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 Documenting Your Sources

Any discussion about sharing your research with others includes a conversation about providing your source materials. Without documented sources, your grandchildren or others will begin to wonder whether you were a proficient genealogist, whose data they can trust, or whether they need to verify your work by searching for sources themselves. You can save a lot of effort on the part of others if you will document your sources.

While this discussion will focus on Ancestral Quest (AQ), most of the concepts also apply to Personal Ancestral File™ 4.0 and 5.x (PAF). Users of that software may also want to read this article.
First of all, as a user of AQ 12, you need to be aware that you can work on either a PAF 5.x data file (*.paf), or AQ’s own database (*.aq). For most aspects of the AQ program, you will notice no difference in working with one database or the other. However, when working with source citations, there are significant differences. This article will point out those differences. For PAF users, be aware that unless otherwise noted, you document sources in PAF 5.x in the same way as AQ when using the .paf database.

To guide you through the process, let’s tackle a case study, wherein we have just found two documents providing information on a family. We will enter the family into AQ, and as we do, we will document the sources of the information.

This study will address the family of Hopkin Mathews and Margaret Morris. The first document we encounter is their marriage certificate, shown in Fig. 2. Let me interject here that there are two methods that can be used to attach source citations to events. The first is to select the event, then attach a source to it. The second is to select the source citation, then attach events to it. The latter method is only available if you are using a .aq database.

From this marriage certificate, we learn that the husband’s name is Hopkin Mathews. So we would first enter him into the database. At this point, we can click on the ‘S’ button to the right of his name, to enter a source for his record. This will invoke the screen shown in Fig. 1. You have two options here: 1) Select an existing source from the list of sources; 2) Create a new source. Since you know this source has not yet been entered, you would click the Create button. This will bring up the screen shown in Fig. 2.

Notice a few things about this screen:

  • Select a type for the source. Later, when you are looking through a long list of sources, AQ will let you specify a type of source to browse. So instead of looking at a list of 2,163 sources, you are looking at a list of only 43 marriage registration records.
  • Attach an image of the source. You will be able to view a thumbnail image of it on the source definition screen, and you can also view a larger image of the source.
  • Use the ‘Guidelines’ section of the screen. As you move from field to field, AQ will give you some suggestions on what might be appropriate for that field for that type of source.
  • Use the magnifying glass icons next to the Actual Text and Comments fields to allow full-screen editing of these fields.
  • Select a quality rating for the source. This record receives the top rating of Direct/Primary Evidence.
  • Use the Sample Footnote section at the bottom of the screen. As you enter information in various fields, the sample will show you how the source will appear in a footnote on reports. (This can help you both on this screen and on the Source Citation screen as you enter volume, page, date information – watch how the footnote is shaping up. If you need to make an adjustment to a field to get the reference to look right, play with it until you are satisfied.)
  • Fill in the Short Title and Abbr. Author fields. The full title and author will appear on the first reference to this source in a report. The shortened versions will appear in subsequent references on the same report.
  • Observe the Additional Info field. This is rarely used, but is sometimes necessary. For example, a typical entry for a book might be printed as "Brown, John, The Settling of the Mohawk River Valley (Bellwether Press: Pittsburgh, 1784)." Observe that the title is printed in italics between the author’s name and the publication information shown in parenthesis. Now note this entry: "Shultze, Heinrick, German Migration Patterns, trans. Schmidt, Eric (Atlantic Press: Trenton, 1816)." In order to place "trans. Schmidt, Eric" between the italicized title and the publication facts in parenthesis, we use the Additional Info field. This field is only available if using the .aq database. The .paf database does not support this field.

Once you finish filling in this screen, click the OK button. The source will be created, and you will be returned to the Source Citation screen, where the source information will now be shown at the top of the screen. With this type of source, there is no need to fill in any specific citation detail, so we are done. If you happen to have a copy of this record in your filing cabinet, you might fill in your own Reference number on this screen to help you look it up later. The Reference field is only available if using the .aq database. When you click OK on this screen, the process will be complete – you will have attached a source citation to Hopkin Mathews.

Next, enter Margaret Morris as Hopkin’s spouse. Let’s follow method 1 (mentioned earlier) to document this source. Click on the ‘S’ button next to Margaret’s name. Again, you will be looking at the screen shown in Fig. 1. This time, however, choose the ‘Select’ button, as the source already exists. Select this same source from the list of sources. If you are using PAF, or are using AQ with the .paf database, you are done. A new source citation was created. However, if you are using AQ with the .aq database, you will be given one more option. Notice Fig. 3.

Because you didn’t enter any specific page, volume, date or comments on the citation, the line for citation one is pretty bland. If you click on "Create New Citation", AQ will create a new citation for you, just as it would if you were using the .paf database. If you were working with a source, such as a book, with multiple pages, you might want to do this, as the information you are now citing may be on a different page than an earlier citation of this source. However, in this case, you want to highlight the appropriate citation on the list, and click on "Select From List". This WILL NOT create a new citation, but will attach this new record to the same citation. Later, when you print a report, both Hopkin’s and Margaret’s names will be documented with the same footnote number, and the citation footnote will be printed only once.

Let’s use method 2 from above to document the other events cited on this source. To do this, finish entering all other events before you concern yourself with further sourcing. So enter the marriage date and place as 17 June 1844 in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, Wales. Enter Hopkin’s occupation as a Collier. Enter his father as David Mathews. Enter David’s occupation as Collier. Enter Margaret’s father as Richard Morris, and his occupation as Miner. Now that you have entered all the information off of this record, go back and spend a few seconds documenting it all. While on Richard’s occupation record, use method 1 to select the same citation as used earlier. Once this citation is selected, click on the "Attach to Other Events" button (refer to Fig. 1). You will see the screen shown in Fig. 4.

Using the Citation Links screen, you can very quickly attach the source citation to as many events as you have recorded. Use the Search button to locate an individual or a marriage. You will be shown a list of all events for that record. Now select an event that is documented by this source citation. Choose an "Apply To" type. Does the source document the whole event? Just the Date? Just the Place? If you choose "Date", the footnote number will appear on reports next to the date. If you choose "Place", the number will appear next to the place. If you choose "Both", the number will appear next to both the date and the place. If you choose "Event", the footnote number will appear next to the title of the event. Finally, Attach this citation to this event, then move on to the next event.

Fig 5 shows the results of documenting this family with information from both this marriage registration record and an 1851 census record.

By the way, if you got used to documenting sources in earlier versions of AQ and PAF, you might be used to entering source information in notes. This is still an acceptable way to do it. With the new version, you can also use marriage notes to record sources on the marriage. These sources will not appear as footnotes on reports, but rather in the Notes section of the report. But it solves the same problem – you have bequeathed your research notes to others who will benefit from your work.