Source vs provenance: why not used to distinguish between true source and acquisition route, i.e. an unsourced gedcom?

+9 votes
A true source citation should lead to a primary, secondary (or later) source that can be traced back to the original information. On examination of what should then be explicit information, the idea behind having access to the original (or derivative) information, one is able to analyse and verify the information derived from it.

If, however, one wants to keep track of how one came to have a given piece of information, that is called provenance. Sometimes the two are the same, but often, provenance could be something unsourced such as a gedcom file with no true source data apart from its name.

From what I see on Wikitree, gedcoms data of this kind is being mistaken for properly sourced data.

Why is there no distinction being made between source and provenance in the source field?

This question gets to the efficacy of having a project such as Wikitree in the first place.

Thank you.
in WikiTree Tech by Upton Criddington G2G4 (4.1k points)
recategorized by Upton Criddington

4 Answers

+5 votes
Just how would you attempt to enforce such a rule?  I shudder to think about the problems it would cause.  Sure ideally WikiTree members would work toward producing true sources as well as the provenance of the source, but it takes time and there are way more people in the world that WikiTree is likely to attract highly qualified genealogists to enter.  But something is better than nothing and even in the 6 months I've been here there have been lots of inprovements.  And there are lots of projects in operation to improve profile quality.  Give yourself a break, read the help files and get used to how wikitreers do things and we hope you'll find yourself fitting in.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (406k points)
In short by a) deleting the provenance from the source field and placing it elsewhere, and b) inviting the submitter to cite the data properly using the usual standards of scholarship.

Which shudder is worse after all? Yours or mine.;)
There are over 11 million profiles on WikiTree.  Where do we find the manpower to do the things you're talking about?  We already have some projects like the Sourcerers to do that sort of things, but there will never be enough people willing to do it and with good experience.  The trick is to let people join, give them training (by doing) and help them gradually improve their sourcing so that they'll go back and bring their old attempts up to their own new standards.
With respect, I think you are missing my point. When a gedcom is imported, the provenance thereof should appear as such and not automatically as a source. If this were the case, no one would have to do any clean up as a gedcom without sources is still a valid provenance even if in my opinion such masses of unsourced data should not be something that Wikitree allows in the first place.
+7 votes
A lot of people want to use a very loose definition of a source as simply "where you got the information from".  That can make the concept of providing sources meaningless, and that is why we have way too many: sources that aren't sources.  And what goes along with that is bad data, sometimes physically impossible and it's even allowed in protected project profiles.
by M Anonymous G2G6 Mach 4 (47.1k points)
Such as profiles (entered manually) that list, under sources, just "ancestry," or ""  Not a particular database, or even the trees, just "ancestry."

Makes me twitch.
It may be that such people are in a rush to enter data and do so inadequately which should be discouraged.

They could also be seeking to hide the true source by obscurantism.

They could also be unwilling to share their work completely even though they may for some reason want to post their ancestors and kin or add in some way to those of others.

They may also think that they are somehow protecting's right to the index they used by fudging things a bit.

Doubtless there are others reasons for inadequate sourcing such as laziness or lack of understanding of what proper citations should look like.

Perhaps it's time to call a source a citation. That might make folk sit up and pay attention!;)
+6 votes

Hi Upton,  I don't believe there is a gedcom field for provenance, and I don't know if it would be properly used if there was.  So, that means that each such entry would have to be manually edited.  I am pretty busy adding sources to Unsourced Profiles ( I am working on Smiths now) so I am just glad for any information about a source or location for the data.  If what is provided is minimal, I try to add better sources.  

There are almost 12 million profiles on WikiTree and most could use some stronger sources.  Feel free to contribute some!  

by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (525k points)
Thank you Kitty. What I mean, however, is that gedcoms are being used as source citations when they are simply provenance, which is a misuse of the citation system employed in true scholarship. Genealogy should eschew such pseudo-sourcing.
Oh, you can delete the gedcom file statement and date.  That should be part of the gedcom clean up.  

Some folks don't know that each and every profile that is imported by a gedcom needs to be edited to clean up and delete uninformative comments.  There are a lot of useless comments that are part of each gedcom import.
Then you are in an even worse position. What I am arguing for is to place the gedcom of origin in a category listing provenance rather than making it a source citation.
ahhhh!  Then this is a WikiTree Tech question for the sysops.  They are the only ones that can edit how the data from a gedcom is processed.  Change the question category or ask again as a WikiTreeTech question so that the sysops see it.
Shall do. Thanks for the tip.
+1 vote

Thank you, Upton, for providing the word I had been searching for. Please review Martha Eugenia (James) Sargent to see how I put it to work. That profile is still a work in progress as I like to write narratives but ... it'll do for now until I can add some real sources.

by Debi Hoag G2G6 Pilot (275k points)
Nice work Debi. Slight problem with SHOUTING (all caps), but otherwise everything is according to Hoyle.
Oops, I caught some and missed others. It's hard because my preference is to spell the month out completely. I find that my eye slides right over the three character months. I'll fix them this evening.

"According to Hoyle", see Edmond Hoyle, the father of Whist, on Wikipedia, and elsewhere.

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