Documenting Genealogy – A computer problem

Documenting Genealogy in any day and age is a problem. All to frequently information is undocumented. Even in our profession, years ago historians and researchers did a less than stellar job of documenting. Here are a few examples you may recall:

Books written that list a large number of sources at the beginning of the book, some good documented sources but others undocumented and all lumped together at the front of the book. Then the genealogies (Pedigree charts, family group sheets with names, dates and places) are listed but the specific sources are not identified. Ugh! What a shame!

Our perhaps you’ve seen a family group sheet/book of remembrance sheet that lists a few sources on the bottom of the page but doesn’t identify the member of the family or individual that they pertain too or the specific event (birth, baptism/christening, marriage, death, burial, etc). Ouch! If that doesn’t bother you it should. Even from an education reporting standpoint.

Students are taught when doing research papers to quote their sources and footnote the specific points that pertain to them. Family history research and genealogical research is and should be done the same. Sources for each and every event, birth, baptism/christening, marriage, draft, divorce, death, burial, etc. Nothing new just how it should be done correctly.

So in an age of computer technology you think we’d improve. Unfortunately not.

Take all the leading genealogy software programs (PAF, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Maker, Legacy, Family Origins, Roots Magic, TMG, etc.) they all are flawed in the basic area of sourcing.

With many years of experience with software development companies the solution appears to be very simple. So why don’t they require it for every record creation/new name entry, event date or note. Most say it would make the product to difficult for people to use or they wouldn’t do anything if they had to. Is that a good enough answer? Don’t do it because people won’t buy my program if I force them to enter sources. In a market driven society that makes sense.

Solution – So why not make it a setup option. For those who are serious about sourcing it would solve the problem and for those who don’t care about sources they would go on as they have.

A Dream you say – Hopefully not – Here’s an idea.
How could software developers solve this –

When you first enter the genealogy program you create/enter your name or select from a list of users already entered. The program picks this up and takes the current computer date and time. (ex. Personal knowledge of James Clemans, 10/6/07 8 a.m. ) At least that way anyone looking at the source knows who entered it. If it came from someone else and they didn’t source anything, you would put them as the default source on everything until you have something better. At least you’d know where it started. A list of default sources or categories are provided in most software and are customizable so it wouldn’t take much. Can this problem be solved? We hope so, we plead for it to be so. If you work for a genealogy software company please make it so.

So lets all ask and be positive and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get what we ask for. Even though it may make us work a little more, it will be worth it, now and later.

[As of 2011 no software companies yet make sourcing mandatory. They do allow for lists of sources but don’t require events to be sourced yet.]

For Generations to come, James.

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