Cite Your Sources: Getting Help Online

I’ve been known to wake up from a nightmare when I was informed that my efforts didn’t pass muster despite sweating blood over the “proper” formatting of citations.


I must have been quite a sight!



Did I leave an extra space? Does the “authority” specify that part should be in italics? Is the date in the approved order mm-dd-yyyy or dd-mm-yyyy or yyyy-mm-dd, or with the month spelled out? Commas, periods or semi-colons?

You’d think the major genealogy resource sites would make it easy. Some do go part way. For example, here’s how the entry for William Northwood in the 1901 Canadian is cited.

In Ancestry: Year: 1901; Census Place: Ottawa (City/Cité) St George (Ward/Quartier), Ottawa (City/Cité), Ontario; Page: 16; Family No: 156

In FamilySearch: “Canada Census, 1901”, , FamilySearch ( : Fri Mar 08 10:44:32 UTC 2024), Entry for William Northwood and Margaret Northwood, 1901.

MyHeritage, Find My Past, Library and Archives Canada, and Automated Genealogy provide no suggested citation. All do provide basic information needed to format it. How to go the extra step, granting us the benefit of a good night’s sleep?

Of late there’s been buzz on social media about Cite-Builder. Specifically designed for genealogists, there’s free access to a limited selection of common citation sources in multiple styles including Evidence Explained, Chicago, Harvard, WikiTree, Strathclyde and more. Here’s how Cite Builder renders 1901 William Northwood citation given the information from LAC.

Citation built in Evidence Explained style is:

1st Footnote:
1901 census of Canada, St George Ward, Ottawa, Ontario, entry for William Northwood; database with images, Library and Archives Canada ( : accessed 09 June 2024); citing Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. RG31 – Statistics Canada. Microfilm Roll T-6488, 16, family number 156.
Subsequent Footnote:
1901 census of Canada, St George Ward, Ottawa, Ontario, entry for William Northwood; LAC. RG31 – Statistics Canada. Microfilm Roll T-6488, 16, family number 156.
Canada. Ontario. Ottawa. St George Ward. 1901 of Canada. Database with images. Library and Archives Canada. : 2024.

Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments.

You can go a long way with the free version of Cite Builder which is all I’ve tried. Check out the videos on the site that illustrate the extra facility with the premium version. It costs AUD 30/year, about $27 and change Canadian. Get a 20% discount with code GTV.

A citation guru I consuted did find a few errors.

It occurred to me to try the citation with ChatGPT. So I prompted it with:

You are an expert genealogist skilled at writing citations in the style of Evidence Explained. Use the following information about William Northwood from the 1901 Census of Canada, as provided by Library and Archives Canada at to format a citation
Month of birth: August
Year of birth: 1844
Marital status: Married
Relationship: Head
Place of birth: England
Year of immigration: 1870
Nationality: Canadian
Ethnic origin: English
Religion: Church of England
Occupation: Merchant
Province: Ontario
District name: Ottawa (City)
District number: 100
Sub-district name: St. George Ward
Sub-district number: E
Reference: RG31 – Statistics Canada
Division: 8
Page number: 16
Family number: 156
Microfilm reel number: T-6488
Image number: z000091557

ChatGPT’s response was:

Certainly! Here is the citation in the style of Evidence Explained:

Library and Archives Canada, “1901 Census of Canada,” digital image, Library and Archives Canada ( : accessed 9 June 2024), William Northwood, St. George Ward, Ottawa (City), Ontario, district number 100, sub-district E, division 8, page 16, family number 156, microfilm reel T-6488, image number z000091557; citing RG31, Statistics Canada.

Interestingly, the family number quoted in all of the above, 156, is not that on the image which is 154.

Would you use ChatGPT rather than Cite-Builder, or something else?


2 Replies to “Cite Your Sources: Getting Help Online”

  1. Hmmm…I might need to start playing with ChatGPT and the other similar sites when I get stuck creating citations (an often occurance).

    For the family number issue, one issue I’ve come across on this and other Canadian censuses is that the original family number is corrected sometime after the initial enumeration. The number “156” that stands out on that page in your example has been renumbered as “158”, the “8” is fairly faint. The same issue has happened for the family of William Northwood. Initially, the family was recorded as number “154”. However, later on it was renumbered as “156”. The “6” is really obscured here. The same issue can happen for the dwelling number on these pages. So the transcription of the family number is correct.

    1. Another interesting case. If what you can read is not the original which do you cite — and why?

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