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Four SourceWriter tips

Legacy Family Tree 7.0 introduced the SourceWriter, a template driven sourcing system that makes it easy for you to select the correct input screen so that you enter all the pieces needed to correctly cite any source of information in the thousands of formats that exist for them. The information you enter is correctly and precisely formatted to match the genealogy industry standards for source citations.

Here are a few tips to answer questions recently asked on our mailing list.

Tip #1 - Faint instructions
The image below (click for larger) shows the Source Detail screen for adding information about an England birth certificate. Notice that each field contains faint, light-grey text providing a tip for what should be entered in that field. For example, the Registration District field's tip says "Type the registration district." So here you would type the registration district.

Did you notice that when you click in a field to start typing the information that the light-grey text disappears? This works as intended, but sometimes it would sure be nice to know what the text says, to remind you what you are supposed to type. The solution is simple. Just hover your cursor over the field name on the left and a yellow memo field will appear with the same instructions that are in the field. This is also helpful when there is not enough room on your screen to see all of the instructions.


Tip #2 - Where to find the NARA roll number for U.S. censuses
The SourceWriter templates for U.S. census records have a field to enter the NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) roll number. Most researchers consult these microfilmed records either online or on microfilm at repositories other than NARA, and thus the NARA roll number is not easily located. Here are a few tips:

Family History Library microfilm. If you are using microfilm at the Family History Library or at one of its centers, the place to go to locate the NARA roll number is the Family History Library Catalog. After locating the specific census in the catalog, click on the Film Notes button in the upper right. Click here for an example. In the notes section, both the series (T626) and the roll number are given.

Online images. If you are looking at a digitized image at a site such as, click on either the Back to Record link or the View Record link. The record contains all the "metadata" for the census image. In the Source Citation section, the roll number is the number following the underscore in the Roll section.

Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Bisbee Ward 1, Cochise, Arizona; Roll: T624_38; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 5; Image: 447.

Steve Morse's Microfilm Roll Numbers for the 1790-1930 Census. Perhaps the easiest tool to locate NARA roll numbers for all U.S. census records is Steve Morse's site. Here, select the year, the state, the county, and type in the enumeration district number (located on the census record itself) and the site will then display the NARA roll number and the Family History Library's roll number.

Tip #3 - Adding a Basic Style source
A recent update to Legacy added a new choice in the Source Type list. If, instead of using the SourceWriter to add a source, you want to use the basic-style source method, just click on the first choice, "Add a Basic Style source." This new option makes it simple to switch back and forth between styles. Of course, to use the SourceWriter, you need to have its option turned on at Options > Customize > Sources tab > Source Entry System.


Tip #4 - How to Consolidate Your Master Sources
The SourceWriter can be very flexible. Just because a field is provided does not mean that you have to enter information in it. For example, the 1906 Western Canada census has a field for the name of the province. Entering the province here would help you follow the guidelines as presented in Evidence Explained, but it would also add more sources to your master source list. Leaving this field blank would allow you to have just one master source that can be used for all of Canada for this census year. You could enter the province as part of the city field of the Source Detail: "Raymond, Alberta" for example.

In my personal correspondence with Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of Evidence Explained, she has used the term "the spirit of Evidence Explained," meaning that if we are consistent and trying to follow standards in our citations, we can be flexible with our use of the SourceWriter.


Do you have an experience with the SourceWriter that you think would help others? Leave a comment below or send us an email.


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On the Birth Certificate template, there is a space for "Certificate Number." We are having a hard time figuring out which of the numbers on each birth certificate WAS that number.

I'm still hoping to hear that there is something coming that will assist in converting my "old" sources to the new format. I have hundreds of sources (I've tried to be diligent ) but have no time to make all new sources using the new format. Any sort of time line on this?

Thanks for all your hard work. I LOVE Legacy!

Geoff, I am spreading the word about this informative and helpful news blog by tagging you on my blog with the "I Heart Your Blog" award. You can read about it at

I'm with Blaine. I've been diligent with my sourcing and have nearly 5,000 sources in the consistent formats I developed for myself prior to Legacy 7 (based on the principal that a citation is there to enable someone else to easily locate the document cited). I'm not using the new SourceWriter because I don't have time to convert my old sources, and I want to maintain consistency.


Response to the person asking about birth certificate numbers:
Contact the original repository for information. Different states or local counties have used different numbering systems at different periods of time. In Illinois, I contacted the County Clerk's Office for the explaination of the three different numbers at the top of a certified copy. Some of the numbers are stamped, some of the numbers are hand written, and some of the numbers are pre-printed. The staff was very helpful in answering the questions. The staff also explained that this is individual to the location. A standard for numbering certificates has not been adopted.

Like GenQueen and Sue, I too have been diligent with my source citations but do not have the time to convert hence, I do not use SourceWriter. Hopefully Geoff will come to our rescue.

I have been using SourceWriter since it was first introduced and absolutely love it. I too would like a means to convert the old sources over to the new format.

I am also somewhat dismayed that we can't create our own SourceWriter templates (and hopefully share with others) as some of the sources citations I use haven't been added to the list yet.

Brad - for now, you can use the steps outlined at to convert Basic sources to SourceWriter sources.

Just wanted to say that I love Legacy's Source Writer system. I began my Family Tree on Tribal Pages just using their online site. I knew nothing about sources. Since discovering Legacy & the beginners training videos I now try to diligently document all my sources. I still have quite a few ancestors that I can't remember where I found the information during my pre-Legacy days. Legacy is AWESOME!!! Thank you heaps for the great work you guys do.

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