Monday, May 5, 2014

How Do I Cite This Record I Found on MyHeritage?

As researchers, we are taught to cite what we find in our research - the source - and the location that we found it - a repository, a website, a microfilm, etc.  Some online data providers do it better than others, but none is "perfect."

On today's Mondays With Myrt Hangout on Air, one discussion item was how to cite a record summary and image found as a MyHeritage Record Match.  In this case, Pat Richley-Erickson found an image of an Idaho marriage license for her grandparents on MyHeritage.

1)  The record summary screen on MyHeritage is:

The record summary is shown above, and the image of the marriage record is below:

If Pat clicks through and confirms the record match, then she can extract the information in a source citation:

On the screen above, the MyHeritage source citation is in the left-hand column and the data that will be entered in her tree is in the right-hand column.  The MyHeritage source citation is:

Shirley Player & Myrtle E Weiser
Marriage: June 5 1917 - Blaine, Idaho
Husband: Shirley Player
Wife: Myrtle E Weiser
GS Film number: 1480082
Digital Folder Number: 4533331
Image Number: 00295

While that doesn't provide a "classical" source citation (author, title, publisher, website, etc.) it does provide clues to help another research find the record - there is a "GS Film Number" which means a Family History Library microfilm number.

2)  I can go to the Family History Library Catalog and look up film number 1480082:

It appears that the microfilm includes a record book in Blaine County, Idaho - the Marriages, 1864-1939 collection includes:

Idaho. County Court (Blaine County); Idaho. Probate Court (Alturas County); Idaho. Probate Court (Logan County); Idaho. County Court (Logan County); Idaho. County Court (Alturas County)

If I click on the collection title, I can see all of the records that are in the collection and the microfilm numbers (two screens):

The Blaine county marriage records are on the last microfilm listed - "Marriage Records, v. 2-3, 1908-1939."

On the screens above, there is a line that says "Note: Idaho, County Marriages are available online - click here."

I did, and went to the FamilySearch online database for this record collection, and searched for Shirley Player and saw the Record Summary for his marriage entry:

The record summary information is identical to what was seen in the MyHeritage record summary.  I can view the document, save it and attach it to a FamilySearch Family Tree person or to a person in my family tree in a genealogy software program.

FamilySearch provides a source citation at the bottom of the screen above as:

"Idaho, County Marriages, 1864-1950," index and images,  FamilySearch  ( : accessed 05 May 2014), Shirley Player and Myrtle E Weiser, 05 Jun 1917; citing Blaine, Idaho; FHL microfilm 1480082.

That is a "better" source citation for this record than the MyHeritage citation in my opinion.  But I don't think it's Evidence Explained quality yet.  Note that the FamilySearch citation is to the record summary (the link goes to the record summary), not to the image itself (you can view the document by clicking "View document" on the Record Summary). 

3)  I know that this record is also on in the "Idaho County, Marriages, 1864-1950" database.  I searched for it and the Record Summary is:

There is a link to view the document on FamilySearch.  This summary does not provide as much information as the other summaries.  The source citation created by is: Idaho, County Marriages, 1864-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Idaho, County Marriages, 1864-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

This source citation is "better than MyHeritage" but still not Evidence Explained quality, in my opinion, since it does not provide the FHL microfilm number or anything about the specific item in the database.

4)  My attempt at an Evidence Explained quality source citation, using the "Digital Archives" source template in RootsMagic 6, citing where I found it on MyHeritage:

"Idaho, County Marriages, 1864-1950," MyHeritage, ( : accessed 5 May 2014), marriage license, page 496 (stamped), No. 37164 (penned), Shirley Player and Myrtle E. Weiser entry; citing Blaine County [Idaho] Court records, "Marriages, v. 2-3, 1908-1939," on FHL US/CAN microfilm 1,480,082.

I could write other citations for this same record for FamilySearch (either the digital image or the microfilm image) and  My preference would be to cite FamilySearch, since that is where I can see the image and easily obtain information about the record collection and the original record books.

5)  There are several conclusions one can draw from this comparison:

*  The MyHeritage source citations are not adequate (I've written about this before, so it's not a new conclusion).  I hope that MyHeritage will try to improve their source citation quality.

*  The FamilySearch source citation provides more information, but it is not Evidence Explained quality.

*  The source citation provides some information, but it is not Evidence Explained quality.

*  A source citation crafted using Evidence Explained provides information about the digital image and the subjects, including references to the original source and any intermediate sources such as a digital database, a county record volume, and/or an FHL microfilm number to help researchers find the record again and assess the veracity and usefulness of the record.  

*  A researcher using MyHeritage can attach that record to his MyHeritage tree, and can extract the source information, and think that he's done a great job.  He hasn't.  Another researcher who does not have a MyHeritage tree or a data account will not be able to access this record on MyHeritage. 

*  Researchers need to try to determine what the original source of a record is using any leads that they may find in the source or database they are using.  In the ideal genealogy world, all of those original images would be online published by the agency responsible for the record.  It's not an ideal genealogy world.
*  There are excellent reasons for every genealogical data provider (e.g., MyHeritage, FamilySearch, ancestry and more) to make the effort to provide complete source citations for the entries in their databases.  Some are better than others, but none are excellent in my opinion.  

*  At this point in time, researchers have to craft their own source citations using the resources they have available to them, including books like Evidence Explained, software source templates, source reference guides, etc.  At a minimum, copying the Ancestry/FamilySearch source citations is only better than no source citation at all.

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Geolover said...

A very nice approach and explanation, Randy. You well make the point that it just can't be that hard for to adopt proper citation formats with the right data. It's not like no one has outlined it all for them in detail!

Cousin Russ said...


You beet me to it. Thank you.

I am going to duplicate this, using my "normal" way of rewriting the "citation" to an Evidence Explained (I hope) format. I do that all of the time.

Then I will find the same record in My Heritage and see what I can to then. Working backward, I know. But it's worth the try.

Thanks again,


Unknown said...

Thanks Randy,
I sometimes wish my boss were more understanding and would just let me "check out" when these hang out on air sessions were in progress. For now, I guess I have to settle for "tape delayed"

I appreciate the guidance (warnings) on the on-line citations.