Sunday, December 22, 2013

Proving Your Pedigree

In my ward, I have been asked to teach a class during Sunday School on using Family Tree. I particularly enjoy using the Search Records link on the Person page as a way of researching and sourcing. I have always found Sourcing to be difficult, but this link has changed that. It has become easy and almost fun! Seeing the tally of sources for my ancestor increase, has almost become like a video game, bringing the satisfaction of improving your score. If you add a free and easy-to-use tool for sourcing online sources found on other sites, it just keeps getting better. I wrote the following handout for my class. Please note that my definition of "source" is just my definition. Better ones exist. If this handout is useful to you I invite you to use it or adapt it to meet your needs. You will probably want to add to it.
Note that Search Records allows you individually source multiple people on the same record by attaching it to one person, clicking the next member of the family and attaching it to them by name, etc. This is the preferred way of using sources.
Tree Connect does not seem to have that degree of specificity, you may need to identify the source as "James Watson household in the 1852 census, Edwardsburgh, Grenville, Canada West.", and then use the Source Box to attach the same source to all the members of the family. Tree Connect saves time and work.


Proving Your Pedigree

Sources are records that prove events and relationships, or provide strong evidence of them. 

Sources may be classified in these ways:
Primary sources are records created at or about the time of an event using information provided by someone who was present when the event happened.  e.g. birth certificate or marriage certificate, christening record from a church register
Secondary sources are records created at a later time. e.g. a census may be a primary source of relationships but a secondary source of birth information. A tombstone likewise.
Original Sources are original documents or photographic copies.
Derivative Sources are transcriptions or partial transcriptions of the document

Many good books have been written on sources. See Evidence Explained, by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Creating Sources in Family Tree
1. The easy way is to click Search Records on the Person page, find and Attach the source document.

2. An Alternative is to click Create Source in the Source area of the Person page and follow the prompts. This is much more flexible, as it allows you to use documents that are not online.

3. Tree Connect is a free tool that simplifies attaching online sources that come from online sites outside of FamilySearch, to Family Tree. Go to and drag the Tree Connect icon to your browser's bookmark/favorites tool bar.  Then when you find an online source you want to use, click on the Tree Connect bookmark, and follow the prompts to attach that source to the person.

The Possibility of Error
Even using the best sources does not eliminate the possibility of a mistake, but it sharply reduces that possibility. I had one line “proven”, based on finding the birth, marriage, and death records of my ancestor Elizabeth Goldring in a rural parish in Sussex, England. Then I received a photographic copy of a will that proved that the birth was for a different Elizabeth Goldring, who married in a different parish. Even using good sources, I had made an error. The marriage and death sources were for my Elizabeth, but the birth source was for someone else.
We do the best we can with the information available, and make corrections as needed.

What Should Be in Your Source Citation?
A source should identify the individual, the type of source record, where the record is found, and the key contents of the record. It should allow other researchers to find the same source.

Durability of Online Sources
Personal websites can have some of the best information one day and disappear the next day. Company and government websites tend to be more durable. FamilySearch has said that they will never change the URLs of the documents in their Historical Records collections. Some online sources are only available to paid subscribers. Get in the habit of quoting the key information as part of the source citation. That way the information will continue to be available, even if the source record disappears.

FamilySearch encourages the use of sources, but they are not required when reserving temple work.

1 comment:

  1. I like your handout and this article.

    You did not mention the fact that, when using Tree Connect, if you highlight the text in the source that you want in Notes, Tree Connect will add that automatically. The Copy button on FamilySearch landing pages of sources will copy the indexed text to your clipboard for pasting into Notes during the source creation process, but on other sites like, with no copy button, highlighting is very useful. I am a big believer in detailed notes. It is so much easier to keep track of things when they are right there to see on Family Tree, rather than having to go to the web page to see the indexed information. Sometimes I use a transcription of the source that I have made myself, instead.

    Another search tool I like very much is Roots Search, which is a Chrome Extension that appears (after you install it) next to the Bookmarking star when you are on landing pages in FamilySearch, FamilySearch Family Tree,, BillionGraves, FindaGrave and a few other subscription sites. Go to and search for RootsSearch for more information.

    I use Tree Connect and RootsSearch every day. They are great!