Mar 012011

Source Templates is a feature that some genealogy software programs now offer. When you create a citation to reference a source in your genealogy research, the source templates tool prompts you for the necessary information.  You simply fill in the blanks, and it constructs the actual source citation.  Citations are then complete, and in standard format.

But should you use Source Templates?  I say No! The reason?  Most if not all genealogy programs have yet to get their source templates feature working properly.  Besides minor problems with formatting and punctuation, the most serious issue is:  You will not be able to use your source citations outside of your genealogy program.

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Oct 292009

I’ve been researching my genealogy seriously for about ten years now. Earlier this year I applied for a “First Families” certificate during the 150th anniversary celebration of Isabella County, Michigan. This is a certificate presented to descendants of pioneer families who settled in the county prior to 1899. Little did I realize how much effort that application would require.

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Apr 192007

Often you discover conflicting facts for an event, like a birth date. A particular source may give only partial information, like the place of birth but not the date, or the month and year but not the day or place. Soon you have a list of multiple alternate facts, each cited by a different source.

A “preferred” fact is a best estimate. It may include information from a combination of alternate facts. A single preferred fact is often used in genealogical reports and charts, where listing several alternate facts is infeasible.

For some facts, it is not a matter of having several conflicting facts from alternate sources. Sometimes you must draw inferences from several sources to form a conclusion. Suppose you have a hunch that a particular person is your ancestor. If you evaluate several sources, you may find proof to a reasonable degree of certainty that your hunch is correct. In other words you may be able draw a conclusion even though there are no explicit facts that prove it.

As an example, marriage records often list witnesses, their ages, and their relationship to the bride or groom. Evaluating the marriage records of two sisters may lead you to conclude that one of the witnesses who appears on both records is actually their brother. The age and hometown of this witness may lead you to conclude he is indeed your ancestor.

Therefore, besides citing individual sources for a given fact, you can also cite a conclusion. Simply document the steps that led to your conclusion, and name that as your source. Future researchers can then see your logic and verify it against your sources, and any new sources that may be discovered.