My humble contribution on the subject
Let's first make a distinction between a Repository, a Source and a
Citation. A repository is usually a building or a vault or your filing
cabinet at home. Typically TNA at Kew is one, the GRO another.
A Source is usually a document of any kind - newspaper, birth/marriage/death
cert, census enunerators sheet, will, BTs, census disc, 1901 Online etc etc
and also can be oral/hearsay.
The Citation is the extract or reference to the bit in the source that
matters to the indivdual in question.
So, how do I use these three? I have about 20 Repositories, GRO, Berks
Record Office, East Sussex RO etc. Note I do not include the IGI as this is
a transcription/index of an original.
I have about 60 Sources - these are the Census years - 1841 - 1901, 2
sources for each - one is for the index and one for the actual document
itself, Birth Cert, Marriage Cert, Death Cert, Will, Parish Record * about
30 for each parish I have come across, my mother (oral history) etc.
On an individual I have between 1 and 20 citations depending on how much
information I have been able to gather.
I ALWAYS have at least one Source per individual which I call 'Origin' in
the absence of any bona fide source. This is to cope with GEDCOMs received
from other people, information from mailing lists etc. My intention is to
always replace my 'Origin' source with a bona fide resource as soon as
What alarms me most is where people claim to have 1000's of Sources - I hope
they mean they have 1000's of Citations. I follow a simple rule
(generally) - is the information solely about the individual, if so then I
make a Citation, if the information applies to more than person then it is a
Source. There are obviously exceptions to the rule. I wouldn't put a Source
on for a Census sheet that lists a family of 12, I would use my general
Source called '1901 Census image' and put the folio, page etc in the 'Where
within source' field. I wouldn't add a Source for a Marriage cert just
because it refers to two people, I would include the details on the
Citation - the Source would be 'Marriage Cert/Entry - PRs Hellingly' and the
Repository would be East Sussex Record Office.
In database terminology the Repository, Source and Citation are a classic
examples of the 'one to many' concept - one Repository record refers to many
Source records, one Source record refers to many Citation records. As soon
as you start 'tinkering' with this hierachy you loose the power of the
reporting/query features of FH.
There are many advantages of using this system. I have a Named List called
Queries - guess what I put in it?
If I am going to visit East Sussex Record Office I run a report on my named
list for queries with a Repository of ESRO and it is listed in order of
Source - so all my Hellingly Parish Record queries are listed together under
the heading ESRO.
Just one other thing, I use the Assesment field a lot, I call a Census
Image 'Primary Evidence' but an index to the Census only 'Secondary'.
Likewise with the 1837Online or FreeBMD, these are only 'Secondary'.
Unfortunately I have now started to use 'Questionable' for the IGI but
that's another story;-)
At the end of the day it is personal choice but one reason for a Source is
to direct someone else to the source of your information in the future -
with the hierachical system above a report to find out where my sources
are/were is very easy.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Noel" <anw2.noel(a)virgin.net>
Sent: Friday, March 19, 2004 11:04 PM
Subject: [FHU] Sources
I have read with interest, posts both here and at the FHUG site about
sources should be treated and feel the practices applied by too many
historians' too often range from non-existent to the lax 'I
know what that
I have recently received a 'tree' from which I extracted 371 related
individuals. There were 15 source citations between them! Some of those
citations refer to a source 'Census Returns' - what census?, when?,
are the questions that sprang to mind. The rest of are of similar
If you consider that your research will most likely be seen by or be given
to relatives, it should be considered vital to accurately record where you
obtained your data from, so that, if necessary it can be checked. In
to do that I feel that a degree of academic rigour needs to be
To start, where can your data be found? The PRO?, local history library?,
county record office?, municipal cemetery?, then those should be recorded
What types of data are to be found at those repositories? Census
church registers?, burial registers?, trade directories? These
recorded as your sources
What is the data and where did you find it within the source? At this
I would refer to the source panel in FH where as an eample might for
a selected source e.g. Registration of Birth, Broughton, Salford -
a repository of Salford Registry Office - whilst the box in the panel
within source' contains 'Registration of Birth - Broughton,
14 Oct 1880'. The other boxes can be used to contain additional
A number of personal possessions e.g. family Bibles, letters etc. could
be treated in the same manner, bearing in mind that, unless scanned,
would not be available for checking by other than yourself.
On the basis of the above, you will realise that certificates are not
sources but extracts from a particular source. I appreciate that Jane
she has a preference to record them as such, but as I'm being a
pedantic strictly speaking they're not!
To put things in perspective, I started with FTM v3, which didn't have
particularly good sourcing, so I also recorded in notes most things that
found including details of particular Census records - which clearly
the address, but not the actual PRO ref! By the time I'd upgraded to a
later version of FTM I'd got are large number of source references which
shortcomings on the basis of my above preferred procedure, but
can be found again should I or someone chooses to do so (at present I
haven't the time or frankly the inclination to go back solely to tidy up
database). One thing I only ever record in notes, is data found in
its accuracy is too suspect, use it to point to the actual sources
verify the data (I would also suggest always going back to the microfilm
the 1881 Census for verifying, even if you've got what you
from the 1881 Census CDs from the LDS)
I hope this is of some use as a form of guidance.
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