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An Online Database Source Type

A new source question was asked after our last meeting. "How would you source information from Ancestry's "California Death Index?" Remember my mantra: "There's no one right way to use TMG"; but here's how I would enter this source in my TMG database, and why I do this.

I have several source templates used for different Internet sources. Excluding the various online books and journals templates, these are the basic templates with my definitions and examples.

Ancestry's source information

Ancestry does provide source citation information, but if you happen to be one of those people who "cut and paste" that information into your database, your formatting will be inconsistent and your citations may be missing important information. Using TMG's source template feature will help solve this problem.

First, what type of source is Ancestry's "California Death Index, 1940-1997"? Since you can't access this information without going through a search form, and there are no associated images, I call it an "online database" and use the Electronic Database (online) source type. This is one of my custom source types; and it reproduces Evidence Explained, QuickCheck Model, p. 165. Members of the TV-TMGUG have copies of this template, but in case you want one, a PDF copy of the Source Type definition screen is provided below. (You may need to adjust the spacing, if you copy this template into your TMG database.)

TMG Source Definition Screen

Once you decide what template to use, the rest is relatively easy. The TMG Source Definition Screen's General Tab is pictured on the left. Use this screen to follow along with these comments.

  • Title: Use Ancestry's database titles, in this case, "California Death Index, 1940-1997". Don't include the quotation marks. That type of punctuation is included in the template.
  • Short Title: Mills seldom shortens a database title, so I don't either.
  • Website is the name of the website that hosts the database. Of course, that's Don't italicize the website title; that's included in the template.
  • For some databases, a compiler's name or title is given. If this informtaion duplicates the website title, omit it. It's usually not easy to tell what Ancestry has done to its databases, so I seldom use this field when I'm citing an Ancestry database.
  • Mills gives options for the Date field. If you can find the publication date for a database, or the date of its most recent update, enter it here. If not, she uses the year the database was accessed. This becomes tricky, as we usually search databases multiple times over many years. My suggestion: If you can't find a publication date, leave this field blank, or enter - and update - the appropriate span of years. This field only appears in the Bibliography.
  • The URL field is the home page URL for the database or umbrella web site. Do not enter the long URL with all its strange characters that may appear when you find your information!
  • The Publisher may duplicate the compiler or the website. If so, omit this information. Technically, I think one should consider "The Generations Network, Inc." as the publisher for this database, but one could make a case for omitting this information, as the publisher might also be viewed as I usually omit it.
  • I use the Comments field for relevant information about the original source of an online database. The template is currently set up to include that information in the Bibliography. I haven't figured out why Mills sometimes includes this in the Full Footnote, sometimes includes this in the Bibliography, or sometimes omits the information entirely.

Stage Two: How do we specify what record we're citing? That information is part of TMG's Citation Detail field. In the example, that record was the death record for Lorene E. Goss, who died 24 January 1866. Mills discusses the detailed information required in these source types in Evidence Explained, pp. 468-470.

  • [CD1]: Enter all information required to uniquely identify a record every time it is cited. This includes the individual's name, exactly as it appears in the source, the full date of the event, and the place, if specifically cited and necessary for unique identification.
  • [CD2] includes any relevant information that doesn't need to appear every time the record is cited. This may include information about the original record, if it's included in the database; for example, "citing Rockford County Deaths, 3: 186, entry no. 82".
  • [CD3] is the date you found the record. This information is very important!
  • If you could not find this record using standard name searches, enter the keywords or search method you used in the Citation Memo ([CM]) field.

The Finished Example

Download a Copy of this Source Type
New source elements for this template
Variations from Mills and Evidence Explained

Have any more source citations you'd like to see? Please contact me, and I'll see what I can do.


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