Recording Sources


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Recording Sources

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maaliskuu 1, 2007, 2:43am

myshelves asked over in the software section about recording sources. I thought I'd post the question in a new topic, since it sounds like a good question for everyone to hear about / talk about...

Question about recording sources:

When I'm entering a bunch of people (say a newly-found branch of the family), I find it pure drudgery to record the source, with page number, for each fact.

How do you record sources? Do you give a source for the person's name? Do you list the source for each fact, even if all facts come from the same source? (Examples: Family bible, biography, book on the family history.) Which software makes it easiest?

maaliskuu 1, 2007, 2:47am

I generally type in the source and then point and click on each piece of data I learned or verified with the source. It is drudgery sometimes, but it's the only answer I can see. I could end up with dozens of sources for a name, I guess, but the more sources, the more likely I feel that the info is correct (as long as they are of a decent confidence level).

While I was testing Roots Magic I did a gedcom upload and it asked if I wanted to link source info (the source for the gedcom data) to the names only or to each piece of data (name/b/m/d/etc). That was cool.

maaliskuu 1, 2007, 12:27pm

This also ties into the discussion we are having in the "best books" thread about the citation books...

I *usually* tediously record every last detail of the source and attach it to each bit of information. I have so many relatives I'm corresponding with and so many lines I'm working on that I have to be able to identify exactly where and when I received each bit of data and confirmed it on a name-by-name basis. For many years, my software couldn't handle that... So I got in the habit of recording all of this in a custom comment field for each person I called "source documents".

Now my software has finally evolved to the point where I can use the source/detail fields fully for the purpose they are intended. But I still distrust them slightly (I fear they will detach in some future transfer of data or something,) so I haven't taken the time to transfer 15 years of sources into them from my comments fields. I still doubt the necessity of that. What I do is compromise... Full transcribe the details into my custom comment field, and attach a very general source to the name, date, whatever (e.g. "federal census record" or "birth certificate" etc.)

And there is data I include in my sources that is un-kosher citation-wise... e.g. On census records, I copy out not only the title, roll, etc. reference, but the library I found it at *and* all the filled in data for the person. I do this so I can see the exact info that was on the record when I'm researching (I carry a hard copy of my tree printed out from my database) and so I can share it with others. Obviously, one should refer to the copy of the actual census in many cases, but I find value in having the transcribed info at my fingertips. By the time I get all that typed out, it just seems to make more sense to make this a note in the comments field rather than cramming it all into a source field.

As I said in the other thread... I will be rereading my citation guides and reevaluating my practices. As I near the "publication" phase of my research, I will need to focus on this matter.

I suppose it's important to add that I use Reunion for Mac (and have since I started.)

4Stirkk Ensimmäinen viesti
maaliskuu 3, 2007, 2:59pm

I appreciate folks who note their sources- any sources - when they upload a tree to something like WorldConnect. It helps me decide if the tree will be really useful or just clue providing.
I list where I found information and sometimes include the library name so I can figure out where I got that from. I note per name and will note the date or event.
I'm a librarian so I know my citations are "sloppy".

maaliskuu 4, 2007, 2:23am

Stirkk: You say it's sloppy, but that's more info than I get from a lot of trees I've found on the net!

maaliskuu 7, 2007, 5:24pm

I stated elsewhere that FTW now has a copy/paste in the source window so that you can paste the source into other members on the file. Be sure to first do all of the source information, then copy/paste so that names will not be transferred in the copy/paste result.

huhtikuu 14, 2007, 7:24pm

Sourcing is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do when creating a new genealogy or adding to one. As a practicing 25 year genealogist I can tell you that the best thing you can do for yourself is give in to the urge to think of sourcing as drudgery. While it is certainly not as glamorous as finding that great aunt that was once lost it is the ONLY thing that allows total organization and believability to a researched genealogy. If you run across a family history that contains no sources materials (or worse, create one) then you cannot trust the information contained therein. Do yourself a favor and take the time to source EVERYTHING. You'll thank yourself 10 years from now when you can look up in an instant where you found a piece of information.

8HLWjr Ensimmäinen viesti
huhtikuu 21, 2007, 11:51pm

A good genealogy program will keep all sources in a database. I switched from Family Tree Maker to The Master Genealogist software about 8 years ago just for this feature. Surely at this point most other software must do something similar.

I enter the source information only once, BEFORE I actually cite it (i.e. link it to a particular fact). The source information is stored in the program's source database. I then go about adding new facts (or going back to old facts) and actually linking the source to those facts. When I click a button to add a source, a window pops up allowing me to choose a source from the database. I can either just enter the source number (quickest), scroll through the list until I find the one I want, or do a search for the one I want.

Each time I cite a source, I can add some additional information that is specific to this particular citation - called a "citation detail" in TMG. The citation detail isn't added to the source database. It only applies to a single particular use of the source. For instance, suppose you have a book called "History of Foo County" that mentions a few different ancestors in various places. You would enter the general information about the book in the source database (title, author, publisher, date). Each time you use that source to support a particular fact, you might add the additional information of the page number in the citation detail. The source is entered once, but used many times. The citation detail allows you to give more information about the source that is relevant to a particular fact.

A source database also allows for consistency in the formatting of your sources. You won't have the book showing as "History of Foo County" in one place but "The History of Foo Co. 1800-1910" in another. If you go back a make a change or correction to the source (e.g. add a second author or add more detail to the title as in the example) the corrections automatically apply to all past citations to the source as well as future citations.

The Master Genealogist has its pros and cons, but it does handle sources in the right way.

huhtikuu 25, 2007, 11:54pm

Do you folks contact the owners of online trees when you see errors? I do.

10RustBelt Ensimmäinen viesti
huhtikuu 29, 2007, 8:46pm

> Do you folks contact the owners of online trees when
> you see errors? I do.
You've probably had occasion to 'correct' me then.  That's been an revelation to me, on my "" websites.  If you allow members to use the Family Tree area, they can enter faulty data and it gets 'credited' to you when its automatically 'adopted' by and incorporated in their database (this augments the 'numbers' they can advertise having).
I finally found a way to disable this 'feature' but the damage done so far has been significant and leaves me with very little confidence in ANYTHING found in a file at
These online files should never be depended on except as a GUIDE for finding better sources.  Its a step in the process of research that will often mislead the expert and discourage the neophyte, when the faults are discovered.
  =  =  =    =  =  =

huhtikuu 29, 2007, 8:55pm

I was referring to the feature at for sticking a Post-Em. Most, though not all, tree-owners get a notice (if they've opted into doing so) that another user has made a comment. It is up the owner to then: accept the comment and change the tree accordingly, write back to the commenter for further info/explanation, or ignore it. The last option will stand with a yellow flagged link to the "corrected" info, but will not affect the posted tree itself.
As for Ancestry itself, I did write to a fellow who had my gg grandfather showing as part of a family with a "father" for him born 20 years later than I am certain my ancestor was. The fellow wrote back that he'd look into it.
My Rootsweb flags are intended to be helpful follow up info, usually giving marriage and death info for listed folks with birth dates only.