See “Evidence Management” for an overview of this series and for links to other articles.
I outlined my idea of evidence management in two previous articles (“Why Can’t You Get It Right?” and “Evidence Management Explained”) and got some great feedback from you. I had time to incorporate some of it into last week’s article, but if you haven’t read the feedback yet, you should (here and here).
Sorry, Randy. I’m not telegraphing FamilySearch’s plans; I can’t speak for them. I’m writing this series as a challenge to vendors, including FamilySearch. In publicly critiquing products of my employer, I walk the fine line between being helpful and being fired. You’ll notice I never criticize my employer and I never criticize its products without proposing solutions. But I digress… It’s time to walk that line.
Vendor Support for Source Tracking (the Red Boxes)
The table below shows source tracking features that are needed for good evidence management. I’m filling out parts of this table from memory. Let me know if I’ve made mistakes.
A source is a person, document, page, book, web page, or other artifact that supplies information. In the evidence management diagram, each red box represents the information stored by the genealogy website to track a source. It contains information such as a citation, a transcript, a digital image, and a link.
There are two definitions you’ll need to know for this and subsequent articles:
- assertion – information about a person, relationship, or event. Birth date and birthplace are two examples of assertions. An assertion can exist as evidence or as a conclusion.
- field – a square area on the computer screen where the user types in information.
|Source Tracking Features
|Provides digitized sources online
|4 billion genealogy records
|Record Search, IGI, PRF, AF
|Indexed images of original documents
|Can upload digital images
|Links are “hot,” that is, can be clicked to reach destination
|Citation templates for referencing offline sources
|Handles sources uniformly, whether provided, uploaded, linked, or referenced
|No. Four different ways: 1. provided, 2. uploaded, 3.linked, 4. referenced
|Not supported: 1. provided, 2. uploaded, 3. linked
|No. Three different ways: 1. provided and uploaded, 2. linked, 3. referenced
|Manages sources independently of assertions
|Supports variety of citation formats/templates for uploaded images
|None; put in note field
|None; put in description field
|Yes, but inconsistently labeled
|Corrections to provided sources
|Annotations are searchable
|Corrections are searchable
Below is an example of Ancestry.com’s one and only citation template.
- Because there is only one citation template, it is not possible to follow industry standards for citations.
- Because there is only one citation template, it favors published sources even though non-published sources are more important to genealogists.
- As does PAF, Ancestry.com misuses the terms source and citation.
- While links to records provided by Ancestry.com are easily available from the assertion on the person page, links to non-Ancestry.com sources are nearly inaccessible. One must open the details about an assertion, then open the source, and only then can you click the link. To Ancestry.com’s credit, it used to be worse. Once unburied, the link used to be dead, requiring a copy and paste into a browser. (Click for a larger view.)
Ancestry.com handles uploaded sources in a completely different way. Because there is no citation field, one must place it in the description field.
The New FamilySearch Tree (NFS) has a simple citation template for living memory sources and another for all other sources. As with Ancestry.com, having only one template forces the vendor to favor published sources. The template looks like this:
Note that there is no field for a link. Also notice that the transcription field, labeled “Actual Text,” is appallingly small. While Ancestry.com has the annoying practice of ignoring line breaks when displaying transcriptions, FamilySearch takes the annoyance to the extreme. NFS runs together the entire citation template. As a result, the citation above is displayed in this incomprehensible format: