Attaching Sources to Your FamilySearch Tree

Not a Researcher? You Can Still Help! (Part 2 of 3)

NOTE: This series focuses on the free FamilySearch.org website. It is intended for people that have family members that have done research and published the data in the FamilySearch family tree.

3 Easy Tasks for Beginning Family History Work

In an earlier post I stated that there are many different activities that make up part of family history work. To all the tweens, teens, and the trembling, faint-hearted souls who feel a desire to participate but feel intimidated – I invite you to start with 3 activities:

  1. Performing data cleanup
  2. Attaching sources
  3. Indexing records to “Fuel the Find”

In part 2 of this series I explain the importance of attaching sources to your records in FamilySearch.

Before you start you may want to read “The Two Sides of FamilySearch.org” which helps explain a little background about the relationship between sources and the records in your FamilySearch Tree.

Genealogical Proof Standard

Attaching sources in FamilySearch also helps fulfill the first two elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) which is the standard by which all professional genealogists (and hopefully aspiring genealogists) strive to perform their work. They are:

  1. Reasonably exhaustive research;
  2. Complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item;
  3. Tests—through processes of analysis and correlation—of all sources, information items, and evidence;
  4. Resolution of conflicts among evidence items; and
  5. A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

Performing record searches and attaching sources contributes towards the genealogical proof standard.

Analyzing Sources and Evaluating Conflicting Evidence

Before we continue I should comment on analyzing and correlating the information found. These are the third and fourth elements of the GPS. Sometimes sources present conflicting evidence. Sometimes the conflicting information will cause you to dismiss or “throw out” the conflicting source as not applicable to the individual. However, other times it does apply but there are inconsistencies. Census records are notoriously inconsistent. It can be challenging to unearth the “truth” from census records alone.

At this stage, use family relationships as the main gauge as to whether a source document should be attached to an individual or family. As you progress you can learn more about evaluating the validity of a birth place or date, for example. If you can’t tell if the source applies to your ancestor or not, it is probably safer NOT to attach the source. You could add a Note under the person’s record of a possible match for someone (or you!) to evaluate later.

Finding and Attaching Sources

Since this is a beginning tutorial, I will just start with the easiest methods for searching and attaching sources. More advanced methods will come later.

Option 1: Recommended Tasks

From the home screen look at the “Recommended Tasks” in the top-right corner. In this spot, FamilySearch spoon-feeds possible sources to review and attach. Simply click “Review and Attach” to proceed to the next step. Keep in mind, that not all record hints will actually apply to the person. You can also choose “Next” or “Previous” to browse through the suggestions.Recommended tasks

Go ahead and pick one and then click on “Review and Attach.” A new window appears titled “Attach Historical Records to Family Tree.” This is called the “Source Linker” page. It contains two columns of information. In the left column we see information from the historical record, or source. In the left column we see information about the person or people as recorded in the Family Tree.Attaching source from Record Hint

FamilySearch attempts to match the information on the left to the information on the right automatically. In my example the first, middle, and last names match exactly. So do the birth and death dates. Based on this information alone it is a strong match. However, I encourage you to ALWAYS look at the source image if it is available. Do this for two reasons. 1) You get the opportunity to directly evaluate the source and verify that the information was transcribed correctly. 2) There is often ADDITIONAL information on the image that was not indexed! This means you may learn even more about this person or family relationships from the image itself.

A Word about Partner Sites

Sometimes, like in this case, the image is not stored on the FamilySearch site. Instead it is found on a partner site. FamilySearch will link to that site, but you may need a membership or subscription to see the image. For James Bohl, this source is the BillionGraves index. BillionGraves allows you to search for individual grave markers for free. After clicking “Image” I click “Visit Partner Site” and a new window pops up. In addition to the birth and death dates, the index shows the burial city, county, state and country. However, by going to the partner site I also learn the cemetery name where James is buried.

Back to Attaching Sources

Attaching source from Record Hint - 2Once I am doing reviewing the source I return to the Source Linker page. In this case the source only has information about one person, James Joseph Bohl. I click “Compare” next to the paper clip icon and the box expands to show details in both columns. If the information seems consistent, then enter a note to explain why you are attaching this source. You might mention that the names, dates, or places match this person. Then click “Attach.”

At this point I am done attaching this source. You can click “Return to Record” to go the Person Details page for that individual. Or simply close the window and go back to the home page. (Remember when we started it opened a new window.) From the home page you can continue to go through the Record Hints until they are exhausted.

Option 2: Browse the Tree

If you have a particular branch of your tree that you would like to work on, simply use the Tree View to browse your family tree. If you find a light blue icon this indicates that there are Record Hints. However, just because there isn’t a Record Hint icon doesn’t mean you won’t find records to attach. Once you find a starting point from the tree, click on the person’s name. An information card appears with more information about this person.Person Card

In my example, I choose James Isaac Council. I noticed there are Record Hints for him. Looking at the person card I see that currently there are 0 (zero!) sources attached. These are all good signs that I will be successful finding and attaching sources.

Attach sources-1I click on “Person” at the bottom of the card to go to the Person Details page. From here you will notice that there are “Research Help” in the top right corner. This includes Record Hints. Clicking on one of the Record Hints will have the exact same functionality we just went through.

Nevertheless I will take you through one example in which a source contains information for more than one person. I click on the Record Hint for the 1900 US Census, and then click Review and Attach. (You may have to scroll to the bottom of the pop-up box to see the button.)

Attach sources-2In the Source Linker page I repeat the process I explained before. The information matches, and I can “Add” data to my Family Tree record to show his Residence in Arapahoe, Colorado in 1900. After adding a reason I attach the source.

James’ wife Eunice also appears in the household in the 1900 census. I am able to review this information and attach the source to her record at the same time. If there is a person in the historical record (on the left) that does NOT appear in the Family Tree (on the right), you can create that person directly from this screen! This was one of the biggest advancements to Source Linking in FamilySearch in the last 2 years. I will probably have a separate post to talk about this awesome feature.

Time to Try it Out

There is more to learn, but you now have enough to get started! Please come back and share your experience attaching sources!

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3 Comments

    • Reply

      Thanks for sharing! I just looked at your 2 blogs. I can’t wait to explore them in more detail. I love the focus of your blog in telling a very specific story!

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