The Ultimate Guide for Citing Genealogy Resources

A person working on a laptop with open books nearby

Genealogy research can be exhilarating. From following papers trails to discovering new relationships and even entirely unknown branches of the family tree—new discoveries can give you an adrenaline rush. There are a few speed bumps that break the momentum, though; we like to call them citations.


Citing resources during family research can feel tiresome, and it feels more like a chore than anything else. However, as professional genealogists, we have to admit it’s rather necessary and one of the more important tasks you’ll have to undertake.


Here’s what you need to know about citing genealogy sources.


What Are Genealogy Resources

Genealogy resources are where you get information about your family tree. These can be anything from official documents and records to newspapers, websites, online databases, letters, diaries, photographs, and even interviews with relatives.


Most genealogy sources are at the very core of your family research, but before using them for your family tree, it’s important to find out how reliable they are.


Primary Vs. Secondary Sources


Old papers with text in an italic font


To determine how reliable or credible a source is, you first need to determine whether it’s a primary or secondary source.


Primary sources are first-hand information, and these come from direct witnesses. For instance, if you want proof of someone’s birth, the birth certificate is a primary source. This is because the certificate is typically created a short while after someone’s birth and is based on direct witnesses’ testimonies.


Secondary sources, on the other hand, have quoted information that may be pulled from primary sources. For example, a letter analyzed in a history book would serve as a secondary source since you won’t have access to the actual letter.


Needless to say, most researchers find it easier to rely on primary sources since they’re more likely to be accurate. However, secondary sources may be helpful, too, if the person compiling the information can be considered reliable.

Why Are Source Citations Important?

Source citations are crucial for many reasons, which is why professional genealogists never overlook them. For starters, they add credibility to your work. With credentials, you’re essentially keeping yourself in check while allowing others to evaluate your research’s reliability. The credibility also helps If you plan on publishing your research.


You should also consider citing sources to make research easier for yourself. In genealogy research, you may have to go back and forth between the information you’ve found; citations will allow you to revisit your research without hassle.


Also, by citing your sources, you’re giving credit to other fellow researchers. This helps build their credibility, as well as your own.

How to Cite A Source Perfectly?

While there is no perfect formula to this, some general rules of thumb help. Usually, most researchers follow this format, and you can use it too:


  1. Author
  2. Title
  3. Publication details include place, publisher’s name, and date of publication. This should be followed by volume and page numbers or series or roll numbers.
  4. Location of the Source (repository or archive’s name or website URL)
  5. Any additional specific details


Also, make sure to always cite the derivate source for information coming from secondary sources.


If you want to learn more about handling genealogical research like a pro, get in touch with us at DavisDNA And Family Research. We offer expert DNA research assistance,  traditional and genetic genealogy services that you may find helpful.