Citation Principles

From FamilySearch Wiki
Revision as of 23:18, 7 June 2011 by RaymondRS (talk | contribs) (Headings)

Jump to: navigation, search

It can be difficult to construct a citation when no matching example is given unless you know the underlying principles. This articles presents some basic citation principles from Chicago and Mills[1] citation styles. Mills Style is grounded in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), Humanities style.[2]

Cite What You See

"Cite what [source] we actually used," not a source cited in the source we used.[3]


"Clarity always beats consistency."[4]

Cite a newsletter like a journal when the extra parentheses are necessary to separate a volume number from an issue month.[5]

There is No One Right Way

Researchers are allowed some latitude in constructing citations. 


Drop Redundant Information

Redundant information need not be repeated in a citation.

  • When publishing a genealogy article, once a reference note identifies the archive housing a collection, subsequent references to the collection do not have to repeat the archive information.[6]
  • For records consulted on FHL microfilm, in some cases the repository information can be specified in the source list entry and excluded from reference notes.[7]
  • When an archival set of records has both a number and a name, only the first need contain both.[8]
  • When publishing a genealogy article, ibid. may be used when a citation refers to the same source as the previous citation.[9]
  • When publishing a genealogy article, a citation may omit elements already identified in the text.[10]
  • Do not respecify baptisms in the locator information of a citation when it is clear from the title.[11]
  • Do not specify the record type when it is part of the title.[12]
  • When a location is added to the beginning of a source list entry to force desired alphabetizing, it need not be repeated in its normal position in the citation.[13] In essence, the citation element has been moved.
  • Do not specify the creator's role when it is clear from the title.[14]
  • Do not redundantly add the periodical's publication place in parentheses when already specified in the title.[15]
  • Do not specify creator if identified in the title.[16]
  • Do not specify both website name and podcast name when the two are the same.[17]

Default Values

Default values in citations do not need to be specified.

  • "Author" is the default creator's role.[18]
  • "Paper" is the default medium.[19]

Websites are Publications

Websites are publications, not archives. Cite websites like publications and web pages like subdivisions.[20]

  • On large sites, it sometimes makes sense to cite the web edition of a book using the book's "home page" rather than the site's home page.[21]

Pervasive Knowledge

Information that is common knowledge can sometimes be excluded from a citation.

  • In some cases, world-famous, unambiguous cities may be specified without province or U.S. state name.[22]


  • When citing a record that degrades over time, then one should specify when the record was seen. For example, grave markers degrade over time, so the citation should include the date the marker was read.[23]


  1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007).
  2. Mills, Evidence Explained, 61.
  3. Mills, Evidence Explained, 52.
  4. Mills, Evidence Explained, 462.
  5. Mills, Evidence Explained, 806-7.
  6. Mills, Evidence Explained, 384.
  7. Mills, Evidence Explained, 56.
  8. Mills, Evidence Explained, 118.
  9. Mills, Evidence Explained, 205, 273.
  10. Mills, Evidence Explained, 259.
  11. Mills, Evidence Explained, 324.
  12. Mills, Evidence Explained, 453, 495, 556.
  13. Mills, Evidence Explained, 462.
  14. Mills, Evidence Explained, 666-7.
  15. Mills, Evidence Explained, 806-7.
  16. Mills, Evidence Explained, 807, 812.
  17. Mills, Evidence Explained, 816.
  18. Mills, Evidence Explained, 666.
  19. CMS 15th ed., 684.
  20. Mills, Evidence Explained, 57-60 (par. 2.33-7), 626 (par. 11.55).
  21. Mills, Evidence Explained, 767.
  22. Mills, Evidence Explained, 221-2, 369.
  23. Mills, Evidence Explained, 214.