How will I know if a source is good documentation?

+4 votes
in WikiTree Help by anonymous G2G Rookie (250 points)
retagged by Dorothy Barry

3 Answers

+6 votes
My mentor of 50+ years research and an authority on our surname in the US taught me - READ IT FOR YOURSELF.  This means you should find the document- a real image and anaylize - then compare it with the "index" or transcriptions of others to compare.

This is really the only way you can be sure.

Using the indexes on ancestry, etc, and the links on wikitree and other websites will lead you to the "real" thing down the line if they are correct - but you might have to purchase them or go to an LDS library that has microfilm to order the reels.  This is the tedious (and cost) of genealogy but the most FUN!

Happy Hunting Barb
by Barbara Roesch G2G6 Mach 4 (43.6k points)
A clarification on getting microfilm. It is no longer possible to order film at your local Family History Center. The only place you can look at film is in Salt Lake City unless the local FHC had a copy that had been previously ordered.

You can sometimes get non-LDS microfilm on InterLibrary Loan.
Thanks Doug, apparently things have changed . . guess I see why now that the internet is bulging with info!

Clarifying Doug’s comment a bit... it is possible to view digitized records at local Family History Libraries. Searching by film number will let you know if you can view it at a FHL.

Family history centers including affiliate libraries may retain their microfilm collections already on loan from FamilySearch after microfilm ordering ends (The last day to order microfilm will be on September 7, 2017.) All microfilm currently in circulation will be converted to an extended loan. Additionally, recent changes now make it possible to view many formerly restricted images in affiliate libraries as well as local family history centers.

(Copied from FAQ)

Thanks for clarifying. if you look through the Catalog, if the entry has a camera icon after it, the film has been digitized. If there is a key above the camera then you have to go to an FHC or the FHL. There are a few that are restricted to the FHL in Salt Lake City. If there isn't a camera on the line, then you can check to see if a local FHC has that film. If it doesn't you have to go to Salt Lake to use the film. We are going in December since our list of not yet scanned films we need has grown fairly large. Most are listed as only in the vault.
+5 votes
The very best are primary sources: birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial certificates, census returns, naturalisation certificates, wills and personal letters written by the person concerned etc. Oh, perfect world. After that come collections of material, authorative biographies, newspaper reports. "Told to me by my grandmother on such and such occasion" if it refers to something she experienced is good as is a report of anything you witnessed provided you add that you witnessed it. You'll probably have to put up with something less than that sometimes. User created Family Trees are not considered good sources as you cannot tell how good the author is. If they says where they obtained their  information it is better. Family Bibles etc are considered much more reliable especially if they were written at the time the events happened. You can use sources that others cannot easily see (books you own or websites people have to pay to see) but it is best if you report exactly what was said, for books add author, ISBN etc. Great that you asked this at the beginning. Enjoy.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (291k points)
Family Bibles can be great but do watch for everything being written at the same time (like when data was copied to a new Bible) since errors can creep in but they are still pretty good. In some cases, they are the ONLY record of births, marriages and deaths.
Thanks a lot, this confirms what I have know with first I built out from them, now am going back to confirm, and have found besides other trees there are no sources, so I am cleaning up my trees....
+6 votes
Some good answers already. One general rule of thumb -- the closer in time to the event that something was recorded, the better.  Birth certificates are good sources for births. Baptisms that occurred close in time to a birth are usually good but watch out for those that took place years later. Death certificates are good for death dates but be wary of any birth information on them.

An the biggy that was also mentioned -- don't trust the data in an index. Use it solely to find the original and read it yourself.

Bad sources are things like Ancestry trees that have no real sources in them. I've found trees that refer to another tree as a source then when you look at that tree it refers back to the tree that referred to it.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (447k points)
Thank you again, Doug :)
Circular sourcing is becoming a big problem, watch out for it.
More thanks, Mackinnon!  I hope this topic becomes a BIG one on wikitree!

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