Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why Sources are Important for the FamilySearch Family Tree

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who get started in researching their ancestors, immediately confront the question of where to start and what to do about the information that is already in Family Tree. One of the not-so-obvious issues with the information is a lack of supporting sources. Even a member who starts out with almost no information in Family Tree and enters his or her own information, will still have the question of where the information was obtained.

It may seem somewhat unnecessary, after entering your own birthdate and birth place to provide a source. Of course, you know your own birthday and aren't you the source? Well, not really. It is not entirely unknown that when people start trying to add sources to their family history that they are surprised at the details that come out of the research. I have know quite a few people over the years, who have discovered that their own birthday was not recorded or remembered accurately. Some, have found that they were adopted and never told by their adoptive parents. If this were the only reason for adding sources to every event in Family Tree, then it would be a good reason. But the issue is much more important than that.

You always have to remember that you are going to be someone's ancestor. Even if you have no children of your own, you will appear on someone's pedigree chart. FamilySearch Family Tree provides a common venue for documenting the entire human family. Notwithstanding some of its present issues, it is currently the best and only way we can all cooperate in building a record of our genealogy "worthy of all acceptation." See Doctrine and Covenants 128: 22-24. Part of this process is the need to adequately add sources for every event recorded in Family Tree.

What is a source?
At the most simple level, a source is a record, written or oral, that provides evidence of an event in the life of a person in the Family Tree. If you were born in the last 100 years in the United States, you likely have a formal birth certificate. If not, you may have had to obtain an alternate record of your birth from a church record or some other type of proof of your birth. These records constitute a "source" for evidence concerning your birth. Likewise, there is a need for source records for marriages, deaths and all of the other events in a person's life.

Why is a source necessary?
Sources function at many different levels. Not only does a source provide information about a specific event, that same source may also provide information about other events and evidence that can be used to extend family lines. These uses may not seem important if a member finds a lot of information already entered into the Family Tree program, but the idea of "acceptation" implies accuracy. To have an accurate record, it is necessary to have some level of verification. That verification can only come through providing original sources. This not an optional activity. We need to start with ourselves and our immediate family members and provided documentation for every event recorded. That is not just a goal, but the very purpose of the program.

What can I use for a source?
When we talk about source records, we usually mean some sort of document recording the events in question. For example, I mentioned a birth certificate. Another type of source may be a family letter or a Bible entry. The number of types of sources is immense. There are a lot of places to begin your search. Of course, the first place to start is with the records you have of your own family. These records should be scanned and included as source documents in Family Tree. One very good place to start learning about how to find and record sources is right there in It is the FamilySearch Research Wiki. See Begin your genealogy quest.

This is not a difficult process to understand, but it does take a great deal of effort to be accurate and consistent in recording sources in your family history on Family Tree. The important thing is to get started. Every record and document included in the program helps to create an acceptable family history.

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