Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Lesson Learned, or A Cautionary Tale, or A Confession :-)

I recently tried to help someone on a message board. That person's uncle had sources "somewhere" but he couldn't find them in a timely fashion. Therefore, there was not enough information to help that person since the facts weren't checking out and there was no way to know which facts were correct and which were not.

I empathize with that uncle but I have learned over the years that it is necessary to have sources for all facts in a family tree. This is what I wrote.

I can understand his problem. As a beginner years ago, I had many piles of paper. I thought I could remember exactly where I found everything. :-)

Of course I soon was overwhelmed by the number of facts I had discovered and I started using family group sheets and pedigree charts which I filled in by hand. At that point I didn't worry about sources. After all I had all the paper copies!

I had to constantly redo my pedigree charts and family group sheets and that took longer and longer as I learned more and more. Someone suggested using a computer genealogy program which would automatically create updated family group sheets and pedigree charts. I even tried putting in sources (but not consistently because it took time away from my real love, which was finding new information.)

I did not really understand the difference between a source and a citation to a source. All my "sources" were Family History Library film numbers and Genline GID Numbers. I became overwhelmed and gave up on my pathetic attempts to source.

A few years ago I decided to start over with my sourcing. I started a new tree (without GEDCOM because that would have transferred my "sources" along with the information in my tree.) Needless to say, I spent MANY months just re-entering old information and not looking for anything new. It was horribly boring entering years worth of sources all at once.

Now I am caught up. I know the difference between sources and citations. I try to enter sources and citations in ways which others should be able to check themselves without having io ask me where I found the information. I don't have to feel foolish if someone asks where I got a piece of information. I don't have to dig through papers.

I still find sourcing to be boring, but it is not as boring if I enter a source immediately after entering a fact. (I used to enter facts and sources at the end of the day when I went to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, for example, but all too often I was too tired to finish, so I got behind. After all, I still had paper copies. That eventually led to my finding the same information again in a different year because I had been too tired to record a fact and its source.) I may still make changes in how I source in the future as I learn more, but I am now able to exchange information with others without having to constantly answer questions about where I found information.


  1. Do you have an example of how you have sourced an ArkivDigital source that I could look at?

  2. Source:

    Växjö [Kronoberg] AI:31 (1871-1875)

    Citation using that source:

    Växjö AI:31 (1871-1875) Image 306 / page 299 (AID: v21392.b306.s299, NAD: SE/VALA/00457)

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  4. That really is a lesson to learn. It is definitely a point well made.
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