The ability to merge sources (particularly census) into a tree at Ancestry.com is really a nice one.

However, one must be careful not to indicate that a source says something it does not. The reasons are pretty obvious–but here’s an example with the names changed.

Thomas Smith was born in Harford County, Maryland, on 2 May 1865 and you have three primary sources to back it up. The 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 census all indicate he was born in Maryland. Let’s say that they all point to a year of birth of 1865

Yet if you aren’t careful when you tie the census record to his date and place of birth, you seemingly indicate that the census indicates he was born on 2 May 1865 in Harford County, Maryland. I’ve never seen a census between 1880 and 1920 that provides that specific of a place of birth.

Shouldn’t you create a “new” place/date of birth that is 1865 in Maryland and tie the census source to that?

Or am I just a stick in the mud?

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5 Responses

  1. “A stick in the mud?” Thanks for the laugh! Seriously for me, I add that information in the citation. For example 1910 U.S. Census, Becker County, Minnesota, population schedule, Frazee, Enumeration District (ED) 54, p. 28A (stamped), dwelling 168, family 174, Wm Baer household; digital image 19, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 May 2008); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 689. Francis Baer relationship adopted son age 7 born in Minnesota.

    On my Ancestry tree, I like to add a census fact, delete the residence fact that Ancestry adds, associate my new census fact with the Ancestry citation, and then add the information in the description. Lastly, I will often delete the association of the citation from the DOB fact.

  2. You’re right to be concerned, I think, and I think I’ll follow your lead — removing the census as a source for a birth and instead reporting the age in each census reading, at least for the future entries I make in Ancestry trees. It’s unfortunate that so often. the best approximation of a person’s birth date comes from the earliest census that lists him, and for most of our history and communities there were no birth records.

    I have also been troubled by our software (Ancestry and all? others) forcing us to assign a source without distinguishing whether it stated the date or the place or both. When we were using paper family group sheets, Netti Schreiner-Yantis sold a version that offered separate “footnote circles” for the date and the place. Why can’t our software?

    • I liked those forms too–being able to indicate just what part of the location came from which source is a good thing to be able to do.

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