I am probably going to start a riot with this post. But, I have a confession to make. I don’t input all those cumbersome source fields in my genealogy software and sometimes I don’t even know what they are for. There! I said it (Phew! That’s a load off my genealogy shoulders.)
I have used several different genealogy software programs over the years. I started with The Leading Edge, then PAF, Family Tree Maker, and Brother Keepers. I settled on Family Origins which was my favorite for a long time. When that was phased out I moved over to RootsMagic.
When I first started using genealogy software to keep track of my family tree, the source fields were pretty easy to use. There was usually a “pick list” name for your source, a descriptive field for the source where you typed in the source information, and the quality of the source (primary source and so forth).
I’ve noticed a couple of things in my years of inputting sources to genealogy software programs. First, they aren’t always compatible. My first experience of this was using the old DOS version of a program and upgrading to Windows. All my sources disappeared, much to my chagrin.
I reinput my sources into the Windows version of my software. When I eventually switched to Family Origins, I found that the source fields weren’t compatible! My sources were ending up in Notes fields. Sigh…I ended up reinputting them again.
Now, with RootsMagic I am finding that the number of fields needed to input a source keeps increasing. I learned how to write sources by hand from a genealogy course. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of RootsMagic. But truth be told, I haven’t a clue as to what to do with most of the fields!
Entering a source into RootsMagic includes these fields:
Pick List Name
Source (Enter exactly how you want printed)
Short version of source (optional)
Bibliography version of source (optional)
Personal File Number
Once you enter all those (with or without the optional fields), another screen comes up. You can then enter:
There is another tab for Multimedia, where I assume you can then scan the document and link to it. Once you’ve entered the source and go to the source page, there is yet another tab: Repository.
I don’t know about you, but seeing all these fields makes me feel like sources are a burden or a chore. I enter my data and then think “Oh great, now I’ve got all this to fill in”. I also find it confusing when one source applies to several people. What do I put in all those descriptive type fields?
So, I don’t. Plain and simple. I use the Picklist name and the Source field and that’s it. I type them in exactly how I was taught to write a source. Two fields, that’s it. Since I don’t use file folders and keep the document behind the family group sheet in my binder, I don’t feel the necessity to fill in every field. I usually have a copy on my computer as well, so I feel I am covered.
I know what you are going to say. Those fields are optional. This is true. Still, I have to wonder. By making the sources more complicated and tedious to input, I wonder how many genealogist give up on them? How many genealogist feel like it’s too confusing to have all those fields that sound kind of similar? How many feel that the task is too tedious? They may start out with a great attitude towards sources, inputting every one they have. Then they start to feel like sources are a chore and they input less and less.
I know many folks probably find those source fields very useful. I can think of many reasons why it would be great to fill in all this stuff. I guess I have a little different perspective. Since I am disabled, I have to use my typing time wisely. I’d rather get my two field version in than nothing at all.
Some day I may regret it. Those fields might become vital in ways I haven’t yet perceived. For now, given the problems that I’ve had
with compatibility, I would rather get the information into the
descriptive field than use other fields that some day may not be
compatible with the next software program I use. I want the task to be something I choose to do because it’s important to my research than a dreaded burden that I soon give up on.
You can throw your tomatoes now 😉
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com