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Sourcing your Family Tree

How to do genealogy research - tips from members who have been there, done that ...
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Posts: 354
Joined: 02 Jun 2020, 18:19
Location: Lincolnshire, but Hampshire born and bred!

Sourcing your Family Tree

Post by meekhcs »

My absolute pet hate regarding Family History is the number of Trees on subscription websites that are unsourced and/or incorrect!

Please, when starting out on your Family History journey, DO Not copy from other people's Trees unless the fact you copy is properly sourced by the Tree holder. Just because 10 trees all have the same fact it doesn't make it right. If you do copy then please make note that the fact is unsourced.

I am not going into the specifics of sourcing in this piece but would point you towards the following website
Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to ...https://www.evidenceexplained.com

This website follows on from the " Sourcing Bible" EVIDENCE EXPLAINED by Elizabeth Shown Mills. A weighty book that takes sourcing to the nth degree. Many of us devise our own short form version of Elizabeth's methods.

The most important thing to learn is to distinguish between Primary and Secondary sources. To add a fact to your tree you should find at least one Primary source eg a birth, marriage or death certificate, or a baptism, marriage or burial in a parish record, something that is written 1st hand on the day of the event or very shortly afterwards. A Secondary source would be the same fact but backed up by a second hand fact eg. A transcription of Parish Records on a website.

There are many more examples of Primary and Secondary sources on the website above. Try and find as many primary and Secondary sources that you can for every fact you add to your tree. If you cannot find a Primary source then mark the fact appropriately.
Posts: 293
Joined: 14 Jun 2020, 01:43

Re: Sourcing your Family Tree

Post by Thunder »

I agree totally, primary sources are the best sources and don't necessarily follow what had been transcribed into 'Calendars' of records (carried out hundreds of years ago) or the Victorian County History known as the VCH. The VCH stated that my great-great grandfather was alive after 1874 even they had already mentioned his death in 1874, the fact that his son had the same name did confuse issues but which should have been obvious. A lack of citations on family trees is not helpful for people who might want to trace that information, always cite is my request, that also applies to any historical document consulted.
Mick Loney
Posts: 255
Joined: 15 Jun 2020, 07:27

Re: Sourcing your Family Tree

Post by Mick Loney »

Always check the sources shown in a tree, before accepting/copying data from it. I’ve seen trees where owner has ignored the evidence of their own sources!

Two examples that come to mind are
A) A tree contains a parish register entry for a marriage, yet details don’t match the tree e.g. groom’s father is shown as Fred, whereas tree shows it as William, indicating that perhaps they have attributed the wrong parents for the groom!
B) it contains a 1939 Register entry for a person, along with a burial record and GRO reference which indicates they had already died in 1923!

Don’t forget that people lie or make mistakes so treat your sources with care. Even your prized GRO BMD certifcate may contain errors, birthdays may have been fudged to avoid a fine for late submission, or vicar had a brain freeze when completing register entry of a marriage, entering grooms name instead of his father’s name.
That’s why you need as many sources as you can find to prove your indivual facts
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