Can you help solve these brickwalls?

Couleur / Pixabay

Tonight’s twitterchat for #ANZAncestryTime was about helping to solve brickwalls.

Many participants had written blogposts or biographies on wikitree including the information known about their person who is a brickwall.

Other participants gave us details so we could help solve them

Sharn: I have traced my Campbell ancestors back to Neil Campbell and Christian Buchanan who had children 1761-1773 in Callender Perthshire but I can’t find a marriage or their births

Margaret: It is my father’s family that is so difficult. For his maternal gmother…, we know her father is John. We assume her mother is Isabella from Naming Pattern, possibly Jamison. NO PROOF.

Alex: I had a go at crafting a more focused research question this afternoon. Here it is. Where and when did Robert Forfar die. He married Lucy Swait on 30 Jan 1842 at St James Westminster London UK and had a son George born 23 Oct 1848 and baptised Bannockburn? Lucy Forfar nee Swait died a widow in 1866. I surmise that Robert died some time between 1861 and 1866 as he was paying for George to go to school in Ealing in 1861. Did he die in England? Did he die in Scotland? Did he die somewhere else entirely? Robert was described as a mason on George’s marriage certificate. His family were weavers in Scotland. Forfar as a name presents a whole bunch of problems – spelling and that it is a place name as well. I need to keep rigorous records of my searches.

Kerri-Anne: I’m grateful for how much I know but I’d like to find out more information on my convicts in England Scotland Ireland – Thomas Power Jean MacDonald James Bradley Sarah Barnes Mary Parker Charles Watson Waters Ann Daley Richard Hicks Margaret Howe

Sharn: My g g g grandmother was Mary Williams said to be born in Singleton NSW c 1840 to parents named as Joseph Williams and Mary Kelly. I can’t find this couple or Mary’s birth

Sharn: Would really love to know what became of my g g g uncle Lawrence Frayne, convict who left a wonderful diary from his time on Norfolk Island after he received a Cert of Freedom in 1846

Margaret: I found most of the family for my 2xggfather William Dickson – again DNA matches and lots of research. Now I have to find his parents’ siblings – and his wife – and their missing children.

Hilary: I partially broke a brickwall when I discovered who my 3xgt grandmother married then found a DNA match with her descendants from that marriage My ancestor was illegitimate so I need to confirm the father with another DNA match

KerrieAnne: I am trying to find the origins of my direct maternal line ancestry from Ann MacLean to Robertson and further back – mt dna suggests Viking origins which is no surprise as she was from the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides

Tara: I think of them as learning opportunities and, as 3/4 of my ancestry is Irish, I’ve multiple 19C brick walls. The other 1/4 are English/Welsh origins and I can take most lines back quite far although my Welsh 3GGM is a challenge of her own

Jennifer: My 2x great grandparents John Taylor & Martha Lloyd are my brickwall. They arrived in Aust betw September 1841 and October 1842. They don’t appear on any passenger list. I’ve searched Taylor, Tailor, Tyler

KerrieAnne: Brickwalls – my husband’s direct paternal line challenge – finding Edward Tiearney & Catherine Colligan in Ireland before their emigration to US. Done ydna & got a good match but no real progress to go further back in Connacht Ireland, probably around Carracastle

Claire: my brickwall is probably not solvable. Can’t find marriage of 2x g-grandparents who had 2 kids in 1880s Dublin. No death of man recorded but dead by 1901. I’ve checked every marriage of right names countrywide church/civil & every death in Dublin from year before last kid born to 1901. Not helped by names involved: Reilly/Murphy

Sharn: I would love to know more about the family of my two convict brothers Michael and Lawrence Frayne both born in Dublin c 1809 and 1821 with children between

Suggestions of where to look for information

  • Prison hulks for convicts
  • Scottish kirk session on Scottish Indexes
  • Colonial Secretary letters
  • Occupation records such as Masons
  • National library of Ireland parish registers
  • Census records
  • Newspaper and archives for British and Irish

Try more than one site for your records – GRO, FreeBMD, ScotlandsPeople. With a missing name, I look for another person – then you find the name is mistranscribed, and that’s why it hasn’t come up on the index.

I really think spelling is key. My New Year’s resolution is to write up lists of spelling variations for each surname I am researching and make sure my searches cover all and any more I find.

A tip for breaking down brick walls is to re-examine any certificates or other documents you have. You never know what you might have missed in the past

look at the names of witnesses as sometimes their surnames might be a clue to a real surname after a name change

From Judy

I can’t join #ANZAncestryTime but my Brick Wall tips are (1) Research all relatives; (2) Try neglected sources (; (3) ’13 Tips to Try’ (; (4) ‘Break Through the 1837 Brick Wall’ (



Finding and solving gaps in our research.

Remembering that stories are important in family history, not just the birth, death, marriage dates and places. So how do we find information to fill in the gaps in the stories was what was discussed at this #ANZAncestryTime chat.

422737 / Pixabay

How do we identify gaps in our research? Is it important to do so?

I use timelines to work out where I need to look for more info eg school records, employment records etc

If you use good desktop software it may have a way to let you know what is missing

I am currently redoing my database and have queries to help find what is missing.

I have two ways of identifying gaps: (1) is writing up my research which makes clear where I’m missing information. (2) checking against my preferred sources to ensure I’ve included them.

To find gaps in knowledge/evidence about an individual … start writing up what you know about them as a sourced biographical narrative. This soon highlights the gaps which you can then set about trying to fill

Starting with what you know is a great tip Jane @Chapja It’s much easier then to see the gaps

Yes, Jane, I can get on board with this method, because my goal is a story, not a full database.

I like to try to fill in the gaps in my research. Often when traditional family history records leave gaps you can fill them using newspapers. DNA has helped me also

Love me a good timeline! Plus checklists, making sure I’ve covered at least all the basics.

For brickwalls I use mindmaps (from FreeMind) to review and identify what I might have missed

I love creating mind maps. I picked up that tip at Rootstech a few years ago. It’s amazing what can jump out at you as missing

Mindmapping – you could do this with pencil and paper I’ve also used Freemind Mindmaps for preparing museum exhibitions What’s really nice is that you can collapse sections or open then up

Using a research log or prompt sheet can help to identify gaps

To visualise gaps in tree … the DNAPainter ‘Ancestral Trees’ function enables you to visualise tree completeness so you can decide where in your tree you may want to focus next –

I create detailed timelines for individuals and families – it’s a great way of spotting both gaps and connections I hadn’t noticed before. Creating bios for Wikitree also made me go back and look for things I’d missed, so I could tell a coherent story

As Australia doesn’t have its census records available, we have to utilise different record sets and not get caught in the decennial gap trap.

Identifying gaps in our research is important if we’re to gain a full view of the lives of our ancestors. Learning what records are available for place and time, and using them, is critical.

I find using a spreadsheet to set down timelines of each person useful. Columns represent list of possible records they would be in, when I locate I tick it in the column. Records BMD parish records and census.

As with so much in family history, it’s finding what is most intuitive for each of us that helps productivity.

When looking at gaps in our research we need to look at regional, national and world events to see how they affected our families.

Ancestry’s DNA match colour coding and DNA Painter’s chromosome mapping have filled gaps for me

When new records become available work through them to ensure you have not missed someone GRO site helped me

I use timelines. I include place as well as dates. For example, is it possible that my research people were in e.g. New York for 1910 census and then enumerated in England a few months later in 1911? (Yes, it is, but confirming it opened new avenues)

Yeah Sophie’s “negative space” is basically the same idea, although her approach is more colourful. I’d like to be able to do a 3-D version that layers people on top of time/place. Best I can do for that is Visio/process maps

Visio is a lovely little microsoft package – very easy to use. I also use it for presenting smaller family trees – extracts

It was inspiration from the talk given by @ScientistSoph on Negative Space that really started me thinking more about this topic, including mapping events. Read her blog post here.…

timelines are really helpful, as is writing up a person’s life. Often realise I’m missing something crucial.

Interesting how many of us find narratives helpful to identify missing research.

I tag my Legacy trees as I find supporting sources so I know which ones I need to find.

i do a timeline sheet in my Research Log (Excel). I add date in first column then age, event and place for each person in the family with a diff colour for each person. Then i can scroll and see where each family member was on a date.

Different formats for diff research questions, but usually just a table in a Word document – year in one column, date in next, then a text field with whatever info I want to record. I find that little bit of visual organisation just enough to work for me

Ancestry’s DNA match colour coding and DNA Painter’s chromosome mapping have filled gaps for me

Yes … Delay no further! DNAPainter has so many useful tools and functions to help find and fill gaps in our research

I have loved DNA painter since Jonny Perl first introduced it at a RootsTech conference. He is brilliant

something I do with my students often is get them to fill out a blank direct ancestor tree just to see where they’re missing bits.

viarami / Pixabay

Do you use a timeline to identify research gaps? Do you use your genealogy program, Excel or another program?

I use mainly Legacy but sometimes go with spread sheet

Funny you mention it, because I created one today about a great grandfather, using a table in WORD. I’m including citations from the many sources I have found about him. He never seemed to stay in one place for long – trying to put all the pieces together.

Those wanderers can be a lot of work to trace. I have a few of those. Timelines do help to see where they’ve been

I have a bigamist who disappears after he serves time in Victoria. Not found anywhere yet.

I suspect some bigamy with my American born Adams 2xgt gddad too. Disappears from Grafton & NSW. Then emerged close & shared DNA matches descended from Tassie man of same name who appeared in Tassie little after Grafton man disappeared. Same man or close family?

I find that now I am writing up the family histories (part of my downsizing project) I am finding gaps and then I just fill them as I go. If I can

Yes writing narratives is a great way to find gaps in information … it also helps to spot inconsistencies in the information you have too

I can be in the middle of a blog post about an ancestor and realise I have a gap. Then it’s off down a rabbit hole before I finish the blog post. That’s where I am now

Writing is the best way to spot gaps! Writing seems to trigger all sorts of analytical processes in your brain that regular research does not.

Yes, and why it takes me so long to finish a blog post, let alone a research report for myself (loved your presentation on that!)

I found an infant death in Ireland following naming patterns and a gap in the births.

Tracing 19th century Aussie wanderers, it’s helpful to put the gold rushes on the timeline. A ‘missing’ person may have gone to try their luck. Check other colonies.

Good tip Brooke to add to the timeline. Also perhaps expansion of an occupation eg railway construction?

Gold rushes impacted just about everybody’s family – follow the gold. One of mine moved from Sydney to Victorian goldfields then up to the Gympie rushes in Queensland and finally over to the Western Australian gold rush. Over generations and not all moved.

Yes, my West Coast NZ gold rush ancestors all started mining life in Victoria. Most of them left family there, though contact has been mostly lost. I hope to re-establish some one day!

Another one of my mining families ducked across to Reefton for a while then back to Queensland. Have to look both sides of the Tasman

I realised one of mine did when I mapped the births of all his (many) children. Another way of spotting gaps. Map the babies.

This timeline was created for a specific research question: where was she living when she got pregnant with her children who were born out of wedlock? The timeline helped me formulate a hypothesis about the probable father, later confirmed with DNA.

My genealogy program allows you to export any query to a spreadsheet so you can work on it outside the program

Freemind is what I use for MindMaps…

Timeline but also my online tree with Ancestry where I can see on their facts or story what might be missing

Also when I write my biographies I have particular sections of their life to include which means I might need to do more research with newspapers etc to find that info

combination of Excel for checklist and offline family tree program for timeline. This then helps with writing up in more details in a blog.

If I’m looking at a timeline, I will use Excel to analyse what I have and what I’m missing. I always use date, month, year in separate columns. Alternatively I use Word document gaps. I don’t use my genealogy program for this.

my genealogy program is good for seeing gaps in the research plus you can add notes and reminders. I used to have lots of sticky yellow notes but using a program helps keep me focused.

I will write or look for other queries to identify other gaps once I have added census information

While I don’t always use a timeline I do identify gaps as I write up my research. I am using a timeline for my troublesome McSherry family. I also compare my checklist of record sources to see what I might have missed.

I’m constantly using timelines and use Legacy family history software. Occasionally I use excel for timelines

I look at my genealogy software & files for reference, but I create it in MS Word.

Pexels / Pixabay

What key facts do you include in your timeline? What records do you use to fill the gaps?

vital records (including addresses/occupations on children’s births), the census, any known migrations.

after looking at all possible records I then look at newspapers and overseas records. Sometimes the ancestor could be a witness or informant in a record.

BDM, children, grave or cremation, residences, any info from Rolls or Census records, newspaper stories

It depends on time period – early 19c Irish ag lab/working class leave very little trace in records so there are often big gaps, especially if they never married/had kids. Newspapers/migration/institutional records may fill gaps but often have to accept gaps

If I could just fill in the gaps in my lots of Irish ancestry I would be very happy. Wills have been useful

If you can find them, if they survive – I’ve yet to find more than a calendar entry and that for only a handful of people. The swines!

So inconsiderate of them! 🙂 I got my English 4GGF’s will. One line sums it up: “to my beloved wife, executor of this will, all my assets” – thanks Grandpa!! 😀

I like to record as many facts as possible in my timelines from cradle to the grave. I also include major events like war, famine, depression, pandemics. These events can trigger ideas for more records to search

If I am trying to find someone who is missing I will search in Newspapers or look for them travelling

Censuses and BDMs are the anchor points. Otherwise it could be anything – church records, entries in the street directory, newspaper reports, appearances as witnesses/registrants on other BDMs, court records – as long as it can be tied to a date

I like to track my ancestors’ locations, and kin, where possible to get a full picture of their lives. For immigrant ancestors I also want their immigration records – where available.

At the moment I’m including day, month, year, event, location, notes and citation. I’ve used newspaper articles, police records/gazettes, BMD certificates, electoral rolls. The guy I am researching went interstate and overseas enough to confuse us all!

Birth, Deaths Marriages, other key events in the life of the person. Also historical events at a certain time, for context

Trove is great for filling gaps we didn’t know we had – totally unexpected events and activities. I like to use Education, land, occupation, military records, immigration, clubs/societies inter alia.

I include every event for which I know a time and place for that ancestor. So vital events, military service, prison time, births of children, etc.

My excel sheet columns include for the names such First & Mid Name, Last Name, Full Name then vital record dates. The ID for the person. I split the dates to a columns for date, month and year. Finally the columns for the specific data I’m working with

vital records (including addresses/occupations on children’s births), the census, any known migrations

www_slon_pics / Pixabay

Can you give examples where you or others have successfully plugged research gaps?

One thing that timelines can hide is contradictory activities. eg An ancestor is recorded being in one place for his child’s birth, & having a business. a legal case showed he was also working on the gold fields a distance away: there were regular coaches.

lots of those for my Dickson family. Currently working on Rev Dr David Dickson’s children A few more than in official bios

I used timelines to disprove a family legend (two men) but extending the FAN (family, associates, neighbours) research actually demonstrated there was a foundation for the legend – multiple timelines.

another TL piece: sometimes, not often, RC priests recorded both birth and baptismal dates. RC baptisms usually took place ASAP but there was a 6 week gap. Made me look more closely at godparents. They’d travelled quite a distance, another chink in brickwall

I used timelines to disprove a family legend (two men) but extending the FAN (family, associates, neighbours) research actually demonstrated there was a foundation for the legend – multiple timelines.

Our genimate @luvviealex wrote recently about her life in 12 censuses. It made me think more closely about my own presence in the records and how I wish I’d been able to see my parents’ and grandparents’ census returns.

Tried this today in a timeline but discovered it left out great chunks of our lives even our overseas postings, seems we were always in Aus. Made me think of ancestors gaps

Exactly! I don’t want to share all the nitty gritty but I think it can help highlight the challenge for the next couple of generations while privacy rules apply.

How cool! I have never been enumerated in a census in my life. The Netherlands stopped taking them in 1971 since we have a continuous population registration and they know where we live. 👀

Using DNA Trove BDMs to help adoptees to find their bio families and Collins Leeds method too

My longest running project is the collection of Electoral Data from NZers in my tree. Add another cousin to my tree creates gaps for Electoral Roll entries. Having such a large collection of addresses helps with a diverse range of other research questions

Trying to find out what happened to a woman from when she returned to Scotland in 1868 until her death. For that time period looked at censuses, deaths in her family & mapped them in time & space. Found her. Went to live with her son in England & she died there.

Timelines have been very useful me to find out where ancestors were fighting during WW1. I start with enlistment date and place and then do a timeline of their war service

I hadn’t thought do to a wartime timeline. what a great idea @SharnWhite I intend to do it

It helps to know what battles to research Jennifer and what war diaries to look for

It is always worth looking to see if there were births before a marriage one turned up this week not a relative but the person they married was

I have been trying to find out how a man in Bathurst met a woman in Hill End and how she had 4 children to him. There were no family connections between the places. Today I found on Trove his license to drive a coach from Bathurst to Hill End.  Yes unfortunately he never married her. I must do a timeline to see if his coach trips coincide with the births! I expect they did

Doing a timeline of where members of a family were in census records helped me to find a missing person

I find researching between the census records for missing children has turned up a few who died young

using census records – when I can’t find them I try all variants – Price was indexed as Grice – sometimes gaps are caused by indexing errors, bad handwriting or human error

Or search by a family member with the most distinctive first name. That worked for me.

All of my ancestors start in UK. When they emigrated to New Zealand, I found them passenger lists and rest of the information in the newspapers, even when they then moved to North America, especially the journalist ancestor, which was the subject of my blog

I’ve set up web pages with blog post sections for all my ancestral lines- sometimes cousins read these and make suggestions that I’ve missed something or drawn a wrong conclusion

My ancestors lived in a place in the Netherlands that kept mill tax records in 1700s that listed everyone in the household. I used these to see when children entered the household and prove that one child was baptized under a different name than used later.

I’m using a spreadsheet of every single event I can find for my McSherry family in the hope of breaking down my mysteries. Very clear for a 25 year block, then nada.

Timelines + checklists = winner!

Blog posts relating to the topic

Kerrie Anne – using mindmaps,

Alex – my life in censuses,

Legacy – mindmaps webinar,

Sue – examples of biographies written,

Readers: How do you find the gaps in your research? How do you find the info to fill those gaps?

Sources and citation

Again ANZAncestryTime twitterchat had our four questions but I am going to separate them with our answers.

Peggy_Marco / Pixabay

1. Do you cite your genealogy sources and why is it important to do so?

Karen: Much of the information I have found is in historical newspapers and documents such as electoral rolls, birth, marriage and death certificate transcriptions, and shipping records. I had little information to go on otherwise.

Helen: Of course! To provide evidence; so I can easily access/find the source again; to help others check my work and help with their research.

Michelle: Always. Although sometimes they are a rough entry in notes until I do them properly in my database.

Margaret: I try to on all my @WikiTreers profiles. Only exception is my mother’s research. If she has it and I can’t find it I use it

Helen: That’s a great recommendation. I have a family member’s research I can implicitly trust too. I love sharing my discoveries with her

Pauleen: The best kind of research geneabuddy…a serious, meticulous researcher

Helen: My wonderful older geneabuddy had access to the older generation I didn’t too, and she still has paper questionnaires from the 70s/80s she asked them to fill in about her family. GOLD!

Fran: How wonderful. Hopefully someone will digitise the images and also type up so they are not lost.

Brooke: and how do you write the citation for a questionnaire?

Helen: I’d include name of person answering, name of researcher, describe it as a genealogy questionnaire, private hands (in a publicly available document/blog)

Carmel: I record all sources in my genealogy database as I add the records. Add lots to Evernote too. All sources added to blog posts, Harvard style

Fran: I use my database also. I used to add more notes in Evernote but recently moved extras back to my database as notes or attachments so it can be found all in one place.

Maggie: Have learnt the hard way, and now am religious about keeping track of my sources – so I can go back and see what I found, how I found it, where I found it, and evaluate it against other sources.

Claire: I think we all have notes on pieces of papers that we have no idea where we found something!

Maggie: I think that’s when I switched to notebooks… at least the notes were all in one place. Still unsourced, but hey, better than loose scraps (and hopefully some context in there?).

Claire: I have my own referencing system for my offline tree. Online I sometimes add sources but generally don’t spend to much time on it, I don’t want to give all my work to commercials & I can produce the goods for genuine connections when asked.

Hilary: I have spent too much time redoing things because I didn’t do a good job of citation in the past so now it is the first priority. It is important to know where you found the information if some time later you find something that questions earlier research I found this problem just yesterday.

Pauleen: And to add insult to injury, the archives changes their cataloguing system and you have to “translate” the old citation into their new format.

Helen: Which is an ABSOLUTE disgrace! I’m an archivist and archivists should understand this! Don’t get me started!

Pauleen: And occasionally you find a person who can’t help make a transition you’re trying to track.

Helen: I am not going to ‘like’ this Pauleen! Where’s the ‘fuming’ icon?!

Sue: Did this in Tasmania but at least only added a 1 in the catalogue eg RGD37/46 became RGD37/1/46 – meaning first lot digitized I think

Brooke: I tend to copy the MLA citation for Trove articles because it is closest to UTas history citation style. It’s what you’re used to.

Jennifer: I’ve found many think that if it’s on the internet it’s free. I found a blog post I’d written about an ancestor on someone’s Ancestry account as if they wrote it. I asked them to take it down or add me as the source. They took it down after a while

Sue: having blogged with students since 2007, I quickly learnt about copyright with images and getting permission or else you get sued.

Pauleen: Even a copyright notice across the image doesn’t stop people using them. People in general are intransigent about copyright and don’t want to hear when you tell them they can’t.

Sharn: I find if I record my sources as I research it is less painstaking than doing it all at once.

Sue: when adding to profiles on trees, I include websources especially from Trove or the Tasmanian Names Index

Pauleen: When we get pressed for time when visiting a repository it’s all too easy to forget to properly document. Online catalogues can be helpful to overcome our omissions. I try to photograph the packet and my order slip before I start on the document. Thankful for the fact we’re now allowed to photograph. Once upon a time we had to get anything we wanted photocopied and sign a copyright disclaimer.

Maggie: I always photograph the order slips now, has saved my life many a time. And yes, always seem to be working at speed in archives

Sharn: As I research now I add my sources to a word document that I save to my computer and each topic has its own folder of sources I can return to.

Jennifer: This is what I’d like to do. I l wish I was as organised as you Sharn. I should make it a priority

Jennifer: I learnt in the early days of my research how important it was to cite sources when I couldn’t find something previously found in an archive. One day I’m going to go back to all those old early blog posts and find the source so that I can cite them. That’s the plan anyway, if I live long enough.

Pauleen: @legalgen has shown us the gold standard of citations in blogging, so we’ve started to learn from her example

Sharn: It is important to me to cite my sources as they establish evidence for my research. I also learn from other people’s citations

Pauleen: I agree. Following other’s citations in books etc can be useful wayfinders to future research opportunities.

Helen: Absolutely. I’m an avid footnote fan. I even own a book called The Footnote, by Anthony Grafton!

Pauleen: To footnote or to endnote, that is the question. I’ll have to look for that book.

Fran: Items I add to my main family tree I cite the sources. I need to as I cannot remember where I fond things. I do not always source blog posts as mine are usually quick and sweet little posts and not advanced pieces of research. If anyone asked I could refer to my main tree and see where I found the information.

Helen: Currently tutoring at tertiary level & correct citation is a huge part of their mark, effectively, because if the students don’t master citation, they fail their assignments!

Jennifer: It’s important to cite your sources so you or somebody else can find it again. It also gives credibility to the information and gives credit to other researchers or writers. Without citing sources you could be accused of plagiarism

Sue: when writing post on blog I link URL to images of words but don’t necessarily cite like in Chicago etc unless it is formal essay

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2. Where do you use citations? ie blogs, reports, trees?

Karen: I included a long reference list for a recent article for the Lane Cove Historical Society journal. I send links to articles to family members, e.g. Trove articles. Citations are also in my family tree. Haven’t written blogs yet. Maybe I should.

Michelle: in my database and any report I write. I haven’t got into blogging yet but one day… I’ve begun putting biographies on WikiTree and the citations sometimes lag behind the text until I can copy/paste but I find it easier to just write without stopping.

Pauleen: I can understand writing without stopping but even if you just put the footnote # in there and come back after finished writing it helps.

Sue: Always good to check the site you got info from for how they want something cited or footnoted

Helen: Good point Sue. Some of them are very clear about that. Some of them could do better!

Sharn: I use citations in my house histories. The footnotes are as long as the history sometimes

Pauleen: I used them extensively in my major ADLH assignment for Oxford, as it was about Irish migration and conditions which wasn’t their area of expertise.

Fran: Mostly 100% in my main tree has some source. I try not to add unless I have time to do a source. I do them for other work like any essays, reports, etc when studying as this is expected and part of the process.

Maggie: Reports, trees, blog posts (though sometimes those ones might be less formal). However, I do have a bit (okay, a lot) more work to do on ones in the earlier nooks and crannies of my main research tree in Reunion.

Pauleen: I don’t use citations in trees online because I don’t add my primary research to those. I also don’t add it to my genealogy database as I prefer a narrative format.

Helen: We are very similar but that said, for one particular branch of the family I have an online database where I add sources and annotate. Here’s an example:

Pauleen: I like how you’ve got the person’s life history summarised in a clear way.

Helen: Thanks. Lots more to do on this. None of them are ‘finished’ – I intend to include more of my narrative writing too.

Hilary: I have been waiting for new desktop software update so now trying to use to rebuild my database using good citations as has better sourcing capabilities

Jennifer: I cite my sources on everything I write. I often write & publish blog posts on my phone when away from home and when I don’t have the source at hand. I always go back and add it later

Sharn: If I am out I add a source in NOTES on my phone so I can find it again later

Hilary: I am very active on @WikiTreers and busy cleaning up profiles so much of my current citation work is online

Sue: If I want to use something from Tasmanian archives always send them a request and include URL of blog post it will be used in. Haven’t been refused yet.

Pauleen: That’s interesting because I’ve been told before that the archive doesn’t own copyright and I had to go to the relevant dept. A right nightmare! That was for my book.

Sharn: I use footnotes on my blog posts and I now add source on my online trees (I’ll add ie a FindmyPast source on an Ancestry tree) so that I know where I found things

Margaret: I use them in the biographies I write for my profiles on @WikiTreers. I add them to the people in my Legacy trees

stevepb / Pixabay

3. What referencing system or guides do you use or would like to use for citation?

Karen: EndNote. I generally use APA7th when citing.

Sophie: Great question! Agree with others that there’s a need to be a little flexible with choice of ref style according to where you’re publishing/writing…but Shown Mills’ book is certainly handy

Sophie: One of my go-to items is Zotero @zotero which has an awesome browser add-on that allows you to perform a one-click grab of referencing metadata from pages and articles you visit online. An essential tool!

Hilary: I use Evidence Explained if I can but I also have Referencing for Genealogists: Sources and Citation which is better for UK sourcing

Michelle: I tried EE but found it inconsistent. And the comma inside the title quotes is grammatical nonsense. Now I use my own system which is pretty much [where I found it] citing [where it comes from]. For books etc I use Harvard which I’ve used for years.

Fran: Would love to say some official system. Do have my Evidence Explained beside me. I find The Lazy Genealogist system most successful. I use free form in Reunion. I go for more than less. Copy archives citations, add notes, transcriptions, images, links, etc.

Sue: depends who i am writing for. essay at uni or article for magazine, i would do formal citing with footnotes and bibliography. but blog post often links if info found online

Jennifer: I’ll use a link in a blog post too Sue if I have one. Will put the correct source in my FH software

Hilary: If websites provide their own citations I will use them but sometimes I edit them if incomplete

Helen: I no longer follow a particular system, just include everything needed for a clear, honest citation that allows it to be found again

Brooke: I think that’s completely valid. Being able to re-find the source is the point of the exercise.

Carmel: Indeed, as long as one has Who, What, When , Where , Why and How – that’s the criteria I use for citations then make sure some consistency of order is added

Jennifer: I always refer to Evidence Explained (EE) when unsure. If I’m really unsure I just write it to make sense so somebody knows where to look for it after they read it.

Sharn: I prefer Harvard style citations but in terms of organising citations they are in files under topics researched on my computer. I need some software!

Pauleen: Unless I’m required to use a particular citation model, I tend to use the Australian Style Manual. The main thing is to get the details documented so the record can be found again

geralt / Pixabay

4. How do you keep track of the sources you find or want to follow up? ie correspondence with relatives, downloads, photos

Brooke: How about naming files for digital sources? At a workshop, a historical fiction writer said that she simply names files according to what they mean to her, thinking of words she would use for searching, & let’s the computer’s search engine do the rest.

Jennifer: I like that idea. It keeps it simple. There’s really no need to overcomplicate as long as it can be followed. Different if it’s a source in a book or publication

ANZ: I am pedantic about my filenaming, use a standard convention so I can build my complete citation from it.

Brooke: Eureka moment! That’s a very smart way to go about it. Thank you.

Maggie: And don’t modify the original file, always edit a copy. That way the date of the file is the date you accessed/downloaded it.

Pauleen: Hadn’t thought to do that, good tip, thanks Maggie.

Pauleen: I remember once, at work, being told that file where you first think of a location as it’s likely that’s where you’ll look next time. Makes sense I think

Fran: For work I use names I would think of searching for next time I want it. Similar for family history though I start with a unique number so that once I find one piece I just search the number and find all related pieces.

Fran: A number for an item plus words for things like source, what it is, names and dates – sometimes shorthand. Eg a birth certificate, a will, a page from a census though this might have two pages if the family covers two pages. 0600-GRO-Death-Cert-Frances-Ann-Shepherd-DOD-1946.png

Helen: I would do this for some – very frustrating that with VIC BDM certs they provide them unmeaningfully as Cert_190923-2021 rather than before image_DeathCertificate_CAHILL_Michael_1863 – so I rename those. Otherwise I rely on filing by subject/context

Pauleen: I keep a running file of records I want to follow up in the archives or library and another for my infinite wishful “to do” list. I found my archives list very useful when I’d suddenly find myself in Brisbane from Darwin.

Michelle: I use a genealogy-specific gmail address and file all emails into folders by name.

Michelle: I have 4 colour-coded manila folders by grandparent surname where stuff for scanning goes till I deal with it. Same on computer for digital stuff. When I’m working on that line I go through it and process them

Karen: I have photos and documents stored in folders on my computer/Cloud and hard drives. Many have been sent via email, so I can often find them quickly through email searches.

Pauleen: Does anyone else ever feel like they’re drowning in a tsunami of data, sources, emails, photos etc etc? I’m finding it very overwhelming with my decades of “stuff”.

Fran: I can understand this better after seeing your book today. What a pile of work that would have been!! I suspect you need to prioritise and work on that first. Some might have to be left undone.

Pauleen: I was exceptionally organised when I was writing the book but now I’m retired I’ve moved into CBB (can’t be bothered) mode about far too much.

Maggie: ‘m not great at this bit – I need a correspondence log! Downloaded files are no problem, as I use a filenaming convention, but I need to sort out a proper system for photos.

Hilary: I have so much organising to do but not sure when it will be done as lockdown did not inspire me to do it. When I am filing downloaded images I am trying to stick with the original name just adding to the appropriately named folder

Sharn: It bothers me that I haven’t organised my email correspondence. I have a wealth of information in them. I record every source I find that is useful in word documents under the topic. I just add to those when I find more. I index them to keep track of what I have. I hate losing sources

Jennifer: I really dislike research logs. I just put where I researched and the results on the ancestor file in FH software

Fran: Big fail happening with keeping track on want to follow up. When I am tidying up pile of what looks like scrap I will find a page printed with a little note: check at XYZ place.

Pauleen: I’ve been retrieving old emails (some) and sending them to Evernote too. I’ve also copied the email chain for ones I’ve had lots of correspondence with and put them into a file.

Carmel: in email keep all genie correspondence in one folder, in gmail, tag with surname labels, also send to Evernote email with surname tag

Jennifer: I use the notes section in my family tree software to record sources that need follow up. I try to record all sources with a person on the tree. That’s my intention but I’m not always that organised. I’m very proud to see I scanned every one of my documents and photos in lockdown last year. Took all year. Was so happy when it was done

Want to practice your writing and citation skills?

Great quotes:

Jennifer: Thanks everyone for the really informative discussion on sources. I’m relieved to hear that I’m not the only one who isn’t perfect all the time. I did think it was only me

Penny: What is this you say – The Lazy Genealogist system? Is there such a thing?

Readers: Do you include sources and citations when writing blog posts, reports or on your trees?