Multiple sources and records

I am not sure how to cite the following portion of a report I am working on. I found the following indexed information at 3 different websites,  (the same 5 deaths). credits for the index at their website.

Do I. . .

 1. Reference all three websites and if I do- put it all in the same citation?

2. Reference the 5 deaths all together as "Ryberg deaths", or as individual names- AND do I do this in the same citation or in distinct and separate ones (footnotes after each name)?

3. Rewrite it completely?

 Thanks for any ideas.


Deaths found online at the Minnesota Historical Society online at, and at are:

· Albertina Ryberg, died 6 July 1940, certificate #013178

· August J. Ryberg, died 17 September 1930, certificate #012752

· Baby boy Ryberg, died 2 June 1937, certificate #013195

· Carl John Ryberg, died 31 Aug 1935, certificate #013110

· Chester Walfred Ryberg, died 16 November 1976, certificate #028735

Submitted byEEon Wed, 07/11/2012 - 10:44


The bottom line is to cite what you use. In your discussion above, you mention "indexes" but do not indicate whether you saw the certificates you are citing. Does this FamilySearch or Ancestry database provide image copies of those certificates, whereby you might confirm the accuracy of the dates and glean other data? If you are using an online derivative such as a database or index, rather than viewing an image of the original, then your citation has to make that clear. The typical way to do that is to cite what we actually use, then add that our derivative source cites thus-and-such.

Have you had the opportunity to study EE 2.11, which addresses the critical elements we need to consider and identify for sources such as this?  If you do not have EE itself, 2.11 is one of the sections that is available under the "Sample Text Pages" tab.  Many other sections of EE provide citation models, as does the QuickSheet.

Submitted bymrileyon Wed, 07/11/2012 - 11:13

My question wasn't about derivatives vs. orginals, but the multiple sites I found the information at.  Should I cite each website I found or just one; should I cite them in the same footnote or in seperate ones?  Also, should I cite each individual name, (a footnote for each name) or as a set in one citation, (one footnote that would cover them all).

Thank you for your help.



Submitted byNettie Genbitson Wed, 07/11/2012 - 14:56

I would use the three separate indexes as you don't know what each one of those sources used to create the database index from.  

I know for a fact the one line MN database  at is a database.  The certificates are on microfilm digitized by MN Historical Society can only be seen at the MN Historical Society in the  Multi media room and they are  from the State Vital Records office in St. Paul, MN.   They will tell you that all certificates have not been indexed.  It is a Work in progress. 

a MN researcher

You can find Minnesota Death Certificates at the FHL they have copies of MHS's microfilm through 1955 they are listed under the State of Minnesota and not the county level. Also the only thing MHS has digitized are the birth cetificates upto 1934 those can be viewed on the computers in the library. The microfilm of the deaths has not been digitized.


The website for MN Historical lets you search under the counties or not.  All certificates Death, Marriage or birth do end up at the State Vital Records office, but you can get them at the local court houses also.  

I know I made a mistake about the digitized death certificates but could not figure out how to edit a saved message on this forum. 

Submitted byEEon Thu, 07/12/2012 - 09:44

Mriley, your dilemma at Question 1 really does hinge upon whether you are citing originals or derivatives—specifically images or databases. We were all trained to think in terms such as "Okay, I've used three sources. Now I'll be expected to cite three things. But, good golly, creating all that rigamarole for three sources that all say the same thing sure seems ridiculous!”

Yes, it would be ridiculous—if we have three derivative sources that all offer the same thing. That’s the point at which we then have to analyze exactly what we’re getting from each site.

When we compare the details, if every detail is exactly the same, then we do what you did. We consider the background info that each of those derivatives provide to see if one copied from another. If two of them copied from the third one, then we want to use the one that is closest to the original because it went through the least amount of processing and, thus, has the least potential for error.

In this case, the Minnesota Historical Society appears to be the originator of the database. Thus, that website would be the appropriate one to cite. Your citation should fully identify that database and website, identify the specific entry in which you are interested, and then note whatever source information the MHS database provides.

If, in your working notes, you want to add a comment saying that Ancestry and Family Search also carry this database, offering essentially the same information, then that’s your choice.

Regarding your Questions 2 and 3, yes, you do need to restructure your citation. Let's address that separately.

Submitted byEEon Thu, 07/12/2012 - 10:26

Mriley, the format in your first message above appears to be a cross between two separate source-citation functions or needs. As a consequence, it doesn't fully satisfy either need. There are basically two types of citations:

SOURCE LIST (aka BIBLIOGRAPHY) ENTRIES are generalized entries. If the source is a published one, then the source list entry will give the basic publication data, but it will not reference a specific page or item. If the source is a manuscript collection, then the source list entry will identify the collection in broad terms, but it will not itemize individual things within the collection.

At Question 2, you broach the idea of creating an artificial collection called Ryberg Deaths. That's something we might do in a source list or bibliography for, say, a family collection that otherwise does not have a name. But if we do so, that source list entry would not individually cite all the different documents within that artificial collection. If you did so in a software program that repeats citations automatically, then every time you need to cite one document from that group, it would automatically cite all of them.

REFERENCE NOTES (aka FOOTNOTES or ENDNOTES) are the basic formats that history researchers use day in and day out. Here, we take the generalized source list entry and tailor it to the exact document or page that provides the evidence for the assertion we have made in our text.

The reference notes are where you would cite the individual entries from the database you are using. You would not create an artificial collection for a published source that has a specific identity. You would cite the published database you are using, by its exact title. You would need to cite the creator of that database, the website that publishes the database, and the publication data (the URL : date) for that database and website. (All of these details would be part of your basic source list entry.) Your reference note would then add the specific entry that your text discusses. Because you are using a derivative source, your reference note would also need to provide whatever information the database gives about its source—i.e., the original.

Chapter 2 in EE, "Fundamentals of Citations" covers core issues of this type, in much better detail than we can do here. Most of the issues that perplex us, where citations are concerned, don't exist once we absorb those fundamentals. If we use nothing but Plain Jane books and articles, citations are rather simple. But history researchers use an endless variety of original documents and derivatives in all sorts of media types. The citations can and will get complicated. If we use a software program that generates citations for us, that can be an aid. But we still have to input the data. How well we are grounded in those fundamentals will affect how we input the data and whether the results are effective.

Submitted bymrileyon Thu, 07/12/2012 - 19:47

Thanks for your advice.  If I am understanding you correctly, I will only cite the Minnesota Historical Society's online database in the report's footnotes and count the references and notes made on the research log for the other two websites adequate. 

I will also individually cite each person's abstracted information.

I have owned and used EE for the past 1 and 1/2 years and appreciate the direction it gives, albeit I have trouble grasping certain concepts- which have to do with my own weaknesses, not the publication's.



Submitted byEEon Thu, 07/12/2012 - 22:15

Glad to  help, Mriley. Anytime that citation or analysis principles perplex us, discussion is a good way to work get past the confusion—particularly if we have multiple voices participating in the discussion.