I've discovered some useful information on FamilySearch.org, and they very helpfully provide a full citation for each record. An example of one I'm specifically interested in is this one:

"England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NVLR-QFW : accessed 25 Jan 2013), William Long, 18 Jan 1833; citing Berkeley, Gloucester, England, reference yr 1813-1826 p 108; FHL microfilm 855612.

I'm fairly inexperienced with citations but I'm learning fast, and web sites giving ready-made citations like this is a massive help, but to sanity check what I'm doing, I have the following questions.

Which parts of this citation are the source, the citation detail and citation text? I'm using Family Tree Maker 2012 which has templates based on those presented in the book Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Which of those templates best matches this style of citation? They are based on American data so it is not always obvious.

Also, the rating of this evidence is important. FTM provides a 4-star rating system where each star represents:

  • Original or Derivative
  • Clear or Marginal
  • Primary or Secondary
  • Direct or Indirect

My asumptions for the above record were:

  • Derivative - because the database is a transcription of the original records
  • Clear - because the facts are clearly legible
  • Seconday - because the transcribe didn't have 1st hand knowledge of the facts
  • Direct - because the date of baptism is plainly stated

Do you agree with my classification? Interestingly there is a duplicate record for this baptism, for 13th Jan instead of 18th Jan. 13 and 18 might be easily confused so I can see how this conflicting evidence would arise, but it is odd to find two conflicting records within the same database.

  • 1
    Tim - re "it is odd to find two conflicting records within the same database". The "explanation" is that if you look at the detail for the two entries, one is from film 855612 and the other from film 855613. If you use the FS Catalog for those two films, you will find '613 contains "Baptisms, 1813-1890", while '612 contains a mix including "Baptisms, 1813-1834". So, it's probably been filmed twice, hence two indexers have looked at 2 different images and come to 2 different conclusions.
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 26, 2013 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


I implemented Evidence Explained, 2007, on which the FTM for Mac templates were based. [See FTM language in the template graphic below]. Mills then updated information and issued Evidence Explained, 2009. [note 1]

FamilySearch "adheres to the principles of 'Evidence Style' as presented in ... Evidence Explained ..." By observation, FamilySearch's "Citing this record" entries tend to follow more closely Mills v. 2009 (not 2007). (Then again, I haven't viewed every FamilySearch collection, much the underlying citations.)

More directly on point. Essential elements are below:

  • Name of the database (you prefer this in quotes): "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975"
  • Type of database: index (aka, "database," specifically not "database and digital images")
  • Website (preferred in italics): FamilySearch
  • URL: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NVLR-QFW (note: this is to the cited record, so you'll want this in the citation detail)
  • Item of interest (entry in the database): William Long, 18 Jan 1833
  • Source cited as the source (preferred in quotes; it is as represented to you): Berkeley, Gloucester, England, reference yr 1813-1826 p 108; FHL microfilm 855612
  • Accessed Date/Year: 23 Jan 2013/2013

In FTM for Mac, I selected the template, "National Government Records > Databases > Database Online - Generic." (There are templates for United Kingdom records; I still chose the generic option.)

enter image description here

I entered generic information as follows

enter image description here enter image description here

I hope it is obvious that you would substitute the terms "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975" (without the quotes, as the program adds those) for my "Title of Database."

The FTM for Mac default output from this template is below; it can be edited within the program.

"Title of Database", database, FamilySearch, Citation Detail. Citation Text.

Given the different contraints, into the Citation Detail (FTM for Mac), I would type

William Long, 18 Jan 1833 (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NVLR-QFW : accessed 25 Jan 2013), citing "Berkeley, Gloucester, England, reference yr 1813-1826 p 108; FHL microfilm 855612."

There will be a little punctuation to clean up (comma out of place and extra period at the end), but all your basics are there.


See also, Ancestry.com blog, "Rating a Source-Citation," 2008

  1. Original or Derivative [source]. It is a derivative, but it is an "index" or "finding aid" (ala, a transcription is a different kind of derivative).
  2. Clear or Marginal. This should really apply to the underlying record. In the context of a derivative such as this finding aid, the rating would be of limited use.
  3. Primary or Secondary [information]. Information is "a statement offered by a source" (Mills). This finding applies to the underlying record and not to the party extracting the record. In most cases a birth record is primary information about the birth of a person. (That doesn't mean it is without error.)
  4. Direct or Indirect [evidence]. Evidence is "information ... relevant to the problem" (Mills). A finding of "evidence" involves some logic and reasoning. For example, if there were several man, "William Long" whose births occurred about the same time, then this record alone might not answer your genealogical question. If the record does answer the genealogical question all by itself, then it is direct evidence. If the question is only answered when this record is considered with other records and information, then it is indirect evidence.

As an added personal note, ratings such as these reflect the genealogists constant work to seek out information from diversified and high quality sources.

note 1. I understood that little theory changed between the 2007 and 2009 editions (for the life of me, can not find that reference), but observe personally that the formatting changed considerably.

  • 1
    Gene - one thing concerns me and that is whether the suggestion above would provide enough detail to locate the image of the original entry on a microfilm. Firstly, I think if you are looking at the LDS film 855612, then I think it's fine. However, if you were to be looking at someone else's film entirely, would there be enough detail to locate the entry? I wonder if a cross check to the LDS catalog for 855612 might help - in particular, is it appropriate to add "Church of England, Parish Church of Berkeley" from there - i.e. it's not a Methodist chapel from the same place.
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 26, 2013 at 17:15
  • 1
    Secondly, could it help to say that this refers to the baptism of William Long on 18 Jan 1833? It so happens that on that film there is no other event it could be. But (and this is where my knowledge might either help or make me too pedantic) if the year were before 1813, then both baptisms and burials are in the same book. Thus, there could be both burials and baptisms on 18 Jan 1733 (say). Or is the database title quite clear enough? (In the originals there is a possibility of a single entry covering both baptism and burial of the same child but I doubt that would be visible in FS)
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 26, 2013 at 17:24
  • @AdrianB38 Good comments. There is more than meets the eye to tracking down the cited source of the source. On a call to one Michigan county recently, I referred to the FamilySearch index reference for book and page. The woman chuckled, "Sweetie, we don't have books numbered or paginated that way ... Tell me who you are looking for and we'll go find it." I swear I saw her smile over the phone. I understand the logic behind quoting the source of the source reference, but that doesn't help much in your own database ... (continued)
    – GeneJ
    Jan 26, 2013 at 18:49
  • ... because you want them to be cross referenced. As to referencing the baptism as part of the "record of interest," I would often do the same. I frequently add information to the record identifiers that FamilySearch posts in its citations. Large numbers of the entries in the collection, for example, "Ohio, County Marriages ...," do not identify the county. familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XZ61-YMG It's a good example, because there are two men, Elias Ropp, born about the same time who reside Ohio and have w. Catherine.
    – GeneJ
    Jan 26, 2013 at 18:58
  • Gene - oh good - because at the moment I often find myself going off to the on-line catalogue of the original archives (the one holding the "source of the source") and adding descriptive details from there (those describing that "source of the source") to the detail of the on-line source, in order to make the citation as bomb-proof as possible if the on-line site closes.
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 27, 2013 at 10:32

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