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Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364711292000
Classification: Query
OK, first the rant.

Easily the most time consuming aspect of my genealogical research is figuring out how to cite sources. With Mills' "Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace" (2007) as my standard, I've lost track of the time I've spent trying to shoehorn stuff into FTM 2011's templates in order to squeeze out something approximating Mills. is worse -- far worse -- than trying to deal with FTM's templates.

And I'll admit to some of the blame myself, as well.

This time 'round, it's the 1870 census. I've got an ancestor up in MN. Following Mills (pg. 240 - Digital Images, Online Commercial Site), I should have something like this:

1870 U.S. Census, St. Louis County, Minnesota, population schedule, City of Duluth Ward 2, p. 5, Line 7, Jos B. Culver; digital image, ( : accessed March 30, 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication ???, roll ???.

My first problem is the publication and roll numbers. Here's the godawful mess dumps on me for the "source citation":

Year: 1870; Census Place: Duluth Ward 2, St Louis, Minnesota; Roll: T132_10; Page: 311; Image: 265; Family History Library Film: 830430.

Makes my blood boil. First, it says p. 311. "0311" is stamped on the microfilm image, but it's actually pp. 4,5. Second, "T132_10" is not the roll. Based on other census years I'm tempted to interpret that as publication T132, Roll 10. But other census year publication numbers start with M.

Directly below is the "Source Information" which says BOTH "NARA microfilm publication M593" and "NARA microfilm publication T132".

So I googled "1870 US census M593 T132" and the first THREE pages of results were all connections to peoples' online genealogies, everyone of which had just copied and pasted the mess handed them. A.C's mess is polluting the entire Internet.

So is the 1870 census M593 or T132?

In FTM I've been using the template "Population Schedule - United States, 1850-1870 (by Census Year and Location)" (under Census records / Digital Images), and have gotten been able to achieve this:

"1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Minnesota, St. Louis County, City of Duluth Ward 2, page 5, Line 2, Jos B. Culver (accessed 31 March 2013); NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 10; digital image, (

That fairly closely approximates Mills, but is there a way to get any closer?

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364728937000
Classification: Query
The 1870 is a pet peeve of mine, as well - see this thread

The citation from familysearch comes a little closer:

"United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 Mar 2013), John Lowe in household of Jon H Lowe, Georgia, United States; citing p. 80, family 624, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 545642.

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364739157000
Classification: Query
Thanks for the reply. As I find the time, I should go over to the Site Comments forum and rant some there about the general sorry state of citations. I posted here because my more immediate question was suggestions on getting FTM 2011 to approximate Mills.

I've read through some of the thread you linked to, and it confirms my belief that clicking on "Attach to someone on my tree" is always, ALWAYS a Bad Idea(TM).

I *never* allow Ancestry to create the links; I download all images locally, build the citations manually in FTM, attach the local image, then sync back up to my online trees. I NEVER sync down. Just got tired of cleaning up the mess.

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364743163000
Classification: Query
For anyone that is realy serious about genealogy, and the documentation required for "good practices" in the scientific meathod.

Mills' methods are great, but to use them correctly you must understand what she is trying to get you to tell your reader.

Never link to other individual's work unless their work is 1) Vetted 100% by you 2) They adhere to very exacting documentation standards, 3) You have completely collected the information and sources they use and report in their work

Always have either in you possession or the ability retrieve into your possession the source documentation for your research. Finding the information on the web and having a link to it is not enough, web pages come and go. Even in the case of a book that was found in a library, unless that book is readily available you should keep a personal copy of the information page AND the "Front matter" pages (title page, Colophon, TOC) into your archive.

I store this information as photos in my database with the source_citation and source.

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364750643000
Classification: Query
Well said. As I said, I don't link to the Internet, even to Ancestry. I make sure to have a local copy of every source I use. While in the old days that meant reams of photocopies, today it's as easy as downloading a census image from Ancestry and attaching a copy to the source citation in FTM, so why wouldn't you do that?

While I agree with the first two of your principles in theory, if I rejected every source that didn't adhere absolutely to "exacting standards", progress would be really slow. I have more than once found less exacting sources that were nonetheless of value; though I do usually make a note to that effect in the footnote.

As to the third criterion: if I've collected every source my source has cited, why wouldn't I just cite them directly?

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364756394000
Classification: Query
Please understand, I don't want you to "reject" the information, but understand that by definition citing from a personal website is not a primary, or secondary source but a tertiary source. That is unless the person you are citingis a known authority in the field.

In other words, If someone says "I read that xyz is true." This statement should be recorded and used to further you research but not as a primary source, an never when the primary source is available somewhere. Go get the source.

If you want to cite the website as a source, go ahead, but if I saw that you were linked to my reseach, and all you said was "because I saw it on" I would be compelled to go to to find their source citations, then go to those sources to find out if the information they found was 1) not transcribed wrong, 2) incorrectly concluded, 3) cited incorrectly.

A case in point: A series of books that everyone in Norway uses to research/show family liniage written by authorities in the field, had my great-granfather's sister as having died of leprosy. I did extensive research on leprosy and even wrote a chapter in my book about how it was treated and cured by a Bergen Doctor shortly after her death.

10 years later I was searching a census document that showed a person living in an appartment on another floor of the same building my g-grandfather lived with much of the same data as his sister. Long-story-short, it was her, she was alive and now has 20 g-grandchildren.

If I had researched the book author's sources (they are rarely cited) I could have been given the opporunity to refute the assertion. Today I never take that information as primary or secondary source, but as a starting point to get to the primary source and good information.

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364773078000
Classification: Query
Understood. I think we just differ on where we keep our tertiary information.

I cite teriary sources when I don't have anything better, and then I don't consider it the end of the matter. I'll generally say something like, "John Doe, XYZ.COM/Smith.html, citing no sources." (and I'll take a screenshot of the site as my local copy) as an alert that further investigation is required. I might even add a further discussion as to why I think John Doe's information may be problematic but still useful.

Maybe it's a holdover from TMG, which had a surety field for rating a source's reliability. FTM used to have that as well; why's it missing from the current version?

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364773986000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1364774110000
FTM does have a rating structure for sources.

Right click on a source citation on a Person tab of a person. Select "Rate" from the right click menu.

You then have two choices

1) Number of stars you select with your own criteria.
2) Number of stars awarded via what FTM calls "standardized" criteria. You check a characteristic for that source and FTM awards the number of stars.

That said, FTM does not have any structure for analyzing and evaluating relationships between people, which is much more important, imho. (for example, that a person is: ruled out, possibly, likely, almost certainly, certainly, a given relationship to another person.)

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364908333000
Classification: Query
Well I'll be! How's anyone supposed to find it there?

In FTM '06 it was in the Master Source dialog. Attaching it to an individual citation is much better (now that I know it's there!); after all, it's not the reliability of the source, per se, but its reliability viz. a given fact that's in question. My grandmother's hand-drawn family tree would be quite reliable for my mother's date of birth; not so much for thrice-great uncle on my grandfather's side.

One last question: is there a way to filter based on source quality? Maybe I'd like to hand off only my well-documented research.

Re: Citing Censuses in FTM - a rant

Posted: 1364919851000
Classification: Query
Not that I'm aware of.
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