Showing posts with label ancestry.com citations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ancestry.com citations. Show all posts

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]

25 February 2012

Tying Those Sources to the Correct Information

This is in response to my recent post on the citing of sources in Ancestry.com trees (Citing What It Does Not Say) and how frequently sources are indicated as implying more precision than they actually do.

As a quick experiment, I created a new person in a new file. This new person was entered in as a female named Nancy Newman with a year of birth of 1846 in Indiana and a year of death of 1923 in Illinois. Her husband of Riley Rampley was entered. That was it. 

There were several "leaves" that came up for Nancy in my tree. One was the 1900 census. This year was chosen because it included a month and year of birth for her. I already knew where Nancy would be in 1900, so that wasn't the problem. 

The 1900 census enumeration extraction is shown on the left and my file information is shown on the right. 

Before I did anything, I chose the "advanced options" at the bottom of the screen. (click on the image to view larger)

 Doing so brought up the boxes as shown below. I decided that I did not need the alternate for Nancy from 1900 as I always use maiden names and the 1900 enumeration uses her married name. I do wish that the name could be separated into the last name and the "rest" so that alternate first names could easily be recorded.

The 1900 residence information was completely new for my file, so adding it and the source was not really a big deal.

The birth was more problematic.

If I simply add the 1900 as a source for the 1846 year of birth then I will be implying that the 1900 census indicated Nancy was born in 1846 in Indiana. That's not what the census says. Ancestry.com easily allows me to do this. In this case, I want an alternate fact and add the source. That's NOT how the screen below is set up.(click on the image to view larger)
To get it correct, I should click on "Add as an Alternate Fact" which is done in the image below. Unfortunately I LEFT THE "ADD SOURCE" clicked under Nancy's name so the 1900 census is linked to her name as a source, although I did not check the "Add as an Alternate Fact." (click on the image to view larger)



We'll discuss additional issues in future blog posts on this topic.

Citing What It Does Not Say

This is part of one of the online trees for a relative of mine. I've eliminated the name and the precise date of birth because I'm more interested in how Ancestry.com handles citing sources than who this specific individual is whose birth is being cited. I've also seen problems like this countless times so I don't want to appear to be picking on this entry only.

I've see all six "sources" used in this instance. The Ancestry.com tree indicates that all six are sources for the fact that this person was born on a certain date in a certain place. The problem is that all six sources do not say that. Tying these sources to a precise date and place of birth is indicating that they are more accurate than they really are.


  • The 1900 census provides a month and year of birth along with the state. 
  • The 1920 and 1930 census provides an age and a place of birth. The age does not necessarily suggest a specific date--which this citation seems to indicate that it does. 
  • The death index does provide the date and place of birth.
  • The U. S. National Home for the Disabled Volunteer Soldiers provides an approximate year of birth and a state of birth. 
  • The World War I draft card provides a county and state of birth along with a date of birth.
Why not just link them all to the precise date and place? After all, that's a heck of a lot easier. It may be, but it's a heck of a lot less accurate.

There's only 1 of the six records that provide the specific location and date--so really only one should be listed as a source with that precise information. 

Indicating a record says something it does not is confusing and in this case it looks like there are more sources with that level of detail than there are.

The date and place for an event when tied to a source for that should only be as precise as that source indicates.

Sure it takes a little more work, but it makes our work more accurate and makes analysis easier. 

  • Month and year in Illinois should be tied to 1900 census.
  • Approximate year and location of Illinois should be tied to the 1930 census and Soldier's Home information.
  • Specific date and specific place should be tied to the death index.
  • The approximate year and county and  state should be tied to the draft card.