In the first two parts of this series, we explored the logic behind citing a publication and a webpage. You can read these articles here:
Derivative sources such as books and webpages, however, are among the easiest citations to get “right.” Far more difficult are the original sources that make up the bulk of our research.
For this example, we will use a U. S. federal census record. After all, census records are often the most-used of all genealogical sources, as a general record group. So that you can all see what record I am citing, I have included a link to an image of the 1860 census page containing my 3 x great-grandfather, Calvin Hait:
If you do not have a paid subscription to Footnote.com, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial to view this image. The image is also available on Ancestry.com. The free index entry on FamilySearch.org (while not the image) is available using the following short link:
In order to cite a record using the correct format, it is necessary to understand why the citation is organized in the manner in which it is organized.
If I am citing the 1860 census record for Calvin Hait, I must ask myself: what exactly am I citing?
- When citing a book, you are in actuality citing the book’s author, as published in the book. This does not apply to a manuscript record, which has no author. What you are citing is the record itself.
- In order to cite the federal census, you would start with the title, in precisely the same way that you would cite a book with no author. Unlike a book, which is known by a specific title, this record set does not bear a specific title, so you would not use italics. The title is a descriptive name for the record group.
- The 1860 U. S. Census, as microfilmed by the National Archives and Records Administration (microfilm publication M653), contains 1,438 rolls. Obviously, we need to be more specific in our citation than this. The key is to understand how the census is organized. As you can see by referring to the descriptive pamphlet for M653, available online at the NARA website, the 1860 U. S. Census is organized by county. So the next element that needs to be included is the county and state.
- Within each state, the census is further organized by schedule. For each state, the population schedule for each county appears first, followed by the slave schedule for each county. This manner of organization dictates the specification of the schedule next.
- What we have recorded to this point are the specifics to the record subset that we are using. We now have to get more specific as to the entry. In keeping with the general form of citations, proceeding from the largest group (i.e. the author) to the smallest group (i.e. the specific book, then the page number), we will proceed from the largest unit to the smallest unit, increasing in specificity as the citation continues.
- When you look at the specific page on which your record appears, you see a field at the top that provides the name of the town or municipality. This would be the next element in the citation. Following this would be the name of the post office, provided on the last line of the header.
- The 1860 census also includes a field for a specific page number, so you would include this page number as well. Then on the page, each household is identified by both a dwelling number and a family number. All of these would be included in your citation.
- Finally, for clarity’s sake, you will want to also specify the name(s) of the person or people that you are specifically examining. In most cases, this would be the entire household.
So, here is the first part of the citation for the 1860 census record for Calvin Hait:
1860 U. S. Census, Suffolk County, New York, population schedule, Town of Brookhaven, Patchogue post office, page 115, dwelling 877, family 920, Calvin Hait household …
This citation will be continued.