I’ve Slayed My Source Dragon

I’ve Slayed My Source Dragon

I’m sure many of you have heard me lament about my problems with entering sources into genealogy software.  It is something that has literally driven me nuts over the last couple of years.

Here’s some background.  It might be something that many of you can relate to.  When I first started working on my family tree, I took a home study course through Texas Tech University.  The teacher was Christine Knox-Wood.  She was awesome!  I learned many things from Christine including how to write sources by hand, which was about all we had back in 1991.

A year or so later, I got my first genealogy software, The Leading Edge DOS version.  Sources were input into a box, nothing fancy.  One box, type in your source exactly how you wanted it.  A couple of years later, I changed to different software.  I think it was Family Origins DOS Version (or maybe WIN 3.1).  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is the conversion from Leading Edge to Family Origins wiped out my sources.   I lost them all.  That’s sources for 1000 people over two databases.  Poof! Gone.

I got sone of them back in over time.   But, whatever software I was using at the time had limitations on sources.  You could only input 3 per fact, which for a researcher like me who will look through 40 years of city directories to find every place one person has lived, was hardly enough.  A relative and I worked on a solution.  We input multiple sources into one box so that they could all be input.

This worked fine until I upgraded my software.  The next version of the software could handle multiple sources.  The conversion made a mess of my original sources though.  The decision to input multiple sources into one source box on the previous version turned out to be catastrophic.  I ended up with many sources that were long paragraphs jumbled together with no punctuation between them.   This meant going through all those sources again and cleaning them up.

At this point, I was just about defeated by sources.  I was still keeping them by hand in my binders thankfully because my software sources were an utter and complete mess.

Eventually I switched from Family Origins to RootsMagic.  While my life got more complicated, genealogy was going through it’s own transformations.  The standards and the way genealogy software handled sources changed between 1993 when I got my first genealogy software and the mid 2000s when I switched to RootsMagic.  It seems that while I was dealing with my health issues and later my dog’s leg amputation the whole approach to sources changed…and I felt lost.

By this time, I had sources half done one way, half done another, and half wiped out.  Math isn’t my strong point.  RootsMagic handled sources differently than Family Origins.  It took some time and some help from other genealogists for me to understand what the fields meant and how to use them.  There was a real conceptual problem for me because I couldn’t get how I wrote them to conform to the input fields.  It really did not make sense to me.  But, eventually, I grasped enough to start inputting again.

Then, my Dad got sick and I didn’t do much input for a year and a half.  This year for my birthday my family bought me RootsMagic 5.  I was really excited to have the upgrade and to be able to take advantage of the new features that bloggers were blogging about.  I love the RootsMagic 5!  The input screens are so much easier to work with.  Navigation is better.  There are bells and whistles that I enjoy using.  It’s  a nifty program if you ask me.

But…yes, there is always a but…As I sat down to work on my huge backlog of digital documents that needed inputting, I realized that I had to relearn inputting sources all over again.  The source input screen had been modified between versions.

Now, I consider myself a thoughtful researcher.  I will go the extra 200 miles to find that one document that might answer one question about a relative’s mother-in-law’s cousin.  I will find multiple documents on one person just so I can learn more about their story.  But, this source things was kicking my butt.

I was about ready to throw in the towel and give up on software sources forever last week.  It was taking too much time to figure out how to fill the fields, too much time to get through each source, and too much anxiety worrying over where the information was going to show up in my reports because I didn’t really understand what went where and for what reason.  I admit that I am a perfectionist when it comes to this type of stuff and it was really making me angry that I couldn’t get these darn sources!  I hate when I can’t understand something.

Sometimes it helps to vent.  I did so on Google+.  What happened may have saved me from myself.  I had what I consider a genealogy counseling session with another genealogist.  And, it did me good.  LOL

The conclusion…I’m inputting my documents again and I’m making progress.  I am also inputting every source for every document.

How did I slay my source dragon?  After chatting with the other genealogist, I came to realize that for me the important thing is that I have sources in my database.  A world without sources means getting asked questions and not knowing where you got the information from.  It means getting new information that doesn’t match the old information and not knowing where the old information came from.  That’s a recipe for disaster for any genealogist whether you’re doing it for pay or for fun.

I’m inputting my sources my way.  I use the templates when I can make sense of them.  I fill in the fields that make sense to me.  I use freeform option when I can’t figure out a template or I like my way better.  It bothers me that my old sources and my new sources will be different.  But, I have to accept this fact if I use the templates that they will be different.  I’ve got over 20 years of different in my database now and I’m just going to have to live with it.

Maybe some day in the future after I get through all 120 computer file folders, my 1940 US census notes, my Azorean binder research, and the French vital records that need inputting, I can go back and get things more uniform.  What I know is I’ve got to get this backlog input because I don’t even know what I have found anymore.  It may not be the most professional or accepted solution, but my thinking is that it is better to have all my data input with sources that might be slightly less than perfect than to have all my data input with no sources at all.  I will be able to find the original documents with these sources and so should anyone else who I share my data with.  It’s just that in some cases it won’t be up to standard.

I understand that some may cringe at my solution.  But, I am only one person fighting arthritis in my hands, feet, and shoulders and trying to find the best way to get through years of a research backlog without too much pain physically or mentally.  I have to do what I think is the best way to get it done…and it has to work for me.

You know what?  It feels good having slayed this dragon.  These sources have been weighing on me for a long time.  I’ve stressed over.  I’ve gotten frustrated.  I’ve wasted time.  Now I’m going to go back to my database, open a folder, and input some more documents.  Some day I will be done.  And, that day is going to feel pretty darn good!


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2 thoughts on “I’ve Slayed My Source Dragon

  1. Congratulations on slaying the breast! Your approach sounds very practical and similar to mine. “when you know better, you do better”. I’m now creating quality source citations but am not going to redo all the unstructured citations I created earlier. When I work on a family, I upgrade their citations as I go along,and that works fine for me.

  2. Yvette, Thanks! I think we all want to do things right. But, we all have to find ways that work for us. I’ve got a boatload of new entries to input and I want to get it done. Now I feel I can move forward. Once this is done, I can go back and fix what me and my software made a mess of years ago. Even if I never get that far, at least everything I input from today forward will have sources.

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