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  • Register Citation Formats

  • A Guide to Some Basic Register Citation Formats

    Learning the basics of citing sources is not difficult. It is easier to cite something correctly the first time than to go back and correct a great many footnotes.
    Some editors use the phrase “clear and concise” to describe their criteria for citing sources. One should direct the reader to the exact source, preferably the exact page.

    The following are examples of basic citation formats currently used by (or, in a few cases, to be used by) The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Other major genealogical journals may vary somewhat.

    Please take particular note of punctuation and use of italics.

    Books, Articles, and CDs:
    Dean Crawford Smith, The Ancestry of Emily Jane Angell, Melinde Lutz Sanborn, ed. (Boston: NEHGS, 1992), 515.
    Henry R. Stiles, The History of Ancient Wethersfield, Connecticut, 2 vols. (New York: Grafton Press, 1904), 1:238.
    Jeremy Gibson and Else Churchill, Probate Jurisdictions: Where to Look for Wills, 5th ed. (Bury, Lancs.: Federation of Family History Societies, 2002), 28.
    Donald Lines Jacobus, “Strickland Notes,” The American Genealogist 21 (1944):90–91.
    Robert J. Dunkle and Ann S. Lainhart, The Records of the Churches of Boston, CD-ROM (Boston: NEHGS, 2002).
    Annie Haven Thwing, Inhabitants and Estates of the Town of Boston, 1630–1800, and The Crooked and Narrow Streets of Boston, 1630–1822, CD-ROM (Boston: NEHGS and Massachusetts Historical Society, 2001), refcode 12458.

    Frequently Used Original Records (in some cases transcriptions of original records):

    Census records:

    1800 U.S. Census, Warwick, Kent County, Rhode Island, roll 45, p. 31.
    1900 U.S. Census, Spencer, Worcester County, Massachusetts, roll 695, ED 1685, p. 4B.
    1855 Massachusetts State Census, New Salem, Franklin County, dwelling 30, family 32.

    Vital Records:
    Keene, New Hampshire, Vital Records, 2:53.
    Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records, citing Suffield Vital Records, 1:35 [this citation indicates you are not using the published books or CD-ROM for this source].
    Massachusetts Vital Records from 1841, 139:306 [this assumes the place and event is evident from the text].
    Massachusetts Vital Records from 1841, Deaths, 1903, 25:50.

    Cemetery Records:
    Dell Park Cemetery, Natick, Massachusetts, author’s visit in October 1968.
    Charles R. Hale, “Charles R. Hale Collection [of Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices of Marriages and Deaths]” (1933-34), at the Connecticut State Library, Hartford, Ashford:35.

    Church Records:
    Church of Christ in Greenwich, Massachusetts, Records, 1760–1935 [FHL 1,871,030].
    Trinity Church Records, Fairfield, Connecticut, 1785–1829, Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Connecticut.
    East Stratton, Hampshire, parish registers, 1538–1728 [FHL 1,041,372, item 6].

    Probate and Deeds:
    Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Probate, File 13,686 [FHL 0,416,789]
    Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Deeds, 46:398.
    Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 39 Leicester, PROB 11/73, at The National Archives.
    Diocese of Winchester, Hampshire original wills, file 1633P/01, at the Hampshire Record Office.

    Franklin Herald (Greenfield, Mass.), 31 August 1813, p. 3 (Early American Newspapers, online database,
    “Death Notices from the New York Evening Post, 1801–1890,” online database,

    “Family record of Ammi Ruhmah Robbins and his wife Salome Robbins of Colebrook and Norfolk, Conn., 1791–1818,” R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS, Mss C 4822.
    “Mills Family,” Special Genealogical File, History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library, Hartford, Connecticut.
    Cliff Webb, “London Apprenticeship Abstracts, 1442–1850,” published online in 2005 at, viewed 29 January 2008.

    Some Further Observations:

    The closer your research gets you to the original record, the better, especially for important points of your article. If you are using a transcription or an abstract, you should not cite the original record instead. If you are using an electronic record that has been scanned and treated with optical character recognition (OCR), identify it as such or look for the original.

    If you have seen an image on microfilm or online, especially a Federal census record, it is usually not essential to say exactly which film or which website unless it is not available elsewhere. However, if you want to comment that you did not find someone in a particular census, you should indicate where you looked.

    It is not necessary to say whose household or whose vital record is being cited unless it is not obvious from the context.

    FHL (Family History Library) microfilm numbers can be omitted for commonly used sources.

    Remember that after the first full citation you can use a short citation: the author’s surname (if there is one) and a key word or two from the title plus the volume (if any) and page number, with a reference back to the footnote that has the full citation, e.g., Stiles, Ancient Wethersfield [note 23], 1:238.

    For other citation samples see The Chicago Manual of Style; Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997); and Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007).

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