One problem in trying to put a message like this together is that so many different people use such different language from each other when talking about things like sources and citation. Just what is a source? Just what is a citation? Just what is a source detail? Etc. And RM itself seems to be very inconsistent in this regard within its various options and menus and features. I shall start with the following conventions, and I may add to them as we go along.
- A source is usually a "physical" document such as a book or a marriage record. I put the word "physical" in quotes because these days a book might be an e-book and a marriage record might be a file on a computer. And a marriage record might be an image of an original marriage record, it might be a Word document where somebody has transcribed an original marriage record, or it might be an image of the Word document after the Word document has been printed out. (In making note of the different ways in which a marriage record might appear as a source, we also make note of the fact that there are all kinds of ways we might talk about the overall quality of sources. For example, a document may be primary or secondary, a document may be original or derivative, we need to consider the provenance of documents, etc. These are all important issues, but the quality of a source is not the same question as what is a source. Also, sometimes a source might be an interview with a person, and somehow or other you have to make the interview into a document yourself.)
- A citation is a footnote or an endnote that appears in some kind of report.
John Doe. The Doe Family of Boondock County (John Doe, 1999), page 27.
RM itself gets into all kinds of other terminology such as Master Text, Source Text, Source Comments, Source Details, Detail Text, Research Notes, Comments, Quality, and Repository. In putting this message together, it will be necessary to get into some of those items at least a little bit, but I will be avoiding them to the maximum extent possible because the terminology is so confusing.
One more thing to point out before getting into the minutia of source lumping and splitting is that a lumper and a splitter might both produce the same report from RM and the citations in the two reports might be indistinguishable. Which is to say lumping and splitting have to do with the management of source information within a genealogy program and need not have any effect at all on how citations appear in reports.
A published book such as my mythical Doe family book is both an excellent example and a poor example to use to start talking about lumping and splitting. It's a good example because it's really simple, and it's a bad example because source lumpers and splitters would probably treat the book the same in RM. The basic RM concept is that whatever you as a user think of as a single source in the real world becomes a single Master Source in RM. So the Master Source would be "John Doe. The Doe Family of Boondock County (John Doe, 1999)" without the quotes. And the "page 27" without the quotes part of the citation would become what RM calls Source Details. So far, so good.
Another way to think about the same thing (and one of the Webinars about sources makes this very clear) is to think of the Master Source as the part of the citation that is reused and to think of the Source Details as the part of the citation that is not reused. Well, there is sort of a glitch at this stage of my message because in fact the Source Details may also be reused in a certain sense. Which is to say, there may be several different individuals or several different facts for which you enter data into your RM database based on what you find on page 27 of the John Doe's book. RM offers a way in which Source Details can be reused in the sense that a citation can be memorized and having been memorized can be pasted many times.
Herein lies my dilemma. A Master Source in RM can be changed in the Source List and the change automatically applies to the "reusable" part of every citation that uses that Master Source. But there is no equivalent capability to change all the occurrences where Source Details have been memorized and pasted. I have spent so many countless hours fighting with this problem, that I finally decided that if I would move all source information into RM's Master Source area and if I would place no source data whatsoever into RM's Source Details area that the problem would be solved. So that's the direction I'm moving.
Before moving on to an example such as a marriage record that is not a book, I should point out that even with the simple example of a book there might be some lumpers who would differ from some splitters about what is a source. Suppose for example, that our mythical author John Doe was the son of Thomas Doe and Sarah Williams, and that he wrote a second book for which a bibliographic entry might be something like the following.
John Doe. The Williams Family of Boondock County (John Doe, 2005).
Under these circumstances, a lumper might treat John Doe as the source. And if so, then John Doe would become the Master Source in RM and the information about the book, whether the Doe family book or the Williams family book, would be entered into the Source Details area of RM. This is the approach that I have tended to take in order to keep my Source List in RM as short as possible. But again, I finally have reached the point where the problem of changing every occurrence of a citation in order to fix data in the Source Details area is so severe that I'm willing to become an extreme splitter and move all source data into the Master Source area of RM.
For marriage records, being an extreme splitter means that every marriage record is its own separate source which becomes its own separate RM Master Source, even if I have several different marriage records from the same courthouse or from the same marriage book or from the same roll of microfilm. So be it. However, this concept does not mean that if one "marriage record" originated on two or three pieces of paper that I have to treat each of these separate pieces of paper as separate sources.
In modern times, I usually find three separate pieces of paper for one "marriage record". The first piece of paper is the application for license. The second piece of paper is the license itself - really, it's a license authorizing a minister or justice of the peace to perform the ceremony rather than a license authorizing the couple to be married. The third piece of paper is the document that's returned to the courthouse to confirm that the marriage took place. Sometimes the second and third document are actually the front and back of the same piece of paper. But in any case, the important thing to make note of here is that even with extreme splitting it does not have to be the case that each source is a single piece of paper.
This brings us to naming the Master Sources so that they are reasonable to manage. RM does not offer us any structure at all in this regard. The list of Master Sources is a single list that's very long and flat and that's sorted in alphabetic order. The only thing we can do is name Master Sources in such a way that we can find them easily. These Master Source names having nothing to do the way citations appear in reports. They are only visible to us as RM users working within our databases. The convention I came up with is "*marriage LN1, GN1 and GN2 LN2" without the quotes, where LN is last name and GN is given name. I'm using an * as the first letter of all my "new style" Master Sources to cause them to sort in front of all my "old style" Master Sources. The first spouse listed is the one I'm related to and the second spouse listed is the one I'm not related to. If I'm related to both or neither, I list the groom first.
Nothing about the state or county or year or anything like that is in the name of the Master Source, nor does it need to be. That kind of information can and does appear as appropriate in the footnote area of the Master Source.
Finally, that brings us to the storage and naming of the image files associated with my marriage sources. Most typically I have stored my image files in nested subfolders either by family grouping or by physical location as appropriate. But with my new way of managing sources and their associated Master Sources, it seems appropriate to store and name image files the same way. So I have one big folder for storing image files associated with marriages called Marriages. Within that one big folder I name the image files the same way as I name the Master Sources except without the *. In the typical marriage record where there is more than one original piece of paper, I combine all such images into a single file by creating a multiple image TIF file. The free program Irfanview does a very nice job of doing so. So I have one TIF file for each Master Source for each marriage record, each TIF file containing all the relevant images for that marriage.
Generally speaking, I do all the data entry and other prep work for such a marriage source in the List Sources part of RM rather than in the Edit Person part of RM. I include a complete transcription of the marriage record in the field of Master Text called Source Text, and I link to the image file for the marriage record from the Master Source. Then, I use the Master Source as a citation as required. I still have to Memorize and Paste the citation to get it all the places it needs to go. But I having done so, any subsequent corrections or additions only have to be made once, namely to the Master Source for the marriage record.
Finally, I should mention that one rather obscure feature of RM is extremely useful in this kind of extreme source splitting. Namely, a Master Source can be duplicated. So if I get any one Master Source "just right", I can duplicate it from within List Sources and use the copy sort of as a "template" to assist in making a new Master Source. It's not a real template in the sense of the real source templates, but it still makes data entry and standardization much easier.