When to Use Waypoints in a Source Citation
I have been studying citations for my Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) virtual class, Intermediate Foundations. Sara Scribner, CG, is our wonderful instructor. She gave us a suggested reading list about citations. I studied a few different articles by Tom Jones and Melinde Lutz Byrne, along with some parts of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, to understand how to cite online images. One (relatively) new way is to use waypoints, or steps to take to get to a specific image. In this article, I’ll discuss the purpose of citations and when you might want to use waypoints in a citation.
Purpose of Citations
Tom Jones and Melinde Luntz Byrne give two important functions of citations in the September 2016 NGSQ editor’s note:
Citations enable readers to assess a researcher’s work by reviewing the sources they consulted. They also allow others to find the source cited for their own purposes. Jones and Byrne say the more important of the two is the assess function. “Performing their assess function, citations communicate source and information features for users to evaluate. Find is less critical. Citations show the locations of sources and specific information within them, enabling readers to turn to the information.”
In Thomas W. Jones’ June 2016 APG Quarterly article about waypoints, he gave two additional purposes for source citation (relating to helping the researcher), for a total of four purposes:
1. Help researchers understand the source
2. Help researchers find the source again to reexamine it
3. Help readers understand the sources which led to the researcher’s conclusions
4. Help readers find the researcher’s sources
The documentation of sources is not only for the benefit of the reader, but for the increased understanding the researcher gains in the practice.
Problems with Citing Images Online
The method for citing images online has evolved over the years. In 2016, Thomas W. Jones discussed these changes and suggested waypoints as a new, effective way to cite specific online images in the APG Quarterly. Jones reviewed the history of genealogists citing online images. Since 2005, Elizabeth Shown Mills has recommended three methods for the citation of a specific image, including:
1. Referencing page numbers, dates, or sequencing in the imaged material
2. Showing the researcher’s search terms
3. Citing an image-specific URL
In the 3rd edition of Evidence Explained, published in 2015, Elizabeth Shown Mills gives the following advice about using web address (URLs) in a citation:
Identification of a website’s address – its URL – can be tricky. Long URLs typically represent dynamic pages created on the fly when we enter a search term. We may find a long URL reusable so long as we do not clear our computer’s browser cache. However, it likely will not work for others or for us at a later time. An alternative is to cite the website’s home page, along with keywords in the path that takes a browser to the proper site. That method is not more permanent, however. The reorganization of a website could eventually make our cited keywords and path unworkable. By recording the access date, we may have a reference point we can use to retrieve the material from an Internet cache such as Wayback Machine (https://www.archive.org). 
The unstable nature of web addresses and the possibility of website reorganization causes uncertainty about how to cite images online. Although the publishing on websites allows frequent updates and additions, this creates problems for genealogists who want to be able to find specific material later. Mills recommends using the Wayback Machine at archive.org to retrieve material, but this method has many limitations. The Wayback machine does not crawl content that is restricted by publishers (such as subscription websites) or allow the use of search applications within interactive databases.
I tested a URL to an 1880 census from FamilySearch in the Wayback Machine – https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFNP-4SS and the result page stated, “Hrm. Wayback Machine doesn’t have that page archived.” This is because FamilySearch requires users to log in to their website before they can access records, and the Wayback Machine cannot collect web pages that require a password to access. If this FamilySearch URL is ever changed, the Wayback Machine wouldn’t help me view it again. What are the chances FamilySearch will change this URL? Not likely, due to the presence of the three letters “ark” in the URL. ARK stands for an Archival Resource Key Identifier, signifying that FamilySearch does not plan to change the URL. ARKs are URLs created to allow long-term access to information objects.
Mills recommends using a stable URL, meaning one that the provider has stated will not change, or the homepage plus the path to the record collection and image number, in the case of overly long URLs.
Numbered Images and Waypoints as a Solution
Previously, images online have been cited as publications using the page numbers, dates, or sequencing material in the collection. Jones says that this is sometimes implausible, when collections are “unindexed, unpaginated, or illogically arranged.” He then offers a solution – using image numbers and waypoints in citations instead of long links. He shares several advantages to using waypoint citations, including their similarity to publication citations, precision for identifying sources, less error-prone than retyping long URLs and more effective than clickable links. He says,
Waypoint citations – like all citations – are more effective than clickable links to images. Citations note a source’s context. Links take them out of context. Links also require readers to decipher unfamiliar handwriting and wording, interpret meanings, and assess a researcher’s sources on their own. Unlike links, citations provide typed information about source qualities, enabling readers to understand the source’s strengths and weaknesses.
So, when should researchers create a waypoint citation utilizing the image number? Jones seems to say that these work best for unindexed, unpaginated, or illogically arranged material, but also says they can be useful at other times as well.
Even when a collection is indexed and searchable, a waypoint citation can be shorter than the typical microfilm citation and easier for the reader to click to the image. Jones gives several examples of waypoint citations including a citation for a will in a FamilySearch digitized microfilm collection of New York estate record images published on its website and a Fold3 collection of Revolutionary War pension files. Both image sets contain large numbers of images to browse through, but with waypoints and image numbers, readers can quickly locate the correct set and image number. This points to the importance of the find function of citations.
I decided to make my own citation using waypoints following the convention that Jones shared. Here is what I came up with:
FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1919417 : accessed 20 February 2019) > South Carolina Probate Records, 1671–1977 > Anderson > Guardian accounts, 1843-1847, Vol. 01 > image 126, William Hutchison, Guardian of J.A. Harris, account, 12 April 1847.
Try following the link to the collection, then click “browse through 222,656 images,” then use the waypoints in my citation to get to the right image.
Do waypoint citations still give researchers and readers the ability to assess source qualities? Jones says yes, because of they contain typed information about source qualities and clear descriptions of the original record and informant.
Jones also discusses the disadvantages of waypoint citations, the biggest being their unfamiliarity. This is resolved as researchers begin to use transition toward waypoint citations, especially in situations of illogically arranged collections and to simplify long citations.
Conciseness of Citations
Jones’ attention to the length of waypoint citations vs. traditional citations shows a criteria that he assigns to a good source citation that perhaps Mills does not – brevity. Mills wrote, “Citations to most historical materials are lengthy. Citations to electronic publications, if they adequately identify and describe the original material, can be even longer. If we are committed to full citations, there will be little we can do to reduce the length of the essential elements.” As editor of the NGSQ, undoubtedly Jones is continually seeking the correct balance between concise yet functional citations.
What do you think? Will you start using waypoint citations?
 Byrne, Melinde Lutz and Thomas W. Jones.“Why We Document the Way We Do,” Editors’ Corner, National Genealogical Society Quarterly,vol. 104, No.3 (September 2016): [iv].
 Ibid., paras. 2-3.
 Thomas W. Jones, “Genealogy > Citations > Waypoints: An Option for Locating and Citing Unindexed
Numbered Online Images,” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly 31 (June 2016): 72; image copy, Association of Professional Genealogists (https://www.apgen.org/members/apgq.html : accessed 9 February 2019).
 Thomas W. Jones, “Genealogy > Citations > Waypoints: An Option for Locating and Citing Unindexed
Numbered Online Images,” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly 31 (June 2016): 71-79; image copy, Association of Professional Genealogists (https://www.apgen.org/members/apgq.html : accessed 9 February 2019).
 Ibid., 74; citing Elizabeth Shown Mills, QuickSheet: Citing Online Historical Resources Evidence! Style, laminated folder (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2005).
 Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015) 59.
 Susan Braxton, “(Maybe) not lost and gone forever: the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine,” 25 April 2016, Prairie Research Institute Librarian (https://publish.illinois.edu/prilibrarian/2016/04/25/maybe-not -lost-and-gone-forever-the-internet-archives-wayback-machine/ : accessed 9 February 2019), para. 5.
 “Wayback Machine General Information,” Internet Archive (https://help.archive.org/hc/en-us/articles /360004716091-Wayback-Machine-General-Information: accessed 9 February 2019) question 8, Do you collect all the sites on the Web?
 Mills, Evidence Explained, 3rd ed., 280, 283.
 Jones, “Genealogy > Citations > Waypoints” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly 31 (June 2016): 74.
 Ibid., 78-79.
 Ibid., 77.
 Ibid., 78.
 Mills, Evidence Explained, 3rd ed., sec. 2.7, “Discursive Notes & Overlong Citations.”