Source Records

A Source provides information of any kind - written or oral - that you use in your research. It could be a document, a set of documents, a photograph, an interview, or just about anything that helps you understand and record details about your ancestors. Sources can be viewed via the Sources tab on the main Records Window. See Index for related topics.

Calico Pie Help File

When accumulating genealogical data, it is a very good idea to document not just the information you accumulate, but also where the information came from - i.e. your sources. The most common kind of source is a certificate such as a birth, death or marriage certificate, or a census record. But a ‘source’ can be whatever you consider the source of your information to be. For example, a source could be a person, an interview with a person, a book, a document, a part of a document, a graveyard (perhaps, even, a single grave in a graveyard), or even another GEDCOM file (which might or might not have been created by Family Historian).

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Information recorded within a source

  • A source has a Title, for example 'Birth Certificate of James Smith 15th Aug 1873' or 'Memories of Joanne Philips' and may also be given a Short Title if need be to help with filing or finding information more easily if the actual title of the source is very long.
  • A source can have Text From Source, e.g. this could be used to record a transcript of the birth certificate or of the interview with Joanne Philips.
  • A source can have a Note, e.g. this could be used to note that the certificate was difficult to read, or the circumstances of the interview, etc.
  • A source may have a link to a Repository which is the location of the source document if applicable, e.g. Leeds Register Office.
  • A source may have Publication Information recorded. According to the Gedcom Standard this could be used to include "the date the record was created and the place where it was created. For example, the county and state of residence of a person making a declaration for a pension or the city and state of residence of the writer of a letter". This could also be used in conjunction with the Author field.
  • The Type field can be used to categorise each source. Examples of types you might use are "Census", "Birth Certificate", "Letter", "Book", etc.
  • As with other record types a Custom Id can be used if necessary to give each source a unique identifier based on a numbering scheme of the researcher's choosing.
  • It is also possible to attach Multimedia Objects to a source. These could be, for example, an image of the certificate referred to by the source or a recording of the person being interviewed.

Those details can be added using Ancestral Sources in Method 1 'source splitters' mode as explained later. Image showing source dialogue

Linking to sources via a citation

Each time an individual, fact, event or attribute is derived from information in a source, a Citation should be added to link the new data to the evidence. For example the Birth Certificate of James Smith may allow you to create a Birth event for James, a Name for his father, a Name for his mother, a Residence fact for the family at the time of the birth, and an Occupation attribute. Each such name, fact, event or attribute should have a citation linking back to the source. See Index for related topics.

Each record, name, fact, event or attribute may have more than one source. One fh user commented how she found the spelling of the witnesses for a marriage differed between a Local Register Office derived source and a Parish Register one.

Citations can be viewed by looking in the Property Box Dialogue Sources For pane, that can be displayed when viewing the Property Dialogue for an Individual or Family by clicking on the yellow scroll Show Sources button: Show Sources Button

Individual Properties dialogue showing Sources For pane

In the screenshot above the Birth event for Catherine Appleton is being viewed, and it can be seen that she was born at the Barracks in Parkhurst, Isle of Wight on 13th December 1868. The yellow source pane shows that there are two sources for this Birth that have been linked via citations. One source is a Birth Certificate and the other is an Army Birth/Baptism Certificate. In the screenshot the Birth/Baptism Certificate source is highlighted and thus the citation for this is being viewed. The Entry Date of the citation (the baptism certificate is dated 12 March 1869) and the Assessment of the source as being 'Primary evidence' can be seen.

  • To view the details of the source itself, click the Go To Source >> button or blue arrow in V6 or later.
  • If a new source for this birth was to be found, e.g. a letter from the mother mentioning the date of birth or an entry in a family bible, then a new source could be created and a citation to this source added by clicking the Add Citation icon, below the list of sources:
    • It is a 'yellow scroll with a + sign next to it' in V3: V3 Add Citation Icon
    • It is the Add Citation button in V4 or later: V4 Add Citation Button

Information recorded within a citation

Many researchers do not record anything within the citation, preferring to just use the citation as a link to the source where the information can be found. Others use citations extensively.

  • A citation can have an Entry Date. This is used to record the date of the original source material, e.g. the date of the Birth Certificate, the Census date, the date of an interview, etc.
  • A citation can have an Assessment that according to the Gedcom Standard evaluates the credibility of the source information. Recognise that the assessment is for the piece of information in the source that supports the citation rather than the source document as a whole.
    • Primary evidence
      Such as a Birth Certificate or most information in a Census. The census enumerator will have recorded contemporary details such as name and address of the householder.
      However, details such as birth place and age may be less credible and warrant a lower assessment.
    • Secondary evidence
      Such as birth place and age in a Census or on a Death Certificate, that are not contemporary with the birth, as they were recorded some time after the event.
    • Questionable
      Such as a GEDCOM from another user who may be guilty of wishful thinking.
    • Unreliable
      Such as any family legend or hearsay!
  • A citation can have a Where within Source field. If, for example, the source was a diary then the where in source field could be used to record which page of the diary this particular citation refers to.
  • A citation can have Text From Source. This can be very confusing as the source itself may also have a Text From Source field. This citation field is often left blank but could be used to record the information made in the source that lead to this citation.
  • A Note about the citation may be added if necessary.
  • It is possible to associate a citation with a Media object such as an image, or with a shared Note record.
    Since fh V6 the Show Media button allows any Media to be added to the citation.
    Otherwise, that functionality is not available through the sources pane but via the main Records Window or the All tab in the Properties Window for an individual or family. To do that, open the Record or the All tab, expand the name or fact that has the Source Citation, then right-click on the Source item on the left, and from the menu choose Add Multimedia Object > Add Link to New/Existing Multimedia Object Record.
    Alternatively, use Ancestral Sources in Method 2 'source lumpers' mode explained in the next section.

Add Multimedia Object to Source Citation

Sources and Citations - how to use them

Some researchers will create a source for each Birth Certificate and link the facts to it. An example showing how to do this can be seen here. As the key information is recorded within the source there is very little reason to record anything within the citation, except perhaps the Assessment. These researchers tend to have lots of sources. This is often referred to as Method 1 'source splitters' mode.

Other researchers will create a more general source, for example, 'Birth Certificates' and link every fact derived from any Birth Certificate to this source. In these circumstances, if a transcription of the Birth Certificate was required it would need to be recorded within the citation 'Text From Source' field. This is often referred to as Method 2 'source lumpers' mode. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the GEDCOM standard, multiple citations containing the same 'Text From Source' result in multiple copies of the same data being recorded within the file. This can lead to issues of inconsistency and redundancy which are hated by database designers everywhere, e.g. if a mistake is made in the transcription of the certificate, every copy of the transcript in the file needs to be corrected. Similarly, document images must be attached to the citations rather that the source.

Many researchers use a combination of these methods, perhaps using sources for each Certificate or Census entry that they wish to record, but using a more general source such as IGI to record the source of any information gained from the International Genealogical Index (IGI).

Ancestral Sources is a useful and popular utility that makes entering census and certain other records much easier. This automatically creates the necessary source and citation records for you, and supports both Method 1 and Method 2.

Using Sources in Family Historian

Family Historian Forum Discussions on this subject