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More SourceWriter tips

A good friend emailed me the other day asking for my advice on which SourceWriter template he should use for a collection of obituaries and death records he was using. He mentioned that Athens County, Ohio has published all of their obituaries from 1900 until 2008.

Looking through the SourceWriter's list of templates (click on image below to enlarge), my friend did not see an entry for an obituary. That's when he emailed me.


He was right, there is not an Obituary entry in the list of templates, although the Newspapers template would cover this. However, one word in his email to me stood out - published. I asked him about this, and he said that the obituaries were published in a series of books.

Problem solved. The correct SourceWriter template to use in this case is a book.

Let's say that a book has a listing of marriage records for a city. In the book, you find an entry of an ancestor's marriage date. Which SourceWriter template should you use? Marriage Record? Artifacts? Book?

The answer is pretty simple if you know what you are "holding in your hand". At a recent genealogy conference, Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of Evidence Explained, (book upon which the SourceWriter templates were constructed) taught that for us to understand what kind of citation/template to use, we should first look at the source we're holding in our hand. Are we holding a marriage record or an obituary in our hand? Or are we holding a book that talks about a marriage record or an obituary? If it's an actual marriage record, then cite this source using the template for a marriage record. If it's a book, then use the book template.

A similar concept would apply for citing a digitized document that you find on a website. Let's say you found an image of a marriage record online. The rule of thumb here is to cite this as a marriage record. After selecting Marriage Records in the SourceWriter's list, and answering the first few questions, select Online Images as the medium.


If you're ever in doubt of which SourceWriter template to use, try to remember the reasons for which we cite our sources. We cite sources to document our findings for a) analysis purposes and b) to help you/others be able to retrieve the same source in the future. With this in mind, I believe that the content of the citation trumps the style of the citation. So if I'm not sure which template to use, I won't be hauled away by the citation police, unless I don't record anything.

Having said this, if you're not sure which template to use for the type of record you are consulting, you can always use the generic source templates (see image below). The available templates here should cover every type of source that you would consult.


I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is more important to record something about the source than to record nothing because you're stuck on which template to use. But, using the "what's in your hand" concept can make it easier to select the appropriate template. Of course, you can always contact Support or even get the advice of other Legacy users on our Legacy User Group mailing list. We've also published an article entitled Four SourceWriter Tips which has some other good ideas.

On a more personal note - I just love the SourceWriter. There are times that I'll sit in front of my computer with Legacy opened, and I'll open a person's Source screen and just stare. I love seeing my citations - I love knowing that they conform to standards and that they are consistent. I love filling in the fields and watching the bibliography and footnotes be created on the fly. Um...I'd better stop now, my wife might wonder about this other love affair I have.


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I have recently been working with the FamilySearch Pilot site, and really appreciate the images of the birth certificates, for Cook County, Illinois, for example. Following the advice in this article, I use the birth certificate format.

However, in order to retrieve the source in future, I think it would be helpful to have a place on the Source Detail for the FHL film number, and the Digital GS number, since more and more data will be digitized.

I would encourage Legacy to consider fields on the Source Detail for these numbers. Now I put them in the Notes section, but I have to remember to do so each time!
Still, I agree with the comments about the simplicity and clarity of the SourceWriter.

Jeff L. - the film number, digital GS numbers, etc. can be cited in the Credit Line section. This is where you cite the source's source.

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