Working with Sources

Tip version: 27.2

Modified date: 13 May 2001

Software version: v5.2 and above

The Generations software (v5.2 and above) provides you great flexibility with your sources.

There is no limit to the number of sources you may have in a family file, and there is no limit to the number of source citations which you may have for each event or fact, note, or person. (The latter is mentioned as one can have general sources for a person).


The program comes with a number of predefined source types and the user may add additional ones. The predefined ones are:

E-mail letter
Family bible
Free form
Gedcom file
Tax list
Web Site

Each of these consists of a number of elements (see below), and within a source one may add or subtract elements and change their order. The predefined layouts are a reasonable default, but in a number of them one may wish to add certain elements, such as date, repository, microfilm number, etc. One may save the reconfigured layout as a new default for a particular source type, or it can be used for a "one time only" arrangement for a particular source. You may also duplicate a source type and rename it after it has been modified to your purposes. You may define additional source types as you wish.

Note: If you change the source type, from "free form" to one of the defined types or between defined types, no data is thrown away!

All sources in files upgraded from Reunion for Windows v4 or from Generations v4.2 are imported into the free-form source type. You may select the specified source type from the menu.

Source types window

Source definition window with the list of predefined source types

Your original text in the free-form field is there for you to copy and paste into the defined fields, and you can put or leave whatever you want in the free form field. It will show up after the defined fields for the source type (check the Source Preview to see how it will look.) If you change source types it will only add additional source elements to the source, if needed, it will not take away anything you have entered.

Preview of a typical source

Preview of a typical source in a file


The existing source elements are:

Book/periodical name
Call number
Contact person
File name
Film number
Location of source
Media type
Publish date
Publisher name
Tax/census title
Volume number

The user may define additional source elements (as with the source types avove), which are then available for use in all of your sources as you see fit.

If you add (or edit) a source element there are several formatting options you may choose.

You may choose to have a field quoted.

You may also choose to have a particular field excluded from endnotes or footnotes in a report. This might be used if you include the "Location of source" field to show where in your own files a given source is located. This would be of considerable use to you if the files were extensive, but it would not be relevant to others reading your published report.

You can choose the text style for the appearance of the element in the reports: plain, bold, italic, or underline. One does not have the ability to combine these styles (e.g. bold-italic) which is usually found in word processor programs.

A less commonly used option is to check a source type as "active" or not. This means whether or not it will appear in the pop-up menu box. A source type is automatically active if it has been used in a family file. As the manual points out, a rarely used type (just a few times per family file) may be made inactive to reduce the size of the pop-up list. The source will still be properly used in reports, etc.


Make sure that there is enough information in your source citation (the source and the detail field) to enable someone else to relocate the fact you are using without a problem.

For unique sources (family bibles, letters, etc.) include information to identify who has the original source or copies of it. This usually would involve including the "owner" and "repository" or "library" fields. You should strongly consider making arrangements to deposit at least copies of your unique resources in some publicly available facility. County or state historical societies or county libraries are likely candidates. If you do this, make a note of it in your sources or in the preface or source notes of your reports.

A number of the default source types benefit from adding "date", "library" or "repository", and "film number" fields. * Fill in the "library" or "repository" fields if the source is of limited distribution even if it is not unique.

Film numbers are always useful, as many sources of otherwise limited distribution are available on microfilm or microfiche, and an indication of the source for the number is important. For example, two of the most widespread sets of films in use in the United States are the various microfilms produced by the National Archives and Records Adminstration of the Federal government, and the films in the collections of the Family History Libary of the Church of Latter Day Saints. A common way of referencing the National Archives films is in the form of "NARA [series reference], roll [number]" where the series reference is what the NARA calls the group of films, such as T-772, or M-809. Similarly for the Family History Library films one might use "LDS FHL [film number]." Many state governments also produce series of microfilms of their own records, including state censuses.

One should always explain these abbreviations in the preface or in a note with the source list in a report. There will almost always be someone who does not recognize the abbreviations at first glance. Likewise, one should either give the full name of a periodical source or use the accepted standard abbreviation for the periodical. Almost all libraries of any size have a copy of the book with the standard abbrevitions, which is published by the American Library Association if I remember correctly.

Regards, Mike Hobart

Copyright © 1999-2001 Michael A. Hobart, commercial reuse restricted.

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