What does the lack of a source imply?

+3 votes
184 views
There's been a bit of a discussion on changing current surname to a husband's surname.  I don't want to rehash that but one of the critical questions in deciding if that is a reasonable thing to do is, in my opinion, what the lack of a source for a given fact implies?  Is it an attempt to sneak in a possibly wrong "fact".  Is it an indication that a source can't be found?  Is it simply an indication that nobody has had the time to complete the profile by sourcing all the data items in it?  I have a feeling that ones opinion will vary a lot depending on both experience and temperament  I'll give my opinion (if I dare) after I see some other opinions..
in Policy and Style by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (406k points)
My own opinion is that sources are used to do something.  For the most part, on Wikitree, to create a tree.  And to create a tree you need to creat connections.  So if a source creates or augments existing connections, it's useful.  If it is useful for other purposes, like illustrating the changing mores of a society, not so much so.  So in a WikiTree context, censuses are wonderful, particular in the US Censuses from 1880 on.  They usually connect parts and sometimes all of two or even 3 generations of a family.  The ages and places work to anchor the connections through various censuses.  The same thing is true for Birth Certificates, Death Certificates and Marriage licences.  This is why City Directories aren't so valuable since they don't usually have links (except marriages).  Insofar as you can trust them, compilations like the SAR applications  which Ancestry.com has can be useful.  But they have some of the same problems as say Ancestry Trees.  

Well to get to the main point, I think not having a source for a particular relationship  is worse than having many sources for non connections when it comes to the WikiTree project.  Knowing who a person's neighbors are or what a person died of or even what a person is famous is is less important.  Now, everyone, including the WikiTree Leaders have things, often many things which don't hinge on the actual WikiTree goal, But when it comes to complaining of the lack of proper sources, I think the community interest should concentrate on connecting the profiles of people, and let the non-connection content reflect the personnel interest of those creating and embellishing the profiles.

3 Answers

+3 votes

Well, this is sort of oblique, but reading that discussion made me realize that the birth records for the children of Swedish peasantry in the 17th and 18th century that I regularly use as sources for Last Name at Birth almost never give a surname for the child. I just assume that the patronymic system rules from their first day in life so that they are born Larssons or Larsdotters. The surname (if patronymics are that) is usually not spelled out before the children grow up and leave home.

by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (369k points)
+10 votes

IMO, the lack of sources in a profile can mean any one (or more) of a number of things. 

  • This profile was created with the intent to come back to later with sources.
  • This is what the profile creator heard from family; PM may or may not care about documented sources.
  • This profile was dumped here as part of a gedcom, and the member has abandoned it.
  • And I'm sure there are others that I can't think of at the moment.

I really doubt that an unsourced statement is a deliberate attempt to "sneak" in bad information;  it's probably happened, but I think it would be rare.  Since part of the honor code is that we assume good intentions, the burden would be on the person claiming such.

And to return to the thread that  prompted this question -- I'm not going to bother specifically saying "CLN changed to husband's surname per xyz census records."  If someone doesn't believe me that ggg/grandma Jane Brown was listed as Jane Lambert after her marriage, they can go check the census themselves.   

Just my 2 cents, not adjusted for inflation.    :-)

by Nan Starjak G2G6 Pilot (245k points)
But if you don't cite the census (or whatever record that demonstrates the woman took the husband's name) then how can people check it themselves?
Jillaine, where did I say I don't cite census records?  You seem to have missed my point -- what I said was:

I'm not going to bother specifically saying "CLN changed to husband's surname per xyz census records."

Come to think of it, I don't think I've seen that on anyone's profiles.
Sorry, Nan, I read that as meaning you weren't citing the source for changing a name.

Are you referring to the reason-for-editing box that so few people use? I *wish* more people would write "changed CLN as supported by 1850 [or whatever] US census." Or at least something.

I've added comments there like "added est birth year based on marriage date".

I'd prefer that actual citations be embedded into the profile narrative.
+8 votes
When I add another last name to a profile, I do it because an additional name could lead to more sources.  Even if a woman did not use her husband's last name, someone and around her community probably did.  

On some profiles, I check the changes link.  On profiles that have no information and no sources, I probably wouldn't hesitate to add the name.
by Maureen Rosenfeld G2G6 Pilot (180k points)
Maureen, I am not married but I have a girlfriend that has been with me for about 20 years. Several times a month someone will call her my wife and say Mrs. Byers, so just because other people make that mistake by your standards she should have her CLN changed? Just because others make a mistake with a name is not a valid reason for all of us who are striving for accurate truthful profiles to make the same mistake without a source for the information.
Would you add her as your wife?   Because I would not add a last name if the people were not married.

But you do prove my point.   People make this mistake and assume that the woman living in your home is Mrs. Byers.  This would help people find information on her in 100 years.
No it would not. Because there are  NO records of her using that name. She does not use that and neither do I refer to her as my wife. My point is people are making assumptions about names that are going to multiply problems in the future. Yes they may find records of a Mrs. Byers married to me but it is not the person I am currently with. You are missing my point, assuming that a person used a name without at least a census record of them using that name is going to cause problems down the road when people no longer trust the accuracy of our data.

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