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Citation Elements:
General Concepts

This is a third public draft of the core part of FHISO’s proposed suite of standards on Citation Elements. This document is not endorsed by the FHISO membership, and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time.

In particular, some examples in this draft use citation elements that are not even included in the draft Citation Elements: Vocabulary. These elements are very likely to be changed as the vocabulary progresses.

The public mailing list is the preferred place for comments, discussion and other feedback on this draft.

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FHISO’s suite of Citation Elements standards provides an extensible framework and vocabulary for encoding all the data about a genealogical source that might reasonably be included in a formatted citation to that source.

This document defines the general concepts used in FHISO’s suite of Citation Elements standards, and the basic framework and data model underpinning them. Other standards in the suite are as follows:

Not all of these documents are yet at the stage of having a first public draft.


Conventions used

Where this standard gives a specific technical meaning to a word or phrase, that word or phrase is formatted in bold text in its initial definition, and in italics when used elsewhere. The key words must, must not, required, shall, shall not, should, should not, recommended, not recommended, may and optional in this standard are to be interpreted as described in [RFC 2119].

An application is conformant with this standard if and only if it obeys all the requirements and prohibitions contained in this document, as indicated by use of the words must, must not, required, shall and shall not, and the relevant parts of its normative references. Standards referencing this standard must not loosen any of the requirements and prohibitions made by this standard, nor place additional requirements or prohibitions on the constructs defined herein.

Derived standards are not allowed to add or remove requirements or prohibitions on the facilities defined herein so as to preserve interoperability between applications. Data generated by one conformant application must always be acceptable to another conformant application, regardless of what additional standards each may conform to.

If a conformant application encounters data that does not conform to this standard, it may issue a warning or error message, and may terminate processing of the document or data fragment.

This standard depends on FHISO’s Basic Concepts for Genealogical Standards standard. To be conformant with this standard, an application must also be conformant with [Basic Concepts]. Concepts defined in that standard are used here without further definition.

In particular, precise meaning of string, whitespace-normalisation, language tag, term, prefix notation, prefix, discovery, class, class name, property and property name are given in [Basic Concepts].

Indented text in grey or coloured boxes does not form a normative part of this standard, and is labelled as either an example or a note.

Editorial notes, such as this, are used to record outstanding issues, or points where there is not yet consensus; they will be resolved and removed for the final standard. Examples and notes will be retained in the standard.

The grammar given here uses the form of EBNF notation defined in §6 of [XML], except that no significance is attached to the capitalisation of grammar symbols. Conforming applications must not generate data not conforming to the syntax given here, but non-conforming syntax may be accepted and processed by a conforming application in an implementation-defined manner.

This standard uses prefix notation when discussing specific terms. The following prefix bindings are assumed in this standard:

The particular prefixes assigned above have no relevance outside this standard document as prefix notation is not used in the formal data model defined by this standard. This notation is simply a notational convenience to make the standard easier to read. Nevertheless, some serialisation formats, including the [CEV RDFa] bindings, do make use of prefix notation to shorten the serialised form of data.

When this standard discusses the xsd:string datatype, this means the datatype whose term name is:

Sources and citations

A source is any resource from which information is obtained during the genealogical research process. Sources come in many forms, including manuscripts, artefacts, books, films, people, recordings and websites. A full mechanism for describing sources is beyond the scope of this standard.

A source derivation is a directional link between two sources, indicating that the first source was derived from, cites or otherwise references the second source. The first source is referred to as the derived source, and the second the base source.

The term “derivation” is used very broadly in this standard, and includes relationships that might not normally be considered derivative. A source derivation exists between a digitisation, translation, transcription or index and the original document. A source derivation exists between a published genealogy and each source it cites. A source derivation also exists between a paper and a second paper which it is rebutting or commenting on.

A citation is an abstract reference to a specific source from which information has been used in some context. It should include sufficient detail that a third-party could readily locate the information themselves, assuming the source remains accessible.

A formatted citation is a citation that has been rendered into human-readable form, typically as a sentence or short paragraph that might be used as a footnote, endnote, tablenote or bibliography entry. There is no single standard on the correct form of formatted citations; many different style guides exist, each giving their own rules on how to construct a formatted citation.

A formatted citation produced for use in a footnote on the first use of the source, and conforming to [Chicago] might read:

1   Christian Settipani, Les ancêtres de Charlemagne, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Prosopographia et Genealogica, 2015), 129–31.

The 1 at the start of the citation is the hypothetical footnote number.

Footnotes and other reference notes sometimes contain information besides citations. This may include commentary on the accessibility, accuracy, authenticity or provenance of a source. As this information is not part of a citation, it is beyond the scope of this standard.

A layered citation is a citation that includes information about several sources between which source derivation links exist. The information in a layered citation about a specific source, whether the consulted source or one of sources from which it was derived, is known as a citation layer. A citation with just a single citation layer is called a single-layer citation.

Some authorities define these terms in a more general manner, so that information about the source is considered to be a separate citation layer to information about the repository containing the source. For the purpose of FHISO’s Citation Elements standards, information about a source and its repository do not constitute separate citation layers because containment is not represented by a source derivation link.
We may need to reconsider how we model containment if it proves significantly more complex than at present it seems. If we do, one option is to generalise the concept of a source derivation link to something that include containment. While this may seem an attractive generalisation, doing so adds significantly to the complexity of the model, and in particular to the formatting process. If we do this, we should do it because there’s a compelling use case for it, not simply because some authorities use the term citation layer differently.
A reference note containing information about multiple sources is not necessarily a layered citation. If the sources are unrelated, such as when several sources are being cited in support of some fact or comment, the note would comprise be series of separate single-layered citations. This is true even if the note is formatted as a single sentence.

The citation layer containing the information about the specific source which was consulted is known as the head citation layer. For a single-layer citation, the sole citation layer is necessarily the head citation layer.

A citation to a census return that was consulted on microfilm might contain information about the microfilm and as well as information about the census return, as in the following formatted citation from [Evidence Explained]:

1810 U.S. census, York County, Maine, town of York, p. 435 (penned), line 9, Jabez Young; NARA microfilm publication M252, roll 12.

In this example, the information before the semicolon pertains to the census return, while the information after it pertains to the microfilm. The microfilm and the census return are different sources, and a source derivation exists between them as the microfilm is derived from the census return. The information in the citation about microfilm forms the head citation layer, while the information about the census return forms a separate citation layer. As the citation contains two citation layers, it is an example of a layered citation.

In this example, the head citation layer is not presented first in the formatted citation. Whether the head citation layer is presented first is a matter of style and emphasis, and it is common not to present the head citation layer first when it is a photographic or digital reproduction, as in this case.

Layered citations are often used to provide a partial statement of provenance, documenting how documents derived from one another. Many treatments of provenance also include information that is not included in citations, and hence not covered by this specification, such as a custody of ownership or characterization of the completeness of sources cited.

A citation element is a logically self-contained piece of information in a citation layer that might reasonably be included in a formatted citation. As this standard does not aim to provide facilities for the exhaustive description of sources, information about sources that is not normally included in formatted citations is not considered to be a citation element. Citation elements are represented in a sufficiently structured and language-independent way that applications can parse and reformat it in different styles and languages as needed.

The date that a source like a newspaper article was published is an example of a citation element. An American researcher might write the date as “Oct 8th, 2000”, while the same date might be written “zo. 8 okt. 2000” by a Dutch researcher. The citation element should use neither of these as its representation of the date and adopt a language-neutral format, such as one based on [ISO 8601].

The accompanying Citation Elements: Vocabulary standard defines many citation elements, covering the information normally found in formatted citations to a wide range of common sources. Applications may define their own citation elements or use those defined by a third-party standard; such citation elements are known as extension citation elements.

Conforming applications must not discard citation elements, except on the instruction of the user or as explicitly permitted in this standard. This applies to unrecognised extension citation elements too, though an application may opt not to display any such citation elements.

Note that the definition of citation element limits it to information that might reasonably appear in a citation; thus, most items of metadata (such as who created the citation and when, or a globally-unique identifier for the citation or its layers) are not properly considered citation elements themselves.

It is anticipated that metadata will be addressed in a future FHISO standard. Initial brainstorming on metadata implementation suggests that this document may be edited slightly to support metadata, perhaps by adding an optional identifier or context pointer to each element. The exact nature of such an edit, or if it will even be necessary, will depend on future development of that metadata standard.

A citation element set is a collection of citation elements that completely encode the information about a source that is present in a particular citation layer.

The example formatted citation to Les ancêtres de Charlemagne is represented by a citation element set containing the following seven citation elements:

The footnote number is not a citation element as it does not pertain to the source. The author and page range are not expressed here in quite the same form as the formatted citation, but an application can readily parse them to convert them to the required format because their format is defined by this standard.

When provided with the citation element set for each citation layer in the citation, knowledge of which is the head citation layer, information about the source derivations between sources referred to in each citation layer, and any necessary internal state, an application ought to be able to produce algorithmically a formatted citation in a reasonable approximation to any mainstream citation style. If higher quality formatted citations are desirable, applications should allow users to manually edit them to fine-tune their presentation, and should store the result for reuse. Formatted citations need not include all the information from a citation element set if the style dictates that certain information is omitted in the relevant context.

Producing formatted citations of a professional quality following a particular style guide is a difficult art about which books have been written. This standard does not require applications to produce formatted citations, and throughout this suite of standards, there is no expectation that an application choosing to do so should be able to do better than a “reasonable approximation” when generating formatted citations automatically. That is why this standard recommends that users be allowed to fine-tune them by hand if high quality formatted citations are required.

Citation element sets should not include citation elements for information that is not normally included in a formatted citation. They are not intended to provide a general mechanism for storing arbitrary information about sources.

Formatted citations do not normally include details such as the email addresses, phone numbers or academic affiliations of authors, so they should not be included in the citation element set. A more general mechanism for describing sources may well include such elements, but they are beyond the scope of this standard.

Citations elements

In the data model defined by this standard, a citation element consists of two parts, both of which are required:

A citation element set is defined to be an ordered list of citation elements; conformant applications may reorder the list subject to the following constraints:

The latter requirement can be avoided by processing localisedElements per §3.3.1 of this standard, and then removing them from the citation element set.
Subject to these constraints, this standard allows citation element sets to be reordered because some serialisation languages such as JSON and RDF do not guarantee to preserve the order of elements in certain important serialisation mechanisms: for example, object members in JSON and triples in RDF other than when RDF containers are used.

Citation element names

The citation element name identifies the nature of the information contained in a particular citation element. It shall be a term that has been defined to be used as a citation element name in the manner required by §3 of this standard; a term defined for this purpose is called a citation element term.

This nomenclature draws a distinction between a citation element name and a citation element term. The former is part of a citation element and therefore part of the data describing a source, while the latter is an item of vocabulary used in the description. The citation element name is a citation element term.

The [CEV Vocabulary] defines a citation element term for the title of a source. Its term name is:

A dataset might contain many citation elements with this as their citation element name.

Citation element values

The citation element value is the content of the citation element which shall be a localisation set. A localisation set is an ordered list of strings, which applications should whitespace-normalise. Each string in a localisation set should contain the same information, but translated, transliterated or otherwise localised.

Each string in a localisation set shall be tagged with a datatype, and shall additionally be tagged with a language tag if and only if the specified datatype is a language-tagged datatype.

Most often a localisation sets will contain only a single string, either because localisation is not relevant to that particular citation element, as might be the case with a straightforward page number, or because the creator of the localisation set only provided the particular version the user was expected to require. If more than one string is present, usually they will all have the same datatype and differ only in their language tags. Nevertheless, the mechanism allows for strings of different datatypes and there are rare situations where this functionality is needed.

The title citation element defined in the [CEV Vocabulary] would normally contain strings tagged with the rdf:langString datatype. An example title citation element might contain a localisation set with three rdf:langString strings in the following order:

Language tags should contain a script subtag per §2.2.3 of [RFC 5646] when the string has been transliterated from the script in which it originally appeared.

The works of Andalusian historian صاعد الأندلسي (Ṣā‘id al-Andalusī) are primarily written in Arabic, his native language. In a citation layer pertaining to the original work, the original Arabic form of his name should be tagged ar, while the Latin transliteration should be tagged ar-Latn. A layered citation should be used when citing a translation of al-Andalusī’s work, and al-Andalusī’s name would normally only appearing in the citation layer pertaining to the original. If the particular translation used was the English translation by Sema‘an I. Salem and Alok Kumar, the names of these translators should be tagged en, the code of English, even though the first translator is a Lebanese man with an Arabic name. This is because these are the forms of their names the translators chose to use when writing in English.
There is difference between this and §4.1 of [RFC 5646] which says a language tag should not include a script subtag when the script is the default script for the language, as defined by a Suppress-Script field in [IANA Lang Subtags]. If a source is written in an unorthodox script, there may be a need to transliterate back to the conventional script. Such cases are expected to be rare. When such a case arises, this standard recommends the use of a script subtag on the transliteration, while [RFC 5646] recommends against one because the transliteration is to the default script. Both are recommendations rather than requirements, meaning that after careful consideration they may be ignored in particular circumstances.

Serialisation considerations

Although the language tags is required for language-tagged datatypes, it need not be explicit in the serialisation. A serialisation format may provide a mechanism for stating the document’s default language tag, and may provide a global default which should be a language-neutral choice such as und, defined in [ISO 639-2] to mean an undetermined language. In the absence of an explicit or implicit language tag, applications must not apply their own default, and must treat the string as if it had the language tag und.

The [CEV RDFa] standard provides a means for citation elements to be extracted from HTML, and uses HTML’s lang attribute to provide a default language tag for the document or a part of the document. Thus, if the document begins <html lang="pt_BR">, it is not necessary to tag each string separately for them to be understood to be in Brazilian Portuguese. HTML does not define a default language tag that applies in the absence of a lang tag, and applications must not apply one.

If localisation sets are being serialised in XML, it is recommended that the special xml:lang attribute defined in §2.12 of [XML] is used to encode the language tag.

Similarly, a datatype is required, but it need not be explicit in the serialisation. A serialisation format may specify a format default datatype that applies when none is given explicitly. Ordinarily, if a format default datatype is specified, it should be the rdf:langString datatype described in §6.6.5 of [Basic Concepts].

This is called the format default datatype to avoid confusion with the default datatype defined per citation element term in §3.4. The format default datatype should be a language-tagged datatype to ensure that any language tag that is in the scope is retained in the data model, and as the most general language-tagged datatype, rdf:langString is recommended. The datatype correction mechanism defined in §3.4 of this standard allow a conformant application to correct the datatype that have incorrectly defaulted to rdf:langString. In practice it is anticipated that many applications will apply datatype correction during import, and therefore the format default datatype becomes a fallback that applies if the citation element term does not define its own default datatype, or if this is unknown.

The [CEV RDFa] standard makes rdf:langString the format default datatype in most circumstances. Thus the citation element extracted from the following HTML fragment is interpreted as an rdf:langString string, even though it is not explicitly tagged as such:

<i lang="en" property="title">The Complete Peerage</i>

Reordering, deduplicating and merging

Where possible, the first string in the localisation set should be the untranslated, and ideally untransliterated form of the citation element value. If it is known that the only available values are translations, the first string in the localisation set should be an empty string tagged with the language tag und, and the translations listed afterwards. An empty string in a localisation set means that its value is unknown, rather than that this particular translation is literally an empty string.

Conformant applications may reorder the localisation set, but must leave the first string first, so that applications wishing to use the original, untranslated, untransliterated form can do so.

A standard may define a serialisation format that does not preserve the order of a localisation set, but must take alternative steps to record the original version. For example, the language map in [JSON-LD] is very similar to a localisation set containing only rdf:langString strings, except that JSON’s object notion, as given in §4 of [RFC 7159], does not preserve order. One possible solution is to append some private use subtag (per §2.2.7 of [RFC 5646]) to the first language tag.

In a localisation set which contains more than one string with the same datatype and language tag, or more than one string with the same datatype if it is a non-language-tagged datatype, any string other than the first non-empty string with that datatype and, if relevant, language tag is known as a duplicate string.

If an application encounters a localisation set with duplicate strings, it should ignore the value of any duplicate strings and may deduplicate the localisation set; where possible it should not deduplicate a localisation set that has been reordered from its serialised form.

During feedback on the first public draft, concerns were expressed over whether duplicate strings might a necessary to express certain concepts; if so, they mustn’t be ignored or deduplicated. Examples of where they might be needed are pseudonyms, places with multiple names, multiple page numbering systems, and dates with multiple prose forms. This requires further consideration.

To deduplicate a localisation set, the application first notes the datatype and, if present, the language tag of the first string in the localisation set. Next, all duplicate strings are deleted from the localisation set. Finally, if a string with the noted datatype and language tag remains after deduplication, the application shall reorder the localisation set to ensure it is the first string in the deduplicated localisation set; if there is not, the application shall insert any empty string with that datatype and language tag as the first string in the localisation set.

If an application needs to merge two or more localisation sets, the contents of each localisation sets shall be combined in the order specified by this standard, and the application should deduplicate the resultant localisation set.

Merging of localisation sets only occurs as the result of the deduplication of citation element sets per §3.3. It specifies the localisation sets are merged in the order they appear in the citation element set.

If a citation element has a citation element name which is an empty localisation set, that citation element should be discarded.

This can occur as the result of removing invalid strings from a previously non-empty localisation set, as explained in §3.2.1.

Defining citation element terms

A citation element term is a term which has been defined specifically for use as a citation element name in the following manner. The party defining the citation element term shall provide a description of the intended purpose of the citation element term which should be made freely available to all interested parties, preferably by an HTTP request as described in §4.2 of [Basic Concepts]. In addition, the definition shall state:

The class of citation element terms has the following class name and properties:

Class definition
Required properties
The CitationElement class is defined as a subclass of the rdfs:Property class defined in §5.2 of [Basic Concepts]. Logically this makes sense, as a citation element can be considered a property of a source, and it allows the concept of the range of a property to be reused.
There is still not a perfect match between properties and citation elements. In particular, a property value is defined in §5.2 of [Basic Concepts] to be a term, string or language-tagged string, optionally accompanied by a datatype name, whereas a citation element value is defined in §2.2 of this standard as a localisation set, which is a set of strings or language-tagged strings which are necessarily accompanied by a datatype name. These differences largely goes away if properties are considered to be a list-flattened version of citation elements.
The super-element and default datatype are not listed as required properties because they are optional. It would be possible to make them required and use xsd:anyAtomicType to mean there is no meaningful default datatype, and the citation element name itself or rdfs:Resource to mean there is no super-element.


A citation element term may be defined as a sub-element of another citation element term which is referred to as its super-element. This is used to provide a refinement of a general citation element term. If an application is unfamiliar with the sub-element it may process it as if it were the super-element, with its citation element value unchanged. The sub-element must be defined in such a way that this only results in some loss of meaning, and does not imply anything false about the cited source.

The [CEV Vocabulary] defines a citation element term with the name

which contains name of a person, organisation or other entity who created or contributed to the creation of the source. Several sub-elements of it are defined, including

which contains the name of an interviewer when the source is an interview. An interviewer can certainly be considered to have contributed to the creation of the interview.

The [CEV Vocabulary] also defines a citation element with the name

which contains the party to whom a source such as a letter is addressed. In many respects it is similar to the sub-elements of creatorName, but because a recipient of a letter cannot be said to have contributed to the creation of the letter, and might not even be aware of its existence if it were not delivered, the recipientName element cannot be defined as a sub-element of creatorName.

The range of a sub-element shall be the same as that of its super-element.

The range of a sub-element could be allowed to be a subtype of the super-element’s range. At the moment there is no clear use case for this.

Any sub-element of a single-valued super-element must be single-valued.

The property representing the super-element of a citation element term is defined as follows:

Property definition

The super-element list of a citation element term is an ordered list of IRIs defined inductively as follows. If the citation element term is not a sub-element, then its super-element list contains just that citation element term. Otherwise, its super-element list is the super-element list of its super-element to which its own citation element term is appended.

The ultimate super-element of a citation element term is defined as the first IRI in its super-element list.

This definition is equivalent to following the (possibly empty) chain of super-elements until it reaches something that is not a sub-element. It is used in specifying how applications are permitted to reorder citation element sets.

The ultimate single-valued super-element of a single-valued citation element term is defined as the first IRI in its super-element list that is a single-valued citation element term.

This definition is equivalent to following the (possibly empty) chain of super-elements, stopping at the last single-valued element in the chain. It is used in specifying the constraints on sub-elements that are single-valued.

The most-refined common super-element of a collection of citation element terms is defined as the last IRI that appears in the super-element list of every citation element term in the collection. It is only defined for citation element terms that share an ultimate super-element.

This definition is equivalent to following the chains of super-elements for each citation element terms, stopping at the first element that appears in each chain. It is used in specifying how to merge citation elements.


The range of a citation element term shall be a datatype, which describes what citation element values are valid in a citation element with this citation element name.

The word range is also defined in §5.2.1 of [Basic Concepts] where it is used to describe the permissible property values for a given property. The two concepts are the same as citation elements are a subclass of properties. The extra requirement made here is that the range of a citation element term is a datatype, while the range of a property is more generally a class (which includes datatypes).

Citation elements terms with non-textual citation element values such as numbers or dates should have ranges that are non-language-tagged datatype.

FHISO defines an abstract datatype called AbstractDate which is used as the supertype of all structured datatypes for dates; it has the following term name:

Several citation element terms have a range consisting of a union of AbstractDate and rdf:langString. This union of datatypes is itself a non-language-tagged datatype because not all of its constituent datatypes are language-tagged datatypes, as specified in §6.5 of [Basic Concepts].

One such citation element term is:

Because this citation element typically has non-textual values, frequently just a year, its range should be a non-language-tagged datatype which the inclusion of AbstractDate in the union ensures.

The inclusion of rdf:langString is to allow dates that cannot readily be represented in any of the available structured formats. An example might be a termly university publication dated “Michaelmas term, 1997”.

The previous examples may need revising once FHISO’s handling of date types has been finalised.

The property representing the range of a citation element term is the rdfs:range property defined in §5.2.1 of [Basic Concepts].

Invalid citation element values

A datatype is said to be compatible with the range if it is a subtype of the datatype identified as the range.

Because the subtype relationship is reflexive, the datatype identified as the range is a subtype of itself and therefore compatible with the range. Similarly, because the subtype relationship is transitive, a subtype of a subtype of the datatype identified as the range is compatible with the range.

A string in a localisation set which is used as a citation element value is said to be invalid if, after datatype correction has occurred per §3.4 of this standard, either the string is tagged with a datatype that is not compatible with the range of the citation element term used as the citation element name, or the string is outside the lexical space of that datatype. Conformant application should take steps to avoid creating localisation sets containing invalid strings.

An application might inadvertently create invalid strings if it does not know the range of a citation element term or does not properly understand the lexical space of some of the datatypes within that range. Applications may use the pattern of the datatype to identify some strings outside the lexical space of the datatype as a string that fails to match the pattern is guaranteed not to be in the lexical space; applications may also use deeper knowledge of the lexical space to identify more invalid strings.

Applications may use one or more discovery mechanism to obtain the information needed to determine which strings are invalid.

In order to determine whether a datatype is compatible with the range, the application will need to know or have access to the definition of the datatype and any supertypes to determine whether it is a subtype of a datatype listed in the range, as well as having access to definition of the citation element term to determine the range.

If the range of the citation element term includes one of the following datatypes, applications should change the datatype of the invalid string to that datatype:

If the range contains both of these datatypes, applications should change the datatype of an invalid language-tagged string to rdf:langString. If the range does not include either of these datatypes, applications may discard any strings that are found to be invalid. It is recommended that this should be done prior to deduplicating a localisation set, and it may be done at other times. A conformant application must not discard any string unless it is known to be invalid or as otherwise permitted by this standard.

Exceptionally, a conformant application may also discard any string which it has credible reason to believe contains malware or illegal content, or any string that is so long that the application cannot reasonably handle it.

An application might opt to discard all strings that appear to be Windows executables.


The cardinality of a citation element term records how many semantically distinct values it can have. A multi-valued citation element term is one that can logically have multiple values in a single citation layer. It should be reserved for situations where the values genuinely contains different information, and not used to accommodate transliterations, translations, or variant forms of something that is logically a single value. Citation elements terms that are not multi-valued are single-valued.

The citation element term is defined to be single-valued, as citations do not refer to the same sources by multiple titles (though they may translate or transliterate the title), so a citation element set must not contain more than one citation element with this citation element name; but it may contain several citation elements, as that is defined to be multi-valued to accommodate sources with several authors.

The cardinality of a citation element term is represented by a boolean property called isSingleValued, which shall have the value “true” for single-valued citation element terms and “false” otherwise.

Property definition

In a citation element set which contains more than one citation element whose citation element names have the same ultimate single-valued super-element, any citation element other than the first citation element with that ultimate single-valued super-element is known as a duplicate citation element.

Citation element terms that are declared as multi-valued do not have an ultimate single-valued super-element and are therefore never duplicate citation elements.

Citation element sets should not contain duplicate citation elements, and an application should take steps to avoid creating duplicate citation elements.

An application might inadvertently create duplicate citation elements if it does not know the super-element or cardinality of some of citation element terms.

When duplication citation elements are present, they may be deduplicated. To deduplicate a citation element set, the application should replace all the citation elements with a common ultimate single-valued super-element with a single replacement citation element with the following properties:

Consider the following citation element set, written in a hypothetical JSON format:

[ "title": [ "fr": "Les ancêtres des Charlemagne",
             "en": "The Ancestors of Charlemagne" ],
  "title": [ "fr": "Les Ancêtres des Charlemagne",
             "de": "Die Vorfahren von Karl dem Großen" ] ]

Assuming the title citation element term is single-valued, an application may deduplicate the citation element set by merging the two localisation sets in order to get the following:

[ "title": [ "fr": "Les ancêtres des Charlemagne",
             "en": "The Ancestors of Charlemagne",
             "fr": "Les Ancêtres des Charlemagne",
             "de": "Die Vorfahren von Karl dem Großen" ] ]

After merging the localisation sets, §2.2.2 says the application should deduplicate the resultant localisation set. This removes the second French title to give the following:

[ "title": [ "fr": "Les ancêtres des Charlemagne",
             "en": "The Ancestors of Charlemagne",
             "de": "Die Vorfahren von Karl dem Großen" ] ]

These rules mean that single-valued citation elements with the same ultimate single-valued super-element (in this example, with the same citation element name) are assumed to be given in order of preference for the purpose of deduplicating the merged localisation set, with the most preferred value first.

There is no requirement for an application to check for duplicate citation elements and deduplicate them; however it might be advisable for an application to do so when importing third-party data, or if it has recently learnt of new extension citation elements which are single-valued.

This standard needs to define how to merge citation element sets. The following text is a start towards that.

If an application needs to merge two or more citation element sets, the contents of each citation element set shall be combined in order. The application shall identify any sets of duplicate citation elements in the combined citation element set and deduplicate them according to the rules above. An application may use one or more discovery mechanism to attempt to obtain machine-readable definitions of any extension citation element used in the citation element set before identifying duplicate citation elements.

However the merger of multi-valued elements requires thought too. Even though the data model doesn’t require deduplication, it is still necessary to prevent duplication of, say, authors.

List-flattening formats

Conformant applications must ensure that in citation elements whose citation element names are multi-valued, the localisation set in each citation element value remains separate.

The authorName citation element term is defined to be multi-valued because a source may have multiple authors, and each of them may have names that have been transliterated into different scripts. Suppose a researcher wants to cite the Anglo-Japanese Treaty document of 1902 which was (at least nominally) authored by the Marquess of Lansdowne and Count Hayashi Tadasu whose name is written in kanji as 林 董.

The following hypothetical JSON serialisation is not allowed as it flattens localisation sets so it is no longer possible to determine how many authors there are, and which names are translations of which others.

[ { "name": "",
    "lang": "en",      "value": "The Anglo-Japanese Treaty" },
  { "name": "",
    "lang": "en",      "value": "Lord Lansdowne" },
  { "name": "",
    "lang": "jp",      "value": "林 董" },
  { "name": "",
    "lang": "jp-Latn", "value": "Hayashi Tadasu" } ]

In this example, the datatype of each string has been omitted on the assumption that it defaults to rdf:langString and is corrected via the mechanism specified in §3.4 of this standard.

This is an example of a list-flattening format that does not conform to this specification; a list-flattening format that does conform to this specification is found in the next example.

A serialisation format that does not keep the localisation sets of each citation element value separate is called a list-flattening format, and this standard provides a facility to allow such formats to comply with this standard by introducing a special citation element term with the following properties:

Citation element definition
Cardinality multi-valued
Super-element none
Default datatype none
The range of localisedElement is given here as xsd:anyAtomicType, which is the ultimate supertype of all datatypes defined in §6.6.6 of [Basic Concepts]. This is an explicit statement of the fact that the citation element value of a localisedElement citation element may be tagged with an arbitrary datatype.

In a list-flattening format, an application must consider every value to be a separate citation element value, and therefore to be a localisation set with one element.

More often than not this assumption is expected to be valid, as more often than not citation element sets are expected not to include translated or transliterated elements.

When a localisation set with two or more strings needs to be serialised in a list-flattening format, the first string must be serialised according to the normal rules of the format, and subsequent strings must be serialised as if they were separate citation element, but with the localisedElement citation element term in place of the actual citation element name. This special citation element indicates that its value is not a distinct citation element and should instead be appended to the localisation set of its localisation base (i.e. the last preceding citation element which is not a localisedElement), and the localisedElement removed from the citation element set.

The hypothetical JSON serialisation in the last example can be fixed by using a localisedElement to serialise the transliterated version of Hayashi’s name:

[ { "name": "",
    "lang": "en",      "value": "The Anglo-Japanese Treaty" },
  { "name": "",
    "lang": "en",      "value": "Lord Lansdowne" },
  { "name": "",
    "lang": "jp",      "value": "林 董" },
  { "name": "",
    "lang": "jp-Latn", "value": "Hayashi Tadasu" } ]

The two authorName element are assumed to be separate citation elements and therefore to refer to different authors. The use of localisedElement signifies that this is not a different author. It immediately follows an authorName citation element with the value 林 董, and its value (“Hayashi Tadasu”, tagged as jp-Latn) should be appended to that localisation set.

This standard does not say when the processing of localisedElements occurs. Ideally an application should do it during the process of reading a list-flattening format, but may do it later or not at all. If the application subsequently serialise the data in a non-list-flattening format, the localisedElements may still be present. Therefore applications reading non-list-flattening format should cope with the possibility of localisedElements being present.

If the localisation set in the localisation base already contains a string with the same datatype and language tag, an application must not overwrite or duplicate a language tag; the localisedElement should be ignored and may be removed from the the citation element set.

The use of list-flattening formats is not recommended except where there is a good technical reason. The use of localisedElements other than in list-flattening formats is not recommended.

Default datatypes

A citation element term may have a default datatype defined. When a default datatype is defined, it is used to provide an optional datatype correction mechanism for correcting the datatype of a string in the localisation set of a citation element value in certain situations. The default datatype must be a datatype that is compatible with the range of the citation element term.

The property representing the default datatype of a citation element term is defined as follows:

Property definition

Datatype correction shall not be carried out unless the datatype of the string prior to datatype correction is one of the following datatypes, and not just a subtype of one of them:
It is anticipated that a large majority of times when data correction applies, the original datatype will be rdf:langString. Support for xsd:string is only included in this datatype correction mechanism to accommodate certain corner cases in RDF processing that could arise in the [CEV RDFa] bindings.

Datatype correction shall only be applied to a string if it appears in a citation element whose citation element name is a citation element term that has a default datatype, and if that default datatype is a datatype whose pattern is known to the application, and if the string matches that pattern.

At any time when an application encounters a string which is eligible for datatype correction according to the above criteria, it may replace its datatype with the default datatype. It is recommended that applications apply datatype correction during or shortly after the import of data in any serialisation format that defines a format default datatype of rdf:langString.

This standard does not limit when datatype correction occurs, and it may be desirable to apply it at times other than as recommended above. If an application exports an unknown citation element in a format that does not have a format default datatype, this may result in explicit datatypes that still need datatype correction. Ideally, therefore, applications should cope with the possibility that datatype correction might be needed on any data being imported. Likewise, when an application gains access to the definitions of additional citation element terms or datatypes, this might allow it to identify further places where datatype correction is required. However, the only situation when datatype correction is required by this standard is immediately prior to the removal of invalid strings, which process is itself optional.

The hypothetical JSON format used in several earlier examples included the following citation element:

[ { "name": "",
    "lang": "jp", "value": "林 董" } ]

This hypothetical format is supposed to default datatypes to rdf:langString, as recommended by this standard.

The authorName citation element is defined in the [CEV Vocabulary] to have the following default datatype:

This datatype in turn defines the following pattern:


The string林 董” matches this pattern — specifically it matches the second [^!#$%&@{|}]+ part of the pattern — and therefore the datatype correction will change the datatype to this AgentName datatype.

The pattern quoted above for AgentName will almost certainly need changing as the AgentName datatype is properly specified.

The publicationDate citation element term defined in the [CEV Vocabulary] has a range which is the union of the AbstractDate and rdf:langString datatypes; its default datatype is GregorianDate, a subtype of AbstractDate with the following pattern:


A citation element set might contain a publicationDate citation element whose localisation set contains the following two strings, both tagged with the language tag en and datatype rdf:langString (presumably implicitly as the result of no datatype being given in the serialisation):

Michaelmas term, 1997

The former string is not remotely close to matching the pattern for the GregorianDate datatype, so it is unaffected by datatype correction; however the latter string does match the pattern and so datatype correction may change its datatype to GregorianDate.

This is an example of where a localisation set might usefully contain both language-tagged datatypes and non-language-tagged datatypes. The former gives the date in the correct form for inclusion in a formatted citation, while the latter allows an application to parse the date, for example to highlight contemporary sources to a user.

FHISO’s handling of dates is still very much unspecified, and in the present draft the preceding example should not be considered to be anything more than a hypothetical example containing situations in which datatype correction variously succeeds and fails. In particular, no decision has been taken on whether there even will be a GregorianDate datatype, let alone whether it is actually the default datatype of the publicationDate citation element term. If such a datatype is specified, it is unlikely to have precisely the pattern given above. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that this citation element term will have a default datatype that is some structured datatype for dates.

Matching the pattern of a datatype does not guarantee the string necessarily belongs to the lexical space of that datatype, so it is possible that data correction might turn a valid unstructured string into an invalid string. An application should not perform data correction when it knows the result would be an invalid string.

The mechanism for handling invalid strings in §3.2.1 means that any invalid string that is inadvertently created as a result of this will be converted back to an rdf:langString or xsd:string rather than being discarded.

Applications should try to ensure that no strings are entered which match the pattern of the default datatype but are outside its lexical space. One strategy for ensuring this is to suggest an alteration to the string that would prevent it from matching the pattern; however applications must not make such an alternation other than at the instruction of the user.

The string1999-02-31” matches the pattern for a GregorgianDate but is nonetheless outside the lexical space of that datatype as there was no such date. A conformant application might warn the user that this is not a valid Gregorian date; if the user confirms they really did mean to enter an unstructured string that looks like an invalid Gregorian date, the application may alter the string to make it not match the pattern. One way this could be done would be appending “(sic)” to the string; another option is to append an invisible Unicode character such U+2060 (word joiner).

If datatype correction would result in replacing a non-language-tagged datatype with a language-tagged datatype, then the application must tag the string with the language tag und.

This case only applies if the string was previously tagged with the xsd:string datatype, which this standard discourages when the data is indeed language-tagged.

Layered citations

In the data model defined in this standard, a citation layer is represented by a citation element set containing the information in the citation layer.

A citation is represented with the following three parts:

This standard does not specify the precise nature of the marker that identifies the head citation layer. Implementation strategies include attaching a boolean flag to precisely one of the citation layers, storing a pointer to the data structure in memory that represented the citation layer, or if the citation layers are stored in a relational database, the value of the primary key might be used.

In the common case of a singe-layer citation, the set of layer derivation links will be empty, and the sole citation layer present must be the head citation layer. This means that a single-layer citation can be represented using just a citation element set.

Applications should not reorder the list of citation layers, other than at the request of the user. The order of the citation layers is an indication of the preferred order for displaying the citation layers, and should begin with the one considered most important. This is not necessarily the head citation layer. Applications may ignore this order when displaying or formatting citation layers.

This is not an absolute prohibition on reordering, and conformant applications may if necessary use a technology that does not preserve the order of the citation layers.

Layer derivation links

When the sources represented by two citation layers are linked by a source derivation, a layer derivation link is used to encode this. It has three parts, all of which are required:

The two references to citation layers in the layer derivation link shall refer to citation layers present in the current citation.

This standard does not specify the precise form of these references, and different implementations may implement it differently. A database-backed implementation might choose to assign a identifier to each citation layer using an auto-increment field, and make the references a copy of that identifier. Other implementations might implement the reference using a pointer to the data structures in memory that represents the citation layer. Serialisation formats will define their own representations of these references.
The data model allows multiple layer derivation links between the same pair of citation layers. This might be used when the relationship between the sources cannot be represented adequately by a single source derivation type.

The source derivation type shall be either an IRI defined in accordance with a future FHISO standard on source derivation types, or the following cev:derivedFrom IRI which represents the most general case of derivation supported in this data model:

Source derivation type definition
Should we reuse the prov:wasDerivedFrom or prov:wasInfluencedBy properties from [PROV-O] instead of inventing our own derivedFrom term?

Applications may discard any IRI that it knows does not conform to the above requirement.

FHISO intends to produce a Source Derivation Vocabulary standard giving a standard vocabulary of source derivation terms, for things like transcription, abstraction, translation, indexing, referencing, analysing, commenting on and rebutting. These will be sub-types of the derivedFrom source derivation type. The Source Derivation Vocabulary standard will also provide a mechanism for third parties to provider their own extension source derivation types, and provide a means of determining whether a given IRI is a source derivation type. If this document is ready for standardisation at the same time as this document, the previous paragraph will be updated to reference it.

The class of source derivation types has the following class name and properties:

Class definition
Required properties
A future draft of this standard might make SourceDerivation class a subclass of rdfs:Property.

Requirements for layer derivation links

The representation of a citation in this data model is equivalent to a directed graph whose vertex set is the set of citation layers, and whose edge set is the set of layer derivation links. Each edge is labelled with its source derivation type, while one vertex is labelled as the head citation layer. This graph is called the citation layer graph.

A citation layer is directly derived from another citation layer if there exists a layer derivation link whose derived reference is to the former citation layer and whose base reference is to the latter citation layer. The direct base citation layer set of a citation layer is the set of citation layers from which the first citation layer is directly derived.

The complete base citation layer set of a citation layer is defined recursively as follows. The citation layer itself is part of its complete base citation layer set. It also contains every citation layer in the complete base citation layer set of every citation layer in its direct base citation layer set.

This definition is simply makes the complete base citation layer set the transitive closure of the direct base citation layer set. It contains the citation layer itself together with every citation layer from which it is derived, directly or indirectly.

The complete base citation layer set of the head citation layer shall contain every citation layer in the citation. If an application encounters a citation for which this is not the case, it may discard any citation layers that are not in the complete base citation layer set of the head citation layer.

This requirement says that the head citation layer must be derived, directly or indirectly, from every other citation layer in the citation. There must not be additional citation layers that are unconnected to the head citation layer, or which are only derived from it. In graph theory terms, this is equivalent to saying the citation layer graph must be connected, and that every citation layer must be reachable from the head citation layer. This standard does not prohibit there being additional layer derivation links besides those needed to ensure these conditions, and in particular does not require that the graph be acyclic.


Normative references

[Basic Concepts]
FHISO (Family History Information Standards Organisation). Basic Concepts for Genealogical Standards. First public draft. (See
[ISO 639-2]
ISO (International Organization for Standardization). ISO 639-2:1998. Codes for the representation of names of languages — Part 2: Alpha-3 code. 1998. (See
[RFC 2119]
IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). RFC 2119: Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels. Scott Bradner, 1997. (See
[RFC 5646]
IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). RFC 5646: Tags for Identifying Languages. Addison Phillips and Mark Davis, eds., 2009. (See
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.1, 2nd edition. Tim Bray, Jean Paoli, C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, Eve Maler, François Yergeau, and John Cowan eds., 2006. W3C Recommendation. (See

Other references

FHISO (Family History Information Standards Organisation). Citation Elements: Bindings for RDFa. Third public draft. (See
[CEV Vocabulary]
FHISO (Family History Information Standards Organisation). Citation Elements: Vocabulary. Exploratory draft.
The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
[Evidence Explained]
Elizabeth Shown Mills. Evidence Explained, 2nd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009.
[IANA Lang Subtags]
IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority). Language Subtag Registry. Online data file. (See
[ISO 639-1]
ISO (International Organization for Standardization). ISO 639-1:2002. Codes for the representation of names of languages — Part 1: Alpha-2 code. 2002.
[ISO 8601]
ISO (Internation Organization for Standardization). ISO 8601:2004. Data elements and interchange formats — Information interchange — Representation of dates and times. 2004.
[ISO 15924]
ISO (International Organization for Standardization). ISO 15924:2004. Codes for the representation of names of scripts. 2004.
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). JSON-LD 1.0 — A JSON-based Serialization for Linked Data. Manu Sporny, Gregg Kellogg and Markus Lanthaler, eds., 2014. W3C Recommendation. (See
[Linked Data]
Heath, Tom and Christian Bizer. Linked Data: Evolving the Web into a Global Data Space, 1st edition. Morgan & Claypool, 2011. (See
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). PROV-O: The PROV Ontology. Khalid Belhajjame, James Cheney, David Corsar, Daniel Garijo, Stian Soiland-Reyes, Stephan Zednik and Jun Zhao, eds., 2013. W3C Recommendation. (See
[RFC 7159]
IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). The JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) Data Interchange Format. Tim Bray, ed., 2014. (See

Copyright © 2017–18, Family History Information Standards Organisation, Inc. The text of this standard is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.