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?

  1. If you are uploading a GEDCOM to WeRelate:
    1. 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).)
    2. 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.
    3. These links will appear in the main narrative section of each person or family page that has sources related to it.
  2. 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.
    1. Clicking on "Add a source citation" displays a set of fields to fill in:
      1. Source namespace - Is this a Source or a MySource?
      2. Title - This will be the name of the unique Source PAGE, not the name of the actual source. [URGH! This is confusing!!]
      3. 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.
      4. 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.
      5. Date - Enter the date of the record or publication. [Right?]
      6. Quality - Select one of Unreliable, Questionable, Secondary, Primary. See above for definitions of these.
      7. Image ID - [need help writing this]
      8. Note ID - [need helping writing this]
      9. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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

Recommended Reading

  1. ____. RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees - Lesson 12: Evidence, Sources, Citations and Documentation, accessed 18 November 2009.
  2. Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1997.
  3. Powell, Kimberly. "Cite Your Genealogy Sources,", accessed 19 November 2009. Really good.
  4. 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.
  5. Wylie, John. "How to Cite Sources," accessed 19 November 2009.