Thursday, August 23, 2012

Do You Source Your Person's Name? Spouses? Parents?

I was watching Geoff Rasmussen's interesting Webinar on "Researching with Geoff - Live!" today (available for free until 28 August 2012), and noticed that he does many things during data entry in his database that I don't do.  I probably should do them, but I don't.

One of the things that he does is provide a source citation for the Name of his Person, and also for the Relationship to the Parents of a Person.  That seems very logical, but I haven't done it in the past.

What records should I source to a Person's Name?  Logically, a birth record, baptism record, marriage record, death record, burial record, I guess, since all supply a person's Name.  Even census records, military records, etc.  But I already source them to the Fact.  Why would I want to source them to the Name?  The most logical one to source to Parent's Names is the Person's Birth Record.

I do have some records where the only information I have about a Person's Name, or their Parent's Names, is a Marriage Record, a Death Record, or an Obituary Record.  I guess that makes sense to source the Relationship to the Parents.

What about Marriages?  I have source citations for the Fact of a Marriage - should I source the same Record(s) to the Spouse Fact in my database?

RootsMagic 5 provides a Note and Source button for the Name, Spouse and Parents Facts.

What about Given Names, which can often be numerous - First Names, Middle Names, Nicknames, Initials, etc.  I haven't been adding them to my database either - should I be?  I really dislike seeing a long list of Alternate Names in the Fact List.  But each name used to identify a Person should probably be included in the database (which can make the Fact list very long!).

If I provide a Source for the Names and Relationships, shouldn't I also attach the Media Item in the genealogy database also?

I guess what I'm asking here is - What is the Standard for Name entry in a genealogy database/family tree, and for sourcing Names, Spousal Relationships, and Parental Relationships?

I found a useful document titled "Getting It Right: Data Entry Standards for Genealogists" by Judith Schaefer Phelps (2010) at  That addresses names, dates and places, but not sourcing names and relationships.  She refers to a book:

Slawson, Mary H., 2002, Getting It Right: The Definitive Guide to Recording Family History Accurately, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 263 pgs.

The National Genealogical Society has short documents titled Standards for Sound Genealogical Research, and Standards for Use of Technology in Genealogical Research, but it doesn't address my Source the Name/Relationship issue I'm discussing herein.

Can someone point me to a discussion of these somewhere, preferably on the Internet?  Or tell me what they do, and why?

Last thought:  I wish I had thought about this 20 years ago!

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Unknown said...

I never really thought about it until I read your post, but I do source the names of individuals IF I discover them BECAUSE of a source (like if I don't know all the names of the children until I look at the census record, or church record, etc.), but now that I think about it, there are probably a LOT of names in my tree that aren't sourced. I'm starting to wish you had thought about this 20 years ago too! :)

Elyse said...

I don't source a name UNLESS it is in the case where a name changed (like with immigrants that Americanize their names) or for women that marry a ton of times and therefore, their names change regularly. This is really for my own sanity - because I need it to be clear when a person's name changes.

In the notes section for an individual, I often add where I got the names of the parents or my reasoning for it.

My goal is just to be able to figure out where I got the information from so I don't have to go searching for it a thousand times. If I have a birth record for an individual, I can bet that the parental information is on it and therefore, rather than going through the trouble of entering into the notes and such.

That's my two cents.

GenealogyDoug said...

I enter and attach the source information to every name variation in Legacy's Alternate Names. That way I can tell which record provided that information. Otherwise how would I know where I found: Elizabeth BROECKER; Elesabit MELTHINE; Mrs. Edward BROECKER; Elisabeth WILLIAM; Mrs. Henry BROECKER; or Elizabeth H. MELLENTHINE - all refering to the same woman? For my own purposes I try to identify the full baptismal name of each person and that is what I put in the given name field of my Legacy software. Ultimately when writing about an ancestor I'll use the name by which they were most commonly known, often the name that appears with their death records.

Tonia said...

I source both names and the sources that I used to connect the individual to their parents. I use the "Note" for the person's Name in RootsMagic and divide it into two sections:
here I put all the name variations I've found and a brief name for the source (the full source citation is in the source field)

Connection to parents:
here I put each source that I'm using to identify this person as a child of these parents, again with a brief name for the source.

Cousin Russ said...


I had another question for Geoff, but to answer your questionns:

I Cite the Name as it was recorded in the source where I found the person. I have many people with many Name FACTS. It reminds be what that source said.

As to relationships: as you know, not every genealogy database management programs have the ability to put a citation on a relationship, or, there isn't a relationship "fact". But since this IS clearly an issue, I use Fact NOTES to record what that source said the relationship was in that document / record.

I guess I was lucky, I started citing all facts with citations, so that hasn't been an issue for me. I think it also helps, because I have always gone by my middle name, as did my grandfather. I have found my grandfather listed 6 different ways. So, if I look at the citation for one of those specific listings, I know what I will find in the source document.

Both of these items, citing names and relationships, were very helpful for me in a case study I did last summer, using Inferential Genealogy.


Debbie Parker Wayne, Certified Genealogist® said...

Randy, I do source names and relationships, but not using the mechanism provided by my software program. I don't source common nicknames like Ben or Benny for Benjamin other than recording the name used on the document in the source citation.

Before using a name or relationship source mechanism in a software program, I would print several reports with different options to determine how the data prints and how hard it is to modify or delete. I want an option to enable or disable the inclusion of these sources in output. Depending on the purpose of the output report, I may or may not want to include these sources.

I try to think about how I will use the database as a research tool for evidence analysis, how I will use the output from the database, and how the data might transfer to a new database as I determine how best to input the data. For my model, I look at how things are handled in articles in scholarly journals and try to get similar output from my software to reduce the manual modifications needed before sharing or publishing. I don't give GEDCOM files or copies of my database to others.

Unknown said...

Randy, I do source names; I record the source where I first find mention of the person. I don't always record and source alternates, depends on how unique the alternate is. I don't always remember to source the parental relationship.
The basic premise that every fact should be sourced is one that I try to follow. That being said, name and parental relationship are the ones I am most likely to miss!

Beth Benko said...

Randy, I always source names and parental relationships. Geoff has taught me well! I recently applied for a lineage society (Settlers and Builders of Hamilton County (Ohio)) and having the sources for parents was absolutely essential.

Barbara Renick said...

I have been doing this in PAF notes as a tag since before PAF had source templates. Names get spelled so many different ways in different types of records, I need to know where a particular spelling came from to answer other researchers' questions or perhaps help them determine name useage for an ancestor.

I have also been teaching people to source relationships (parent & spouse) for a long number of years and bemoaning the lack of source templates in personal genealogy databases for those relationships.

GeneJ said...

Hi Randy,

Wish I could "like" or "plus" the comment by Debbie Parker Wayne.

My citations do commonly reference the name as it was found in the source. It sounds like I might have more nicknames in my file than Debbie does.

As Debbie said, "For my model, I look at how things are handled in articles in scholarly journals and try to get similar output from my software to reduce the manual modifications needed before sharing or publishing."