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Organizing Source Names in RM5

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#1 prairiepearls



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Posted 07 March 2013 - 01:13 PM

I have been enjoying putting my many, many paper records into Roots Magic since last summer. However, I find it's difficult to be consistent in how I enter sources, specifically the Master Source nickname I assign to each source (under which it appears in the list of existing sources to choose from).

I find myself thinking of some sources in terms of who provided the information and I list them under that person's name, for example "Jones, Jane -- McMahan genforum post." Other sources I have listed under the title of the book(let) the facts are found in, such as "Hohn School, 1874-1962." And some I've entered by the type of source it is, such as "Census 1860 US Sevier Co, TN," or "Interview, John Doe." Later, when I look for a certain source, I find my inconsistencies make it difficult to re-locate it in the alphabetical list of existing sources.

I'm guessing there's more than one "best" way to approach this, and I'm looking for pros and cons to various approaches. Some methods I can think of are to always use the source person's last name (when available) for the Master Source nickname, or to start my all of them with the type of source, so all obituaries, for example, are grouped together. But I can see the latter method becoming rather cumbersome, as in "Book, author's name, title," or "Newspaper, Wichita Eagle," or "Web site, ancestry.com, member tree."

I would love to hear how others organize their sources in RM, what works for them, and problems they've encountered.

Greta Perleberg, Wichita, Kansas

#2 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 03:07 PM

I would love to hear how others organize their sources in RM, what works for them, and problems they've encountered.

I'm certain that lots of people have better ideas than mine on this one, but I'll take a crack at it anyway.

I think you already understand the following, but sometimes it's worth stating the obvious at the beginning. The way you organize your sources in RM need not have anything whatsoever to do with the way your source citations appear in reports as footnotes, endnotes, or bibliographic entries. The only person who will ever see your source list is you, and the only person you have to make happy with your source list is yourself. And you really can't get much help from Evidence Explained or other authorities. They can tell you how your footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographic entries should look, but not so much about how best to organize your sources in RM.

RM supports both a footnote and a short footnote, but it does not support both a bibliography and a short bibliography (nor does it need to). But if you consider what a bibliographic entry might look like for any particular Master Source, then the names I have been giving my Master Sources would look something like what a short bibliography would look like. For example, a full bibliography entry for a book would typically include the auther and title, plus other information such as publisher and publication date. My so-called "short bibliography" that I would use as the name for my Master Sources would include only the author and title of the book even though a longer and more correct citation would appear in reports as endnotes, footnotes, or bibliography entries as appropriiate.

The next issue is whether you wish to be a splitter or a lumper of source information into your Master Sources. Using a book as an example, a lumper might use an entire book as a Master Source and a splitter might use each individual page of the book as a Master Source. A lumper would put the page numbers in the Source Details for each citation. Or going even further in the extreme lumper direction, if the same author wrote several books a lumper might make the author into a Master Source and each book and page number would become source details. If you use RM's built-in Source Templates, the Source Templates will dictate to a certain extent the degree of splitting and lumping that you do. Most of the Source Templates do what I would describe as sort of a medium level of lumping and splitting. Books make good examples because they are so simple to deal with as compared to many other sources, and books make bad examples because they are so simple to deal with as comparied to many other sources. How best to decide what is a Master Source and what are details under that Master Source is usually much less clear to me for documents such as census entries, death certificates, obituaries, deeds, wills, tax records, and the like than it is for books.

I have been an extreme lumper, for example only having one Master Source for death certificates with all the other information - the state, the county, the date, the death certificate number, the name of the deceased, etc. - being part of the source details. But I'm moving to being an extreme splitter, where for example every single death certificate will be its own Master Source. The reason I'm doing so is because after many years I have decided that it is much easier to manage the data (including notes and attached media) in Master Sources than it is in the Source Details. I doubt that very many others (probably nobody else) will think that the level of splitting that I'm undertaking is a very good idea.

That being said, I'm making the names of my Master Sources into things like the following.
  • *death certificate, (detail information here)
  • *person, (detail information here - the "person" is a correspondent - usually a distant cousin - with whom I'm exchanging information)
  • *census, (detail information here)
  • *obituary, (detail information here)
  • *marriage , (detail information here)
  • etc.
I'm using the * simply to put my new style sources at the front of my source list. But for example, if John Doe has sent me 10 different e-mails, that will be 10 different Master Sources, which will each read in my Source List something like "*person, Doe, John, e-mail, 10 June 2012 04:23:19 PM" so that all my data from John Doe will sort right together. When you dig deeper, the footnote and short footnote information when printed will be very much in accord with Evidence Explained or other authorities. The way I'm doing it will render Bibliographies somewhat problematic. I never use them anyway, always using footnotes and endnotes instead. But if I did want to use Bibliographies as a part of my extreme splitting strategy, I would probably have to do a lot of manual editing of the Biblography by hand before printing.

I suspect you are going to a get a number of ideas that you will like a lot better than mine. :)


#3 prairiepearls



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Posted 07 March 2013 - 04:12 PM

Thank you so much, Jerry! That is EXACTLY the sort of information I'm looking for. It took me a while to figure out whether I was a "lumper" or a "splitter" (so glad someone's come up with names for the concepts!), and I, too find myself moving in the direction of splitting. But that leads to the problem of how (and whether) to group like items together in the list for looking at later.

Thank you also for "stating the obvious" to begin with -- I do realize my labeling dilemma has nothing to do with how actual citations are printed, but wasn't sure how to make it clear I was NOT asking about how to cite my sources. You zeroed right in on what I was asking.

I do hope to gather additional opinions on how to organize source names!


#4 Laura


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Posted 07 March 2013 - 04:41 PM

Think of the source name as folders in a file cabinet with commas dividing the folder names.

AR, Sharp, Marriage, book, Adams, 1928-1933 Vol. 3
Or, Marriage, AR, Sharp, book, Vol. 3, 1928-1933, Adams
Or, Book, Adams, Marriage, Vol. 3, 1928-1933

How are you personally going to start looking for that source? In what folder or subfolder would you store that source in a filing cabinet?

Or, if it was a bookshelf instead, in what order would you put the sources on the shelf?

Once you decide on a naming convention, be consistant when naming new sources.

Create a new play database and drag and drop your main database into it. Play around with various naming conventions until you find one that allows you to find your sources easily.

If the Play database gets too messy, you can delete it and start a new one.

#5 Paul Harris

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 11:59 PM


Here's a couple more pennies (my two cents).

I have practically never struggled with this dilemma because I was very fortunate to have met a gentleman in the earliest stages of my involvement in this pursuit who was able to give me some excellent advice. He seemed to have his source documentation extremely well organized and so I asked him what he thought was the best way to organize source documents. He told me it was like real estate; location, location, location. Additionally, I read a book written for archivists and developed an insight that they teach in their discipline, which is that records should be grouped by the organization that created them, i.e., NARA's Record Groups. Early on, I used these two principles to develop my own system that has worked extremely well for me, i.e., no regrets and no need to change. <g>

First, let me say that I have always been an extreme splitter when it comes to documents, but more of a lumper when it comes to books. For example, when I cite the six volume work of William Wade Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, all six volumes are my Master Source, then I designate the volume, page number, column, and line number in the citation detail as "4:1056 (2.34). However, when it comes to a death certificate, it is a separate master source. But enough of that discussion, as you are looking at naming conventions for your sources.

Based on the above mentioned principles I developed a naming system for sources that accomplishes four things.

1. Consistency
2. Grouping by location and type
3. Dating and chronology
4. Identification (I can tell what it is by its name)

This is an example of a source name for a death certificate for my grandfather:

U-NY-KIN-CivD-1912-04-12 Robert Burnside Ward

I can tell instantly by looking at this name that it is a death record for Robert Burnside Ward, 12 Apr 1912, in Brooklyn (Kings County), New York.


U - Single character country code (USA)
NY - Two character state/province code (New York)
KIN - Three character county/parish code (Kings County [Brooklyn])
Civ - Three character mixed case code for record group (Civil)
Other examples might be Chu for Church, New for Newspaper,
Cem for Cemetery, etc.
D - Single character code for record type (Death)
1912-04-12 - sorting date code for documented event
Robert Burnside Ward - Name of principle of documented event

It becomes readily apparent that all of my Civil Death documents for Kings County, New York, can be found together, sorted chronologically, in my New York Binder. This system works extremely well for county or lower generated records. The record group and type goes right after the level at which the organization that generated the records resides. An example would be Federal Census records:


Here, the record group and type code, CenS, immediately follows the 'Federal Level' of the country code so all of my U.S. Federal Census records are grouped together at the country level and my Master Source is the Page from the census record, i.e., page 31A, Enumeration District 8, 1900 Census, Schedule of the Population, for Hudson County, New Jersey. A state census might look like this:


Here, the record group and type code, CenS, immediately follows the 'State Level' of the state code, indicating it is a state census.

This is not meant to say this is the best way to do this. We all make that decision for ourselves, but I offer it as food for thought.

The following is an example of my source document listings for Hudson County, New Jersey. Remember, New is Newspaper, so you may be able to guess, intuitively that NewO and NewD are Obituaries and Death Notices, respectively.

U-NJ-HUD-CivD-1918-10-25 Elias W. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-CivD-1925-11-19 Emma F. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-CivD-1928-02-23 Nadine W. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-CivD-1939-05-02 Sadie E. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1925-11-20 Emma F. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1928-02-25 Nadine W. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1939-05-03 Sadie E. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1944-02-02 Andrew J. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1952-02-19 Heard
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1953-02-07 Ethel Ward Cliff
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1955-10-18 Mary (Ward) Leith
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1955-11-10 Henry W. Marx
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1956-12-21 Marie Youmans
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1970-11-16 George Westerfield Gatton
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1972-03-25 August R. Ruhlmann
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1974-02-25 Anna Marx
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1980-09-09 Edna M. Gatton
U-NJ-HUD-NewD-1981-11-28 Ethel Heard
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1925-11-20-A Emma J. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1925-11-20-B Emma J. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1928-02-24-A Nadine Warner Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1928-02-24-B Nadine Warner Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1944-02-02 Andrew J. Ferguson
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1952-02-19 Willliam J. Heard
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1953-02-06 Ethel Ward Cliff
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1955-10-18 Mary (Ward) Leith
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1955-11-10 Henry W. Marx
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1970-11-16 George Westerfield Gatton
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1972-03-23 August R. Ruhlmann
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1974-02-25 Anna Marx
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1980-09-10 Edna M. Gatton
U-NJ-HUD-NewO-1981-11-30 Ethele Heard

Good luck with your own system.


#6 prairiepearls



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Posted 08 March 2013 - 12:29 PM

This is great! I suspected others in this detail-oriented hobby would have thought this through and could save me time in developing a consistent naming system!

Laura and Paul, you both have some excellent suggestions, and I'm going to have to print this all out and really mull over how I'm most likely to use the information.

I'm quite spacially-oriented, so I'm now thinking in terms of location-location-location, but as in the location where I filed the source! My ultimate aim is to be able to find a source again once I've recorded it, and thinking in terms of where I put it might just work for me.

I'm fighting my impatience to get on with data entry, but I know I'll be glad I paused and developed a system.

Thank you all so much for your suggestions, and I'm still open to more!