Should i name my records with the name of the person in the title of the source, or just put the persons name in the citation, or both?

For an example of what i mean, if I take a census record, with the person I’m attaching it to being “Joe Smith” (random name) and the census record is the U.S 1950 Census, would the SOURCE be named “Joe Smith in the U.S 1950 Census” or just “U.S 1950 Census” and have the CITATION say “Joe Smith in the U.S 1950 Census” , and if its the second option, how would I know which source is for which person without looking through all the citations. What is the most common, correct(?) approach to naming a source versus naming a citation, should the source have the persons name in it, or should that just be in the citation of the source, or, as I am currently doing it, having the name of the person being in the source itself AND the citation. Thanks in advance.

I would suggest the second option of “1950 U.S. Census” as the source name, with the citation providing details on the name, specific line, sheet, district, town, county, state etc., see example below;
“Albert H. Bond, Line 1, Sheet 1, Enumeration District 4-83, Morgan Township, Ashtabula County, Ohio; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census; National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, downloaded from on [date].”

The source window allows you to click on the citation count to show all citations for the 1950 U.S. census (source) with the citation name showing John Smith or in the example above, Albert H. Bond, plus all the other details for that citation.

Thanks! What are the advantages of doing it this way versus the first option?

The alternate method (of adding a name to each source) may result in many sources, this is assuming you have more than one person being on the 1950 U.S. census.

That said; I know many people who would suggest the alternate method. The answer relates to the difference between a source and a citation.

The book “Evidence Explained” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, provides a useful guide to sources and citations;

And this is useful “Sources, Citations, and Documentation in RootsMagic 8” from the RootsMagic Webinars;

It’s first necessary to understand the model for sources and citations used by RM and most other genealogy software, at least the software that runs on the desktop. The source is the more general part of a footnote and the citation is the more specific. I’m personally not real fond of that model, but that is the model.

It goes back to the notion of a source being a printed book, such as The History of the Doe Family by John Doe, which would be the source. Then you would have page 12 or page 97 or page 134, which would be three different citations for same book. Footnotes might look something like the following.

John Doe, The History of the Doe Family, page 12.
John Doe, The History of the Doe Family, page 97.
John Doe, The History of the Doe Family, page 134.

These made up footnotes are highly oversimplified and incomplete. For example, they should include things like when and where the book was published and the name of the publishing company. But the made up footnotes still serve to illustrate the essential ideas.

When it comes to things like sources and citations for census records, genealogy and genealogists have adopted a similar model. For example, you might have something like the following as a footnote.

U.S. Federal Census, 1910, Kentucky, Bell County, Enumeration District 12-97, page 15, family 19.

This breaks the census footnote down to the family unit rather than to the individual person. But you could break it down to the individual person if you wish. Or you could just break the census footnote down to the the page as a whole where there are multiple families on each page.

I have chosen just to break the census footnote down to the census page in my own work because that gets me to a particular census image of a particular census page. And a particular census image of a particular census page typically has multiple families and multiple people. By contrast, the source templates that are built into RM typically break the census footnote down to the family unit so that the same census image may need to serve several different footnotes for several different family units on the same page.

You may have noticed that I have not yet mentioned anything at all about source names or citation names, which was the main thrust of your question. Reports always work instead off of completed footnotes. Footnotes are typically constructed with a left part which is the source information and a right part which is the citation information. RM’s source names and citation names themselves are never seen outside of the RM screens in which you work. They are just for your use when you are working inside of RM. Most typically, RM users will name their sources in the same or similar way as the left part of their footnotes appear. Most typically, RM users will name their citations the same or similar way as the right part of their footnotes appears.

In the case of my sample citation for census records, that leaves us with a number of possibilities.

Source: U.S. Federal Census
Citation: 1910, Kentucky, Bell County, Enumeration District 12-97, page 15, family 19.

Source: U.S. Federal Census, 1910
Citation: Kentucky, Bell County, Enumeration District 12-97, page 15, family 19.

Source: U.S. Federal Census, 1910, Kentucky
Citation: Bell County, Enumeration District 12-97, page 15, family 19.

Source: U.S. Federal Census, 1910, Kentucky, Bell County
Citation: Enumeration District 12-97, page 15, family 19.

Source: U.S. Federal Census, 1910, Kentucky, Bell County, Enumeration District 12-97
Citation: page 15, family 19.

Source: U.S. Federal Census, 1910, Kentucky, Bell County, Enumeration District 12-97, page 15
Citation: family 19.

The last one is the way RM’s source templates do it. The next to last one is the way that makes sense to me personally and that’s the way I do it. But that’s just me.

No matter which of these ways you choose to break down the information between source and citation, the source name and citation would follow along with the way it’s broken down between the source and the citation.

In any case, all of these ways of breaking down the information between source and citation put the more general information to the left and the more specific information to the right. In your example of a census for Joe Smith, if you break things down all the way to the individual person, then the person’s name would need to go into the citation, not into the source. That would put the person’s name in the Citation Name and not in the Source name.

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I’ve been waiting for Jerry to respond as he is extremely knowledgeable about not only genealogical standards but also about how the SW works. I’ll add that, in general terms, you are describing the conundrum of source ”Lumping” vs “Splitting”. You can search on these terms to review prior discussions.

Having a source for each person (or household) in a census is an example of being an “Extreme Splitter”. Prior to RM8, the only way to make heads or tails of the source list was to become an extreme splitter. That’s different now. There are nuances as to how footnotes are made for reports and how bibliographies read that folks like Jerry can provide more detail.

Focusing just on that specific part of your question, for the most part you wouldn’t know. But it mostly wouldn’t matter because you would be looking at sources and citations in the Edit Person screen where you already know who the person is. Also, from the same Edit Person screen you can look at any citation for that individual and see all the other people and facts where that same citation was used.

But if you really did want to know who the people are by looking first at sources and citations, then RM provides two ways that I can think of off the top of my head to do it besides the way I described in the previous paragraph to do it from the Edit Person screen. The first way would be to print a report of sources which includes details about the sources and their citations. You could look at the reports on the screen or print the reports to paper or save the reports to a file and look at the file. The second way is that RM has some powerful searching tools where you can search for footnotes that contain particular text. And you can also make groups and color code people based on the contents of footnotes. The second way is usually the way I do it when I really need to see where particular sources and citations are used.

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Ok, thanks! so if im attaching a census record, the source would be the federal census, which would act almost as a ‘repository’ for all my citations?

So splitting is what is being suggested, and the most common practice, correct?

Ok thanks for the explanation!

Ok thanks, so what is the downside of many more sources? (If any) or is it more of an organization thing?

This is a great explination, i appreciate it. Ill refer to this when I’m making my sources, and when I go back to organize them!

It’s hard to know exactly what the best advice is, but since you seem to be starting more or less from scratch, the best approach might be to use RM’s source templates. The concept of a “source template” may seem a little scary (and maybe even a little unnecessary), but you can’t enter any kind of source or citation into RM without using a source template of some kind. That’ because when you begin entering a source, the first question you will be asked will be “which source template do you wish so use?” and you will be presented with a list of source templates from which to choose.

For censuses, a good source template to use for most purposes these days is called Census, U.S. Federal (Online Images). You can scroll down the list of source templates to select it, or you can type some or all of the template name into the search box in the upper right hand corner of the screen. After you select the template, click on Next in the lower right hand corner of the screen.

Now you fill in the Source information it asks you for. The minimum you need to enter is something like 1950 U.S. Census for the Year and Type and something like Bell County, Kentucky for the Jurisdiction. Some authorities might insist on trying to fill in every single field, but to keep it simple those two fields I mentioned are probably enough to get you started without getting into trouble.

You can try clicking Next in the lower right hand corner again to start working on the citation but it will not let you move forward until you give your new source a name. That can seem like the hardest part of this particular puzzle. But try just giving it a very simple name such as 1950 U.S. Census, Bell County, Kentucky. That may seem like double data entry, but everything you might want to put into the source name is probably something that also goes somewhere else on the same screen. For example, even if you filled in the name of the web site where you found the census image such as or, you probably don’t need to put that into the source name. So having entered a source name, click Next in the lower right hand corner of the screen to move on to entering the citation data.

Again, fill in what you know. Just leave out what you don’t know. This time, RM will create a citation name for you. The main three data items you will need to enter will be the Enumeration District, the the Page ID (the page number of sheet number), and the Household ID. You could leave out the Household ID if you might want to use this same census page for more than one family. Or you could leave in the Household ID and you could even enter the person’s name. But if you enter the person’s name, then you would need a slightly different citation for each family member. Some of these decisions about what to include or what not to include don’t have right or wrong answers. But as you enter additional census information, do try to be consistent.

I do also include the civil jurisdiction (state and county level district) in addition to the Enumeration District when it’s available. That’s because the civil jurisdiction is what appears on such things as deeds, birth certificates, and death certificates. They do not go be census jurisdictions at all. And before 1880, the census only had the civil jurisdictions and didn’t have the Enumeration Districts. And some of this stuff can vary a bit from state to state.

Notice that the person’s name definitely goes into the citation and not into the source, assuming you choose to enter the person’s name. But in general, just looking at what this template expects you to put into the source vs. what it expects you to put into the citation should give you a good feel for how sources and citations are supposed to be created. In any case, click OK in the lower right hand corner of the screen and you are done.

If you need to enter another census source for Bell County, Kentucky in 1950, you would use the same source over again rather than making a new one.

If you need to enter another census citation for Bell County, Kentucky in 1950,you might be able to use an existing citation or you might have to make a new one. It would depend on the information you choose to enter into the template. For example, if you choose to enter the family ID and the name of the person into the template, then you couldn’t reuse the citation for any other family or even for any other person in the same family. Instead, you would need to make a new citation for each person because each citation would for a different person.

To each his own, and I believe the most common approach is to enter the family ID but not the person. My approach which is probably a little non-standard is to enter the data down to the the level of detail of the page ID so that my citations match exactly with my image files. I do enter a typed transcription of the census into the Census note for each person, and such notes are customized down to the level of the person. In other words, each person does get their own individualized note that prints in reports. But for the citation, everybody on the same census page shares the same citation. I would not criticize any level of detail you do or do not include in the citation, except I think that at a bare minimum you need to get it down at least to the individual page number. You probably won’t be able to decide exactly how you want to do it until you have played with it for a while.

I am not sure if you still wish this information on repository?

As background to my answer, I use Ancestry as my primary research tool and as such, when I attach any source to facts for a person; the source and its details, most of the citation details and repository are populated by Ancestry themselves on their website. They have a distinct way of doing things with naming conventions and so forth. I then use TreeShare to populate RootsMagic from Ancestry and approve changes to my RootsMagic database.

If you retrieved the census data from Ancestry, the repository would be automatically assigned to If you retrieved the census from somewhere else, the repository is basically where did you get this source.

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No downside at all of many sources, since it relates to personal preference. Not sure this helps, but I tend to think of a repository as a library, the source as a book and the citation as a page.

I originally used a software product that “forced” a method on me since it had poor citation functionality (i.e. only one line of text with no attachments or any other information allowed) and a repository was simply another field on a source. That product was not RootsMagic which has excellent functionality for citations and repositories.

By spending too many years on Ancestry (prior to re-using RootsMagic), I tended to adopt their style. I consolidated my sources but as others have mentioned, you will find an approach you like and are comfortable with.

You have lots of good advice in this thread. The extent to which you tend to split or lump sources is all a matter of preference. I was an extreme splitter but have been starting to lump sources more with the changes that RM8 introduced.

To follow-on about RM source templates, here’s some advice that Bruce gave in a video a few years ago. RM provides a lot of templates and there’s even user-provided templates available. It can be overwhelming. To avoid this, Bruce suggested picking a few common templates to start (maybe a census template, vital records, grave markers, etc) and mark them as favorites so that they are easy to find. Keep it simple to start. And if, over time, you find that the set of templates is lacking in some way, you can add a template that’s a better match or make a copy of one of your existing templates and then customize the copy.

So remind me one more time, a splitter (or extreme splitter) is when you have each page of a book being its own source (using a book as an easy example) and a lumper will have the entire book as a source, and each page as a citation, is this right- or is it vise-versa?

Ok thanks, ill probably adopt the lumping/consolidation where the “book” would be the source and the “page” would be the citation

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Ill do this right now, thanks!

Wait remind me, when you refer to the “Family ID” what does this mean?