21 October 2009

Are your sources really that specific?

The ability to merge sources (particularly census) into a tree at Ancestry.com is really a nice one.

However, one must be careful not to indicate that a source says something it does not. The reasons are pretty obvious--but here's an example with the names changed.

Thomas Smith was born in Harford County, Maryland, on 2 May 1865 and you have three primary sources to back it up. The 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 census all indicate he was born in Maryland. Let's say that they all point to a year of birth of 1865

Yet if you aren't careful when you tie the census record to his date and place of birth, you seemingly indicate that the census indicates he was born on 2 May 1865 in Harford County, Maryland. I've never seen a census between 1880 and 1920 that provides that specific of a place of birth.

Shouldn't you create a "new" place/date of birth that is 1865 in Maryland and tie the census source to that?

Or am I just a stick in the mud?

3 Comments:

Blogger Cindy said...

call you a stick in the mud or a nit-picker, or even one who sweats the details... yes, I think a new "alternate birth date" should be created, citing the source that simply states the year of birth. After all, like you said, often the census only points to the year and often it's off by a year depending on whether or not the person's birthday has passed in that given census year. I concur :-)

1:34 PM  
Anonymous GrannyPam said...

I don't use Ancestry for this task, but in my genealogy program I would add a census fact. Then I would make a note in the birth fact saying that "such and such a census of such and such a place agrees on birthplace "Maryland".

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Rondina said...

Michael, welcome to my world.

8:56 PM  

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