistency?

#7 Nettie

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 07:31 AM

How have others found their way to consistency?


Yes, some of us have done some consistency issues. I have used the first edition that Elizabeth S Mills wrote after Richard Lacy died. I am not at home now so don't have the name of the book. What I did was picked the templates from the big list in RM4 and tried to use the one template for a lot of ones that could be many.

For example:
  • Books, all books are done with the author template [whether there is an author or not].
  • Census: used one template for each of the 10 year sections of Census records. no matter whether I got it online or copy from FHC or WI State historical Society.
  • Journals/Periodicals = created my own as used serialized periodicals. [copied from the Master Template list and fixed it so it will work for me]

Have put the census record on another question in this forum.

Basically choose ones that will work with what you have already for sources,mark as favorite or add an * to the front of the Source name, so you can get back to it easily. I have used EE front of ones I have used and * for ones I have changed. This is your choice for set up. Everyone does theirs differently.

Basically do your sources no matter what template, so you can find the source again, if you have to go back and re look at it. It does happen. :)

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 


#8 Renee Zamora

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 09:53 AM

I just received this email regarding the templates APerson created.

Thanks for creating and posting your four Simplified Templates for RM4. They solve a problem I was having with how to cite a couple of quarterly publications. TAG and Register.

Roger Marble


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#9 APerson

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 11:47 PM

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for the comments (I'm Jeff). I lead a VERY busy life and haven't had much of a chance to lurk here for a while. I've been using the Templates for everything I've entered over the past few months and, so far, it's been very easy for me (but then again, I created it). Your comments and suggestions are very helpful and much appreciated!







#10 Roadrunner

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 09:00 AM

Hi Folks
 
This is my first trip into RM7.  I read some interestig posts in December, couple of years ago, from CRH, Don Newcomb, Laura, Jerry, DonH, where CRH was interested, as am I, in UK sources et al.  Was interested to learn what CRH had finally settled, on then came across the excellent 22 items uploaded by Renee.  They look interesting thought I, but how much more informative, if a textual version of the contents of each zip was included!
 
Anyway, I've downloaded all of them, though currently haven't run them, because I had a problem with the final one #022.  It won't download and I'm wondering if that's unique to my system?
 
Advise appreciated
 
RonC

#11 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 10:17 AM

I think a new wrinkle in this whole discussion is the fact that many Web sites that provide images of genealogical documents now also provide footnote sentence to go along with the image. What should we do with those footnote sentences that are already created for us?

 

One viewpoint about source templates (and by no means, not the only viewpoint) is that their purpose is to construct footnote sentences for us. So if the footnote sentence is already created, why do we need source templates? Or maybe we need a source template which collects only one data element for us - call it FootnoteSentenceAlreadyMadeForUs - and our sentence template for the source then becomes simply "[FootnoteSentenceAlreadyMadeForUs]" without the quotes.

 

I have not yet come to any conclusions about how best to deal with this issue. I simply point out that the issue exists.

 

Jerry