Friday, June 21, 2013

Questions... I have Questions!

I realize that I am publicly displaying by ignorance, but I'm pretty sure other people have encountered these situations, and I'd like to know... How Do You Handle Sources...

1. When a company changes the name of a database, do you add a new source using the new name or just change the name of the existing source?
  • has recently changed the name of the "U.S., Social Security Death Index" to "U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-Current" but can be found at the same URL
  • In July 2012, the FamilySearch "Ohio, County Marriages 1790-1950" database was changed to "Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994" but can be found at the same URL
In both of these cases I don't think there was any change to the database other than the (ongoing) addition of new records. I'm fairly certain that the "Ohio, County Marriages 1790-1950" database contained images when it was first published.
2. How about when a database no longer exists on one site but is available on multiple other sites, such as the Social Security Death Index?
The SSDI is no longer available at RootsWeb, but I have about 900 individuals in my genealogy program with citations to that database. Do I still cite them as a RootsWeb source since that is where I got the data from? Or, do I cite one of the other sites?
3. What about when a website changes hosting services and the URL changes?
Do you simply update the master source with the new URL? Do you reference the "old" URL in comments about the source?
4. Or, similar to #3, if a volunteer provides data to one website then, for whatever reason, moves that data to another site... several times over a period of three years?
Do you create a new master source each time the URL changes? Do you cite the most recent location of the data or the URL at the time you obtained the data? Do you document all of the URL changes?
5. What if you got information from a website a few years ago and that website no longer exists and the data can't be located elsewhere?
Do you still include the URL of the website in your citation? Do you even used the information?
Is there a "standard procedure" for these kinds of cases? All ideas, suggestions, or comments would be greatly appreciated.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Questions... I have Questions!," Kinexxions, posted June 21, 2013 ( : accessed [access date])


Carol said...


This is one reason I am a bit more general in SOME of my sources.

Social Security Death Index

That's it. Covers whatever web site. Go find the SSDI and search it to verify my information.

I know, I am probably gonna burn in sourcing HE#@ for that, but, I just cannot keep up with all the changes, and what about after I pass??

And, that said, I have a bunch the way you have found em, where they change the title, but, not the URL. Sometimes I change do the new title.

I am consistently INCONSISTENT.


Randy Seaver said...


1) I would change the Master Source to reflect the current database name.

2) I would add "no longer available on this site) or change the Master Source to a site that is still available. I would go for FREE over PAID. FamilySearch has SSDI and supposedly has permanent links to it.

3) I would update the URL in the Master Source.

4) I would change the URL. I would not document the URL changes.

5) I would note that the website has disappeared in the Master Source citation, and the data cannot be found online. do you have a saved page or a screen capture from the site?


All of those situations, and probably many more, are WHY we need to try to create source citations that capture where we found information, with enough detail to lead a reader to the record. You are the one most likely to need to find the resource again, and also any persons who access your source citation in a tree or program. I think your citations should be to the last known resource in the case of web sites - in order to reduce everyone's confusion years down the road.

One of the things I haven't done is put down the "access date" within the URL phrase in the EE models. That indicates when you found it, and may be critical for situations like you listed.

These situations make the case for capturing an image of the record, or the indexed summary, for your files, and attachment to the Event in your software program or online tree. It won't bring back a discontinued webpage, but it will provide evidence that it once existed.

Becky Wiseman said...

Consistently inconsistent. That's what I've been too Carol but am trying to change (or fix) the errors of the past... Thanks for the input.

Becky Wiseman said...

Thank you very much, Randy!

What I've done in the past with the changing URL sites is create a new source when the site moves - but that really creates issues with multiple or duplicate sources and gets very confusing, besides, doing it that way gives an invalid URL. I like the idea of just changing the URL in the master source.

I've been inconsistent in getting screen shots from websites. I usually just copy and paste the info into my genealogy software along with the URL and the date. I can see where having a screen shot would be good in instances like the "disappearing" website! I have been pretty good about recording when I got the data so that helps.

Appreciate your input Randy. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Vicki said...

This is a convoluted answer, but--for an example: I am a cataloger for a public library. We are part of a consortium. We get a Blu-ray of a movie that includes a DVD, some of the libraries separate them, some don't, we use notes to say that info. Maybe that is what we need to do, say this is the info., the source may be different, but this is the source we used (the Blu-ray, DVD grouping). If we stated that the original is SUch and such, it was obtainedat this repository/database, etc., with the date, then it would be a starting point for others. Just an idea

Cousin Russ said...


Interesting questions.

As Randy pointed out, I am adding accessed: information in the Citation Details.

In fact, I had a series of Find-A-Grave memorials that had been pulled. I made a note of that in my Citation notes, but did NOT remove the Citation. I didn't have the accessed date in the Citation, but the Image (privatized) was on my computer with the date/time stamp of when I downloaded that image. So, I added the accessed date.

I have a ToDo list for those memorials and will go back from time to time to check them again. And, I a couple of them have returned. So, I ADDED a NEW Source and Citation, because the contributor of that "new" memorial was changed.

Please note, that I also record "Index" records. They are not supposed to be used as Citations, but I record them. Reason: I want to find that record that the Index points to. Another ToDo item. But once I find the real record, I don't remove the Index entry. Just something that I have done, to remind me "how I got there".

Notes are also going into my research log with what I had done.

In my mind, I am trying to be consistent. Doesn't always work, and I certainly haven't been doing this for a long time, But this way I know (ok, try to remember) what I did and why. Like noting that a website was changes, a record group name had changed, a Page being pulled, the a replacement page found.

Thanks for the questions, and putting the question "out there" for me to think about it.


Becky Wiseman said...

Thank you Russ for your comments.

I have been adding a note in the Source "comments" section of Legacy regarding changes on a website, i.e., whether the data had moved or the url had changed, etc. but have not marked it to be printed in reports. That way, I know the "provenance" of the data. Not sure that it really makes a difference to anyone else, but like you said it lets me see where I originally obtained the information.

I too record Index entries for the same reasons as yourself. If it pertains to a "direct" ancestor, then I'll obtain the official record. For distant cousins, not so much - unless it it one of my troublesome lines. There simply aren't enough hours in the day (or money, for that matter) to obtain the official record for all of the distant relatives.

penguinn said...

This is the precise problem with citing anything on the Internet, because they are ephemeral and transitory by nature. When possible try citing the actual source (i.e. US government for SSDI) instead of a website. This is not always possible so changing URL's that have been cited are a problem. You could check manual styles, such as MLA, APA, Chicago and other similar styles for the latest in rules for changing websites.

Bill West said...

Happy Blogiversary!

Becky Wiseman said...

Thank you, Bill. I totally forgot about it. I'm hoping to get back to blogging one day soon.