Help:Source page titles

The purpose of this page is to help people understand how source PAGES are titled. It is meant to provide guidance in creating new source pages or in renaming existing source page titles to make them consistent. See Help:Source pages for more general information about creating source pages. Remember: Source page titles are different from the titles of sources.


General Information

Source page titles serve multiple functions, and all are important to the purposes described here.

  1. They are the page titles for sources in the WeRelate database. As with any page title on WeRelate, each must be unique.
  2. They are the titles that appear when editing a page. Because they may provide the only visible information regarding the source being cited (and the linked page is more difficult to access while editing), source page titles are intended to convey enough information to accurately identify the source to the user at a glance.
  3. They provide the text that appears in alphabetical order in the drop-down menu on Person or Family pages, when you enter the name of a source (that is, a source page) for use in a citation.
  4. They are the bold, clickable links in the display of results when you search for sources.

In order to serve all of these purposes, the rules for naming source pages need to be predictable, standardized, and unique. It's also helpful if the names are short, and if they will alphabetize in a useful manner. Beginning each title with the author or with the smallest relevant geographical area was determined, after extended discussion, to be the best way to accomplish each of those goals.

How to name most source page titles

When you create a new source page, "from scratch" (i.e., by using Add Source), you type certain information about the source into the text fields and boxes on the page. (Which fields are available and visible will depend on which source "type" you select.) The WeRelate system will then use this information to automatically create a properly formed, standardized title for the page. For most sources, this will follow one of these patterns:

  • An authored source = Author field + Title field.
  • A geographically-focused set of records = Place field + Title field.
  • Websites or works without a known author that are not specific to a region = Title field only.

Please note that if you rename a source page (using the Rename function), you will necessarily bypass this automatic process. In this case, you should form the new page title in accordance with the result (described below for each type) which the automatic process would have produced.

The Standards:
1. A geographically-oriented record collection is a collection of vital records, land records, census, or similar records brought together with little or no narrative or additional content.

  • Use this style for such records regardless of whether the volume has a human or organizational author/editor/compiler, etc.,
  • Enter the place covered by the records in the "Place" field (in smaller-to-larger order), and the title of the record collection in the "Title" field. The system combines these fields into a source page title that looks like this: Source:California, United States. Death Index, 1940-1997.

2. All other sources that have an author use the authored format.

  • Enter the first author in Surname, Given Name(s) order in the "Author" field (use the name as printed on the book, if you know, omitting titles such as Dr. or Rev.) and the title of the book or article in the "Title" field. The system combines these fields into a source page title that looks like this: Source:Brown, Robert C. History of Madison County, Ohio. (The new style is the same except that it omits the articles "A", "An", and "The" at the beginning of the title.)
  • Editors, compilers, and similarly-titled people are treated like authors, with no indication of their status in the page title.

3. In all other cases, enter just the "Title". This includes websites, unless the website content is a reproduction or transcript of an hard-copy book or a geographically-oriented record set, in which case see Rules 1 or 2; for example: Source:David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. The title of a website ordinarily is considered to be the title shown in the title bar at the top of the browser on the site's main page, . . . unless it's a very poor title (like "Records" or "Title goes here"). In that case, you probably should use the main heading on the page itself. (Use your best judgment.)

Other general naming rules:

  1. If two sources end up with the same title under these rules, you can add disambiguating information in parentheses to the end of the title (such as the publication date of the revised edition of a book). Note that if two "sources" have the same title because one is a reprint or digitized version of the other, both should be documented on a single source page.
  2. The page title should include only the "main" title (which usually is briefer). If the source has a lengthy subtitle, omit it from the source page title under most circumstances, or unless the remaining title is not useful. Enter the subtitle in the separate "Subtitle" field on the source page itself.
  3. Capitalize each important word. I.e., do not capitalize articles, conjunctions, or short prepositions. This follows the capitalization convention for most actual book titles.
  4. Please don't create source pages for cemeteries; create Place pages instead. Consider the cemetery as being the "repository." You could also create a MySource page for a particular grave marker in a cemetery. Also, creating cemeteries as sources could overwhelm the Source database.

Geographically-oriented sources

Most church and government records follow the Place. Title format. Books that are transcriptions of government/church records also follow this format.

State the place name in smaller-to-larger order as the author of the source; e.g. "Ramsey, Minnesota, United States. Death Registers" or "Shoreview, Ramsey, Minnesota, United States. Incarnation Lutheran Church Marriage Registers". (Please note that this is the opposite of the "old" style.) Any authoring agency/organization should still be listed in the author field on the source page, but omitting it from the title field will keep the page title from becoming too long.

  • If the place name repeats in the name of the record set, omit it if possible; e.g., instead of "California, United States. California Death Index, 1940-1997", prefer "Source:California, United States. Death Index, 1940-1997".
  • If the record set has a general or not very useful name, like "Parish Register," consider adding a date-range at the end of the title.


  • Source:California, United States. Death Index, 1940-1997
  • Source:Windsor, Hartford, Connecticut, United States. Records of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1638-1925

By naming source pages in this manner, all the sources for a particular area will be grouped together on category pages, in source drop-down boxes, and in other places where sources are alphabetized.

Renaming pages

A major project was undertaken (involving hundreds of volunteer hours) to clean up our sources (most of them imported from outside WeRelate) and to standardize the page titles according to the rules described above. Even after all of the time spent on this project, there still may be "wrong" source page titles in the database. If you discover such a page, we ask you to take a moment to fix it. Click on the rename link in the left menu and enter the correct page title. If you do this, please do not delete the page with the old title, so that links to the source, especially external links, will take people to the correctly-titled source.

Duplicate pages

Occasionally you may encounter two or more pages for what appear to be the same sources with slightly different titles. This can happen for several reasons.

  • Computers are not humans. The source catalog was created by importing records from the Family History Library catalog,, and others. Sometimes these catalogs contained the same source, but they differed in the use of punctuation or subtitle, so the computer that identified duplicates in the system did not recognize them. If you recognize such duplicates you can help out by renaming them.
  • Reprints, microreproductions, and films. A variant of the above problem, the FHL entries in particular will sometimes have duplicates because the library has the original book, a film of it, and a later identical reprint or microreproduction. While many of these have been merged, some remain. Clicking through to the FHL catalog entry will often show the original publication date and let you determine if the underlying source is the same, in which case they should be merged, and an explanation regarding any later reprints included on the surviving page.
  • Later editions that share titles. Sometimes sources are revised and republished under the same or a slightly different title. These "duplicates" are not really duplicates as long as there has been some substantive revision to the work. Both/all pages should be left in the database, preferably with links between them and an explanation of the differences. If the names are confusing, you can rename them to include the year of publication or edition, whichever is an easier way of distinguishing them.
  • Vital records sets containing the same underlying records. Different organizations have at times filmed or digitized the same records and published them under different names. In order to facilitate finding a source page when all one knows is the title of the database one used, and because determining if the underlying records are in fact exactly the same is difficult, these sets have different pages if they have different titles. Pages can be linked together, however, if you determine that they do share the same or similar records.

If you find pages that should be merged, you can help out by redirecting the duplicate page(s) to the page with the correct title. Please copy any unique information from the duplicate pages to the correctly titled page. Then enter #redirect[[Source:correctly titled source page]] on the duplicate source page to redirect it to the correctly-titled page. Do not use the URL title with underscores. Please do not delete the duplicate page(s), so that links to them, especially external links, will take people to the correctly-titled source.

Census Records

Note: In addition to the formats mentioned below, it is also ok to create "country-level" census sources that cover the entire country (such sources already exist for the U.S. census for 1790-1930).


The standard title style for Canada's census records is:

  • Note: Substitute the year for YYYY and the Canadian Province for Province below
  • Province level: Province name, Canada. YYYY Census of Canada
    • In the "Places covered" field, enter: Province name, Canada (Example: Québec, Canada)
    • In the "Title" field, enter: YYYY Census of Canada
  • County level: County name, Province name, Canada. YYYY Census of Canada
    • In the "Places covered" field, enter: County name, province name, Canada (Example: Chambly, Québec, Canada)
    • In the "Title" field, enter: YYYY Census of Canada. The system will use this information to create the proper page title.
    • In the text field, enter {{YYYYCensusofCanada}} which will add usage tips via a template. On the next line add [[Category:YYYY Province census]]

England and Wales

The standard title style for English and Welsh census records is:

  • County level (England): County name, England. XXXX Census Returns of England and Wales
    • In the "Places covered" field, enter: County name, England (Example: Buckinghamshire, England.)
    • In the "Title" field, enter: XXXX Census Returns of England and Wales
  • County level (Wales): County name, Wales. XXXX Census Returns of England and Wales
    • In the "Places covered" field, enter: County name, Wales (Example: Breconshire, Wales.)
    • In the "Title" field, enter: XXXX Census Returns of England and Wales.

United States

The standard page title style for United States census records is: County name, State name, United States. XXXX U.S. Census Population Schedule (Example:Source: Crawford, Illinois, United States. 1870 U.S. Census Population Schedule)

  • In the "Source type" drop-down, select "Government/Church records"
  • In the "Title" field, enter: XXXX U.S. Census Population Schedule. The system will use this information to create the proper page title.
  • In the "Place covered" field, enter: County name, State name, United States (Example: Lawrence, Ohio, United States). A drop-down will suggest the proper selection. (If the drop-down does not appear, please check your spelling.)
  • After creating the page, enter the following in the text field (substituting the actual Year, State, and County)
[[Category:Year State census|County]]
For example, a Source page for the Vanderburgh, Indiana 1860 census would contain
[[Category:1860 Indiana census|Vanderburgh]]


The standard format (under the new style rules) for creating a Source page for a newspaper covering a particular area is: Name of the newspaper (City, State/Province/Country of publication). Omit leading articles.


  • Charleston Gazette (Charleston, West Virginia) (omitting "The" at the beginning of the newspaper's name)
  • Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio)
  • Winnipeg Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
  • Mondiale (Paris, France)


The standard format for a general periodical is: Name of the periodical (Publishing organization, if any). Omit leading articles. By convention, a periodical does not itself have an "author." (The name of the society or other publisher is added because so many genealogical publications are titled simply "Quarterly" or "Register" or "Roots.")


  • Louisiana Genealogical Register (Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Society)

Please put the author and title information for the actual article you're citing in the "Record Name" field of the Source Citation on the page citing the periodical. The practical reason for using the generic periodical Source: page with the article described only in the citation details is that most articles have such a narrow focus that they do not really need to have separate source pages devoted to them. However, if an article contains broader, more important information on a number of people which you believe will interest many descendants, a source page may be created for the individual article, using the rules for authored sources. (Use your best judgment as to whether to add a separate Source: for an individual article.)

Vital Records

These follow the "Place. Title" format. List the place (in smaller-to-larger order) in the "Places Covered" field and the name of the record set in the "Title" field. The system will create a properly formed page title from this information.

In most cases, you will use the name of the records as given by the source you are using. If you need to name a record set yourself, such as a set of primary records held by a government entity, use a simple generic descriptive name for the record; i.e., "Marriages" instead of "Marriage Records" and "Probates" instead of "Wills and Probate Records."


  • Windsor, Hartford, Connecticut, United States. Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1638-1925
  • Ascension, Louisiana, United States. Probates

Books and traditional authored sources

The standard format for a source page title for books and similar sources is: Author. Main Title. (Leading articles in the title are omitted by the system.) In the Author field, list the primary author first (on its own line) in "Surname, Given name Middle name" order as listed on the title page of the book. The "primary" author ordinarily is taken to be the first author listed on the title page. (By longstanding convention, the author's name is whatever the author says it is on the title page, . . . even if this varies from one book to another by the same author. Do not "invent" an author's name using information from other sources.) Do not add terms like "editor" or "compiler" to the primary author's name. Additional authors, editors, or compilers should be placed in the "Author" field on separate lines following the primary, each name on its own line. The system will display these on the source page but will ignore them in constructing the page title.

Please capitalize all major words in the title (i.e., as they usually appear on the title page of the book). Put lengthy subtitles in the "Subtitle" field.

The standard book title format applies whether the book is in hard copy, online, film, or some other format.


  • Milner, Paul. Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors (omitting leading "The")
  • Smith, Dean Crawford. Ancestry of Eva Belle Kempton 1878-1908 (omitting leading "The")


Most genealogical websites contain transcriptions of offline sources. If you know the title of WeRelate's source page for the original offline source that the website transcribes, please redirect the Source page for the online source to the offline Source by entering

#redirect [[Source:offline source page title]]

in the large "Text" box on the online source page. If you cannot identify a source page for the original, offline source that this website transcribes, please take a moment to create a source page for it according to the following guidelines:

  1. If the website contains geographically-oriented records (i.e., government, church, or cemetery records), the title of the WeRelate source page is the place covered by the records, followed by the title of the website. (The title of the website appears in the bar at the very top of your browser.) For example: "Jay, Indiana, United States. Jay County, Indiana Cemeteries."
  2. If the website does not contain geographically-oriented records, the title of the WeRelate source page is simply the title of the website. If the website has a very poor title (like "Title goes here" or "Welcome"), then you probably should use the name of the main page at the website as the title of the source page. (Use your best judgment.)

Note that if a website does not contain high-quality, original research or transcribe what appears to be an original, offline source, it does not meet the criteria to create a Source page.

Errors and problems

If you aren't sure you have the title right, don't worry about it. Just go ahead and add the source. Remember that "everything is forever" at a wiki. You (or some other user) can correct or recast the title later if necessary.

If you are interested, if you have comments or suggestions or questions, please participate in the discussion of how to properly title genealogical sources on this page's talk page.