The goal of citation is twofold:
for you or someone else to be able to find the material again and to assist in the analysis of the information obtained
I created a rough citation for the entry from the record book from the U. S. Circuit Court, Denver Circuit that was mentioned in an earlier blog post. Reference to the record book was crucial because there was no information in the court packet referencing how the case was resolved. My on-the-fly citation was included on the actual image of the record. I referred to the book as the docket–which was not correct. However could someone have found the original item from my image? The answer to that question is yes. My citation was not perfect, but there was more than adequate information for the item to be located again. The book was referred to incorrectly, however, the date and term of the court was included. The name of the court was included. The image indicated the names of the plaintiffs and defendants along with the case number and the type of action.
After the blog post, I contacted the archivist at the National Archives-Denver Branch for citation information. The suggested form from the archivist was:
“Record Book,” Volume 21, Entry 107, U.S. Circuit Court, Denver Circuit.
It never hurts to ask an archivist how they would cite a record. You may even learn something in the process.
I’ll probably add the page number, the names of the plaintiffs and defendants, the term of the court, and the date of the dismissal. Some of that detail isn’t necessary to “get back to the original,” but I still think it helps to put the entry in context and since it’s not a part of the actual entry my personal preference is to include it somewhere.
Others may choose to cite it differently. Academic genealogical journals may decide to cite it differently. But for me, those are elements I’m going to include.
And if I ever need to cite if in something “formal,” I’ll have more than enough information to do that.
That’s another goal (for me) of citations–include enough so that you don’t have to get the original again to craft a citation for it.
It’s always easier to remove details later than it is to go and dig them up.