Sources or Notes

Sources or Notes


How do you document the claims you make when you store information about your ancestors? Do you create Sources, Citations and Repositories? There is a fairly good chance that instead, you keep that information in Notes. One major advantage to using Notes is that you don’t have to learn how to use Sources, Citations and Repositories. Another is that you can write whatever you want, and not be tied to a rather strict format. There are, however, some disadvantages to using Notes. One is that those strict formats were created to show how to clearly, completely and concisely document an event. To make this more clear, let’s think first about what a source is. A source is information about an event. (That’s too simple, isn’t it?) A source is more than just the information. It is some type of notation containing the information. There are many ways of retaining information, but some are used more often than others. Let’s talk about those. They fall into two broad categories. They are often documents about a specific event, or documents about multiple events.

A birth certificate is a document about a specific event. A book is a document which is more likely to have information about more than one event. Although they are different, they are also similar. They can both be stored in a describable location. They can be identified uniquely. We can learn the information they contain, and use it for our purposes.

So far, we could use either Notes or Sources to describe them and the information we get from them. Let’s approach this from a different direction. Imagine that you are in the aquarium section of a pet store. This pet store sells both fish tanks and fish. If you were to call a friend on the phone and describe the pet store, the tank and the fish you wanted to buy, you could tell this friend the name and address of the store, which tank you were looking at, and you could describe the fish you wanted. If you described it well, your friend could go to the store, find that tank, and look at the fish.

Now, think of the pet store as a library, the tank as a book, and the fish as the information in the book. Repository, Source, Citation. For the Repository, you tell where you found the source. For the Source, you describe the document which contains the information. For the Citation, you describe the information you found, and if necessary, exactly where within the source you found it.

So far, we could do that either with Notes or Sources, Citations and Repositories.

Suppose that we have five customers all on their phones describing to a friend, which kind of fish they want to buy. We could have each customer standing in a different pet store, or they could all be in the same one. We could have each standing in front of a different tank, or they could all be clustered around the same one. We could have five guppies in the tank, with each customer pointing to a different one, or we could have only one guppy in the tank, and each customer saying, “That’s the kind of fish I want!”

Again, change the pet store to a library, the fish tank to a book, and the guppy into the information to be cited. If you are keeping your documentation in Notes, you must first make the description of where you found the source. In this case it would be the name and address of the library where you found the book, even if it is in your home. Then you must describe the Source, which in this case means author, title, city, publisher and year of publication. Next you must create the Citation where you describe the information you found, and exactly where you found it. Birth of John Doe, Page 9, Line 15.

If your documentation is in Notes, and the book contains information of different types about several of your ancestors, you must copy the information about the library into the notes of each person who has information taken from that source. You must also copy the information about the book itself in to the notes of each of those ancestors. Finally, you must place the information, and exact location into the notes for each person.

Suppose you discovered that you copied the publisher’s information from a book sitting just next to the book you should have documented. You must now go back and find each place where you referenced that book, and change the erroneous information about the publication.

Even if you never make any mistakes which would need to be corrected in multiple places, you still have the burden of creating and storing multiple copies of the same Repository and Source information. In cases like a census, even the Citation could exist only once for every person on the same page of the census, and the differences in detail would be handled in the census Event instead of in the Citation.

The next post will show the construction of  Sources in AQ.

Suggestions/Questions about AQ Will Do or Subjects discussed here? Leave a Comment Below. I would like to hear from you!


  1. Martin D Graves

    After years of work, I need to update/clean my “source list” names. Is there a way to do “mass find/replace” on “source list” names? I’m currently using AQ v14.x, with plans to upgrade ASAP. Thanks.

    • Martin, could you explain what your goal would be in this project? Could you give me a few examples of the things you would ‘find/replace’ so I can better understand what you are trying to do?

      • Martin D Graves

        Hey Dale. Sure. In my system, years ago I started naming sources for each memorial# from Find-A-Grave with beginning of “Website : FindAGrave”. I have hundreds now. I want to remove the “Website : ” portion of the names.

      • Martin, this seems like a reasonable thing to do, but not a thing that would be done by a large number of AQ users. I don’t see a way to do it directly in AQ. I do know that if you have more than one file each will have its own source list. That implies, but does not dictate, that the source list is imbedded in the file. (replace the xxx with the name of the family file) Since not many people would use the function, Is isn’t likely to get a very high priority in the wish list of things AQ users would like to see. However, if you don’t ask, it probably won’t happen, so I suggest that you send an email to explaining what you have told me. I have had similar thoughts about event types, but because of event sentences and variable numbers of data fields it would be a much more complicated undertaking.

      • Martin D Graves

        Dale. I’ve noted the database is a binary type file, not simple text format (even HTML). If AQ team doesn’t have a solution, the only way around I see would be to export to GED, update the values in a text editor, and then import the GED back. Thanks for the insight and feedback.

      • Excellent suggestion.

  2. gramabeethorpe

    Thank you!  This is very helpful.

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

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