Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dear Randy: Why Do You Use U.S. Census Sources from Rather than FamilySearch?

Reader Judith asked this question in email recently, noting that U.S. Census records and images are available on both sites, in addition to Findmypast and MyHeritage also. 

My answer for Judith was pretty simple:   I decided about 12 years ago to use RootsMagic as my family tree program, and to use as my source for U.S. census images because they had all of the records at the time (except for 1940, of course). I essentially cited what I used at the time.  FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage did not have all of the U.S. census records online at the time.  

One reason I decided to use "free form" citations in RootsMagic was that with the built-in EE-quality source templates in RootsMagic (and other programs), I had to have a different master source for each county and Enumeration district.  With the "free form" template, I can use one "free form" Master Source for each year, then put the county and ED and the other details  in the Citation Detail field.  There is more typing in the Citation Detail, but a much shorter and easier to use Master Source list.  

I probably have 20,000 or more census source citations in my database, although I have only a few (about 30) master source fields to deal with.  I could change to FamilySearch as the Master Source in RootsMagic with little trouble, I think.  

The bigger question is "should I use free record providers for source citations when I can?"  I think the answer is that I should.  But that's another challenge - changing details like this is not a real productive task.  I'd rather be working with Hints for my tree people than fiddling with source templates.


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Steve K said...

Randy, thank you. I agree and also use free-form sources (in my case in FTM). I have one source for each US Census, NYS Census etc specifics are included in my citations. Further I argue that the source isn’t Ancestry or Family Sesrch but for the US Census is the “United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.” etc.

Larry said...

For those people who save images of census pages, I have found that FamilySearch usually has better image quality – sometimes vastly superior.