Genealogy Appendix

to the Hanover College
Style Sheet for
Chicago Manual Footnotes


This appendix to the History Department's guide to Chicago Manual Footnotes provides further examples for citing sources genealogists use.

For more on what footnotes are and how they work, see below.  



Census records

     1. 1880 United States Census, Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana, digital image s.v. "Callie J. Harrison," Ancestry.com.

Note that the citation specifies the census year and provides the geographic location where the person was counted (the town or township, the county, and the state).  If you found the census page through a commercial site, direct your readers to the appropriate search term for the digital image by giving the person's name as the commercial site indexed it ("s.v." stands for the Latin sub verbo, or "under the word.").  Finally, provide the name of the commercial site you used.


Grave markers

     2. James Thomas Harrison, grave marker, Fairmount Cemetery, Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana, digital image s.v. "James Thomas Harrison," FindaGrave.com.

Begin the citation with the name as it appears on the grave marker; also give the name and location of the cemetery.  If you found the grave marker through a commercial site, provide the person's name as the commercial site indexed it ("s.v." stands for the Latin sub verbo, or "under the word").  Finally provide the name of the commercial site you used.


Personal communication

     3. Sara Lehman, letter to author, 13 Aug. 2000.

     4. Abby Labille, "News from Home," email to author, 24 Oct. 2007.

     5. Thomas Anderson, conversation with author, 24 Oct. 2007.

Use these models for information people have communicated to you directly, but supply your whole name where it says "author" above. The "Thomas Anderson" model is appropriate for informal oral history interviews.


Personal knowledge

    6. Preparer, personal knowledge.

This model shows how to cite a fact that you know from first-hand experience, like your mother's birthday.  Supply your whole name where it says "preparer" above. 


Indexes and databases within a commercial site

    7. "Social Security Death Index," s.v. "Richard W. Nixon" (1920-1991), available at Ancestry.com.

    8. "Wisconsin, Birth Index, 1820-1907," s.v. "David Roth" (born 25 Oct. 1873), available at Ancestry.com.

    9. "U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925," s.v. "David Roth" (born 25 Oct. 1873), digital image available at Ancestry.com.

    10. "U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," s.v. "Samuel Beverly McNair," digital image available at Ancestry.com.

Commercial sites like Ancestry.com may contain within them separate indexes or databases.  Cite information from them by providing the title of the index/database, as given by the commercial site.  Then provide the search term that readers will need for finding the information you're citing. Do that by giving the person's name as the commercial site indexes it ("s.v." stands for the Latin sub verbo, or "under the word."); in many cases, you will also need to supply birth and/or death dates to distinguish among people with the same name.  If a digital image is provided, make note of that.  Finally, provide the name of the commercial site you used.  Notice that models 7 and 8 are for derivative primary sources;  that is, those indexes provide information but do not reproduce the original documents.  In the case of models 9 and 10, the databases include digital images of the manuscript forms.


Vital records

11. Eliza Calhun, death certificate, 4 Aug. 1930, file no. 40076, Texas State Department of Health, copy in possession of author.

12. "Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982," s.v. "Gertrude Butler" (1900-1937), digital image available at Ancestry.com.

13. Gertrude Butler, death certificate, 11 Oct. 1937, file no. 50740, digital image available in  "Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982," s.v. "Gertrude Butler" (1900-1937),  Ancestry.com.

Vital records are government records of life events (such as birth and death certificates).  If you (or someone else) has a government-issued vital record, use model 11, replacing "author" with your name (or the name of the person who has the document).  In that case, include as much information as a reader would need to request a copy for him/herself (the date of the event being recorded, the file number, and the name of the agency issuing the document).  If you are citing vital records information that you found within a commercial site, you can follow the pattern for citing information in any index or database within a commercial site (as in model 12).  However, if the commercial site provides a digital image, you can be even more helpful by also providing the information a reader would need to request the document from the issuing agency (as in model 13).



More on what footnotes are and how they work.

Footnotes are a conventional way to tell your readers where you got the information and quotes that appear in your paper. Your goal is to make it easy for your readers to see what sources you used -- and easy to find any that they might want to study further. To do that, you need to provide complete citations in a consistent citation style. Leading publishers of historical scholarship (such as the American Historical Review and the Journal of American History) require Chicago Manual style footnotes. Below you will find model footnotes that cite various types of sources. (Using the search function of your browser is an easy way to find the type of source you need.) The models illustrate the format for the first reference to a particular item. A second reference to the same item can be shortened -- as in model footnote 2 below.

If you are reading this page from the Hanover College campus, you can click here to see an example of a published article using Chicago Manual style footnotes. (If this link does not work for you, contact your library to see if your institution provides access to scholarly journals through some other means.)

Suppose the second paragraph of your paper mentions Horatio Nelson Taft visiting the White House, and suppose one of your readers is curious about where she could read more about Taft. She will look for the next superscript number after your mention of Taft. (For most papers, there is a footnote at the end of each paragraph of text in the body of the paper, so she'll look first at the end of the paragraph.) The superscript number she finds in the text directs her to the appropriate spot on the numbered list that runs along the bottom of all your pages. There, your citation tells her that you learned about Taft's visit by reading his diary, and you give her all the information she needs to find a copy of the diary to read herself. (Standard citation styles give her enough information to find it online or to order it through interlibrary loan, for instance). If you quote Taft again later in your paper, she'll want to know more about that information too, and so she'll again look to the end of the paragraph for the superscript number that will direct her to the bottom of your page. There she'll find your shortened reference to the Taft diary, with the page where she can read the quote in context. If she has forgotten the diary's publication details, she can look back to your first footnote for all the specifics. If you follow a consistent citation style, she'll be able to find the first full cite easily by scanning up through your earlier footnotes.

Notice that footnotes are numbered consecutively over the course of the whole paper. (That is, the paragraph that mentions Taft the second time gets its own footnote; don't re-use the number found in the earlier paragraph.)

If you are confused about how to punctuate sentences with quotations and footnotes, remember that "the end punctuation goes first, followed by quotation marks as appropriate, and then the superscript number."1

If you are confused about how to find the details you need for a complete cite, you will find helpful visuals by following the "citation at a glance" links in Chicago Documentation Style at hackerhandbooks.com.

Scholarly journal house styles sometimes vary slightly from The Chicago Manual. For example, see the "Journal of American History Style Sheet".

Be careful to avoid accidental plagiarism. If you do not provide a footnote for information that you have learned from someone else, you are implying that you know that information from your own experience. You are thus stealing the credit for someone else's hard work, and academics take theft of intellectual property seriously.

For more details on Chicago-style footnotes, see Chicago Documentation Style at hackerhandbooks.com or the Chicago Manual itself (available at the Duggan Library). You may also find helpful the online Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide.


Hanover College

Hanover College History Department

Last updated: Nov. 28, 2011