Improving source citations: Headstones from Find-a-grave

Submitted by ian on Wed, 04/18/2012 - 09:11

evidence explained coverOne of my stated goals this year was to work on improving my source citations in my Family tree.  Part of the reason that I find genealogy interesting, is that it is very much about the details.  I would imagine that it is very similar to detective work, and somewhat like science, in that you are trying to unravel a series of facts to figure out what happened.  In Science, the work that you do is only as good as the documentation you can present.  The documentation is presented so that others can review your work and then try to reproduce it.  Genealogy is (Or rather should be) the same.  All of the work that we do as genealogists is only as good as the documentation or sources that we provide for it.  Source citations are key, and that is why I am working on improving the sources in my family tree.  My goal (and I feel like it should be the goal of every genealogist) is to document my tree to the point that there is no question about the information presented.  When I do this, others in the future can work on solving issues that I could not, rather than re-inventing the wheel, covering the same ground that I already have.

Over time, I have improved with sourcing my research, but there is always work to be done.  When I first started I did not add sources to anything.  Eventually I started adding references to census records, but these entries were pretty lack luster and in retrospect, I doubt that they would have done anything to help other genealogists in the future.  

While working on my sources I noticed that I have a few entries in my family tree for headstones / burial sites that I have used Find-a-grave as a reference.  In my opinion this could present an interesting citation issue, so I turned to the highly regarded book by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained.  I decided that I will be using the model that Mrs. Mills suggests in her book for headstones images from online database such as Find-a-grave.  

Take a look below at the suggestion:

Use the cemetery / Website as the "lead" element for the citation.  

Here is how she suggests listing the source.  I have added some space to aid in presentation but you should be able to get the idea:

Source entry:


Creator                Website Title    Item type / Format             URL                                Date Accessed

-------------              -----------             -----------------------                 ----------------------             ---------------,    Find a Grave.       Digital images Grave Markers.   17 April 2009


And here is how she suggests listing the "Full reference".  I have added some space to aid in presentation but you should be able to get the idea:

Full Reference:

Creator             Website Title    Item type / Format                URL (full)                            

-------------   -------------   -------------------------    --------------------------------,    Find a Grave.        Digital images Grave Markers.


Date Accessed    Item of interest                                                Location

--------------   ------------------------------------------    ---------------------------------------------------

17 April 2009          Photograph, headstone for My Ancestor (1990-1999),    Adams Cemetery, New Washington, Clark County, Indiana, USA

In my opinion there are a few things that are important to note with this format, and they are:

  • The URL for the Full reference needs to be the "full URL" so that the next person has the address.  Anything less and you may jeopardize the ability of someone else to replicate your result.
  • Date accessed is important as well.  The internet is not static, it changes all the time.  Knowing when you looked at it could be very important in the future.

So now I have a suggested method to use when citing Find-A-Grave, but how do I make it work within the frame work of my genealogy program (webtrees)?  I think that is food for another blog post...

good luck!