Early family group records filed at the Family History Library provided a small box at the bottom of the sheet for “source information.”  The most common source cited was “family records”.  This is like describing ingredients to make a chocolate cake as “stuff from the pantry.”  Some researchers may think that defining family sources as “family bible”, “letters from cousins”, and “cemetery inscriptions” might be sufficient, but general terms such as these are like defining cake ingredients as chocolate, flour, and oil.  Even worse is when the source cited is someone else’s undocumented information, which is like saying “the stuff someone put in my cupboard.”  Wow, that doesn’t even sound safe to eat.

Documenting Genealogy Events

Documenting a genealogy event means finding an accurate record or selection of records defining that event.  Many if not most historical documents exist because a human being has recorded information.  However, all people make mistakes, and it is often necessary, or even wise, to combine several sources to establish an event that is as close to accurate as possible.

An ancestor’s birth may have occurred prior to when government vital records were kept.  Consequently, birthdates may be drawn from… a family Bible, a death certificate, a newspaper birth announcement, a church christening record, a census record, a military pension file, a tombstone inscription, school records, driver’s licenses, and dozens of additional possibilities.  Each one of these sources were made for a specific reason, which reason can affect the validity of the information.  Generally speaking, resources closest to the event, and reflecting the testimony of a witness to the event, primary sources, are the most correct and sought after.  Ten researchers could find ten different sources with ten different sets of information about the same event.  Each one of those accounts is valuable information if it is considered within the context of the time, place, and people involved. (Part 4 to follow)