As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gain free access to three additional online family tree programs in addition to FamilySearch.org, there are a lot of questions raised about adding sources. During the past couple of months, I have been answering some of those question over and over again. Here are some of the questions that are frequently asked:
Why should I have more than one family tree online?
First of all, access to Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and findmypast.com is free to Church members. It is quite common that genealogical information accumulated by you or your family is lacking in source citations. This means that as the information you have, either in your own personal genealogy records or program or in FamilySearch.org Family Tree does not have any supporting source information and cannot be verified. You can use the records on FamilySearch.org to add sources to the people on Family Tree, but the three free programs have huge numbers of additional records. These records may overlap somewhat with FamilySearch.org, but for the most part are entirely different. In addition, all of the records on the three programs are indexed, while the records on FamilySearch.org are only partially indexed and must be search manually for records of your family.
In addition, as you enter your family tree in Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com, these two programs automatically search their entire database for records pertaining to your family. This automatic search program is very accurate and can help you find information about the people you already have in your family tree as well as find additional unknown (to you) family members.
How many sources do I need to add?
My standard answer to this question is "all of them." Even if a source is nearly the same as another source, both sources should be recorded. There is no limit to the number of sources you should add. Every source helps establish a date and a place for the individual ancestors.
What is the source has errors?
It is very common for sources to contain errors.Part of the job of the genealogists is to evaluate sources and extract only the best information. Even though all four of the programs suggest research hints or search sources, this does not mean that they are infallible. In every case, the user needs to examine the sources suggested carefully and include only the information that is felt to be reliable. FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com all allow the user to compare the information in the suggested source before including it in the individual's profile. At this stage of the comparison between the two records, it is important to think carefully about consistency and plausibility. However, I do not suggest that you exclude a source simply because it has inaccurate information. This is especially true of alternative spellings and alternative dates and places. As I stated, it is my position that all sources should be included. This enables subsequent researchers to do their own evaluation of the sources without the necessity of redoing the research.
What do I do with all the sources suggested?
It is entirely possible that both MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com will suggest dozens if not hundreds of individual sources. This may seem very overwhelming at first. However you are under no obligation to process all those sources. The simplest way to handle a large number of source suggestions is to review the list and work on only those that apply to individuals which you are currently investigating. In a sense, the source links are a gift. You are being given the opportunity to correct and augment research that has been done without sources for over 150 years. I suggest you take this seriously and spend time looking at the sources and learning about your ancestors. You may find individuals who have been overlooked or missing from your previous research. You may also find many of the assumptions that have been previously made about your family are not supported by the sources. Remember, that it would take you an extraordinary amount of time to do the actual searching for all of those sources that is now being done automatically. Do not approach this as a burden but has an opportunity.
There is a lot more that can be said about sources. It is important to remember that these four programs have only a very small percentage of the total number of sources available to be searched. It is also important to remember that only the indexed records on FamilySearch.org can be searched by the names of your ancestors. As you begin to realize the vast number of records available waiting to be indexed, you will gain a greater appreciation for the importance of the Indexing Program.
If you have any further questions about adding sources please add them to the comments and I will address them in subsequent posts.