Crash course on sources (please)

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Keith Wilson
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Crash course on sources (please)

Post by Keith Wilson » Fri Aug 24, 2007 3:00 pm

Originally posted by perthling

Can anyone give me a crash course on using sources?
What is the generally accepted method of doing it? (i.e. what sources do you include, what do you name them, how do you organise them, etc).
Thanks! ~luke

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Crash course on sources (please)

Post by Keith Wilson » Fri Aug 24, 2007 3:44 pm

Originally posted by jimwinfrey


There are several excellent texts (some on-line ones) available. In the US, Elizabeth Shown Mill's book " Body Of Evidence" is probably the most followed. Having gone through the stages of being principally a name collector to being a documentor of facts about these people, I have learned the importance of sources. Try remembering where you picked up the data on somebody 15 years ago. Remember that sources are specifically ways to duplicate the path from your information on facts about people to where the fact was found. It has to be good enough to be repeatable but can take whatever form works best for you. Following a consistent method is probably going to save you time and will certainly make it easier for future generations to duplicate your work.


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Crash course on sources (please)

Post by Keith Wilson » Sat Sep 08, 2007 4:28 pm

I do not know the correct answers but here is something to keep the thread alive.

I have just received the following email from Michael who asked:
what should the " source content" consist of?
how basic or complex should it be?
ie will " US Fed Census 1820" do?

or should i include the date, page number, street address, time of day, weather patterns and ...?

you get the drift... in the world of genealogy.. what is the expectation?
and what happens if the " source" is your great aunt helen's diary or postcard?
should you include a pic of the source or of relative document/s?
Hi Michael

The problem is that " in the genealogy world" there is not really any expectation. The Gedcom 5.5 Standard for transfer of data from one genealogy app to another simply defines the fields that can be used. Different apps use the fields differently and some apps have " improved" on the Standard.

A " Source" could actually be a hierarchical structure but Gedcom 5.5 does not really define it as such.

For instance what is the " parent" of a Source? Is it a Repository or is it a Publisher (a Government Dept) or is it a collection of all the Census records for all the States of US in a particular year?

" Census" is definitely not a good name for a Source, nor is " Marriage Certificate" - they are " Source Types"


For Census info I would create a separate Source for each Census year, for instance I would create separate Sources for

US Federal Census 1850
US Federal Census 1860
US Federal Census 1870
US Federal Census 1880

UK National Census 1851
UK National Census 1861
UK National Census 1871
UK National Census 1881

However, in the US there seem to be different Census books for each State or County so if a lot of people in my database come from Maryland I would be tempted to create a Source called something like " 1850 US Federal Census for Maryland"

If I had some existing books written about my family then I would add Sources for:

The Family History Book of the Wilson Family (260 pages)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor - The History of the Josephsons, Barkers. Robersons and Davies Families (400pp)
The Josephson Family Bible

In short, whatever info is going to be consistent across a number of Source Citations should be created as a Source.

In Australia we have different Birth Death and Marriage records for each State so I would create a separate Source for

BDM New South Wales
BDM Victoria
BDM South Australia

You may also be downloading Source info from so I would make another Source for Web Site

Source Citations

The Page Number should definitely go in the Source Citation NOT in the Source.

In each Source Reference (Citation) I would enter the Page Reference and Topic fields and maybe some Notes so that anyone else looking for the Source document can find it easily.

Whatever approach you use depends on how large you expect the database to become.

1. Apply the KISS Principle - Keep it Simple

2. Whatever approach you use make sure that it involves minimum effort.

Having said all the above I actually have lots of individual Birth certs, Death certs and Marriage certs each entered as an individual Source. So I guess at some stage I will need to do some tidying up - and iFamily currently has no function that helps me to do this tidying up so I guess I'll have to build something that makes it easier.


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Crash course on sources (please)

Post by Keith Wilson » Fri Oct 19, 2007 6:02 pm

Originally posted by jmilne1

D I to am attempting to understand sources. I entered a series of Census dates. When I chose a person to add one of these souses to i also added the PDF for that Census year. The next person i attempted to add a spurce for the same census year had the other persons PDF info & when i inserted the new one & went back to the other person he now had that PDF. What am I doing wrong?

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Crash course on sources (please)

Post by Keith Wilson » Sat Oct 20, 2007 2:13 am

Hi Jack,

When adding references to a Source there are a few things to remember

A Person may be Referenced (Cited) in many Sources
A Person may be associated with many Events.
An Event may be Referenced (Cited) in many Sources.

A Source may Reference (Cite) many People.
A Source may Reference (Cite) many Events.

So you are basically dealing with
Person - SourceReferences - Sources
Person - Events
Event - SourceReferences - Sources

The Source may be any document (or set of documents) that you want to define as a Source. You may like to add a picture of the document (or PDF file) to the Source itself.

A Source could be a " Discussion with Grandma Jones on 24 Dec 2001" - in which case you may like to add a picture of Grandma to the Source.

A Source may be a single Birth Certificate that you have in your possession or it may be a collection of Birth Certificates stored by a Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

You may have a Family History book written by your uncle that contains copies of a number of Birth Certificates. In this case you may decide to enter his book as the Source and then refer to the page on which the copy of each Birth certificate is printed.

Rule 1. Enter enough information in the Source so that someone else (your grandchildren?) can find the Source.

Rule 2. In the Source Reference add enough information so that someone else (your grandchildren?) can find the information within the Source.

Please remember that a web site address may not exist by the time your grandchildren get interested in genealogy so a web site address is not a good " Source" . Unfortunately your own filing system may also be in the trash can by then. The safest way to record all your hard work is to write the definitive " Family History of Jack" , give it an ISBN number and donate a copy to your National Library. Just as I have a pile of floppy disks that I can no longer read I suspect that your grandchildren will not be able to read a CD or DVD in 10 years time.


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Re: Crash course on sources (please)

Post by Kirkman » Wed May 03, 2017 6:16 pm

Quick question on sources:

What is best practice for dealing with documents like newspapers? I may have many articles which appeared over many years in a particular publication (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for example). Should I create a separate source for each article? Or should I use just one source for the newspaper?

The way dates are handled in the interface makes me think I should be doing separate sources for each article, although I'm not sure that's the best approach.

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Re: Crash course on sources (please)

Post by NigelRichman » Fri May 05, 2017 1:22 pm


My way to do this would be to set up a Source for each Newspaper (e.g. New York Times, The Herald, Le Monde etc).

The Source citation would then be the particular issue information for that paper - Date, Page line etc

Gedcom does define a Source Type of Newspaper so that would be the group under which I would create sources for each publication.

Hope that helps assuming others don't offer alternatives.



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