Apr 032012

Chapter 4 of A Primer for The Master Genealogist deals with Personal Data Entry Standards. This week, I have chosen to focus on the section within that chapter on source conventions, so I also skipped ahead in the book to read Chapter 6 Working with Sources.

Terry discusses the need to decide on the level of detail included in each source, he gives an example:

For example, one might create a single Source definition for all birth certificates. Or one might create a single source for all birth certificates issued in a single county or state. Or one might create a individual Source for each certificate.

Where fewer, more general sources are defined this means more information is included within the citation. He introduces the terms “lumpers” and “splitters” to describe the two approaches to sources. Different approaches can be taken for different source types according to what best suits your needs.

The Master Source List under the Tools menu enables you to view the complete list of Sources in your project


Screenshot of Master Source List (Sample Project)


Work I have carried out on sources

My first task was to delete sources which were duplicates and had no citations.

Secondly, all the sources that I had imported from Personal Ancestral File seemed to have a source type of poll book/electoral register! I went through all the sources and selected the appropriate source type. This was easy for BMD certificates, and fairly easy for parish registers, but census sources need more thought, and I will return to these at a later date.

Fortunately for me, the UK Edition comes with its own set of source types designed by Caroline Gurney. I understand users of the standard edition, carrying out research using UK sources, can download these source types as described on TMG Tips. So far I have only created two new source types myself, for cemetery record transcripts and for online parish register images, these need more work.


Work still to be done on sources

This exercise has demonstrated that the source information I imported is fairly worthless, I will be needing to revisit all my sources and citations to enter the information correctly, as required by the TMG.

I currently have each BMD certificate set up as a separate source, this seems logical to me, as they are each separate documents. I don’t think it is more work than recording the same information in citations. I need to  come up with a naming convention for these sources. In the Primer, Terry describes how sources are sorted by abbreviation in the master source list,  and that he has devised a  coding system  for the abbreviation in order to cope with a large number of sources, the result being that similar sources are grouped together in the Master Source List.

I plan to reorganise my certificate filing system in tandem with correcting the source entries and citations for BMD certificates.

I need to do some research on the best way to handle census information, as this is such an important  source and will be time consuming to enter. My preference is to have one source for each census year, with other information recorded in the citation. Terry recommends creating a test project to try out changes – sounds like a good plan when it comes to the census.

I have a parish register source for each parish, but I think it makes sense to have separate sources for each volume. I am slightly unsure  whether I should have separate sources for the same document depending on whether I viewed a microfilmed copy or an online image, I probably should.

Other sources will have to wait until these first three have been sorted out.


Lumper or Splitter?

It seems that at the moment I’m a splitter when it comes to BMD certificates and parish registers, but a lumper whe it comes to the census, provided I can make that work.

Are you a lumper or a splitter? I would be interested to hear how many additional source definitions you have created if you are a UK researcher. Also, how have you dealt with the proliferation of online sources in your project?


This post follows on from Getting to Grips with The Master Genealogist – Introduction and Part 1: Tag Types and TMG Utility


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  4 Responses to “Getting to Grips with The Master Genealogist – Part 2: Sources”

Comments (4)
  1. I’m not using TMG – I use Reunion (having switched from PAF). But part of the reason for reconstructing my family trees is tied up with source data.

    Reunion is a lot better than PAF for sources. I’m a thoroughgoing lumper – I reckon to have one source per census for England, Wales and other British Isles (haven’t had to deal with Scotland yet to any degree), and use the notes field on the source to reference the individual piece number. Likewise BMD records for England and Wales post-1837.

    Where it gets a little more complex is with Jersey records. Aside from the BMD records being separate to England and Wales, there are a lot of people with similar names and the best way of telling who is who is to use the contracts in the local Land Registry, which runs to some hundreds of thousands of records. But Reunion allowed me to define an event which had nothing more than the fact that there was a contract. The event links to a date, and there is a per-record note field in which I place the volume number and page.

    • Thanks for the comments. Jersey sounds a challenge, I’ve no experience there. Reunion sounds flexible, a similar approach would work with TMG. I hope to make the “lumper” type system work for the census. I really don’t want to make this more complicated than it needs to be, I would rather be researching than doing data entry!

  2. Hi Nicola,

    By no means an expert but I’ve used TMG for nearly 7 years now and am very fussy about recording my sources correctly.

    I am a Census “lumper” and do as you noted above with BMD certificates – this seems to work quite well for me as well.

    I did have one source per Parish Register as I had purchased a limited number of microfiche, but now that I have just subscribed to Essex Ancestors I’m thinking I might just have one source for that website even though it covers nearly every parish in Essex. I did something similar for Ancestry’s London Parish Register images.

    Now I’m considering your idea to have one source per Parish (using a new source type for online images?) and just qualify the reference in the citation detail?

    That might make more sense than having a source for every unique Register (e.g. Baptisms 1875-1884, Baptisms 1884-1890 etc etc) …

    Procrastinating over how to best set up the sources tends to slow down my progress these days. :)

    • Hi Larry,
      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences. I think I will enter some sample parish register data based on the original documents references at ERO and see how much effort it takes and run some reports to see how it looks. Unfortunately I have been unable to do anything on my research or this blog this week, as I am dealing with a bereavement. I do hope you will check back in couple of weeks, when I will be able to give this my full attention and we can compare approaches.

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