What is a Source?
A genealogical source is the location (in a document, book, vital record, article, etc.) of proof for data provided. Its purpose is to
- support the legitimacy of the facts/info provided;
- help researchers locate the origins of the data provided;
- help researchers gauge the strength of a proposed theory or history of a person or family.
An item is not a source if it cannot do the above. For example, SMITH.GED is not a source, despite the fact that some genealogy software automatically makes it a source when, for example, a GEDCOM export is done.
Types of Sources
(From Powell; see below)
- Primary vs. Secondary. Primary sources are records created at or near the time of an event by a person who had reasonably close knowledge of the event. Secondary sources, by contrast, are records created a significant amount of time after an event occurred or by a person who was not present at the event.
- A court record of a lawsuit is a primary source.
- A history about the lawsuit is a secondary source.
- Original vs. Derivative. Original sources are records that contribute original written, oral, or visual information. Derivative sources are records that have been copied, abstracted, transcribed, or summarized - from previously existing sources.
- A marriage record in the original church book, is an original source.
- A transcription of the marriages from that same church book, then published on the Internet, is a derivative source.
The more you can cite primary and original sources, the stronger your case.
Source vs. Citation
(From Wylie; see below.)
- A source is the record, however obscure or informal, from which you get your information.
- A citation is the link that connects a source to your conclusion.
Why is it important to include Sources?
Documenting the sources of the information in your family tree is important for the following reasons (among others):
- For your own work: You can go back to the source when you find data that conflicts with what you already have.
- When publishing or sharing your work: You can demonstrate the level or quality of research you've conducted. You can also help other researchers find the source of the information for their own work.
- When collaborating with others: Source documentation can be compared when conflicting data surfaces.
This last is particularly relevant when using WeRelate, which is a collaborative environment that creates a single page for each person and family. When we merge our collective work in this way, discrepancies are bound to arise. Source documentation helps resolve those discrepancies.
How do I enter Source information?
- If you are uploading a GEDCOM to WeRelate:
- WeRelate will create what are currently called MySource pages-- one for each master source in your file. (In the future, WeRelate will allow you to compare Sources in your uploaded file with existing master Sources on WeRelate (see below).)
- Any citations for specific people, facts or events will be linked to its pertinent MySource page from the SOURCES section of the Person or Family page.
- These links will appear in the main narrative section of each person or family page that has sources related to it.
- If you are adding or editing pages manually, you can "Add a source" from the Edit page of a given Person or Family page. The Source section follows the Events and Facts section of the Edit page.
- Clicking on "Add a source citation" displays a set of fields to fill in:
- Source namespace - Is this a Source or a MySource?
- Title - This will be the name of the unique Source PAGE, not the name of the actual source. [URGH! This is confusing!!]
- Record name - Used for titles of articles when the source title is a journal, such as the NEHG Register; could also be the chapter title in a given book.
- Vol/pages - If the title is in multiple volumes, indicate the volume number and page number relevant for the particular fact/event you are citing. Use this field also to enter the FHL film or microfiche #, or the URL of a specific web page containing the source.
- Date - Enter the date of the record or publication. [Right?]
- Quality - Select one of Unreliable, Questionable, Secondary, Primary. See above for definitions of these.
- Image ID - [need help writing this]
- Note ID - [need helping writing this]
- Text / Transcription location - Type in the text that is relevant for the fact you are citing. For example, if you are documenting a marriage from a church record, the text might be "23 Jul 1858: Andreas, 24, son of Martin Schlenker, shoemaker, married Rosina, 21, daughter of Erhard Haller, watchmaker, and Anastasia Wuerthner." Alternatively, if the pertinent text is too long, you could include here a link to a transcription.
- Once entered, enter the Source ID # (i.e., S1 or S4) in the Citation ID field next to the pertinent fact that you are citing.
- Enter a one-line description of what you did in the Summary field at the bottom of the page, then click "Save page".
Merging Sources upon GEDCOM Upload to WeRelate
[link to information about this]
WeRelate's database of Sources
Read more information about WeRelate's Source pages
- ____. RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees - Lesson 12: Evidence, Sources, Citations and Documentation, Rootsweb.com: accessed 18 November 2009.
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1997.
- Powell, Kimberly. "Cite Your Genealogy Sources," About.com:Genealogy, About.com: accessed 19 November 2009. Really good.
- Stevenson, Noel C. Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigrees, Ancestry, Heirship and Family History. [Revised Edition]. Laguna Hills, California: Aegean Park Press, 1989.
- Wylie, John. "How to Cite Sources," Genealogy.com: accessed 19 November 2009.