The Importance of Sources in Genealogy

Submitted by ian on Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:11

It Happens over and over again, you catch the genealogy bug and you are itching to get started.  In the rush to get started, you add people to your tree, but you forget to add source information.  Ideally every single person in your tree will have at least one source record, indicating where you got the information on the person.  Dates of birth, dates of death, marriage, Census information all should have source information attached.  Adding an individual to your tree without adding the information about where you learned about the individual weakens the credibility of your data.  In addition to weakening our tree, if you ever go back to that individual (and you should) you might not remember where you got the information from.  Long story short, your tree is only as good as its source citations.

Looking at my goals this year I wanted to get the number of individuals in my tree above 2750.  After looking at my data, I am thinking that perhaps I had set the wrong goal.  Perhaps I should have decided to work on my source citations.  Using the software that my familytree runs on (Webtrees) I discovered that I had more than 50% of the individuals in the tree with no citations.  The program has a handy "stats" tool built in, and the stats on sources are ugly.  Take a look at the graph below:

That's 2368 Individuals, and only 1098 with sources.  I know my tree fairly well, and the only consolation is that I know that the many of those with sources are likely to have more than one.  If you take a look at the families, the source citations are even worse.  To date, I have 730 families in the tree and only 111 have sources.  This could be remedied quickly I think, because an 1850 or later US Census could serve as a source for the family, but I am pretty sure that I have very few documented in that manner.  

Perhaps I should have stated in my goal for 2750 people, I should have set the goal to have at least 75% of the individuals in my tree with at least one source citation.  While it is was not a stated goal at the start of the year, I do think that I am going to try to achieve that.  Let's see what happens.