Casefile Clues

28 February 2013

Citing US Passport Applications from Ancestry.com

When one cites United States National Archives microfilm in the spirit of Evidence Explained, the National Archives microfilm publication number is a part of that citation. 

That's fine. I understand that and agree with that.

I just wish Ancestry.com didn't make it a pain to do that. 

This image comes from  the "results" screen for a search of John George Rothweiler in "U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925" on Ancestry.com as performed on 27 February. 

The source information lumps together a variety of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publications that contain passport information. 

How do I know which one John George's application was taken from? After all, Ancestry made the digital image from the NARA microfilm--they didn't make their digital image from the original passport.


Click on "View full source citations" brought up the image shown below (click on the image to view at normal size). Fine, but that does not tell me from which one of these microfilm publications John George's passport came. 
I don't just need that microfilm number for theoretical purposes in case the non-existent genealogical police come knocking on my door asking for citations. I need it so that if the image is not all that great or that if I want make certain part of the microfilm was not digitized, I can easily find the image on microfilm. Ancestry.com's digitization process is automatic for the most part and can easily cut off part of an image.

It turns out that the microfilm publication number is hidden (in this case) in the URL--that's underlinked in red in the screen shot below.

Admittedly, Ancestry.com indicates that this image came from roll 122 and contains passports in the 1864 time frame and with some searching I could back into which of all those NARA microfilm publications contains a roll 122 with passports from 1864.

But that, just like the URL approach, requires me to assume that I'm right.

And we know what assumptions can sometimes do.

It would be nice if in the "results" page shown as the first image in this blog post, Ancestry.com would include the NARA publication number and roll number.

It's not Ancestry.com's job to cite my sources for me. But, as a paying customer, I would appreciate it if they would make easier for the customer to cite theirs.

[images in this blog post were made on 27 February 2013]