Why do Ancestry citations contain the website and original information as a single layer?

Dear Editor;

I frequently see examples of Ancestry citations in which the website and original information appear as a single clause. 

Recently, in citing collections on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC), I placed the information for the original item first, a semi-colon, then the information for the website material second. The following is an example.

Veterans Affairs (Canada), First World War Veterans Death Cards, un-indexed, alphabetical by last name, “Murison-Thomas-B”, died 5 March 1958; accessed as “Veterans Death Cards: First World War,” browsable images, Library and Archives Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/mass-digitized-archives/veterans-death-cards-ww1: downloaded 14 April 2019) > Morrison, B (group) > image 1235; Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Originals contained in 99 cabinet drawers of approximately 1,300 cards each. Each drawer digitized by LAC. First card in drawer is title of digitised card group.

I've never seen the above style used for citations for Ancestry and I'd really like to understand why.

I tried constructing a citation for my next citation of an Ancestry record according to what I've seen done for Ancestry (see below).

“Canada, Ocean Arrivals (Form 30A), 1919-1924,” database with images, Ancestry(https://search.ancestry.ca/search/db.aspx?dbid=1588: downloaded 16 April 2019)> McNeilly, J. H. To Naylor, William Henry > Mulock, Adele To Murphy, Rowland, images 3498 and 3499, S.S. Pretoria, [sailing from] Glasgow [on] Mar 31 1920, [arriving at] St. John [New Brunswick] [on] Apr 1 1920, p. 1, line 19, Class 2, Charles Murison; “Library and Archives Canada. Form 30A, 1919-1924 (Ocean Arrivals). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Library and Archives Canada, n.d. RG 76. Department of Employment and Immigration Fonts. Microfilm Reels: T-14939 to T-15248.” The online images of the noted collection at the Library and Archives Canada cites their location as being on microfilm reel T-15137.

Is there a reason I should change to this style for Ancestry citations? I not, how could I adjust this example to mimic the style I used for the LAC?

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Sun, 04/21/2019 - 17:32

Dear Editor;

I subsequently decided to try doing the citation for the same Form 30A record on the LAC site. In the desired format (and for the LAC site), I would have cited the images as:

Department of Immigration and Colonization (Canada), Individual Manifests (Form 30A, RG 76 C1j), un-indexed, quasi-alphabetical by last name, MURISON Charles, S.S. Pretoria, Glasgow [departure stamp], Mar 31 1920 [departure stamp], St. John [arrival stamp], Apr 1 1920 [arrival stamp]; accessed as “Ocean Arrivals, Form 30A, 1919-1924,” browsable images, Library and Archives Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/mass-digitized-archives/ocean-arrivals: downloaded 16 April 2019) > Mulock, Adele - Murphy, Rowland(microfilm t-15137) > image 3500 and 3501; Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

I suppose the real question is about how to do this for the Ancestry site records and whether that is the best way to cite Ancestry records.

Submitted byEEon Sun, 04/21/2019 - 20:08


Some providers present their offerings differently from one database to another.

Some providers organize indexed images in a way that we can go to the database, enter a query, and then go straight to the image. Some providers organize browsable images in such a way that we will need to follow a path with several waypoints to drill down to the image.

Some researchers prefer to emphasize the provider's database that supplies images, whereas other researchers (and you seem to be one, if I recall our past conversations correctly) prefer to emphasize the document.

All of these variations will effect whether a citation to online images has two or three layers in order to report all the information. Beginning with the document, then citing the provider, then citing the provider’s source-of-the-source info almost always requires three layers to keep each discrete set of data within its own layer.

I’m not certain that I understand your question about how to apply your last LAC example to an Ancestry database. If you’re using browsable images at Ancestry, your format would not differ from that which you have constructed for browsable images at LAC.

You state that you've never seen the path approach used for Ancestry, but don't state where.  EE illustrates using both the path approach and the direct-URL approach.  The identity of the provider is not relevant to the format, as the formats are transferable across all providers. What matters is how the provider organizes the material.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Mon, 04/22/2019 - 04:24

Dear Editor;

When trying to construct my citation for Ancestry, I was looking at QuickLesson 26. It seems to use a database first approach to citing Ancestry material. I do know that the EE book uses both approaches, but don’t remember seeing the record first approach being applied to Ancestry records of a similar type. That could just be an oversight on my part.

I understand that, in principle, both record first and database first approaches should be able to be used on both sites. However; the lack of some record-related info on the Ancestry site makes the record first approach more challenging. For example, the LAC site gives the author of the records in question and Ancestry does not. This is why I had less difficulty in constructing a record first citation in my LAC example. Although I likely didn’t do a perfect job on that example, I at least had no difficulty in finding the info to support the chosen style.

That led to the final statement in my second post, since I don’t always have the option of finding the same record on the LAC site.

Submitted byEEon Mon, 04/22/2019 - 09:29

Ah, yes, History-Hunter. All of this is why EE's chapter, "Fundamentals of Citation," begins by saying:

Citation is an art, not a science. As budding artists, we learn the principles—from color and form to shape and texture. Once we have mastered the basics, we are free to improvise. Through that improvisation, we capture the uniqueness of each subject or setting. ... Records and artifacts are like all else in the universe: each can be unique in its own way. Therefore, once we have learned the principles of citation, we have both an artistic license and a researcher’s responsibility to adapt those principles to fit materials that do not match any standard model.

You're doing well with your quest to understand the principles and then adapt.

Incidentally, with regard to your citation, you might consider dropping that last "Library and Archives Canada (LAC)" layer. It's already clear from your citation that the originals are at LAC, which is why LAC is imaging them.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Mon, 04/22/2019 - 16:19

Dear Editor;

Thank you for your kind response and the comment on the LAC example. I'll make the change you suggested and also re-read some of the relevant sections.

At this point in my journey, my difficulty is to know how much "artistic licence" one can safely take. I don't have the benefit of contact with more skilled genealogists in an interactive "club" setting, so I often have to just try something a few different ways. If it's difficult to do, I'm probably doing it incorrectly. :>) 

Submitted byEEon Mon, 04/22/2019 - 19:19

You have good instincts, History-Hunter. One of the wonderful things about the research world today is that we no longer need to live in a privileged place that offers a "club" of more-experienced researchers. The online world serves that function for us now, wherever we live.