Does the thought of making a source citation make you want to cry? Maybe you are more comfortable with citations but would like to make them more consistent within a written product. Try an automated source citation builder! I’ve been researching various types of automated citation tools and have found several great options that I’ll share in this series.
In genealogical writing, we use two style guides: The Chicago Manual of Style and Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. When selecting an automatic citation tool, you’ll want to consider whether the tool follows these accepted styles.
In my product research, I discovered that there are two types of automatic citation tools:
- Fully-automated: click a button and a citation is generated
- Semi-automated: fill out a form and a citation is generated
Both of these types can be helpful. Either one can assist you in becoming more consistent with your citations. If you are still learning how to craft your own genealogy source citations, filling out a form can help you learn what elements are needed. In our Research Like a Pro study group, we teach about the five elements of a source citation: the answers to the questions who, what, when, where in, and where is.
To learn more about the five questions, see our article Source Citations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and read Genealogy Standards by the Board for Certification of Genealogists and Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Tom Jones. In Research Like a Pro, we also teach that it’s helpful to save citations you’ve made for various types of sources that you’ll use again in a document or spreadsheet as templates for future use. This can save you from looking up the same citation models over and over and help with consistency.
The chart below lists several automated citation tools divided into two categories: broadly academic and genealogy specific. The academic tools have options for citing books, articles, and websites automatically in Chicago style. They generate both reference note citations and source list entries. Many of the genealogy specific tools follow Evidence Explained style, but some only have Chicago style templates.
In this introductory post, I will share a little about each of these tools. In future posts, I will share more about some of my favorite tools. Let me know in the comments if there is a particular tool you’d like to know more about.
Zotero is free software for Mac, Windows, Linux, and iOS. It allows you to collect, annotate, cite and share academic research. It generates citations in Chicago style in either source list entry or reference note format. Using the Zotero application with the Zotero Connector browser extension allows you to save references to Zotero from your web browser. It automatically senses bibliographic data for books on library catalog websites like Amazon and OCLC World Cat. Zoterobib at https://zbib.org is a web tool that automatically generates a bibliography or source list for you from mainstream type books and articles. Learn more about Zotero here: https://zotero.org. Donna Cox Baker has written a book about using Zotero for genealogy. See:
Baker, Donna Cox. Zotero for Genealogy: Harnessing the Power of Your Research. Tuscaloosa: Golden Channel Publishing, 2019.
Citation Machine is a tool at https://citationmachine.net/chicago. It uses Chicago style and can help you easily cite a book, webiste, or journal article. For a website, simply paste the URL and confirm or edit the details. Citation Machine has ads which can be annoying – for example, I had to watch a video advertisement before my citation was shown. To get the ads to go away, you must purchase the premium version for $10 per month.
MyBib (https://MyBib.com) is a free web tool for citing websites, books, journals, and videos in Chicago style automatically. Pasting a web URL or searching for a book title automatically gathers the data you need and the tool creates a source list/bibliography for you. Clicking one of the entries shows the reference note/footnote version as well. This is a great tool to use for creating source lists for a handouts or syllabi.
BibGuru (https://www.bibguru.com/) was developed by the team at Paperpile, which was founded in 2013 by former researchers from MIT. It’s a reference management solution, similar to Zotero. BibGuru was created as a free standalone tool that generates a bibliographic entries. It’s similar to MyBib. You can view the source list entry or the reference note.
Grammarly has a free citation generator at https://www.grammarly.com/citations, but I found the form entry to be clunky and the citations were inaccurate. There is a Grammarly browser extension also that shows an automatic “get citation” button on sites with scholarly articles, but it only provided the source list entry. I don’t recommend this tool yet, but it’s still in beta and might get better.
My favorite academic citation tools are Zotero, MyBib, and BibGuru, because they are free with no ads and create accurate Chicago style citations with the click of a button!
Within the genealogy specific citation tools category, there are several online tools that don’t require a software download, as well as software programs that are not online. The software programs that I will highlight include Evidentia and three popular family tree building tools.
Record Seek (https://recordseek.com/) is a free browser extension created by Dovy Paukstys. It creates a basic webpage citation for any site that you find relevant information you’d like to reference. The tool allows you to attach the citation, URL, and selection of text to either the FamilySearch Family Tree, or your Ancestry public member tree. The browser extension opens a page for popup that allows you to edit the citation and choose a style. The Chicago style templates weren’t exactly the way I would format them, but this tool works great for quickly saving information from any webpage to FamilySearch or Ancestry. Record Seek is not the best for making citations used in written genealogy products, because it doesn’t follow the Evidence Explained style for citing the unique types of sources. Read more about Record Seek here:
Childs, Alice. “Use RecordSeek to Quickly Record a Website as a Source at FamilySearch and Ancestry.” GenealogyNow. 22 January 2021. https://alicechilds.com/use-recordseek-to-quickly-record-a-website-as-a-source-at-familysearch-and-ancestry/.
Goldie May (https://goldiemay.com), a browser extension created by Richard Miller, is an automatic research log tool and research assistant. The premium version, which costs $24 per month, includes an automatic citation feature. The automatic citations are added to the research log, which automatically logs each website you visit when the tool is turned on. The automatic citations are only added for records at FamilySearch and Ancestry. The citations are the same as the citation already on the FamilySearch or Ancestry page. For Ancestry, the citations provided are not in Evidence Explained or Chicago style. However, Goldie May is a helpful way to log research and save citations if you are just starting to track your research and want to do a little better with documentation. Read a guest blog post by Richard Miller on Family Locket here:
Miller, Richard. “Research Like a Pro with Goldie May.” Family Locket. 28 March 2020. https://familylocket.com/how-to-research-like-a-pro-with-goldie-may.
Online Repository Assistant (ORA)
Online Repository Assistant (https://www.ora-extension.com), also known as ORA, is a browser extension and Windows application created by John Cardinal. It works with many common online “repositories” like FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindaGrave, FindMyPast, Fold3, and more, to extract data from records and make it easier to paste text into your genealogy software or research report. ORA allows you to create your own citation templates using data extracted from the webpage that can then be applied to other records/people within the same collection. The citation is automatically made when you click on a new record. The citation appears on your ORA sidebar, and then you can copy/paste or autotype it into your preferred application. With a little work upfront, you can have hundreds of automatically-generated citations at your fingertips. I highly recommend ORA for it’s ability to generate consistent citations very efficiently! Of course, it will still be important to compare the transcribed information that is used for the citation with the original image, but this will be a huge time saver. I have already started using it. ORA costs $24 per year and can be purchased at Family History Hosting here: https://www.familyhistoryhosting.com/oc/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=58.
Cite-Builder (https://cite-builder.com) is a web tool created by Jenny Joyce and Andy Joyce. It includes Evidence Explained, Harvard, WikiTree, and Strathclyde styles. The free version has a limited number of Evidence Explained citation templates, while the premium subscription ($20 annually) includes all 490+ templates. Simply fill out a form, which includes some helper text in the fields, then click the style you’d like. A source list entry, reference note, and subsequent footnote are created. Read more about Cite-Builder in my article here:
Dyer, Nicole. “Cite-Builder: A Genealogy Source Citation Generator.” Family Locket. 4 March 2023. https://familylocket.com/cite-builder-a-genealogy-source-citation-generator/.
Genealogy Citation Builder
Genealogy Citation Builder (https://www.genealogycitationbuilder.com/) is a web tool that boasts 513 Evidence Explained citation templates, created by Ada Barlatt and Stanko Dimitrov. It costs $15 per year, with a 48 hour free trial. You can search by Evidence Explained quick check models, which is neat. Fill out a form, then a reference note is created. The source list entry and subsequent note are not automatically created at the same time. It’s similar to Cite-Builder, but Cite-Builder is my preference between the two.
I chose the following four genealogy software tools to highlight. Did I miss your favorite software with a great source citation tool? Let me know in the comments.
Evidentia (https://evidentiasoftware.com/) is a software program created by Edward A. Thompson. Version 3 is available for purchase for $29, but there is a free trial that lasts 30 days so you can try it out. Evidentia is not a citation tool, but it does require that you add a citation before you can begin organizing your evidence and creating reports. Evidentia includes over 260 Evidence Explained templates.1 The tool shows a preview of the citation as you’re filling out the form, which really helps to know what it will look like as you go along. Source list, reference note, and short form are included for many of the templates (but not all have the short form). To create your own personalized templates, you can copy an existing template, tweak it to suit your needs, and save the template with a new name. Flexibility is a strength of Evidentia templates, aiding you in your goal for consistently formatted citations.
Family Tree Maker
Family Tree Maker, software created by MacKiev for Windows and Mac, includes 170 Evidence Explained citation templates based on the QuickCheck models in the book.2 When I tested the 1850-1870 U.S. census template, the result didn’t match the Evidence Explained model. Some elements were unnecessarily repeated and the punctuation was off. I don’t recommend purchasing Family Tree Maker just for their citation templates, but I do like that it syncs with my Ancestry.com tree. Learn more about Family Tree Maker at https://www.mackiev.com/ftm/.
RootsMagic is family tree software for Windows and Mac. It has 400 SourceWizard templates based on Evidence Explained, Evidence!, and Cite Your Sources. 3 The templates include the reference and page number, i.e. EE, QC-12, p. 658 (Evidence Explained, Quick Check 12, page 658). RootsMagic Essentials (free) allows the use of the citation templates. The RootsMagic Full Version ($39.95) allows you to customize your own templates. Some templates that I looked for, like county level deeds or tax records viewed as online images, were not included. However, the ability to make customized templates makes it possible to add that digital layer you need for online images. Customized templates can help you create a consistent style for your genealogical writing. Learn more about RootsMagic here: https://www.rootsmagic.com/RootsMagic/.
Legacy Family Tree
Legacy Family Tree is Windows software and includes a SourceWriter tool with over 1,200 Evidence Explained citation templates.4 The free Standard Edition includes the SourceWriter, and the Deluxe version is $34.95. One great benefit of using Legacy is that you can override any portion of the citation if you don’t like how it turns out. You can also save citations in a master source list, then copy and paste them from person to person and change the individual details if desired. The SourceWriter guides you through selecting the correct template by asking what type of source you are using and how you viewed it (i.e. microfilm, online images, etc.). When I tested the Legacy SourceWriter tool, the 1850 census citation came out just the way I thought it should, according to the Evidence Explained template. I highly recommend Legacy as a source citation tool. You can use the free version of the software for creating citations! Learn more about Legacy here: https://legacyfamilytree.com/.
Academic citation tools great for creating Chicago style book, journal, and website citations automatically with a click of the button. I like Zotero, MyBib, and BibGuru.
Genealogy specific tools have many templates for help with Evidence Explained style citations. My favorite two tools are Legacy Family Tree Software – SourceWriter tool, with the most templates, and the Online Repository Assistant (ORA), with it’s ability to automatically create citations in the format of your customized templates. Both of these tools can help you create consistent citations for your genealogical writing.
What tool do you use? What do you like about it? Let me know in the comments.
- Email from Edward Thompson to Nicole Dyer, October 2023.
- Software MacKiev Company, Family Tree Maker 2019 Companion Guide (https://downloads.mackiev.com/ftm/cg/2019/CompanionGuide_Mac.pdf : accessed 16 Oct 2023), p. 80.
- “Source Templates,” RootsMagic Wiki (http://wiki.rootsmagic.com/wiki/RootsMagic_8:Source_Templates : last edited 14 July 2022, at 02:34).
- “Compare Legacy,” Legacy Family Tree (https://legacyfamilytree.com/Compare.asp : accessed 16 Oct 2023).