Friday, November 4, 2011

Exploring Family Tree Maker 2012 - Post 18: Creating a Vital Record Register Source Citation

See all posts in this series at Exploring Family Tree Maker 2012 Compendium.

One of my major criteria for selecting a "preferred" genealogy management program is the ease in creating source citations. I want to demonstrate the source citation creation process in Family Tree Maker 2012 in a number of posts for several different types of records, both for my own education and, hopefully, to help others navigate this fairly complex process.

I worked through a Vital Records Certificate (on paper) source citation in Exploring Family Tree Maker 2012 - Post 17: Creating a Vital Record Certificate Source Citation. 

The next  set of citations of significant interest to me is Vital Records Register information in online databases (e.g., on, American Ancestors, etc.). 

I'm going to work with my great-grandfather's birth, which occurred on 6 June 1852 in Medfield,  Norfolk County, Massachusetts.  His birth record is in the Birth register created by the Massachusetts State Archives, and is in an online searchable database at  I want to create a source citation for that Birth Register entry. 

1) Here is the "Person" page in the "People" workspace for my great-grandfather:

In the screen above, in the right-hand panel for the Person, and in the "Source" tab, I clicked on the down arrow next to the "New" link, and selected "Add New source citation" from the dropdown menu. 

2)  The "Add source citation for ..." window opened, and I clicked on the "New" button (far left), and the "Add source" window opened, and then I clicked on the "More" button to get to the list of Source Templates, shown below:

The most logical Source Template group for a Birth Register is the "Local and State Records - Registrations, Rolls and Vital Records."  I chose "State-Level Records" in the Category field and then "Vital Records Register" in the Template field.  However, I found no specific template for an online database - either lists or images - in this Source Template group.

3)  The "Vital Records Register" source template opened and I filled in the Source information as best I could, considering there are no fields for an online database.  The data I entered was:

*  State or Country: Massachusetts State Archives
*  Agency/creator: [I left this blank after a trial didn't work well]
*  Record series: "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910"
*  Source repository: New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors (,

Here is the screen for my entries into this source template:

I clicked "OK" on the screen above.

4) The "Edit source citation" window appeared with the source title and Repository filled in, and I entered this into the Citation Detail field:

* Citation detail: entry for Frank Walton Seaver, 6 June 1852; citing Medfield, Norfolk County Births, 1852, Volume 64, Page 198

Here is the completed "Edit source citation for ..." window:

 5) The completed "Reference Note" source citation screen shows:

The resulting Source Citation for this birth register record using the only Source Template group that references vital records is:

Massachusetts State Archives, "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910", entry for Frank Walton Seaver, 6 June 1852; citing Medfield, Norfolk County Births, 1852, Volume 64, Page 198; New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors (

That does not come very close to the Evidence! Explained model for an online searchable image database of state vital records registers.  The website information should be after the database title, the website title should be italicized, there was no field for access date, and the comma after 1910 should be within the quote mark.  That is nitpicking, I know, but the nitpicks add up eventually, and the fewer things that have to be edited, the better..

Here is my interpretation of the EE model, from pages 467-469 of EE (First Edition) applied to my specific source citation:

Massachusetts State Archives, "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," database, American Ancestors (, accessed 21 January 2010); entry for Frank Walton Seaver, 6 June 1852; citing Medfield, Norfolk County Births, 1852, Volume 64, Page 198.

I searched all of the other Source Template groups for online database templates that I could use, and the closest I could get to the EE example was in the "Archives and Artifacts" Source Template group, in the "Archived Material" Category and the "Digital archive" Template.  The resulting source citation looks like this:

"Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910", New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors (, entry for Frank Walton Seaver, 6 June 1852; citing Medfield, Norfolk County Births, 1852, Volume 64, Page 198.

 The only things missing are, I think, the words "online database" and the access date.  I entered  "online database" into the "Collection format" field, but it did not print out in the source citation for some reason.  I can add it to the Owner/creator line and it works.  The access date issue is more difficult to fix, since it may vary for each source citation using this template.

While I was working with this, in the "Add source" window, I accidentally entered the word "online" in the field for "Source template" and saw a list of source template groups:

These are also Source Templates, but there is no obvious Source Template for an online vital records register database, similar to those common on or  I didn't know that this set of generic (I think) source templates was available.  I keep learning!

Did I miss something obvious for this type of record source?  If so, will someone please tell me which Source Template group, Category and Template to use? 

If I didn't miss it, I recommend that Family Tree Maker developers add an "Online Archive" or "Online Database" Template to the "Local and State Records - Registrations, Rolls and Vital Records" Source Template Group categories.  Your customers will appreciate it.

The confusion over which source template to use, which took over two hours of my time today, for this particular source type adds to the conclusion that I made months ago to use Free-form Master source citations rather than the Source Templates in the genealogy software programs.  However, to do that I have to learn how to create each type of Master Source.  The Source Templates, and Evidence! Explained, are useful for that task.


Ginger Smith said...

Hi Randy, it is unfortunate it took you 2 hours to come up with this citation which still lacked some data. I too, cannot find citation templates in Rootsmagic or FTM that include all elements as set forth by Evidence! Explained. The result: I don't consult online databases. Or if I do, I write the citation in my notes. Hopefully the developers can come up with a solution soon, especially given your elaborate examples!

Cousin Russ said...


I have a question, that may lead to the answer that you are looking for.

Where did you find that record?

Did you find the record at what you described in your Source OR did you find a Vital Record State Register?

Does that make any difference for you?


Geolover said...

Your citation still does not quite describe whether the source you looked at was an extract of a compilation citing the book, an extract from the book, or an image of a publication which extracted from the book. Putting the title of the website page in quotes does not clearly explain this for me.

Website sources really are trouble. What genealogists would like to know without having to access the page is, just how many degrees removed is the source from the actual record? Each one is subject to error in transcription and citation.

Cousin Russ said...


Just a question for your comment.

If Randy, or any one of us, gets the data from a web site, isn't that what you are to Cite? This Citation tells me the record type, who the record was for, AND where the record came from. In this case a Web Site.

If we, the user who creates this citation are comfortable with that, why do we then have to spell out "how many degrees removed is the source from the actual record" what we are looking is.

If the 'next' user looks at this Citation, it's clear where the information came from (a website) and that it clearly NOT an original document. We may or make not know the "how may degrees" answer.

I would be happy to know that it did come from a Website and that it wasn't an orignal document. If I want to get to that next level of detail I can do that, (If I were to follow up with Randy's research). The Website reference would be my key to dig deeper, if I want.

Just asking.

Thank you,


Anonymous said...

"The confusion over which source template to use, which took over two hours of my time today..." And for those of use who have only two hours a week to spend on genealogy, this is why my research has ground to a halt. Each of the genealogy programs I've tried has some "gotchas" when trying to create EE style citations. That is problems with the templates. For example, fields in the template that don't actually get put into the created citation.

Geolover said...

Russ, your question was "If Randy, or any one of us, gets the data from a web site, isn't that what you are to Cite?"

Yes, the most narrow view of a citation is that it should be to the source.

I still would like the citation to suggest the nature of the item cited.

The hard-won citation that Randy arrived at has a descriptive gap, but I am not sure how to give more in this case.

A somewhat parallel case is extracts from indexes found within some databases. One could cite the website and say it cites an actual record (say, XXX County, Indiana Marriage Records Book C-2, page 34). But what if the extract actually is from indexes prepared by WPA 1938-1941, who in turn furnished a purported record citation?

Cousin Russ said...


Not disagreeing with you, but how does that fit in with Evidence Explained!