Citing an article or obituary found on Ancestry

Dear Editor;

I tried citing an article on my grandfather, based on Evidence Explained, 3rd ed., sec. 14.22, p.808, “Newspaper Articles (Online Images).

Despite the collection name, it is more an article than an obituary. I used a 3-EM dash for the Author since there was no stated author. Unfortunately; the result doesn't appear to contain enough information to re-locate the article on Ancestry.

I'm trying to not only create such citations but also understand why they are constructed as they are. Could you comment on this? Do I need more info or is this somehow enough?

Source List Entry

Ontario.Ottawa.The Ottawa Journal, 6 March 1958.

First Reference Note

– – –, “Thomas B. Murison Civil Servant Dies,” The Ottawa Journal, 6 March 1958, p. 4, col. 1; image copy, Ancestry ( accessed 26 April 2019), “Ontario, Canada, The Ottawa Journal (Birth, Marriage and Death Notices), 1885-1980.”

Subsequent Note

– – –,“Thomas B. Murison Civil Servant Dies.”

It seems like it needs something else...

like the path: "> 1957-1958 > 1958-Mar-01 to 1958-Mar-31, image 147 of 1084"

and possibly even the source of source: microfilm number 464, Ottawa Journal Newspaperdate range 1957-1958City of Ottawa Archive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Note: Something tells me that I could/should preface the Source List Entry with "Canada," since I have a number of papers from other countries and would like the list to sort hierarchically.


Submitted byEEon Thu, 10/17/2019 - 10:32

History-Hunter, you raise a number of issues. Let’s address each one separately:

For the basic citation, you say:

I'm trying to not only create such citations but also understand why they are constructed as they are.

Okay, for that “understanding,” let’s go back to basics. The basic formula for something published (see EE's QuickStart Guide tipped in at front cover) is this:

STANDALONE PUBLICATION  (Book, CD, website, map, etc.)

Author, Title of Book (Publication Data), location/ID of specific item—page, figure no. etc.

We use this same format for other published material that’s part of something bigger. The key difference is that citing the small part and the standalone often presents us with two creators and two titles to identify. We add the extra author and title to the start of the same citation.


Article Author, “Title of Article,” Title of Journal or Newspaper (Publication Data), location/ID of specific item.


Chapter Author, “Title of Chapter,” Title of Book (Publication Data), location/ID of specific item.


Article/chapter Author, “Title of Database,” Title of Website (Publication Data), location/ID of specific item

When we use a publication that's imaged online, we have two things to cite:

Layer 1: The original publication

Layer 2: The website (publication) that delivers the image copy.

This means we use the basic pattern twice.  Layer 1 uses the pattern to cite the original (in this case a newspaper). Layer 2 uses the pattern to cite the newspaper.

Is this enough?

You’ve commented that the second part of your citation ‘seems to need something else.’ There are two reasons why you have that feeling when you read what you've drafted.

First, your elements are out of order in Layer 2.  There, you begin with the title of the website and end with the title of the website's database. Reorganizing the elements to follow the basic pattern, would give us this:

Layer 1: “Thomas B. Murison Civil Servant Dies,” The Ottawa Journal, 6 March 1958, p. 4, col. 1;

Layer 2: “Ontario, Canada, The Ottawa Journal (Birth, Marriage, and Death Notices), 1885–1980,” Ancestry ( accessed 26 April 2019) ….

Now it’s obvious what’s missing from Layer 2: the location data. Your URL leads only to the search page. Users now need to know where to go from there.  That would be the path or the search terms or the image number of whatever is appropriate to the organization of that database. In your case, the path you suggest is appropriate.

          1. Thomas B. Murison Civil Servant Dies,” The Ottawa Journal, 6 March 1958, p. 4, col. 1; imaged in “Ontario, Canada, The Ottawa Journal (Birth, Marriage, and Death Notices), 1885–1980,” Ancestry ( accessed 26 April 2019) > 1957-1958 > 1958-Mar-01 to 1958-Mar-31, image 147 of 1084"

Dear Editor;

Now it makes sense. Thank you so much for walking through it. I thought this might be the answer, but looked and looked for an example of someone ... anyone ... doing this and found nothing. Sometimes, I feel like I'm the only one who is trying to do full-up EE citations. I would have thought that an example of something as commonplace as a newspaper on Ancestry would have been an easy one to find.

Dear Editor;

I almost forgot to ask about the lack of a source of the source for your suggested citation. Is this something that is not done for widely circulated materials like newspapers or is it something that you assumed I would add on my own? I seem to remember reading something about this issue somewhere.

Also... I use the Kindle version of the EE book. I don't believe there is a quick-start guide included in the ebook form. As such, it's not surprising I didn't know about the tips you mentioned. (The kindle version is great for searching, but the lack of the noted guide is one more reason, that I'll likely get a hard-copy next time.)

Submitted byEEon Thu, 10/17/2019 - 10:55

Part 2: Choosing a Model and Then Adapting …

History-Hunter, your query begins by stating that you have followed EE 14.22, from which an example is also presented as a QuickCheck Model on p. 786. At p. 786, it’s titled “Newspaper Articles: Online Archives.” At 14.22, you’re given two options:

  1. HTML edition of a newspaper, rather than an image; this is the model that is diagrammed at p. 786.
  2. An image copy accessed through a website collection that, alas, no longer exists as such and is slated to be replaced in the next edition

The second example underscores the point you made at the start of your query: the need to understand basic structure. Online materials undergo many different alterations. Ready-made patterns are wonderful when every element stays static. When structural changes occur in our material, if we understand the basics then we can adapt.  And when prior adaptation no longer work, we can adjust again.

One thought more: everyone loves to point out that online material is not stable. A citation that works in 2007 or 2015 may not work in 2019. In fact a citation that works in January 2019 may not work in October 2019. But  offline material also undergoes those same alterations, which is why we have so many variations in how to cite "paper" materials—as with citing a "marriage record" that might exist in several forms from (a) an original marriage entry in a church register to (b) a “certificate” that the church later supplies with some data omitted or misread; to (c) a published abstract someone has made that could have different mistakes or omissions.

Submitted byEEon Thu, 10/17/2019 - 11:13

Part 3: That 3-em Dash …

History-Hunter, in your query, you state that you’ve used a 3-em dash to indicate that an author’s name is unknown. As in Part 1 of EE’s response, convention would not use a 3-em dash here.

Within citations, a 3-em dash is a device used in a Source List (Bibliography), where one author is cited for multiple publications. For the first source list entry for that author, the author’s name is given in full. For each publication listed under that, a 3-em dash is used in the field for the author’s name. That makes it easier for users of a source list to spot all entries by a single author.  EE 2.48 (“Source List Arrangements”) demonstrates this. 

(Note, this is not just EE’s quirky ways. This is a longstanding convention in citations. It also illustrates why EE is said to be based on Chicago Manual of Style. EE covers hundreds of types of records that CMOS provides no guidance for, but EE's style is based on longstanding conventions that CMOS explains in much more detail.)

More importantly, however: a 3-em dash is not what you’ve used in your example above. You have used a series of three hyphens (or possibly three en dashes) with a space between them. An em dash is twice as long as an en dash (which is longer than a hyphen).  Some software and some style guides put a space before and after a hyphen or a dash. But a 3-em dash never has spaces before and after each dash. A 3-em dash is one long, continuous, smooth, tidy, unbroken line.

In brief:

- Hyphen

– En dash (easily created using ALT 0150 in most operating systems)

— Em dash (created using ALT 0151)

——— A 3-em dash (created by typing ALT 0151 three times)

EE 2.65 ("Dashes vs. Hyphens") goes into more detail about the different types of dashes and when and why they are used.

Dear Editor;

Once I read your previous posts, the solution to the issue of not having an author became clear. As for the dashes, it's tough on a Nac with the word processor I have. However, I did try to use the correct one. I've noticed that cutting and pasting into the website comment box is not without the risk of corruption of what is pasted. I often have to clean it up. I may have made it worse in this instance.