The ability to customize almost anything is one of The Master Genealogist's (TMG) most powerful features - and one of its most frustrating. The amazing detail in Evidence Explained makes it a treasure for genealogists - but makes it difficult to synthesize principles. Put the two together and you get chaos - or a wonderful way to cite your sources consistently and professionally.

The Tri-Valley TMG User Group is associated with the Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society (L-AGS), and we meet in Pleasanton, California. Information on our meetings - location, date, time, and topic - is always available on the home page of the L-AGS web site. Our three-hour meetings are actually hands-on workshops in which up to fifteen computers are connected to a digital projector allowing customized personal assistance to attendees. In the past, the group has systematically studied Lee Hoffman's Getting the Most out of The Master Genealogist and Terry Reigel's A Primer for The Master Genealogist. In February 2010 we embarked on our most ambitious project to date, a study of Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained.

If you would like to participate in the Tri-Valley TMG User Group's adventures as we attempt to create TMG source templates that approximate Evidence Explained's principles, please feel free to comment and share your ideas.

If you would like to download and use our source type templates in your personal database, we would appreciate it if you retain our acronym (TVTMG) in the template name. Societies, if you would like to use these templates in your group activities, please contact the TV-TMG chair at:

Please note that these are our attempts
and they have not been approved by Mills! In other words, please don't blame her incredible book for our mistakes. Unless otherwise stated, all references are to the 2007 edition of Evidence Explained.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Citing Online Death Certificates (State-level Images)

Online Death Certificates (State-issued) (This template is based on Mills, EE, 9.33.)  This template emphasizes the certificate image, not the database.  Note that this can be used for state-issued birth certificates, as well.  Marriage certificates require an extra citation detail field. Don't use this template for images from sites like Ancestry or FamilySearch.  They require a different template for the Bibliography.

  • Bibliography (Source List Entry):

West Virginia. State Department of Health. "Search Death Records." Database and images. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. : 2010.
  • Full footnote (First Reference Note):
<[JURISDICTION] ><[AGENCY], ><[SERIES]>< no. [CD2] ><([CD3])><, [CD1]>; digital image, <"[DATABASE]," ><[ITAL:][WEBSITE TITLE][:ITAL]> (<[URL]>< : accessed [CREF]>)<; [MEMO1]><; [CM]>.

West Virginia State Department of Health, death certificate no. 7184 (1946), Robert Moore Baldwin; digital image, "Search Death Records," West Virginia Division of Culture and History ( : accessed 8 May 2010)<; [CM]>.
  • Short footnote (Subsequent Note):
<[JURISDICTION] ><[SERIES]>< no. [CD2] ><([CD3])><, [CD1]><; [CM]>.

West Virginia death certificate no. 7184 (1946), Robert Moore Baldwin<; [CM]>.

Explanation of variations from Mills:
  1. Since there's no exact comparison, it's hard to say there are variations.
TMG notes:
  1. [MEMO1] is used for the credit line - the source of the source.  That's not necessary here, because the database creator is the government body.
  2. [WEBSITE TITLE] was created to allow the [DATABASE] field to appear in the [TITLE].  Given the fact that one website might have many databases, this is a more logical use for the [TITLE] field in this template. (In a given template, you can only have one source element from any source element group.)
  3. One cautionary point about using [CREF] for the access date: It doesn't repeat when you repeat the source citation - a distinct disadvantage.
New source elements in this template:
  1. Database (in Title)
  2. Website Title (in Subtitle)


  1. This is one of our templates that doesn't work for me. Kristina's caveat that [CREF] doesn't repeat when the source is repeated is a good one - and I still want my accessed date in the [CD3] field. It may be irrelevant, but I like a little more consistency in my labels. I use [FORMAT] to refer to "Digital images," "Database," etc. I use [SERIES] for the name given the record series by its creator, and I use [RECORD TYPE] to refer to the type of certificate. Of course, I don't use quite as many specifics in the Citation Detail area. My template is also set up to accommodate certificate images found on subscription sites, etc. Would you like to see it?

    Yeah, Giants!!

  2. Hi Sue, yes I would like to see your version of on-line death certificates post here. I use a lot of subscription sites also.