Tuesday's Tip

Tuesday’s Tip: Awesome & Easy Source Citations in WordPress

Tuesday's Tip - source citations

Today’s tip is super simple – no video necessary!

Over my four years of writing about genealogy, there have been many times I wanted the ability to add source citations – or footnotes.  My friend Cathy had figured out a way to do it.  Her way is great but felt like too many steps for my schedule.  (And general lack of skill with html code.)  😉

You can also upgrade your blog to a Business Plan and use plug-ins to create source citations.  That seemed like a steep price tag for footnotes.

A few weeks ago I did a little digging online and then sent a query to WordPress support and was led to a super simple way to add source citations in WordPress.

First, I want to bring your attention to a recent post I wrote using this trick.  In “52 Ancestors – ALL the Babies of Mary Brown Wood,” I included thirteen source citations.  Here is an image showing the first four citations within the body of the post:


Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 6.24.14 PM


Notice the little blue numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 scattered throughout this section of text.  If you click on any of those numbers in the original blog post, it will take you right to that citation at the end of the post.  After viewing the citation, you can click on the blue arrow to pop you back up to the body of the text.  Here is what the citations look like at the bottom of the post:


Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 6.24.29 PM


I LOVE them!!  They are clean, simple, and easy to use.

So.  How do you do it?

The first step is to go to your admin page on WordPress.  Many of us are using the new WordPress tool that looks like this:


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But you need the admin page that looks like this:


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If you don’t know how to get there, type https://yourblognamehere.(your extension here, mine is .blog)/wp-admin.

Once you arrive at your admin page, go to settings, then writing.


Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 6.23.26 PM


On the writing settings page, check the box labeled “Use Markdown for posts and pages”.  Then scroll down to the bottom and click on “Save Changes”.


Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 6.23.40 PM


Once you have enabled Markdown, you are ready to add source citations to any blog post.  You simply write a phrase, then type this set of characters beside the item needing a citation: [^1]

At the bottom of your post, you will type this set of symbols followed by the citation information: [^1]:  These endnotes should each have their own line with no other spaces or characters preceding the [^1]:

For additional citations, just use the next number in sequence.  If you want the footnote number to touch the word it appears next to, do not include a space between the text and the [^1].  For cleaner citations at the end, begin the citation right after the colon with no space.


Edit:  Because a friend asked a few questions, here is a short video to help you understand potential quirks with using Markdown:

Good luck!



ps – A few months ago I treated myself to the most recent edition of Evidence Explained by, Elizabeth Shown Mills.  I am so glad I did!  I have been far less frustrated trying to create accurate citations.



32 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Tip: Awesome & Easy Source Citations in WordPress”

    1. You are welcome, Cathy! I’m glad you like using it. I LOVE Evidence Explained. It has taken some persistence to get through the various entries to settle on the example that applies to each circumstance, but once I find the right one, everything is pretty straightforward. It is a VERY thick book.

        1. I really have enjoyed having it. It can be tricky to work through some of the nuances of certain examples (that have several variations), but so worth it. I have two citations I need to work on for my post on Monday, but I have a feeling I won’t have time to puzzle them out before that post goes live. Oh well, that’s what the edit button is for. 😉

          1. I went to the hairdresser on Thursday. She does not do appointments and waiting is always long. I ended up reading the 89 pages on the Kindle app on my phone. Highlighted a few things of interest. Page 89 is not the end of the chapter. I’ll have to check into ordering it. Good luck on your citations.

            1. Thank you, Cathy. I have only skimmed so far and really need to read the beginning chapters in detail. I have the book sitting out handy for the right moment to come along. 😉

  1. This is wonderful! I had no idea how to do this. I usually either just use an image and put the citation as a caption or add the citation in parentheticals or not at all. I am definitely going to try this—if I can remember how. Thank you!!

    1. I tried this, but it didn’t work. Am I typing it wrong? [^1} is what I did first in the text, then at the bottom, but it just looks like that—it did not change it into a different format, just kept the [^1}. HELP!

      1. In the text, type [^1]. At the bottom, type [^1]: Make sure that the bottom one it on its own line with no spaces or characters preceding it. Make sure the one in the text is in a normal portion of text. The paragraph it’s in can’t be indented or italicized. You have this character } as the last symbol, you need this character ]. Let me know if it still doesn’t work for you. 😘

      2. Oh, also, it will stay like that in your post when you are in edit mode, but when you click on preview, (if it’s entered correctly) you will see it in completed form in your post.

    2. You are welcome, Amy! And I can totally relate. I’m glad I decided to buckle down and figure it out. (Of course I didn’t figure it out alone, WordPress support pointed me to the write place. 😉)

          1. I am not sure I need a whole book (I took Evidence in law school and don’t want to learn it again!), but a guide to citation form would help. I will look for one, but for now, I will stumble along in my usual way.

            1. 🙂 I get that, Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book is just a gigantic book filled with examples of citing anything you can think of from a quilt to a piece of jewelry to a birth record. It only has two short chapters at the beginning of instruction. It may be what you are looking for?

              She also has a shorter book that is only 124 pages. I don’t own that one so I can’t speak to it. But she is considered the premier expert on genealogy source citations so I would imagine her shorter book would also hold some value.

              I also appreciate this page from Randy Seaver as a simple model for some specific source citations using her method:


              And your usual way is anything but stumbling from where I sit. You are awesome! <3

              1. Someone once told me that a citation should give enough information to point the reader to a place where they can find the information, so I use that as my guideline. Thanks for the other sources. I will definitely take a look.

  2. Thanks soooo much!!! Sometimes it works when I export from Scrivener, but sometimes it doesn’t, so this coding will make things much easier 🙂

  3. Now I see my error after watching the video—-I did not add the colon for the footnote entry. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say!

  4. Interesting! Gonna save this. When I started blogging it was an adoption blog by my daughter and me, and I used a more complicated version of this method for readers to jump around in a long post.

  5. I enjoy your blog & am so happy that you an enjoyable time at Roots Annual Conference. Your words always encourage me to do more & be better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish I were a bit younger or that my health was better. I shall keep my chin up, not give up the ship & stay positive.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Nancy! It really was a great experience. I’m so glad that you find some encouragement from my blog. That is wonderful. Yes, stay positive! And just do what works for you. Every little bit from every person brings so much value to preserving the story of our loved ones. <3

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