I have a military document given to me to scan by a relative. It is the original military document.

How do I go about adding a Source / Citation for such media?

My tree lives on Ancestry and I have asked questions before about creating sources. So it is not all alien to me but in this case do I simply create a repository with the persons name or some other way? Eg:

  • Repository: Personal Documents
  • Source: Name of Person

2 Answers 2


The basic principle from Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained is to cite what you actually used.

There are numerous examples on the Evidence Explained website about citing a document that is held in private hands that you could use as an example. My quick search turned up a WW2 military record from the United States:

Citing personally held WWII Military Documents

Evidence Explained is US-centric, so I understand why researchers outside the US might not find it to be an essential reference work, but I do like Elizabeth Shown Mills' Quicksheet: Your Stripped Bare Guide to Citing Sources. It's a compact, portable summary of what information we need to capture for writing a citation for various types of material; the back side of the sheet is a form which may be photocopied for gathering informtion when you find a source.

In the Quicksheet, Mills says to ask first "What am I holding?" and then to ask "Who? What? When Where?". She also says to ask "Why should I believe it?". I would also ask "How was it created?"

In research notes, include:

  • a description of the document
  • the date you received the scans (if known), your relative's name and address, and the name and address of the current owner of the original document (if known)
  • whatever information you can determine about the document, the same as you would record if you had ordered it yourself or downloaded it from a website

I have seen citations where, in place of listing the document owner's address, it says [address redacted] or [privately held]. Do not include your relative's address in a published citation unless you have their permission to do so.

In this case, you may need a layered citation. Your relative has a document, and you have a scan. The citation should make clear what you actually saw. Cite the document as you regularly would, but make it clear that you have an image copy provided to you by your relative and not the original document.

These links from the Evidence Explained website may also be helpful:

If you can't come up with a satisfactory solution, try looking for publications that cite similar documents and see what format the authors used to cite their documents (keeping in mind that different publications may have different standards). Use research guides (for England and Wales, make use of guides at TNA) if needed. If you're still at a loss, ask a genealogist who regularly uses the same kinds of military records what they would use as a citation. You will get a more precise answer if you specify which document you have on hand.

Bear in mind the end goal of writing a citation is not just to show where another genealogist might find the record. Screenshot from Evidence Explained, 2nd edition, page 10

Mills says (screenshot from page 10 of Evidence Explained, ebook of the 2nd edition; the same statement is on page 8 of the 3rd revised edition):

We identify our sources—and their strengths and weaknesses—so we can reach the most reliable conclusions.We identify our sources—and their strengths and weaknesses—so we can reach the most reliable conclusions.


My problem is concerning the idea of storing all ones family research and archive on internet sites. Working professionally I have never done this.The true value of submitted trees find doubtful as so many are inaccurate.

The view of my clients is that they want a hard copy that they can keep and study and show.

How to record sources ?

I used to record comprehensive lists of source material but found the finished project looked extremely dull and un interesting for my clients.

So, I now print images of my archive material using a laser printer for economy. Everything is printed showing source on transcripts as well as images. I no longer need to take lengthy notes whilst researching. At a later point I type my notes and explanations into my software and the client gets a copy of all the software results and printed source material.

I have been working like this for 15 years and produced,with my team, over 1000 projects, some running to as many as 8 binders. The clients are overjoyed with the results and an historian once asked me did I realise that my work is so comprehensive that historians of the future could well refer to it.

I will never be convinced that storing your hard done research electronically is the wises thing, but I also do this as backup.

  • Please note that i don’t use online trees as a source of research. I simply have my tree online (private). It covers all our families so needs to be available to family in Spain and elsewhere. I like the fact that my tree and data is accessible on my tablet when at a friends home if i want to show them something. And i have no space for such binders, no matter how nice they are. And yes, I do love looking through a book version though. Just not practical for me sadly. Also, I don't see how your answer addresses my question of what my source / citation / repository should contain. Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 6:35
  • 2
    Your answer is a lot about your work process, which is interesting, but does not relate to the posed question. Maybe you can update it with some insights on how you cite sources in your work.
    – jadepx
    Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 19:16
  • Hi Mary, welcome to G&FH.SE! Your answer is being downvoted because it doesn't answer the question. That doesn't mean we don't value you as a contributor to the site! Our question-and-answer format is different than other places you may be used to, like forums and groups or mailing lists. You can find out more about the site by taking the tour and in our help center, or by asking a question about how the site works on our companion Genealogy & Family History Meta.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 20:57

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