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Census Citations, TMG, and Evidence Explained

It seems that questions relative to census entries in TMG arise at almost every meeting. Our September meeting was no exception. Some of those questions, combined with the recent appearance of Elizabeth Shown Mills' eagerly awaited Evidence Explained, provided the impetus for me to revisit the census citation source templates I use in TMG. Some of the basic concepts mentioned here will be explored in more detail in an upcoming article for the Roots Tracer. This page is relatively long. Use these shortcuts to skip from topic to topic.


Original Census | Microfilm Census | CD-ROM Census | Online Subscription Census | Summary |

The Federal Census: A Brief History of a Derivative Source

Once upon a time, our federal census came in only two varieties: the original census taker's copy and something Mills calls a duplicate original, one of the "fair copies" mandated by law in some census years. The original was usually kept locally, and a duplicate original was sent to the Bureau of the Census. A second duplicate original, if mandated, was sent to the state government.

The advent of microfilm created both a means of preserving valuable original manuscripts and a way to spread copies of these manuscripts around the country. Both the National Archives and the researchers could benefit. Note that I used the word copies. The microfilm version of a census record is a derivative document.

The computer was the next technological advance important to genealogists' use of census records. The ability to digitize an image created another way to disseminate copies of a census. Because the census is a public domain record, commercial ventures were created to digitize and enhance a census to increase its legibility. The results could be placed on a CD-ROM and sold to individual researchers for a fraction of the cost of a microfilm roll, not to mention a fraction of the storage space. The federal microfilm copy was used to create the digitized images, yielding a second (or third) generation derivative.

The Internet provided another outlet for digitized images and another possibility for commercial ventures: genealogy subscription sites. Currently, Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest Online are the major purveyors of census images. FamilySearch Labs has a growing collection of their own census images, and Footnote provides 1860 and 1930 census images. All four created their images from the federal census microfilm, but each company appears to have used different means of digitizing and enhancing. The images are not identical!


Master Source List


1900 Ancestry.com Image


1900 HeritageQuest Online Image

  • Question One: Is it necessary to specify in your citation which "original" you viewed?
  • Question Two: Since a microfilm copy is essentially a photograph of the original record, do we really need to specify that we used the microfilm?
  • Question Three: Since most of these CD-ROMS contain the same images as a roll of microfilm, is it really necessary to create a separate citation format for them?
  • Question Four: Is it really necessary to create a new template just to deal with online census images?

If you take a look at the segment of my TMG Master Source List illustrated on the left, you'll see that my answer to these questions is "Yes!"

Compare the two census page images, one from Ancestry.com and one from HeritageQuest Online. This should erase any doubt that all these images are different sources, and they can't be cited as if they're identical.

The Online Subscription Census Image Template

This is the derivative census source we use most often in our research today, so this is the template I'll discuss first. Creating this template is discussed in more detail on the page entitled Creating a Source Template.

Source Type: Census (US online), Full footnote

<[DOCUMENT], ><[COUNTY], ><[STATE], ><[RECORD TYPE], ><[CD2], ><[CD1]; > digital image, <[ITAL:][WEBSITE][:ITAL] >(<[URL]>< : accessed [CD3]>)<; citing [PUBLISHER]>< microfilm publication [FILM],>< roll [ROLL]><; [CM]>.

Source Type: Census (US online), Short footnote

[SHORT TITLE]<, [CD2]><, [CD1]><; [CM]>.

Source Type: Census (US online), Bibliography

[STATE]. [COUNTY]. [DOCUMENT]<, [RECORD TYPE]>. Digital images. <[ITAL:][WEBSITE][:ITAL]. ><[URL]>< : [DATE]>.

Alternative Template

Consider this alternative template. Online sites such as Ancestry, Footnote, or FamilySearch Labs include many large databases. In effect, they resemble a virtual library, and I treat them as if they were repositories. Because all my online census images come from these large sites, I use [REPOSITORY] and [REPOSITORY ADDRESS] instead of [WEBSITE] and [URL] in my personal template.

Source Type: Census (US online), Full footnote

<[DOCUMENT], ><[COUNTY], ><[STATE], ><[RECORD TYPE], ><[CD2], ><[CD1]; > digital image, <[ITAL:][REPOSITORY][:ITAL] >(<[REPOSITORY ADDRESS]>< : accessed [CD3]>)<; citing [PUBLISHER]>< microfilm publication [FILM],>< roll [ROLL]><; [CM]>.

Source Type: Census (US online), Short footnote

[SHORT TITLE]<, [CD2]><, [CD1]><; [CM]>.

Source Type: Census (US online), Bibliography

[STATE]. [COUNTY]. [DOCUMENT]<, [RECORD TYPE]>. Digital images. <[ITAL:][REPOSITORY][:ITAL]. ><[REPOSITORY ADDRESS]>< : [DATE]>.

Comments and Reminders

The Microfilm Census Template

Although most of us now do our census research through one of the commercial subscription sites, microfilm copies of the federal census are widespread. We must turn to the microfilm when problems with online images arise.

Source Type: Census, Federal (Filmed), Full footnote

<[DOCUMENT], ><[COUNTY], ><[STATE], ><[RECORD TYPE], ><[CD2], ><[CD1]; ><[SHORT PUBLISHER] >microfilm publication [FILM], roll [ROLL]<; [CM]>.

Source Type: Census, Federal (Filmed), Short footnote

[SHORT TITLE]<, [CD2]><, [CD1]><; [CM]>.

Source Type: Census, Federal (Filmed), Bibliography

[STATE]. [COUNTY]. [DOCUMENT]<, [RECORD TYPE]>. <[SHORT PUBLISHER] >microfilm publication [FILM], roll [ROLL]. [REPOSITORY ADDRESS]: [REPOSITORY]<, [DATE]>.

Comments and Reminders

The CD-ROM Census Image Template

I suspect many people have forgotten that CD-ROM census image publications exist, but many libraries do have copies.

Source Type: Census (CD-ROM), Full footnote

<[DOCUMENT], ><[COUNTY] County, ><[STATE], ><[RECORD TYPE], ><[CD2], ><[CD1]; >< [ITAL:][TITLE][:ITAL],> CD-ROM, digital image, (<[PUBLISHER ADDRESS]: ><[PUBLISHER], ><[DATE])><; citing [REPOSITORY]>< microfilm publication [FILM],>< roll [ROLL]><; [CM]>.

Source Type: Census (CD-ROM), Short footnote

[SHORT TITLE]<, [CD2]><, [CD1]><; [CM]>.

Source Type: Census (CD-ROM), Bibliography

[STATE]. [COUNTY]. <[DOCUMENT], ><[RECORD TYPE].> <[ITAL:][TITLE][:ITAL]. >CD-ROM, digital images. <[PUBLISHER ADDRESS]: ><[PUBLISHER], ><[DATE].>

Comments and Reminders

The "Original" Census Template

The most readily availabe "duplicate original" census is housed in Archives I in Washington, D.C. Researchers use this copy only when the microfilm copy is illegible. Given the fact that the digital images at Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest Online are also available at Archives I, access to these census volumes may be even more limited now. I've used these volumes only once.

Source Type: Census, Federal (original), Full footnote

<[CD1], ><[CD2], ><[COUNTY], ><[STATE]; ><[SERIES], ><vol. [VOLUME], ><[DOCUMENT]; ><[SUBSERIES]; ><[RECORD GROUP], ><Record Group [RG NUMBER]; ><[REPOSITORY]><, [REPOSITORY ADDRESS]>.

Source Type: Census, Federal (original), Short footnote

<[CD1], ><[CD2], ><[SHORT SUBTITLE]; ><[SHORT TITLE]><, RG [RG NUMBER]><, [SHORT PUBLISHER]>.

Source Type: Census, Federal (original), Bibliography

<[STATE]. ><[COUNTY]. ><[SERIES]. ><[SUBSERIES]. ><[RECORD GROUP]><, Record Group [RG NUMBER]. ><[REPOSITORY], ><[REPOSITORY ADDRESS]>.

Comments and Reminders

Summary



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