Thursday, August 21, 2014

Family Trees on - Post 3: Source Citations

I posted  Family Trees on - Post 1: Creating the Tree, and Basic Navigation  on 198 August 2014 (in which I uploaded a GEDCOM file into a new tree on FindMyPast, and looked at the pedigree chart and the Profile for one person, with details on the "Overview" tab) and Family Trees on - Post 2: Navigation Aids and Profile Tabs on 20 August 2014 (in which I showed different navigation methods and the rest of the Profile tabs).

I want to highlight source citations in the FindMyPast Family Tree system because they are of significant interest to me and others.

And there is a significant problem with them.  

1)  The process to find source citations is easy:

*  On the person Profile page for my grandfather, Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942), on the "Fact and Events" tab, there is a list of Facts/Events.  Each Fact/Event has links to Sources, Media, Notes and Links, as shown below.  When you click on the "Sources" link, the screen expands to show all of the Sources for the Fact/Event:

I have five sources for the Birth Fact/Event for my grandfather.  For each of them, if you run your mouse over the area, there is an "Edit" icon and a "Trash" icon on the right side of the screen for each source.  I clicked on the "Edit" icon (in blue above) for the first source and a popup box with the Source information popped up:

There are three fields shown on the popup window above - titled "Source," "Reference" and "Notes."  The text inside the "Reference" field says "Reference (e.g., page number, web link, etc.).

The text inside the "Source" field above is:

"Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1915," indexed database and digital images, New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors (

2)  That is only part of the source citation - it's what several software programs call the "Master Source" part.  The "Reference" field on the screen above should provide what some software programs call the "Source Detail" part of the source citation.  

For instance, here is the RootsMagic screen for this particular source citation (in Free-form format), showing the "Master Source" fields for "Footnote," "Short Footnote" and "Bibliography," and the "source Detail field showing page number, etc.  

So it appears that the FindMyPast sources provide only the "Master Source" component of the entire source citation provided in the GEDCOM file.

3)  I created a small GEDCOM file for my grandfather so I could figure out what is happening here.  

In the GEDCOM file created by RootsMagic (which is similar to that created by many other software programs and online trees), the source citations are in two separate tags:

*  The "Source Detail" is in a PAGE tag (associated with a SOUR tag for the "Master Source") as shown below in the BIRTh Fact section of the GEDCOM file:

On the screen above, there are five SOUR tags with PAGE tags for the BIRTh fact.

SOUR @S277@ is the source for the PAGE which is the "Source Detail" in the section above.

*  The "Master Source" part of the source citation is provided near the end of the GEDCOM file (because a Master Source can be used many times, so they are all clustered at the end of the file).  Here is the GEDCOM file text for Master Source S277:

4)  For the source citation being analyzed in this post, the "Reference" field on FindMyPast should contain this text:

Births: Volume 279, Page 311, Leominster, 1876: Fred Walton Seaver entry

The complete source citation ("Master Source" and "Source Detail") should be (Footnote style):

"Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1915," indexed database and digital images, New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors (, Births: Volume 279, Page 311, Leominster, 1876: Fred Walton Seaver entry.

5)  I hope that FindMyPast will correct this problem - if they perceive it to be a problem.

How did this happen?  I don't know.  Perhaps the programmers picked the wrong GEDCOM tag to assign to the "Reference" field and the problem can be easily corrected. (If that's the case, then everyone who has uploaded a GEDCOM will probably have to upload it again.)

Please note that I use "Free-form" source citations, not multi-field source templates based on Evidence Explained models, for almost all of my source citations.  When I created the GEDCOM file for the FindMyPast tree, I unchecked the box for "Extra Details (RM specific)" in order to avoid GEDCOM transfer problems with RootsMagic source templates.

6)  As an aside, the current GEDCOM file form, being a text file, is easy to analyze to determine how information gets transferred from one program/online tree to another.  As a non-programmer, I can usually figure out how things like this happen.

7)  In the next post in this series, I'll look at how the Search function interacts with the FindMyPast Family Tree.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy,

This is Phil Moir, Technical Lead for the Findmypast Family Tree development team. I have really enjoyed reading your posts on the new Family Tree tool on Findmypast. Yours is the first independent analysis of our the tree, and am glad to see that it is mostly positive.

You are correct to point out the minimalist source information that is currently displayed. As a genealogist I am very keen to make sure we handle sources right for both beginner and experienced users. For the early releases, the business wanted to favour the beginner user and not overwhelm them with source fields, so we eventually agreed on 3 fields to display, which are the title of the master source, the URL or reference to the source, and personal comments. Under the covers, we have the common three tiered structure of source repository, master source and individual source/citation. These three objects have all the properties we believe are used by the main genealogy apps. At present when you import a GEDCOM the majority of your source data should be pulled in and stored and will (hopefully soon) be available through advanced screens.

You can see the list of Master Sources and Source Repositories from the Settings - List pages, and the functionality on these will improve as we continue to develop the tree.

I hope this helps to explain where we're at in the development of the family tree tool and that we are hopefully on the right track for supporting full citation detail.

We'll also take a look at some of the potential inconsistencies you mentioned, and let you know if we make any changes.

Thanks and regards
Phil Moir