Report ID: 1420372793 [and genealogy support in Zotero]

Using Firefox 4.0, Zotero 2.1.1.

Sorry for the long post, but I think I'm to old to learn how to "tweet" my needs. Also, please forgive my lack of using computer language. I can speak and write the genealogy language, but not computer operations language. I get lost just trying to follow the Zotero forum. Way too much computer language for me!

I've sent several error reports over the last few days and there's really been no response or acknowledgement that I've even sent an error report, so I'm very hesitant about bothering you with more of my issues.

Today, I've had to restart Zotero and Firefox twice in the last half hour (before taking the time to write this report). The first time, I didn't want to take the time to report it. I don't have an error report ID for the first time, but I was moving between sub-collections (with Zotero minimized in the lower third of the screen) and nothing changed. All sub-collections I picked had the same two sources in them. So, I restarted Firefox and Zotero.

This time, I had just finished removing a source from a sub-collection (with Zotero minimized in the lower third of the screen) and attempted to go to another sub-collection when the following appeared in the middle Zotero pane:

"An error has occurred. Please restart Firefox. You can report this error by selecting "Report Errors" from the actions (gear) menu."

This time I got a Report ID.

I've been using Zotero for the past three years and have referred this program to hundreds of people. I haven't had these types of problems until upgrading to Firefox 4.0 and Zotero 2.1.1.

I acknowledge Zotero is free and I'm not paying that much to use the Zotero server to sync my library. But, please, I've got 4110 sources in my library that had to all be entered by hand because there isn't a Zotero citation style that works for genealogy. I just can't go to, or any of the thousands of genealogy websites and download into Zotero, because it doesn't work. In fact, the largest genealogy library in the world, with millions of items in the catalog, doesn't download anything into Zotero. It all has to be entered manually. Genealogy citations contain much more detail than any other discipline. It'd be nice if just one of the hundreds of available Zotero citations were sufficient, but they're not, so I have to do all sorts of customizing to get Zotero to output the citations demanded by my clients.

I'm not complaining, there isn't a software program in existence that produces an adequate citation to meet the industry standard as found in Elizabeth Shown Mills book, "Evidence Explained ..." and/or to satisfy the demands of my various clients. So I use Zotero and am glad that it's available.

However, I can't get any work done when all I'm doing is reporting Zotero errors. I'm willing to not switch between a Zotero "maximum" and "minimum" window size, but not being able to do my work at all is frustrating.

If my issues aren't a concern, is there someone who can help me go back in time to when I had pre-Firefox 4.0 and pre-Zotero 2.1.1? I read in the forum where a person went "back in time", but I got lost on just exactly how they did that. Again, way too much computer language for me!

  • Have you tried disabling your other Firefox extensions? You're running into some very weird issues that no one else has reported.

    You should also check your database integrity from the Advanced pane of the Zotero prefs. Even if that passes, I'd recommend (assuming disabling extensions doesn't help) uploading your database to the DB Repair Tool and swapping in the repaired database, since the tool fixes some issues that might not show up in the integrity check. Be sure to follow the instructions and make a backup of your Zotero data directory before making any changes.
  • Thanks for responding.

    The only other extension (besides Zotero 2.1.1 and Zotero WinWord 3.1b1) is an enhanced image viewer from than enables digital images to be seen. I disabled the image viewer, which required Firefox to be restarted.

    I checked the database integrity and no errors were found.

    I'll try uploading the database to the DB repair tool.

  • I see a Norton IPS extension in your error report. That's disabled? You also might want to try disabling any parts of the Norton application that interact with Firefox, since it's possible for security software to do some weird things to Firefox/Zotero even if they don't show up as extensions.
  • It's only somewhat related, but I believe Zotero used to support at least the Census records on Is that no longer working for you?
  • as for citation styles - I have repeatedly offered in various threads to help write a citation style for genealogists, but no one has ever provided even the most basic information that would allow me to do that.
    As for - they are a multi-million dollar business with yearly revenues around 300m dollars - they should really be asked (by their paying customers!) to write their own translator, especially because I don't even think Zotero developers have access to their databases.

    And finally, if you want to roll back to 2.0.9 that wouldn't be terribly hard to do -
    Back up your data.
    You'd also have to go back to FF 3.6.x - then re-install Zotero 2.0.9
    and follow the steps here:

    note that any Word document that you created with Zotero and saved under 2.1.1 won't work with an older version of Zotero.
  • They could hire me to write a translator, for a mere 0.1% of annual revenues.

    I'd do it for a lifetime membership, for that matter.
  • Just got back from lunch and haven't tried the DP repair yet. Thought I'd respond to your comments before trying.

    Dan: Norton IPS was listed as an extension, but if I observed correctly, it is was disabled. I remember when I first upgraded Firefox that a window popped open saying Norton was incompatible with Firefox 4.0. I don't know what the ramifications are of that, but it showed it was disabled in the extensions. At this point, I care more about Zotero than Norton.

    Ajlyon: When I first started using Zotero three years ago, it seems like more fields were populated when downloading from Now, there's only two useful fields it populates: (1) the title (2) the URL


    (1) the title has to be changed, because it appends to the database title instead of populating the Website title.

    (2) the URL is fine.

    All other data has to be manually entered in the remaining Zotero fields or appended to the output citation.

  • AdamSmith:

    You said, "I have repeatedly offered in various threads to help write a citation style for genealogists, but no one has ever provided even the most basic information that would allow me to do that."

    Were you referring to your fellow computer people? Or, were you referring to someone from the genealogy community?

    Also, Ancestry is only after revenue. There's no way they are going to help anyone with citations, there's no money in it. But, you probably know that better than I do.

  • edited March 26, 2011
    We aren't computer people. The people on this forum are by and large researchers in a wide variety of fields, who use Zotero in our everyday work. For adamsmith to create citation styles, to create bibliographies and whatnot in the formats that genealogists need, he will need guidance on what those formats look like. No one has ever come forward with relevant style guides.
  • ajlyon:

    Sorry, just assumed that since you, Dan Stillman, and Adam Smith, seem to respond to a lot of discussions that you must be computer people. Even if you guys aren't computer people you sure seem to be able to speak computer language.

    I've quickly reread the various discussions regarding the hope that Zotero could meet the needs of the genealogy community. Some of them are:

    I'm sure there's more, but I only used the search term "Mills" to get what the above. With most of these discussions referring to Elizabeth Shown Mills's book "Evidence Explained ..." I'm confused as to why you say:

    "No one has ever come forward with relevant style guides."

    Does this mean that her book doesn't provide relevant style guides?
  • edited March 26, 2011
    The book might provide style guides, but adamsmith's generous offer to help does not extend to doing research on what the styles are, if they are only defined in this book and not in a widely available online source.

    See -- he needs to know what existing styles are most similar and how the style you need differs from them.
  • ajlyon:

    I followed your link and it says:

    "This topic does not exist yet. You've followed a link to a topic that doesn't exist yet. If permissions allow, you may create it by using the Create this page button."

    What would be an example of "widely available online source"? I'm only aware of two "digital age" software programs that even come close to implementing Evidence ... style guides.

    (1) RootsMagic (RM)

    (2) The Master Genealogist (TMG)

    RM is the most user friendly. It asks the right questions before the user populates the fields. Of course the question vanishes when the user starts to type the information. It's citation output most closely resembles the style guides in Evidence ... But, RM is the typical small genealogy software company. They don't have the budget to help create a Zotero-like program that will be used just for citations.

    TMG is great, but it requires a genealogist to know more about computers than they want to learn. TMG is also small and wouldn't have the budget to create a citation maker.

    I'm not aware of any digital age "online source" that has Evidence... style guides. I know Evidence is in a PDF format, but that's as digital as it gets. and various other entities have spent a lot of money creating digital libraries. They provide the CMS source citation for their digital collections, they don't need to create a Evidence... style citation. They're not "doing" genealogy, they're only providing the "digital" sources.

    No one has created a program like Zotero, EndNote, etc. that can generate citations required by the Evidence... style guide. When a computer person tries to create a program that generates an Evidence... based style guide citation they get discouraged and quit. They then spend their time working on something much more enjoyable. They're not genealogist first, they're computer people.

    Genealogist aren't computer people so they aren't much help when is comes to creating "online" stuff. So, in the meantime they manually type every citation in a word processing program. Then, they manually type the bibliography, just they have since the typewriter was invented.

    I work with a lot of "historians" who don't like Evidence.. style guides. They tell me, "They're too complicated, detailed, and legalistic!" Historians use more "art" than "science" in their creations. The stuff historians write wouldn't hold up in a court of law and there's nothing wrong with that. We have enough "legal" in this world, we don't need to "legalize" history.

    Genealogy is more like the legal field. The evidence must be strong to support conclusions. Thus, the need for more complex and detailed citations. There's a field of genealogy called "probate research". The evidence gathered in "probate research" is presented in a court of law and there are plenty of judges who have thrown out inadequate conclusions presented by probate research companies.

    If I had enough money I would pay people like you, Dan, and Adam to create another Zotero just for the genealogy field. The program would have to be simple enough to be used by a genealogist yet complex enough to generate Evidence ... style guide citations.

    But, I'm just a poor genealogist, who doesn't know how to "tweet".
  • I've fixed the link above-- try now.

    We just need to see examples of citations for different kinds of sources. That's all. We can work from that to make Zotero style its citations the way you want. No need to pay anyone, just do the legwork to provide example citations for each relevant item type and answer any questions that come up.
  • And it is possible that the citations are too complex for Zotero handle at present. If so, we'll take genealogy's needs into account for the next version of the style language.

    But legal citations are a key goal of Zotero for the next major release, so don't assume that legalistic approaches are out of the question.
  • Evidence explained is 816 pages of style guides. I'll provide a few examples, but being the poor genealogist that I am I can only afford a little more time on this. I wished someone could pay me to do this and I'd be more than willing to help out more.

    I don't know how to put bold and italics in this message so I'll make a Google-site page and send you the link. Or, is there a simpler way?
  • Genealogist aren't computer people so they aren't much help when is comes to creating "online" stuff. So, in the meantime they manually type every citation in a word processing program. Then, they manually type the bibliography, just they have since the typewriter was invented.
    Substitute "Lawyers" for "Genealogists", and this could serve as a description of the state of play with legal support a few years ago. It sounds like what you want is a computer-literate genealogist or two who speak "both languages" to get things moving in your community.
  • fbennett:

    You nailed it!

    A lot of computer people like to portray themselves as genealogist and ride the wave to prosperity because a lot of money can be made in "digitizing" genealogy right now.

    But when they are really pressed to create a program that creates what a "doing the work" genealogist needs, like a good citation generator, they find it too complex. They then dismiss genealogists as to "detailed oriented (I won't use the four letter word they generally use)" or Elisabeth Shown Mills, who wrote Evidence Explained ... is crazy, etc.!

    Genealogist "doing the work" don't have the skills, time, or money to help create a Zotero-like program.

    It will take someone who has actually done genealogy research for at least 5 years full-time and then at the same time know what's happening in the "digital world" to get things moving.

    Even as good as some genealogy software programs are getting, it's clear their programmers haven't actually done a lot of genealogy research. They may have a genealogist consultant work with them. But, all you have to do is look at their forums to see all the problems that aren't being addressed.
  • ajlyon,

    Follow this link to see a few examples of US Census citation style guides taken from Evidence ....

  • ajyon is exactly right - I'm a full time researcher, I do this in my spare time and because I find it interesting (and because I think having a high quality open source reference manager is a good thing).
    If no genealogist using Zotero can be bothered to tell me in a systematic way what they need as a citation style that indicates to me that having such a citation style can't be that important after all.
    Steve - thanks for that link - but I really have no time to do all the ground work. If this is something important I need this in a systematic way as described by ajlyon's link.

    As for - I don't know if they have any serious competition, but having easier access to their records through a Zotero translator would seem to be a competitive advantage. I'd certainly try bugging them about it. EBSCO and Wiley are also in it for the money/profits and provided translators after enough people bugged them about it.
  • and looking at these examples they might not be 100% possible, but starting with Chicago Manual of style it would likely be possible to get pretty close.
  • indeed.
    EE is based on CMoS.
  • adamsmith:

    Elizabeth Shown Mills explained this after briefly describing various citation styles:

    Among these options, The Chicago Manual’s Humanities Style has
    been the most effective for history researchers. Evidence Explained is
    rooted in that style. However, most Evidence models treat original or
    electronic sources not covered by the manuals above, as well as some
    modifications that better meet the analytical needs of history researchers. doesn't really have competitors. They've bought up their competition. Most people digitizing genealogy have one goal in mind, "To be bought out by".

    You're right, having Zotero produce citations based on Evidence... isn't important enough to "doing the work" genealogists. That's why it hasn't happened. When enough people care then it'll happen. But right now the world is excited with the digitized images on, etc. When the excitement wears off and the serious work starts, then perhaps there will be enough money in it for some developer to create it.

    In the meantime, I hope sending my Zotero library to the DB repair tool works. It's too late now and the library is closing, so I'll have to send it Monday.

    Thanks so much you guys for making such a great tool. I know I'm only one person, but I really do appreciate your efforts.

  • It looks to me like we have pinpoint locators consisting of multiple parts here:
    1. Bureau of the Census, Heads of Families at the First Census of the
    United States Taken in the Year 1790: South Carolina (Washington, D.C.:
    Government Printing Office, 1907), p. 11, col. 1, Mary Odam.

    The last bit could probably be entered as a single pinpoint, but it is in fact tripartite, with two numeric locators and a s.v.-esque component.
  • right, though for such specific cases - i.e. for people in a discipline with essentially one single citation standard (as I understand it) - I don't see the harm in using the suffix field for that (in addition to the page field - that way ibid will also keep working).
  • Dan Stillman:

    Okay, I used the DB repair tool and that didn't stop the problem. I'm using Zotero this morning and still having the same symptoms. But, it's random. After Firefox and Zotero are restarted the sub-collections contain what they should. When I can pinpoint what seems to trigger the sub-collections to "all of the sudden" contain strange items or to "not remove" the items when commanded, I'll send another error report. In the meantime, I'll keep restarting.

    I've also informed other members of my team, that sync with the Zotero server, not upgrade to Firefox 4.0 and Zotero 2.1.1 and to not sync with the Zotero server. I don't know if these symptoms are just a problem with my computer or if our Library on the Zotero server has problems too.

  • edited March 28, 2011
    This is almost certainly a cosmetic issue, not a data issue, so it's highly unlikely that your data on the server has anything to do with it. You're also still the only person to report it, which suggests that it may just be an issue with your system.

    I'd recommend creating a new Firefox profile, installing Zotero into it, and point it to your old Zotero data directory from the Advanced pane of the Zotero preferences. If it doesn't occur in the new profile, you can copy the data over (including Firefox data) from your old profile.
  • Report ID: 1181723999

    I created a new Firefox profile, installed Zotero, and pointed it to my old Zotero data directory. Sorry, but it didn't help.

    Here's the link:

    If you want me to start a new discussion please let me know.

  • First, to make sure this isn't related to something we've fixed (for which there's an error in that error report), install the 2.1 Branch dev XPI. It should be safe to try, and you can (and should) revert to the release version from the home page once you verify whether that fixes the problem.

    If that doesn't help, I'd try reinstalling Firefox. We pretty much never recommend that, but in this case there's something seriously weird going on on your system.

    If reinstalling Firefox 4 doesn't help, you could try Firefox 3.6 to see if this is something specific to 4.0.
  • Dan:

    I tried the "2.1 Branch dev XPI" and for the short time I spent moving items in and out of sub-collections it seemed to work like it did before 2.1.1.

    I reverted back to 2.1.1 and am looking forward the new release.

  • Adam wrote, "I have repeatedly offered in various threads to help write a citation style for genealogists, but no one has ever provided even the most basic information that would allow me to do that."

    We've discussed Zotero at at _BetterGEDCOM_ ( ) since last December. It's part of a larger project, but since I was writing there about Zotero today, I stopped by your site and happened upon this thread.

    From comments on the Zotero forum and a separate inquiry, I understood it's more than just showing examples of Evidence Explained citations for genealogy.

    As SteveM indicates, many of our styles will be CMOS extended. He mentioned more detailed online references. Not that it's so indicative, but a few years back, I located digital imaged snippets of a family member's missing 1840's era Columbiana County, Ohio probate file on E-bay.

    Most of us don't cite a U.S. census using ajlyon's fine example. For starters we use a generic title (albeit standardized), we cite line numbers on early census, but beyond 1850, we cite at the household level and reference both dwelling and family numbers. There is a reason we do it that way, too! Most of my census are drawn from online sources these day. Below is my "master source" for a 1790 census entry (I don't think most folks include the tick mark entries as I do).

    1790 U.S. census, Grafton County, New Hampshire, Rumney, page 75 (penned at top of column), line 18, William Preston (1-5-2-0-0^8); digital image, _Ancestry.com_ ( : accessed 5 Oct 2005), citing National Archives microfilm publication M637, roll 5<, [CD]>. Census is in alpha order; there are no other entries for surname Preston (any variant); there are three Clark families on the prior page; Charles Clark, Jonathan Clark, Joseph Clark.

    I'm glad to see Evidence Explained is still in active discussions at Zotero. I hope soon we'll be able to contribute something meaningful to advance the dialog. --GJ
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