Sunday, July 20, 2014

Getting Organized (Part 4): Working with Sources and Linking Them to People in Your Tree

While I am on the topic of digital files within my tree, let's talk about how I deal with sources. With over 6,000 people in my tree, it is very easy to have lots of little things fall through the cracks.  Going through sources has allowed me to catch many of these things.  It has also made me realize how much more proof I had in my trees than I had realized.  Even though I am deleting plenty of duplicates or useless sources, I am still managing to have more facts attached to sources than I had before I began - and now I know that the sources are legit and worth keeping. I am sure that there are other ways to do things, and if you have a better way, I am always open to suggestions, but for now, this is how I do it (and since my brain has not revolted and told me to take a long hike off of a short cliff, my plan is to continue to follow this path).   So, let's dive in!

As you have most likely figured out from my last post, I use Family Tree Maker, so I cannot tell you how other programs work, but I would assume that most programs have places to go to look at and work with sources that you have found (you may just have to play around with it to figure out the specifics, but the basic concepts should still be applicable). Let's start off by looking at the basics of this area of FTM 2014.  If you don't have FTM, it's OK - keep reading! This is the only part that is solely relivant to FTM.
           * The arrow pointing up shows where to click to find your sources all in one place.
           * The arrow pointing down lists all of the TYPES of sources you have in your tree.
           * The arrow pointing to the left shows where you can link specific people and facts                 to each source.  It is also where you find the chain icon that allows you to delete a 
                fact that should not be linked.    
           * On the right side of the screen you will find boxes with specifics about the
               document (which are completely editable).  
           * At the bottom of the right side (I forgot to put an arrow), the last row of words 
              says "View Source Online."  When you download from Ancestry, the program should               automatically makes a  link for you in this spot.  "Should" being the key word here.

When I began, the first thing I wanted to do was to figure out if there was anything I had that was easy to see it could be deleted.  And I wanted this done before I started my detailed assessment.  So, that is where we will begin.........

I started by going through to find all of the source titles that did not have media or a specific website attached (in FTM, you can figure this out by looking for the little scroll next to the source).  No scroll means no image, so I wanted to check to make sure I really needed the items listed with no scroll.  In the image above, you will notice there is no scroll next to the highlighted source and the arrow pointing down shows that there are no source citations, which means that there is no one attached to this source.  This meant that I absolutely didn't need this source!  I clicked the source one more time to make sure it was highlighted correctly and then hit the delete button on my keyboard.  It asked if I really wanted the source gone, I confirmed, and voila - it ceased to exist.  One down, now on to the next one!  I discovered that most of the sources without the scroll had nothing attached, so getting rid of those was pretty easy and quick.  (Note: To delete a source from the left column on the screen, you have to hit the delete button on the keyboard.  The delete on the screen found in the top right section will only delete source citations).   

Next, I moved on to Family Trees.  When I started doing my genealogy, I used other people's trees to help me build mine. I added trees and documents as they popped up on the leaves, thrilled with anything I found!  As I got farther into my research, I learned more and discovered that, although other people's trees are great places to jump off and may have some great information, they are NOT documentation.  Because of this, I do not use them as sources.  I deleted every source link for every tree that was listed as a source citation and got rid off all evidence that any other trees had been used.  This made it MUCH easier to see if I had REAL sources to prove what I had in my tree, which was wonderful!

Once those steps were complete, I started going through each source, one by one.  I decided to just take the bull by the horns and began at the top with the Censuses.  I realized pretty early on that I was quickly becoming overwhelmed and would never finish because of frustration, so I decided to stop midstream and went to the bottom to work my way up. MUCH better decision!  The censuses provide a TON of information (which is awesome!), but that meant that I was spending a lot of time on each one, and I felt like I was losing a relay to an undersized slug! With so much to do, this was NOT the time to get discouraged!

As I moved through the sources, I discovered a few things and thought I would share:

1.  When adding a source through, the option is given to link the source to specific facts for a person, but many times you can find more information that can be linked than was originally offered. There are also times that the program creates a duplicate fact when linking the source.  By going through each source and source citation separately, I was able to catch these mistakes.

2.  Sources and Source citations can be linked to specific facts and not just to a person in general. Media items can do this as well, but I felt like linking media items to more than just the person seemed to be slowing my program down, so I decided to leave the fact linking to sources (which works great!). I also made the decision to link EVERYTHING that was relevant to each source and am happy with this choice so far.  For instance, death certificates list a person's death date and place, birth date and place, parent names and sometimes their birth places, the burial date and place, cause of death, and the witness's name and residence (which can sometimes be a relative). When reviewing a source, If I didn't have the information found within it already listed for the person, I switched to the person view, added the information, and then went back to the source view to link it.  I even linked the "Also Known As" for many people if the document called the person by anything other than a full name or two initials before the last name.  If the information found in a source didn't match the fact I had, I either added an alternate fact that I could link it to or, if I knew that what the source stated was a mistake, just didn't link the source to that fact.  You can see below a list of multiple people attached to a city directory page, which tends to be another source that can give a wealth of information.

3.  There were some sources with a scroll next to them that had no online link (the arrow pointing to the right in the picture below is where the link should have been).  This source was for "Public Tree Stories."  It had one source citation that was attached to two facts (Stephen Hipp Sr.'s name and birth), but I could not figure out a way to get to the story to see what it said, so I clicked the picture of the chain right above Stephen Hipp Sr's name, removed the links, got rid of the source and moved on.  I figured if it was that difficult to find, I didn't need it and it needed to go.  It was very liberating!

4.  I discovered that it is not uncommon to find multiple family members listed on one page of a city directory, and sometimes I had a source citation for each person (meaning multiple copies of a single directory page).  Other times, I had only one source citation because I hadn't come across the hints for the other family members yet.  Here is my thought on this - I don't need every single person to have their own source citation when every one of the citations is documenting the exact same thing!  One copy is plenty - especially when I can link as many facts as I want to each source citation.  So, if I had more than one copy of the exact source citation (you can figure this out by clicking to see the source online and then clicking to see the original copy), I used the source citation with the summary page of the oldest direct descendant (IF that was one of the source citations I had to choose from), and deleted the others.  I then attached each relevant fact to the SINGLE source citation that I had kept.  I do not care that the online summary page does not show every person's name at the top.  The original copy is the only thing I care about and pay any attention to.

Since I am the QUEEN of making a short story long, I am going to stop for now.  I will try to talk about how I handled The Sons of the American Revolution Applications and US Censuses as sources in separate installments along with anything else that comes to mind. So, Happy Source Cleaning!  (Don't forget that drink - you will need it for this one!)!  BUT, you will feel SOOOOOOOO great knowing exactly what you have!  Getting this part organized will allow you to have a much better grasp of where you have already searched so that you don't spend time researching the same things over and over and over again!  It will also help you know where you REALLY have holes in your documentation where you still need to find evidence to prove what you have in your tree.


  1. Can u tell me what a source is and how u doba source I don't understand the sourcing thing I have family tree maker 2014 also thanks for any help . I've been working on organizing my genealogy for couple hours a day so I won't burn my self out . thanks

    1. Jeannie - A source is documentation (such as a census, death record, draft registration, city directory, marriage certificate, or book - really it can be anything) that you can use to prove something in your tree. If you still have questions, email me at and maybe we can set up a "phone session." :) It is definitely a great idea to not do too much in a day! It can make a big difference in keeping you from burning out! Keep me posted!

  2. If you use another researchers data from a published book (eg. a book you have bought following a family reunion etc) do you use the book title, author, publisher etc as a source? - I have, if only so that is later down the track someone comes back at me that something is definitely wrong I know who to blame lol

    1. I do! You are doing great if you have gotten that far! I have plenty of book sources that need to be plugged in. What I talked about in this post was the first step that I knew I needed to take before I dove into entering new sources on my own, and I am still plugging away with this first part. Adding my personal books manually is definitely on my to do list!!!! My hope is to do a post on that eventually, but I still have a way to go before I am ready for that step and didn't want to write about anything I haven't done yet (in case I find glitches!). I have added a personal source before, though, so I didn't feel completely unqualified to reply. :) I could do this step now, but am hesitant to add new sources at the moment when I haven't finished going through everything that is already there. I'm so impressed that you are where you are in your journey! Keep it up!

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  4. Hi Jenna-
    I just found your blog entry on source citations for FTM. Thanks for the great post! As I've been pulling out my hair for the past several weeks as I try to figure out how (or if) to use the FTM source citation templates, I especially liked your statements: "I figured if it was that difficult to find, I didn't need it and it needed to go. It was very liberating!" I'm still working on it, but went back and at least deleted the source entries without the scroll on the left. So I've accomplished SOMETHING in the past 2 weeks. I've also been pouring over Russ Worthington's great ftmuser blog as well as the FTM 2014 FB user group. I'm still a bit flummoxed about what Ancestry puts in the 'citation detail' part of the source citation it creates when you attach a record and sync, and how that gets translated to the reference note. The reference note is my real interest as I want to be able to publish a pedigree chart with source citations, which I understand will be the reference note. I also have many duplicate source titles. Don't understand how that happened.

    1. Thank you for checking out my blog! I am thrilled to know that you found this post helpful! Let me know if you think of any other tricks to keep up with the millions of sources that seem to find their way into the tree. :) Many minds and all that....