Working with Sources and Citations in Version 6 and below

  • Skill Level: Advanced, Intermediate, and New User
  • FH versions: V4, V5, and V6
  • In Topics: Sources and Citations 


Sources are an essential part of recording the results of your Genealogy research; they help you, and others, understand how you reached a particular conclusion — and where you might be mistaken. Time spent deciding your approach to Sources and Citations will be well spent — we often see users, even long-standing users, rethinking this, and it can be a lot of work to change the way you do things to get better results.

This article describes how to work with Sources in Family Historian version 6 and earlier. It should be useful to:

  • Users who are new to genealogy as well as to Family Historian.
  • Users who have experience with Genealogy, but are only just starting to work with ƒh.
  • Users wanting a refresher on how to work with Sources and Citations, especially if they are revising their approach.

If you’re new to ƒh and/or Genealogy, you may wish to work through our Getting Starting guide first. You should also review the ƒh Help file sections on  Source RecordsProperty Box: Main Tab for Source Records, and Sources and Source Citations.

If you’re using Family Historian version 7, you must should read Working with Sources and Citations in Version 7 instead of this article.

What is a Source?

A Source is a historical record that gives you information about your ancestors. It could be, for example:

  • An entry in a Civil Registration Index
  • A Certificate of Birth, Marriage or Death
  • A Census return
  • A Parish Register
  • A Will
  • A Monumental Inscription (Gravestone)
  • A Letter or Email
  • A Voice Recording or a Transcript of a Conversation
  • A Passenger List or City Directory
  • An original document you viewed when you visited an Archive
  • A Newspaper or Book
  • A Website

Historical in this context doesn’t mean old — you might have recorded Great Aunt Peggy telling her life story last week, but that’s still a historical record.

What is a Citation?

You won’t spend long doing genealogy before you’re advised to ‘cite your sources’. You’ve probably seen it in this Knowledge Base a few times already.

‘Citing your source’ means recording for your own benefit, and for the benefit of anyone else who sees your research, why you believe that something — a Name, a Fact, a Note — is correct, i.e. that it’s based on information in a Source that has been interpreted correctly.

When you cite your source, you do it by creating a Citation to link the Fact etc. to a Source. We’ll show you how to do this later in this article.

Creating a Source Record

There are a number of ways to create a source, depending on where you are in the ƒh user interface. However, the simplest (which works in most circumstances) is Add > Source…, which opens the Property Box for a new Source Record.

The Source Property Box has 4 tabs:

  • Main, which contains three sections.
    • At the top, you find fields that allow you to identify the Source, and help you find it again if necessary.
    • Underneath is a field that allows you to show a partial or full transcription of the Source.
    • Below that is a Note field to allow you to record comments about the Source.
  • Notes, which allows you to add extra Notes.
  • Media, for attaching and viewing one or more images etc. of the source. See Adding Media to Sources and Citations for more detail.
  • All, which shows you the details from all the tabs and also details of when the source was last updated.

To understand how you might use the Source Fields, see Gedcom Source Fields.


How to Create, Edit and View a Citation

In ƒh there are always a number of ways to do things and creating a citation is no exception. The one most people will use initially is creating the citation from the Facts tab of the Individual Property Box with the Source Pane visible (labelled Sources For).  This is also the place to view and edit Citations.

If the Source Pane (in yellow on the right) isn’t visible, you can turn it on using the Show Sources button . And you can choose how to position it using the Property Box Menu button   and choosing Options and configuring Preferred Position for Source Pane.

In the Source Pane, you can view or edit existing citations, or use the Add Citation button to add a new Citation. A Select source… window will allow you to select an existing source or create a new one; you can then fill in any additional Citation fields that you wish to use.

If you ant to see the detail of a Source record identified in the Source Pane, select that Source and use the Go To button on the tool bar under the list of Sources. When viewing the detail of that Source the Go Back button on the toolbar on the Source Property Box will take you back.

You can also copy-and-paste a Citation from one Fact to another (and these can be Facts associated with different individuals — useful if you’re trying to keep your Citations very consistent. In the Source Pane, choose the Source whose Citation you want to copy and click the Copy button . Then navigate to the Individual/Fact to which you want to apply the new Citation and click the Paste button in the Source Pane.

Another useful feature is Automatic Source Citation  which allows you to choose a Source which will be cited for every fact, name etc. you add until you turn the feature off.

The Contents of a Citation

As already mentioned, a Citation is, in its simplest form, a link between a Source and a Fact etc. However, you can also associate extra optional data with that link. (We’ll cover how to create the link in the next section).

Entry Date The date the Source was created, e.g. the date a Birth was registered, or a Baptism took place, or Great Aunt Peggy recorded her memoirs.
Assessment A citation can have an Assessment that according to the GEDCOM Standard evaluates the credibility of the source information. Remember that the assessment is for the piece of information in the source that led to the citation, rather than the source document as a whole.

Assessment Values

  • Primary evidence

Such as a Birth Certificate or most information in a Census. For example, a census enumerator will have recorded contemporary details such as name and address of the householder. However, details such as Birth, Place and Age may be less credible and warrant a lower assessment.

  • Secondary evidence

Such as Birth, Place and Age in a Census or on a Death Certificate, that are not contemporary with the birth, as they were recorded some time after the event, and/or by somebody who did not have first-hand knowledge.

  • Questionable

Such as a GEDCOM from another user who may be guilty of wishful thinking, when you have not had the chance to check their data. (Once you’ve checked it, you may remove the citation to their GEDCOM and replace it with citations to better sources. Or you may conclude they were wrong, and remove the citation altogether.)

  • Unreliable

Such as any family legend or hearsay that is very hard to verify.

Where within Source The location within the Source where the information supporting the associated Fact can be found. If, for example, the source was a diary then the Where within Source field could be used to record which page of the diary this particular citation refers to.
Text From Source This can be confusing as the source itself may also have a Text From Source field. This citation field is often left blank but could be used to transcribe the information present in the source that lead to this citation. This is most often used when a source is large and a complete transcription in the Source record is impracticable.
Note This is a Note that refers only to a particular Citation. For example:

  • The Source refers to Amelia Munro, but she was commonly known as Amy.

You can also attach Media to a Citation, typically an image of a relevant section of the Source. Attaching Media to Citations is covered at Adding Media to Sources and Citations.

How Many Sources do I Need?

There are, broadly speaking, two approaches to creating Sources and citing those Sources. You’ll find these referred to in various places as Method 1 (“Source Splitters”) and Method 2 (“Source Lumpers”).

“Splitters” create Sources at a very granular level  —so every Birth Certificate, every Household Schedule within a Census, every entry in a Electoral Roll is a separate Source. All or almost all of the data needed to identify the Source and the relevant information within it goes in the Source record, and Citations hold little or no information. This approach results in the creation of large numbers of Source Records.

“Lumpers” prefer more general Sources  — e.g Birth Certificates, the 1881 Census (or even all Censuses) There is very little information in the Source record, other than perhaps where to find the collection of records, and much more information in the Citations.

Your choice of approach has a number of consequences for how you do things, but there is no right or wrong choice, just the approach that suits you best. Many people adopt Splitting for some Sources and Lumping for others.

See Citing Sources: Method 1 and Method 2 for a discussion of the options.

An Alternative Way to Work with Facts, Sources and Citations

Many people —once they understand the basics of Facts, Sources and Citations; and have decided how they want to organise their Sources — find Ancestral Sources a useful application in conjunction with ƒh, to create facts (and associated citations) from the commonly used Source document types (e.g. Birth, Marriage, Death, Census, etc.) .

Last update: 07 Oct 2020