Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ancestry.com Source Citations for VI Census

imageOne of the most troublesome aspects of genealogy, and a cause for much discussion, is formatting source citations for all those records. This is perhaps one of the most frustrating and intimidating aspects of genealogy for beginners and intermediate level genealogists, so many people give up and just use whatever websites like Ancestry.com suggest.  Unfortunately, this really doesn’t work very well for the St Croix census on Ancestry.  Since I’d like to do my genealogy right, I have been spending considerable time to try to figure out what’s the best, and most useful, way to format my citations in my database. 
Most of the surviving pages are in the Rigsarkivet in Copenhagen and have been microfilmed by the FHL.  Some pages are at NARA II in College Park.  VISHA took the St Croix census and indexed them and provided both the index files and images to Ancestry.com, so the online census documents came from VISHA.

Here is an example of the source citation automatically entered by Ancestry.com into my database. The record is the 1850 census for Rebecca Tennant, living at Watergut 02 in Christiansted.

Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA), comp, U.S. Virgin Islands Census, 1835-1911 (Danish Period)3 (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.Original data - Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA). US Virgin Islands Census (Danish Period 1835-1911). Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA), PO Box 338, Frede), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Database online.
 
I don’t have to tell you that this isn’t a very helpful citation at all.  To make matters worse, I use Family Tree Maker 2012, which files all of the censuses (from any year) into one “source”: U.S. Virgin Islands Census, 1835-1911 (Danish Period)3 and lists only “Database online.” for the citation information.
 
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I have a few hundred census sources for my family, and this arrangement makes it impossible to find anything.  Clearly, something must be done here.

The definitive text on genealogical source citations is “Evidence Explained” by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  This 884 page book shows how to cite sources for most of the commonly used genealogical sources.  Unfortunately, it has a strong bias toward US sources, so it is not as helpful for international sources (with some specialized exceptions).  Nevertheless it does provide some guidance.  Also, FTM 2012 has templates that are based on EE.  While they aren’t perfect, and EE doesn’t really cover the islands, they seem to do most of what I need.

I needed to separate my censuses by year and place. I also wanted my citation to give the particular location information, including addresses.  I also wanted to record the head of household, or household number if possible.  Mills recommends citing Ancestry.com census according to a format “Digital Images/Online Commercial Site” (EE p 240). 

Here’s what I came up with for a citation that seems to do what I want.  It records the data so a reader can find it and also states that it is an online image from Ancestry.com.

1846 census of Danish West Indies, St Croix, Free schedule, Christiansted, King St 18B, household of Eliza Scott; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com).

Here is the source entry page I used for the 1846 Free population census.

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There are a few things here that may not be intuitive, but they are chosen to get the output the way I want it.  First, I list the country as Danish West Indies, St Croix.  This way I have my island information.  Also it is from large to small because the citation to follow will list the address.  Second, there is a bug in the template.  Notice under “Year” I write “Free”.  I originally used this to record the database date (like you’re supposed to), which in this case was 2009.  If I put in 2009 my citation becomes:
1846 census of Danish West Indies, St Croix, 2009 schedule, Christiansted, King St 18B, household of Eliza Scott; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com).
Clearly there is no 2009 schedule, so I just use the field to indicate whether it is free or unfree before 1848.  It isn’t really needed after so I leave it blank.

Anyway, I think my citation is so much more useful than the Ancestry.com suggestion.  It also allows me to separate my censuses in my source list and have my addresses shown very easily.

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Now I have several hundred citations I need to fix, but I’d really like to know from any experienced genealogists if you see any concerns with my citation.  I can come up with several objections, but I’m not sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease.  For starters, I haven’t used the name of the Ancestry.com database since I am not citing it as a publication.  Second, I haven’t credited VISHA.  Third, I have made no reference to the documents at Rigsarkivet (although I have no idea what the call number would be).  Seems I have included the important information (census year, location, address, online site) and have formatted it in a way that a reader can understand what I used. 

Comments are welcome.

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