Many people will ask, “Do I really have to write a fully sourced citation to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) or other such standards?” Not to sound like Certified Genealogist and Lecturer Judy G. Russell but the answer to this question is, It Depends.
What it depends on is what do you intend to do with your research writings? If you plan to only put it into your personal notes or genealogy software, then you do not need to do it to that standard. If however, you plan on publishing your results in any manner whatsoever to include self-publishing, then you should meet the minimum standards. If you plan to submit it to a genealogical society journal, you will need to meet their standard which is almost identical to the CMS.
So what is the minimum standard? It is still hitting the main points of the CMS or Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Third Edition Revised, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 2017.
Dr. Thomas W. Jones, in his book, Mastering Genealogical Proof, NGS, Arlington, Virginia, 2013, takes a slightly different approach from Mills’. Regardless, everyone agrees that citations are an art and not a science and therefore open to some interpretation. Even this library guide put out by Indian River State College has their viewpoint, https://irsc.libguides.com/mla/whattoinclude. However, they all agree that the minimum that should be in a citation is the below items.
- Who? Not who is being referenced but who is the source of the information or the creator of the record. Such as Appling County, Georgia, Probate Court.
- What? What the title of the record is such as Marriage Book D (1850 – 1885).
- When? Signifies when the record, book, CD, Newspaper, or microfilm was published.
- Where? Where in the source is the information you are citing. For U. S. Census records, we put the County, State, City or Township, Militia District, or Other; Post Office location when listed; Supervisor and Enumeration District (SD and ED) when available; Dwelling and Family numbers are preferred over line numbers. The reason is, most of the schedules (supplemental census records) will use the SD, ED, Dwelling, and Family numbers to link the supplement’s record back to the specific family record on the population schedule.
- Where is the original record and where did you find it? This one is very important, DO NOT use URLs as they change. You must list the location of the original such as Appling County Courthouse, Baxley, Georgia, Superior Court. Then you can say FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com etc.
The bottom line is, can someone pick up your research and readily go find the exact record you looked at. So many people get hung up over style such as US Census vs U. S. Census vs U. S. census, vs…. Who really cares? That is my thought and not indicative of anyone else in my profession. But frankly, I do not care how you write census for those in the United States because I am smart enough to know what you mean. However, if you mean Birmingham, England and just write, Birmingham, unless all other records have clearly indicated British research, then you have erred. Anyone looking at your research must immediately know not to look in Alabama for your Birmingham records.
I hope this clears up a lot of the confusion.