How to Create Sources and Cite for US Federal Census

I’m fairly new to RM and have RM8. I’ve watched many of the YT videos/webinar recordings on using it, but the example always seems to be a book and I’m confused on the best method to create sources for US Census data and then how to cite them.

I get all of them from Ancestry. Almost all are households with multiple people and then I want to be able to cite each person’s individual aspects such as the ability to read and write, occupation, etc.

Previously, I was creating a source for the household and then each person would get their own citation. Many examples I’ve seen though show the entire census being the source and I haven’t seen much of how the citations are broken down afterwards. Because of the templates (I typically use the Census, US Federal (Online Image)), it basically seems like it asking me to use the household as the source which is why I made that decision when I originally started. I think this because it asks for like district.

The other thing I have a question regarding this is where to put the details text (as described in the webinars for RM7 on YT). There isn’t a field for text under the citation, only under the source, unless I’m missing something. I like to put the information, all of it that is found on the census record for each person, with the citation even if the citation is just for occupation (it should still have the info for years at school, etc., etc.).

So I’m just curious as to how other people prefer to do this, if there is a good video or walkthrough someone could link me to that would help, or any advice that can be given. I appreciate it!

You are surely going to get a variety of diverse ideas on how best to enter census citation into RM8, In general, you can use RM’s free form source template which allows you (and requires you) to type citations into the system in any way you wish. Or you can use RM’s built-in source templates which are based mostly on Evidence Explained, which is surely the premier authority on how to enter genealogical citations. Or you can design your own templates which allows you to design your citations to be the same or similar to Evidence Explained and would also allow you to design your citations based on some other authority.

Let us suppose you are going to use RM’s built-in templates, and let’s go even further and assume you are going to use the Census, US Federal (Online Image)) template which is a very good choice. A key thing to understand is that having chosen that template (or any other template), the template itself is going to choose for you how generic or specific the source is as compared to which data goes into the citation.

My interpretation of the Census, US Federal (Online Image)) template is that it is making year, state, county, and schedule into the source and that it is making District, Enumeration District, page number, and household ID into the citation. So for example if you have two different families of interest on the same census page, you would have a different citation for each family even though they are on the same census page. In case you are not familiar with the concept, a schedule is typically a population schedule. But there are other schedules in some of the censuses such as slave schedules, agricultural schedules, manufacturing schedules, and mortality schedules. So a citation for the 1880 Population schedule for one person would be different from the 1880 Agricultural schedule for the same person.

A source has two notes. Let’s call them Source Text and Source Comment. That’s also what they are called on RM’s source screens. Despite the names of the notes, you can use both notes in any way you wish. For the most part, they would be left blank. It’s hard to know what text or comments you might want to enter for a source as a whole and neither of these notes can be printed as a part of footnotes or endnotes in reports.

A citation has two notes. Let’s temporarily call them Citation Text and Citation Comment. That’s is not what they are called on RM’s source screens, but see below for further discussion of what they are called. You can use both notes in any way you wish. You can leave them blank, but the most common way they might be used would be to enter a transcription of your document such as a census record into the Citation Text and any comments or analysis that you might have about your document into the Citation Comment. You can include or not include either note as a part of footnotes and endnotes. So if you decide to enter anything into these notes AND if you decide to print the notes as a part of footnotes and endnotes, you should enter data into the notes in a manner appropriate for printing as a part of footnotes and endnotes.

I called the two citation notes Citation Text and Citation Comment because I think that makes them easier to explain. But they are really called Research Note and Citation Comment on RM’s citation screens. That doesn’t change how they can be used and that doesn’t change the fact that either or both notes can be printed as a part of footnotes and endnotes.

But all of that is still just for the source and citation. You still have to decide how to enter the Census facts themselves. For example, some RM users enter Census facts while other RM users only use the Residence fact. If they use the Residence fact, then the census data just becomes a source and citation for the Residence fact. But of course a Residence fact is more general than a Census fact and all kinds of documents other than census can be sources and citations for a Residence fact.

You also have to decide whether you are going to enter a separate Census fact for each family member, or if you are going to enter a Census fact only for the head of household and then share the Census fact for the head of household with other family members. It seems to me that if you are using the Census, US Federal (Online Image)) template that you would have just the one citation for the census entry for the whole family. If you have a separate Census fact for each family member, you would have to enter the citation for one family member and then memorize and paste the citation to all the other family members. If you enter the census fact only for the head of household, you would enter the citation only for the census fact for the had of household and then the sharing process will automatically carry the citation along to the shared census facts.

In case you are thinking about doing it with shared facts, be aware of two things. One is that RM’s shared facts don’t work with sites such as FamilySearch and Ancestry. The other is that RM’s shared facts are not really sharing a fact in the sense of making a copy of it. Rather, they are sharing roles. Typical roles for the Census fact would be such things as Wife, Son, Daughter. So you would share the Wife role with the head of household’s wife, the Son role with each of the head of household’s sons, and the Daughter role with each of the head of household’s daughters. You would probably need many more roles than just those three. The roles are not built-in and you have to add them, but adding them is pretty easy. In any case, using the shared roles usually saves a lot of data entry time as compared to separate census facts for each family member.

I have my own source templates, which I suspect is pretty unusual as far as most RM users go. I break down my census citations only to the level of the census page. That makes sense to me because to me the census image as a whole is the document I am citing. It does mean that if there are multiple families of interest on the same census page, I use the same census citation for all those families. I enter transcriptions of census entries into the Comment Text field (actually called the Research Note field). I enter separate census facts for each family member. I enter a transcription of the census entry for the entire family into the Census fact note for head of household and a transcription of the one line for each person in their individualized Census fact note. But I’m a sample size of one and your mileage may vary. A lot of very expert RM users enter their census data very differently than the way I do it.

I create a free-form source for each year-state-county that I have a citation for, like 1850, Michigan, Bay.

Then when I cite it I transcribe into the citation details, never the master.

The advantage, at least to me, of doing it this way is that it is simple to run a report of all census entries for Bay county, Mi in 1850 or for Ogle county, Illinois in 1930.

This works for me and I am on RM7, so if you are on RM8, I’m sure that things will be a little more complicated,

Thank you for the great explanation! This has helped a lot with some questions I’ve had regarding the census entries.

I think (for now at least lol) that I will use the Census, US Federal (Online Image) for the source and cite it down to the district level. Lots of the family lives in the same area most of the time and I can just branch off that single source for the citations to all of them.

For the census fact, is there any reason why I could not use the head of household citation as a family fact, link each family member to it, and still create separate facts and citations to those facts for each person regarding the other things included in the census such as employment, schooling, etc.? The reason I am thinking of doing it this way is because I like to copy and paste the transcription into the Research Note in Citation Details. I don’t want to put all of those in a single citation as it can be misleading I think. I’ll just create a copy of the citation, rename it to suit the new person I’m creating it for, and then paste in the new transcription info I have for that person. I could still use separate citations for each person in a household regarding the census, but I was thinking the census and the residence bit could be a “family” shared fact. Do you see any reason not do it this way long term? I hate getting into it and find out that I shouldn’t have been doing it one way and should have been doing it another. Done that plenty already and its getting old lol.

For the time being, I don’t intend on uploading or downloading from any online services like FamilySearch or Ancestry. Two reasons I decided to get RM was to eventually stop some subscriptions and to also stop people from screwing with the public tree. Too many people like to think they know what they’re doing and never include any citations/sources for the reason they do it. Most of the time, they’re wrong and then I spend time trying to undo it.

Can you not run reports using the Census, US Federal (Online Image) template? It requires you to enter a district, state and county into it. Just curious before I start doing a whole bunch.

Thank you for your feedback!

That must be a RM8 report, because I haven’t seen anything like it in RM7, but I don’t know everything.

Also, if you are going to use any shared or family facts, experiment on how they will be exported to GEDCOM before going too far down that path. RM has some great features, but not all of them are GEDCOM-compliant which is very important if you might move to another software. I know that Family Historian imports directly from RM7 and RM8 databases and does a great job of it. Not all of RM’s can directly import.

The Census (family) fact is really only for the couple and is not for the whole family. Think of it as being like a Marriage or Divorce fact which really is only for the couple. Your main two choices are to enter an individual Census fact for the had of household and then share the fact as roles for the other family members or else to enter an individual Census fact for each person.

If you do it with shared roles, then only the individual Census fact for the had of household needs a citation and the process of sharing the roles will also share the citation, If you do it with an individual Census fact for each family member, the same citation can used for all the family members. The process is called Memorize and Paste of the citations.