Sources – A Necessary Evil

Exploring my roots has never been a constant past-time. The desire usually surfaces while dusting off my bookshelves and seeing all of the genealogy books gathering dust. Or when looking for Christmas stuff in my cabinets and finding a huge stack of papers on my Morris line that I still haven’t gone through after 16 years. All it takes is coming across some book or tidbit of information that sparks a potential research idea, and then – I’m off exploring! Searching the internet for databases or photos, or hunting down and copying info at the Archives from dawn to dusk, like a blood hound hot on the trail.

And, then…the scent disappears. Nothing. I look over what I’ve collected, copied, and researched for days, months, even years. But, Nothing. And, what is this Nothing throwing cold water on my exploration? Nothing is hitting a dead-end because there are no sources or the sources quoted in a book or email can’t be found or verified. So, if after a few more attempts Nothing is still there, then I usually set the genealogy stuff aside. You know, “Fiddle-dee-dee” to quote Scarlett O’Hara.

Sources are truly a necessary evil in my genealogy life. Would I ever consider not having them? Absolutely not. Would I ever consider every source I have as being the final word? Absolutely not.

After purchasing a new genealogy software program this past weekend, I could feel the stirrings in my blood. Time to blow off the dust, drag out those huge binders full of papers, and find a trail with a scent. So, as a warm-up, I ran a small family group report on my granddad and noticed that his death certificate had a source with the wrong repository. Tennessee? He died in Mississippi. Oh nooooo!!! It hit me that this must be how a Rockett lineage on a popular genealogy website had Tennessee listed as the death place for my granddad.

Years ago, I must’ve sent a GEDCOM to someone not realizing one or more sources had gotten combined or mixed up when switching from one software program to another. How many more sources are wrong?

The great Pit of Despair descended upon me as I realized that I was going to have to go through all of my source citations and verify them one by one:

  • My source citation report is 101 pages long.
  • It took me 5 hours last night to find and compare my source documents for 5 Rocketts from my daughter back to my great-grandfather, so I’m averaging 1 hour per person for the people I know!
  • I have over 2,900 individuals in my genealogy database not including my husband’s lines.
  • I’m 50 years old. You do the math!

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind.


6 responses to “Sources – A Necessary Evil

  1. Welcome to Geneabloggers! Glad I read about your blog & came over to have a look. It is very easy to lose track of a source. Sometimes I am so swept up in the excitement of finding a relative I forget to get the full citation. It is hard to sty calm and logical when you find an elusive person. I hope you get all your records sorted painlessly.

  2. I sympathize…or better, “empathize.” I wax and wane too, but lately have stuck with it, trying to get a family history book written. I love genealogy, but it is work. And keeping up with sources is a necessary evil I guess. Good blog!

  3. Welcome to Geneabloggers! I’m in the same boat with needing to verify the sources of my earlier research. I don’t think I want to do the math on mine either. Love the Scarlett O’Hara quote! 🙂

  4. Barbara, the “Pit of Despair” is a good way to put it. I don’t know…sometimes doing the math is just non-productive. Do the research and citation work you can, and move on. Just as you do your research for a season, making great headway, and then stop when the scent grows cold, doing your due diligence on righting all those citations may follow that same pattern. You may hit a “speed” of five per hour now, but at some point, you may be on a roll and do many more in the same time.

    Sometimes, I think genealogy is really a crowd-sourcing thing, anyhow. We kid ourselves that “it’s all up to me” to get the entire line right, when in reality, just like those before you, you’ll pass your data on to the next generation and someone else will benefit from the trails you’ve blazed…and then add more contributions of their own.

    I found your blog today, thanks to a mention in GeneaBloggers. Enjoyed taking a look around.

    Best wishes as you continue your blogging and research journey.

  5. I just rewatched Gone With The Wind yesterday. I love that movie. My sourcing needs lots of work. I came by to say Welcome to GeneaBloggers and I got hooked! Great blog.


  6. Ah, yes – the fun of genealogy. I had to go through a massive clean up once when switching programs. The upside is you find new things you might have missed before. Have fun!
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

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