Citing digital census images on LAC - not Ancestry

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jonjmorin's picture
Citing digital census images on LAC - not Ancestry


I'm trying to find a citation model in EE that works for the digitized Canadian census images on the LAC site. I'm looking at the census section on page 300 and at the National Government Records section on page 629-630, and I can't find one that quite fits. For example, I want to cite the record below, from their database, but really just use the digital image and transcribe by hand, as mistakes in the indexing are frequent. I've linked to the image below.

Thank you much,

Jon Morin


Item: Robert MITCHELL

Digitized page of Census of Canada, 1881, Page number 24, for Robert MITCHELL

View digitized page of Census of Canada, 1881 for Image No.: e008195399

JPG (Image No.: e008195399)

PDF (Image No.: e008195399)


Given Name: Robert

Occupation: Shoemaker

Gender: M

Age: 47

Birth Year: 1834

Marital Status: M

Place of Birth: Ontario

Religion: Bapt

Nationality: Irish

Province: Ontario

District Name: Brant South

District Number: 159

Sub-District Name: Brantford (City)

Sub-District Number: A

Division Number: 1

Family Number: 123

Household Number: 767742

Volume Number: 13

Page Number: 24

Microfilm: C-13263

Reference: RG31 - Statistics Canada

Item Number: 4100291

jonjmorin's picture

Sorry for that big blob of text. I just realized that the page breaks were removed when I posted.

EE's picture


The formatting problem is easily fixed. When you type a message, under the screen in which you type, you'll notice an option called "Text Format."  Choose "Full HTML" and it will format just the way you want it.  I've made the switch for you, above--and I'll answer your question separately.

The Editor

EE's picture

Jon: You write:

“I want to cite the record below, from their database, but really just use the digital image and transcribe by hand.”

The most basic issue, where citation is concerned, is Cite what you use. If  you use the image, you should cite the image. If you rely on the database, then you should cite the database. Don't mix peas and apples. You'll confuse not only anyone else who uses your research but also yourself at a later time after your recollection of this work has gone cold.

You also state that, in EE, you ‘can’t quite find a citation that fits.’ If you prefer to cite the database, then the Ancestry model, on p. 300 does indeed fit. Whether you’re using the 1831 or 1881 census doesn’t matter. Whether you’re using Ancestry’s database or LAC's database doesn’t mean you need a different format. It’s simply a matter of identifying the basic elements and substituting the appropriate data.

The one issue that matters is whether you are citing the 1881 census images or whether you are citing LAC’s database entry for that census. Those are two separate and entirely different entities, with different creators, different data, and (as you note) differing levels of reliability.

With regard to citing the images: Did you look only under "Canada" or did you also consider the QuickCheck models at the start of the census chapter? Pages 241 and 242 demonstrate citing census images that we find online. One models a French census and the other models an English census; but, again, the basic elements are the same.

In brief, online images require a layered citation {see QuickLesson 19 for more on this topic}:

  • first, you cite the original document;
  • next, you cite the online provider;
  • then, you cite your provider’s source-of-the-source data.

The basic elements for each layer are these:

Layer 1: Original document:

  • ID of census (by year and jurisdictions),
  • ID of page, household, etc.;

Layer 2: Provider:

  • Website Creator,
  • Website Title
  • (Publication data) —i.e.: (URL : date of access);

Source of the source:

  • Whatever essential details your provider provides.

Your provider's database (as with Ancestry) gives us a lot of details that don't belong in a citation. What we have to do is pick out the essentials, following the basic pattern above.

The Editor