Sunday, September 19, 2021

Early Sources / Early Source Citations (Ugh!)

I've been cleaning up my sources in RootsMagic this year and recently came across this source, named only "family records."  Ugh!  Really?!  I understood so little about documenting sources when I began.  Maybe you were in that situation, too?
I had an idea what I should do but I didn't really understand.  A friend had told me to record where I found the information I added to family group sheets, to write down the sources of births, marriages, and deaths (because, let's face it, births, marriages, deaths, and census records were about the only sources I knew existed).

In those first days I asked my mom for names and dates of events and claimed the source as "family records."  To be honest, there were no real records, just her memory and what she'd written down.  How did she know the information?  I don't know.  Maybe she was present at a marriage, or attended a funeral, or saw a newspaper article or obituary for some of the information.  However she found it, whatever the original source, some of that information clearly was not, and is not now, a worthy source.  First person attendance at a birth, marriage, death is, but second hand knowledge, not so much.  These days I think of that kind of information as leads for real sources.

The genealogy world has come a long way since my first attempts at recording family history in 2006 or so.  With digital documents available online at FamilySearch, Ancestry, and other places, I can replace "family records" with real records and note where and when a document was recorded, where I found it online, and include a link to the images.

For nearly every one of these "family record" sources, I can now find at least one document online to support the information I have and provide even more. 

It's good to review early research.  I understand that some genealogists are so far along in their family research that to review their earliest would seem daunting.  I'm not that far along yet, so reviewing my early research and documentation reminds me where I've been, shows me how I've progressed, and forces me to improve and provide more accurate sources and documentation. 
It's all a learning process.


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  1. It is least software makes it easy to clean things up after the fact...I too am working on cleaning up my sources and fear it's a project that will take the rest of my life!

    1. Oh, yes, Tess, I'm so thankful for software that keeps track of sources and lets me see mistakes so easily. I hope it doesn't take either of us the rest of our lives!

  2. I like to use the birth name like you do. However, if I notice the records Ancestry is throwing at me use a different name, like Betsey instead of Elizabeth I consider switching. Often I do switch it in my online tree, even if only temporarily, just to see if new hints show up.

    1. Thanks, Ellie. Names are so interesting because they seem to sometimes change through a person's life. I wonder if using "or" between names in our genealogy programs helps, or makes things more confusing.


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