Years ago, when I was very new at the genealogy game, I believed that I could accurately remember where I had discovered every bit of family data.
And - for awhile - I actually could do that. However, as the years went by, and the numbers of people on my trees increased - and my brain cells seemed to decrease - it became impossible.
Sometimes, I would write the information on a scrap of paper. We all know what happens to a scrap of paper stuck in a bag or pocket.
At one point, I had to stop all new research and back track, almost to the beginning of my quest, to fill in all those blanks.
Fortunately, I had even saved some of those scraps of paper on which I had scribbled information while visiting archives and libraries. To preserve them, I had taped them onto regular sheets of white paper. Eventually, I transfered that data to the family tree software I used, but the scraps didn't cover all my research.
It wasn't easy to admit that I had neglected this important documentation. And it required a very long time to retrace my steps.
Since those days, I clearly - and loudly - advise beginners to document every bit of data they find.
Some have replied innocently that they'll remember - they only have a few people on their tree. Others have even asked why it's important: "The names are what we need, right?"
Been there, done that.
At some point, all researchers - those who have not carefully sourced and cited their data - will look at a name or a fact and ask themselves, "Now where did that come from?"
Where the fact or data was revealed - during a family interview, in a census record, a will, discovered on page 244 of a town history, heard on a television program or from a report received from a European archive - doesn't matter.
"Record, record, record" should be the mantra of every researcher. And not on scraps of paper.
At one point, you will forget where that data came from. You'll look at it, scratch your head in puzzlement, and say to yourself, "Maybe I should have written that source down somewhere."
To make it easier, MyHeritage.com is now offering a place to record such essential elements on its profile pages.
If you are just beginning your journey down discovery road - and you take these words to heart - you will have an easier time by starting today to source and cite every fact.
The new Source Citations can be found in a MyHeritage family tree in the "people" profiles section. All you need do is to add the source - an interview, book, document or website - and upload it for that individual.
Stored online, this information will help you and future generations access valuable family records.
Of course, storing this information online at MyHeritage.com also acts as a backup in case of unexpected computer problems.
Do you have data with unknown origins? Can you retrace your steps to discover where it came from?
Have you had to retrace your steps to find a source for a bit of data? Were you successful?