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Further To Citation Issues


Continuing our research into how better to cite French genealogy documents and sources for our discussion with Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of "Evidence Explained: : Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace".1 (who is most generously offering her encouragement in this effort) we have been trawling the blogs of various French experts.

Roland B. writes that he gives: 

  • The type of record series or group, e.g. "BMS" for a parish registration or "état civil" for a civil registration or "acte notarié" for a notarial record.
  • The place of provenance, which he gives as the department number only and then the commune name in capitals, e.g. "28 ILLIERS" or "41 LANCE"
  • The year  the document was created
  • The specific type of document, e.g. "contrat mariage" or "décès"
  • The name(s) of the individual(s) in the document, with the surname in capitals

Thus, his list of citation examples includes:

  • Acte notarié>1822 Contrat mariage : André FALBET et Maria CASTAIGNÉ
  • BMS 28 ILLIERS>1788 mariage : CHATEAU Hilarion & GROSSET Marie Louise
  • Etat civil 41 LANCE>1895 décès : MOYER Marie Louise 2

When compared with the requirements given in "Evidence Explained", these seem not to contain enough information. Here is what Ms. Mills says is required for a citation of "Derivatives & Imaged Sources", which is what microfilms of parish and civil registers as viewed on the websites of Departmental Archives are :

  • "distinguish between image copies and other derivatives; such as abstracts, transcripts, and information extracted into databases;
  • credit properly the original creator;
  • credit properly the producer of the film or electronic publication;
  • identify clearly the nature of the material;
  • identify the film or electronic publications completely enough for others to locate it;
  • cite the specific place (page, frame, etc.) on the roll, fiche, or database at which we found the relevant detail; and
  • cite the date on which the microfilm or electronic data set was created (if that information is provided), updated, or accessed -  as well as the date of the relevant record."3

 Thus, for a full reference note on the Departmental Archive copy of a burial in a parish register, "Evidence Explained" gives:

"Saint-Nicolas Parish (Saint-Nicolas, Diocese of Coutances), Burial Register, 1769-1791, p. 339, Marie Lemiére burial (1771); microfilm 1Mi EC26, roll 11; Archives Départementales de la Manche, St.-Lo, France."4

There is an extremely long and interesting discussion of how one should cite French sources on the blog of Sophie Boudarel, "La Gazette des Ancêtres".  Each commenter has contributed his or her own personal style, many of which lean toward something that is completely in numerical codes. The discussion is exclusively on how to create what "Evidence Explained" terms a "source list entry"; there is no discussion at all on how to cite a source which is a parish or civil registration in a reference note or footnote. This makes it impossible to compare any French reference note or footnote for this type of documentation with the style recommended in "Evidence Explained". Language differences and translations aside, would French genealogists require more for the online version of the record cited above? And, if so, what exactly?

The same is true for the French Geneawiki page on the subject: there is no standard format recommended for a source list entry or its equivalent, and there is no discussion at all of crafting reference notes or footnotes for sources. There is, however, much discussion of the need to separate the idea of a source from the information it contains, which is comparable to the explanation of the primary and secondary information a source may contain in "Evidence Explained".5

We will continue this investigation with, we hope, discussions with archivists and historians, for the genealogy community here in France would seem to be addressing different issues.

©206 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


  1. Mills, Elizabeth Shown, "Evidence Explained : Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace", Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009.
  2. B., Roland, "Les Sources en généalogie", Web blog post, Lorand.org, 17 April 2012, (http://www.lorand.org/spip.php?article157), accessed 21 November 2016.
  3. Mills,  "Evidence Explained", p. 47.
  4. Ibid., p.357
  5. Ibid., pp24-25.