TIP #37



I have spent the better part of the last two weeks attempting to "source" my files, no small task.

Although I have been citing my sources all along, not anywhere near as completely as I could be, I truly wish I had started this or been more meticulous about this from the beginning.

As most all of you know, I will try to find the least complicated, but yet the most complete way of doing anything related to genealogy.

I have therefore started several different methods and for one reason or another have found them to be either confusing, to difficult to keep up with or not as easy to maintain accuracy on.

Of course, many of you may well ask...

What is the importance of citing your sources?

For each of us there is a different reason or a different viewpoint.

1. In the instance that you yourself may need to retrace your own research to find further information or verify something further.

2. When you are no longer around or doing research some other member of your family might attempt to further your research and may well need to know just where some of your information came from.

3. If you are passing along info to another researcher, they may ask "Where did you find that at ?" In this way you will be able to tell them with the best accuracy just where it came from and depending on the source, it tells you and the other researcher just how reliable those sources are.

4. To give credit where credit is due; some of your database may contain items that you yourself didn't locate or scrounge for, but rather something you obtained from another researcher who spent many hours/days in a courthouse. This gives the proper researcher credit that is due them.

5. Citing your sources also gives you some guidelines as to the records you have already checked and therefore don't need to waste time rechecking them when there was nothing or little found.

Now on to the procedure....

After much shuffling around as I mentioned, about the best way I have currently found is:

Take either a spiral notebook or create one out of loose leaf pages and a small notebook binder.

Beginning with your first file folder on a family name, meticulously sort through each page looking for what sources were used for each item stated. Record the name of those sources on your paper, giving each one a number.

Continue this procedure through all of your surname folders as well as any folders you may have on obits, death certificates, church records, etc. Whatever folders/notebooks you have.

THEN.. go through any of the various emails or information you have on your computer again listing these sources individually on your notebook page each with a number.

You will I promise you accumulate many, many sources. Some of them will be just one time sources, but many will be of the nature of the federal census, National Archives, etc; items you have/will use for many different individuals or facts in your research. Also don't forget in your sources to list the many different researchers that you have corresponded with as source references as well as older family members.

As you are doing this you can do the second part along with it, or you can go back and do it later.

If things have been done correctly, each item of research should have a source of some sort.

Using those little colored dots, or just using a pencil on the back of the pages (for a paper using only one source) place the corresponding numbers that you have listed on your source papers you just made. In the case that you have several items with different sources on one paper you can either use the little dots next to the item & write the number on there. Of course you will want to perhaps place this little sticker on the OUTSIDE of any plastic covering you have on any original documents.

Creating this system is in no way easy.

HOWEVER...once you have it completed and receive additional information, you can at that time simply lookup the source on your list and number that item upon receipt.

Keep your list handy and whenever someone asks "have you checked this source?" you can quickly check your list.

As I said, this is not simple to get going, but it is simple to maintain.

Of course, I am ashamed to say that there are those persons (which I am not one of) who have carefully cited their sources all along and won't need this listing thing.

It is also a great idea to maintain a "Correspondence Log" containing who you correspond with along the way and if their info/research standards are the same as yours or how quickly they replied if at all and what families they are researching, but that is another entry.