Monday, May 7, 2018
How Many Sources Are Enough?
It is interesting how the question in the title of this post comes up periodically. The limits on the numbers of individual items of information you can add to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree have been intentionally left very large. The main struggle with the Family Tree is making sure that all information added has a source. This means exactly what it says. If you add a name, you need to indicate, with a source, where that name came from and if there is any question about the name, you need to explain why you chose the name you entered. This rule applies to every single item of information added to the Family Tree: every date, every place, everything.
Let's assume the goal is to write a 500+ page book on every single person in the Family Tree. How much information do you need and how many sources to you need to cite? Of course, this much information is not going to be available about every person, but why put some artificial limits on those who do have a lot of information available?
When I get this question, I am reminded of when my children were very little. Sometimes we would have issues picking up their toys. We would negotiate with the child and say something like, pick up three toys and you are done. This would often result in tears and sobs about the huge effort it was to pick up three toys. Do you see the analogy? However, with the Family Tree, we need to be aware of the need for extensive documentation. There are still a huge number of people in the Family Tree without any documentation whatsoever. There are many more who have only one or maybe two sources listed. Granted, there may not be any more documentation, but it is likely, especially for people who lived within the past 100 to 200 years, that there is a lot more than has already been added.
I suggest that we begin with our first dead ancestors and make sure everything we know about these people has been added to the Family Tree either as a memory or as a source citation with a link to an original source. If we systematically document every single person, we will soon have a significantly more reliable corpus of data to build backward in time from a reliable foundation.
We need to get over the childish negative responses to cleaning up the entries in the Family Tree and realize that the goal is an acceptable, documented, and reliable product.