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Legacy and Sourcing: Lumpers vs. Splitters

The subject of source lumpers vs. splitters comes up all the time on the Legacy User Group (LUG) email list. Legacy user, Wendy Howard, posted the best explanation that any of us have seen and she received several compliments on it. Rather than try to explain it myself, I asked Wendy for her permission to post her email here. Here is Wendy’s response to fellow LUG Lister, Dennis. Great job, Wendy! 

Dennis' question:  

Okay folks, Newbie Dude here but, I'm seriously confused by all the options available regarding Master Sources and Details.

Since it is possible to do in both places, is it best to attach copies of documents (or pictures) to the "Master Source" or, as part of the "Detail" (using the Source Writer), which is the best place to use to add them? Specifically, I referring to attaching copies of Birth/Death Certificates, Census Pages, etc.

Wendy's reply:

It depends on how you use the Master Source, whether in your particular situation it is better to attach the image to the Master Source or the Source Detail.

An example... you have your great-grandmother's birth certificate. Ask yourself this question - do you set up a new Master Source for that certificate alone, or do you use a Master Source that covers all birth certificates for that country/state/county/whatever? There isn't a right answer here, only the answer that works for you.

Some people will set up a new Master Source for each certificate they acquire. We call that "splitting" on this mailing list; you end up with a lot of Master Sources this way. In this situation you probably won't use the Source Detail very much, and it's appropriate to attach an image to the Master Source.

Other people will set up a Master Source for all birth certificates they acquire of the same type, and then put the information specific to each item in the Source Detail. In this situation, I'd attach an image to the Source Detail, so that each citation has an image relevant to its use. We call this "lumping" on this mailing list.

I tend to do a bit of both. When I first started entering sources, I set up a separate Master Source for each certificate I had. Later on, when I'd learned more and thought about what I wanted, I changed to using one Master Source for all New Zealand birth certificates, and another for all New Zealand birth registrations (a copy of the Registrar's book, we're a bit different in this country!), and others for marriages and deaths, and repeat for England, and Scotland, and for each state in Australia from which I've acquired documents, and so on.

One day I might change all those early entries and get rid of the Master Sources that cover one piece of paper alone, but then I may never get around to that. Either way, the information is still stored and can be properly interpreted by anyone reading my data.

Where I've cited a book, I set up a Master Source for the book as a whole, and then in the Source Detail I put the information about which page a piece of information came from. Here, I could put an image of the book cover in the Master, and an image of a page in the Detail, if I so desired.

So think about what works for you, and go with that. Keep asking questions here - the program is very flexible, and there are usually at least two ways of doing something. Which is right, depends on your preferences and expectations.

Hope this helps. :-)


The LUG email list is a great place to get your questions answered. If you would like to join the group you can sign up HERE. It is the second option, Legacy User Group.


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I totally agree. When I started I put each source separately because I had not figured out how to do otherwise. Now for the Census I use State, County Year as a master source and then attach individual pages in the source detail. Sometimes I have families from two lines on the same or connecting pages.

Wendy, yo did an excellent job of explaining. Thanks.

To Dennis:
I agree with Wendy. While a definition of the "Right Way" to do things varies from person to person, there are of course 'better ways' to source these things sometimes, and that, as she said, depends on your needs, skill level, and desires.
Do whatever works for you. Probably the most important thing to watch out for is, as Wendy also mentioned, making sure your way is a clear one, where the trail can be followed by others in the future, and more importantly, you.

I try to lump as much as I can because it is a real timesaver :)

I'm definitely a lumper, but I'm a messy lumper... 2015 will be a "do-over" year for my family tree, including more organized and standardized Sources.
Great question!!

I am a Slumpper. Not by choice though. I find that using Legacy sourcing guidelines a bit different the Mill's and so it is confusing to me. So my sources seem to be organized but who knows. It will have towait untill I'm no longer around, then it may be too late.

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