Sources: Where did I find that?

Sources: Where did I find that?

Contributing author Schelly Talalay Dardashti is the US Genealogy Advisor for

How good is your memory?

Many years ago, when I was very new at the genealogy game, I really believed I could accurately remember where I had discovered every bit of family data. And – for awhile – I actually could do that.

However, as the years went by, the numbers of people in my trees increased – while my brain cells seemed to decrease – it became impossible. Sometimes, I would write the information on a scrap of paper. We all know what happens to a scrap of paper stuck in a bag or pocket.

At one point, I had to stop all new research and backtrack, almost to the beginning of my quest, to fill in all those blanks.

Fortunately, I had even saved some of those scraps of paper on which I had scribbled information while visiting archives and libraries. To preserve them, I had taped them onto regular sheets of white paper. Eventually, I transferred that data to the family tree software I used, but the scraps didn’t cover all my research.

It wasn’t easy to admit that I had neglected this important  documentation. And it took a very long time to retrace my steps. Since those traumatic days, I clearly – and loudly – advise beginning family historians to document every bit of data they find.

Some have replied innocently that they’ll remember – they only have a few people on their tree now. Others have even asked why it’s important: “The names are what we need, right?”

Been there, done that.

At some point, all researchers – those who have not carefully sourced and cited their data – will look at a name or a fact and ask themselves, “Now where did that come from?”

Where the detail was revealed – during a family interview, in a census record, a will, discovered on page 244 of a town history, heard on a television program or from a report received from a European archive – doesn’t matter.

“Record, record, record” should be the mantra of every researcher. And not on scraps of paper.

At one point, you will forget where that data came from. You’ll look at it, scratch your head in puzzlement, and say to yourself, “Maybe I should have written that source down somewhere.”

To make it easier, MyHeritage offers a place to record such essential elements on its profile pages.

If you are just beginning your journey down discovery road – and you take these words to heart – you will have an easier time by starting today to source and cite every fact.

The Source Citations can be found in a MyHeritage family tree in the “people” profiles section. All you need do is to add the source – an interview, book, document or website  – to that individual. Stored online, this information will help you and future generations access valuable family records.

Also, storing this information online acts as a backup in case of unexpected computer problems at your end.

Do you have data with unknown origins? Can you retrace your steps to discover where it came from?

Have you had to retrace your steps to find a source for a bit of data? Were you successful?

How do you track your data?


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  • John M. Wood

    June 8, 2015

    Ha ha!

    Schelly, this is GREAT ADVICE, I hope everyone takes it to heart.

    However, you must know EVERYONE involved in a bit of genealogy is going to be able to say “been there, done that” to every word you have written here!

    Sometimes, especially when the family information is coming easy, you just know you will never forget where you heard that family story, or who told you Great-Grandfathers REAL first name, so you don’t bother to record it. But, boy, it doesn’t take long for all of those bits of paper, whether in your head or in your pocket, to just become LOST! I only wish I had heard your advice, (and LISTENED to it!), just a few years ago!

    Things would be SO much easier today if I only knew where “this” name, or “that” date had originally come from!

    Plus, I think, when you start out, writing down, (or filling in a few blank spaces in a “My Heritage” form), a few names, dates, and places, you have no idea it will become a record of thousands of names, and real history of YOUR family! Or, maybe even more so; you have no idea that other people will want to see the results of YOUR research!

    BELIEVE ME, I am “following your advice”, now; as I try to go back and fill in those sources!

    Thanks for a GREAT little article. Keep up the good work!


  • Phill

    June 9, 2015

    LOL yep know how you feel i have been at this for 30 years and still to this day i loose track of where i got he information from, In what other hobby can you have years of research go up in smoke when one person says that’s wrong my great great granddad was Joseph not Thomas and prooves it, Unless you by every Birth Death and Marriage certificate it happens more times than you may think even records here and elsewhere occasionally are incorrect and the feter back we go the biger the erors can get familiarity with the people they record causes the bigest booboo’s because we all make mistakes even those of us who consider ourselves EXPERTS

  • Sondra L Glenn

    June 11, 2015

    This is so true.. We need to put it in the computer.. I have to go thru my Grandmothers writings of when she met my Granddad and after the marriage and helping on the Ranch with her Mother n law(who was a mid wife) to take care of things while she went to deliver babies. So many little details that I would never known without her info.. So glad I gave her my typewriter when I moved and she learned to use it wisely..I thank My Heritage every day as I continue to upd past family and love pictures.. Help to put faces with names. Thanks again for your help and messages.

  • Rafael Matos

    June 21, 2015

    Very true… but not only for us, but for those following generations that hopefully will inherit our love for genealogy. I want that if my descendants see my tree in the future, they know where I got the information from. Even in cases where I know the fact firsthand and there is no documentation, (example, for a while, my grandfather used to make baseballs, but I don´t have any documentation), I have created a citation in my sources called “Rafael Matos – firsthand personal information” to include, in this case, in the “occupation” field. For lore I can´t prove, I have created “Rafael Matos – family oral tradition”. At least that way, the new researchers will know, and take whatever steps they see fit for their research!