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

Friday, June 5, 2015

What is a Source?

I think we need a very specific and rather simple explanation of what is meant by "adding a source" to the Family Tree. Over the years, I have come to appreciate the need to accurately record where I obtained my information. This part of the process of adding a source is usually referred to as adding a "citation." The citation give the person looking at the entry in the Family Tree sufficient information to locate the place where the information can be found. For example, if I find a U.S. Federal Census record showing information about my family, I should record the information as well as a "citation" or the directions showing where I found that particular record. In this case, if we obtained the record online or from some other digital source, we should add enough additional information to allow a subsequent researcher to duplicate finding the same record or document I used. Here is an example of the type of information going into a citation for a 1900 U.S. Federal Census record:

  • Township: Beaver city 
  • Enumeration District: 70 
  • Family: 133
  • County: Beaver 
  • Series: T623 
  • Line: 51
  • State: Utah Roll: 1241682 
  • Image: 40
  • Date: 1900 
  • Sheet: 7

You might think that you can be a source for information. It not to uncommon to see references in the Source sections of the Family Tree to "personal information" or "personal records." By definition, these are not a "source" unless the only place that information can be found is through consulting the individual. Otherwise, the so-called "personal records" should be individually identified and a recorded. 

FamilySearch simplifies the task of identifying important records and then attaching copies of those documents to each individual named in the document or record. Here is an example of a source record for one of my ancestors:

This is not a source. There is no information here about where the information was obtained or why the person adding the information thought it was necessary to tell all of us that Julia Ann Shepherd was a female.

At a very minimum, the source ought to tell subsequent researchers exactly where the information can be obtained, the date the information was entered into the program and any other qualifying information that may be necessary. 

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