Sep 28, 2015

Citing Your Sources From Online Database Providers

(By Michael J. Leclerc – September 24, 2015)

It is important to note exactly what version of a record you are examining and that provided the information to you. It can get confusing, especially since you also want to make note of the original source as well. This is especially important when you are using digital versions online. Companies often reorganize their websites, or they can even go out of business. Referencing the original record allows you to be able to find another copy elsewhere if necessary.

Note: An example is and are online database providers. They list the original source and information at the bottom of each record, which should be used instead of the online database provider. In the case of Federal census records, the National Archives (NARA) is normally the original source.

However in some situations, if the original source isn’t listed, then the online database provider is appropriate to list as a source as in the case of some indexed records. Even though each state is the source for state census records, some state archive libraries have closed or moved to a different state department in the last five years, thus it’s not clear who is the holder of these very old state records.

Some state or county historical societies may be the source holder too. BMD records can be either located at county facilities, but are later transferred to state facilities after one to five years. Many churches have BMD records too. Multiple sources should always be listed. Sources give any reader a verification trail back to the original record or records.