Citing a Genealogy Source

Now that you know the importance of documenting where you’ve gotten the information used in your family tree, let’s take a look at what goes into a properly-cited source.

If you’re using an online service like FamilySearch or Ancestry, your work is mostly done for you as you can attach source documents directly to an individual’s record. It usually looks something like this:

HeritageQuestOnline, “Trabert, Mathias (1900 U.S. Census)” (accessed 23 January 2009). T623 Roll:439 Page 115. Iowa, Jefferson, Lockridge Twp. !Original SOURCE: United States. Census Office. 12th census, 1900 population census schedules (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census Micro-Film Laboratory, [197-]).

And, if it’s not automatically entered into your tree, you can always copy-paste and insert into your family tree software or online record. Simple!

Depending on your software, you might even be able to enter a source once (e.g. and then save it to your source list. The next time you need to enter it, you can just click on that source, rather than having to enter the information all over again. Who doesn’t like to save time? :)

While there are many opinions out there as to the “correct” way to cite various kinds of sources (e.g. books, conversations, websites, etc.), the most important part is to be as thorough as possible. In this way, you and those who come after you – from your own descendants to fellow researchers – will have an easier time following your trail.

A word to the wise: experienced genealogists will tell you that you should document your sources as you go! If you wait until days, weeks, or even months after you’ve entered a piece of information to enter the source, you may have a difficult time remembering where you found it!

It may seem tedious at first, but citing your sources in as much detail as possible is definitely worth your time.