The idea of adding a source to an individual or an event attached to an individual is a difficult topic. Despite the educational efforts of a core group of genealogists, most of the casually involved genealogical community patently ignores the entire topic. It is convenient to pick on the huge online family trees as the most egregious examples of failure to provide sources, but that ignores the historical nature of the problem and the fact that sources have been added to family group records for many years. Perhaps we should do less handwringing and realize that some genealogists have been providing source citations for a many years. For example, if you have LDS Access to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree you can access the Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942 to 1969 in the Historical Record Collections. This collection is described as follows:
Forms submitted by LDS Church members to the Genealogical Society of Utah, now the Family History Department, for processing prior to performing proxy ordinances. Completed ordinances were recorded on these forms. The completed forms were filed in the Family Group Records Archive collection. The forms are filed in alphabetical order by surname and given name.There are 5,337,178 images in this one collection. The Research Wiki on FamilySearch.org gives the following suggestions concerning these particular records:
- Use this information as a guideline. Be aware that the information has not been verified and may have come from the submitters memory or from family records.
- These are compiled records so each sheet may have many sources of information.
- If you are unable to find your ancestor look for various spellings of the names.
As a matter of note, these records are not the only user submitted records in the Family History Library's collection. There is another section called the Patrons Section. These records are described as follows;
Three million family group records were submitted to the Patrons Section between 1926-1979. The purpose was to share genealogical information and identify others working on the same lines. Each collection has some names that cannot be found in other filmings. The family group records often included a brief list of the sources used to compile the record. Sometimes the sources specify old film numbers or book numbers used by the Family History Library. Some records also included biographical histories for the family members listed on the form. In many instances several records have been submitted for the same family unit. Comparison of these records will sometimes reveal discrepancies. The collection binders have been removed from circulation so these records are available only on microfilm.Having huge collections of user submitted family group records, similar to today's online family trees, is far from a recent phenomena. In fact, I began my survey of my own family genealogy by copying records from these huge collections. I later realized that I needed to check to see if the records had valid source citations. I also began the process of adding sources to my own records.
As stated above, these records are arranged alphabetically so it is relatively easy to locate one specific record. Here is an example of one of my distant relatives from a record that includes sources:
You can see from this record that the space dedicated to records on the form was pretty skimpy. Many people resorted to typing more information across the form or on the back. Here is another example of a record for a Tanner family that I am not related to:
Here is yet another example of a more cryptic entry:
Now, you will note that the first example I provided above for Henry Colvin Tanner has several source citations. I looked up this same individual in FamilySearch.org's Family Tree and found the following list of source citations for him:
You might question the validity of the source entry on the second record that says only "Self Knowledge" but isn't that a valid source? With a little bit of historical background, I think we can conclude that adding source citations is alive and well. There may be many unsourced records, but there are also many that have multiple sources.