On the Future of Custom Reunion Source Types

Have you wondered what happened with the Reunion source types I had been creating? Let me tell you what happened.

As you’ll recall, I created custom source types based on guidance from “Evidence Explained” (EE) (see “source types” in the Reunion Tutorial Index). I also shared the process I devised for customizing Reunion source types. You may also recall that I revisited a couple of those customized source types to improve them.

That was the first sign of trouble, yet I pushed on because there was interest. Then two things happened:

  1. I realized that there is significant overlap between the fields used in the citation reference formats and teasing them apart and keeping it simple, true to EE, and GEDCOM compliant was seriously complex if not impossible.
  2. I became interested in (and have been) developing a simple, practical citation format that could be used with all the major genealogy applications and maintain GEDCOM compatibility. Heresy, I know!

I think I can create the EE based source types if I invest a lot of effort and do them all at once, but to make all the citation fields survive GEDCOM export and import I wouldn’t be able to continue to create separate, custom fields for each reference field in EE. The best I could do is create a cheat sheet to tell you what to put in each GEDCOM compatible mega field. The order of fields wouldn’t match those in the reference formats either. Essentially, I wouldn’t really be following the format in EE. It’s really a nasty mess.

By the way, the source template system in RootsMagic makes customizing source citation formats relatively simple, but I’m not confident of them surviving GEDCOM exchanges.

So I ask you, are bastardized EE source types something you want me to pursue? Are you interested in the practical citation format?


  1. Luci Dawson says

    Good questions, Ben. I suppose if I was a professional genealogist that I would want to follow EE as exactly as possible. But since I’m working on the family history that will be shared with family only, I would be happy with a practical citation template. As long as I used it consistently, it wouldn’t matter for my purposes whether or not it was truly faithful to EE.

  2. Marscha Chenoweth says

    I’m too new at this to really understand totally what you are suggesting, but I say – Go for it, Ben. Source citations drive me crazy so any type of simple, consistent way to do them and follow EE would be great!
    Thanks, Marscha

  3. Bonnie Elsten says

    I think the authors of genealogy software need to update their citation formats to be compatible with EE. If the work you are doing will not survive exporting or importing a GEDCOM file then it is of value just to the creator of the file. Perhaps your efforts should be as an advocate for revising the citation format.

  4. Barb says

    Hi Ben,
    I was wondering why some of mine that I changed were not transporting properly to Family Tree for Mac.
    I say go for the practical!!!
    thanks for all your efforts,

  5. Bill Clayton says

    I say they should survive as a gedcom out / in port. The format you use should be consistent and easily direct any reader to the source you have quoted.

    Thanks for all your work Ben. Do you have any news about an update to Reunion?


  6. Paul says

    Practical, understandable, Easy (ok easy-ish) and GedCom survivable over meeting EE requirements if that makes more of us make sensible choices when inputting citations. I have already discovered what happens when you loose citations that don’t make it through GedCom export/inport and I’d rather not go through that again.

    • Susan says

      Practical citation format would be very helpful: EE compatible when possible.

      Is there any thought at “the top” about revising/improving/updating GEDCOM? Especially to be EE compatible?

      Seems the most important thing is to protect the information so nothing is lost.

  7. Ron Setzer says

    I appreciate all that you have done to help us with sources in Reunion. I started to follow your examples, but I realized that the next version of Reunion should have upgrades for the sources, and if I change my formatting now I may have to redo it for the new version. Either way it is going to be a chore to become EE compatible in the future. We do have to think of the next generation that we pass our work off to.

  8. Arandun says

    I’m also too new at this to really understand all the implications, but I have been slavishly following your citation recommendations so far, so if the way your structure them is going to change, then I’ll wait and follow your advice one source type at a time. Your “simple, practical citation format” that can be used with all major software and still be GEDCOM-compliant sounds incredibly appealing. I say let fly with that, show us how it’s done! :)

  9. E A Alves says

    The name of the game is to be able to duplicate the “find” in the future. I think a lot of us just want to share with our family, so, unless one is going to publish and needs to adhere to a strict format, I’d be more interested in an easy to remember, practical citation format that survives GEDCOM export. I know it’s not easy – the beauty of Reunion is that it lets you customize to your particular needs, and gives you several choices on how to add, edit and navigate – but those can be a curse too! You have to make choices :)
    Thanks again, Ben! I, too, appreciate all of your hard work!

  10. says

    I’m voting for a simple, reliable, easily-repeatable system that will survive GEDCOM and allow others who view my sources to be able to find them on their own.

  11. Jeff Ford says

    I wouldn’t mind that “cheat sheet”! Perhaps the next version of Reunion, whenever that comes around, will be more EE compliant.

  12. Colleen says

    Dear Ben,
    Thanks for your efforts to improve source citations. I appreciate what you’ve done to simplify EE’s source types. Your solution sounds wonderful — easy, standardize entry (cheat sheet), GEDCOM survivable, roughly based on EE but practical. Thanks!

  13. Ed says

    We all can’t thank you enough for what you do for us with Reunion and the other programs. My first family history program was Personal Ancestral File or PAF. When I converted it over to Reunion by making a PAF gedcom file and importing that information into Reunion, the Sources were a nightmare. Most of them needed to be reworked to make them display correctly and be meaningful. I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through what happened to me. So my vote(if the decision is still open) is to make them GEDCOM transferable. While Elizabeth Shown Mills is the expert on source documentation, sometimes simpler is better. There are a lot of types of source formats out there, some better than others. But for my money, the interchangeability of GEDCOM compatibility outweighs strict adherence to one persons preference, even if that person is an expert. Reunion is for Mac, GEDCOM files allow us to share information with PC users. Please help us in that regard.
    Again, thanks for all you do! You are a life saver for me many times over.

  14. Maureen O'Neill says

    I have not used the GEDCOM feature yet but that does not mean I won’t in the future. I would like to have a system of citing sources that is consistent and understandable. I did like the census structure that you used earlier and used that for many of my relatives as I was working on their files. I stopped a while back and do not want to continue until a decision is made and the method is published. I agree with Ed’s comment above that sometime ‘simpler is better’. Thank you for all the work you do. It really helps those of use who get ‘be-fuddled’ easily.

  15. Louise L Kingston says

    I have watched and re-watch your videos about census citations. Each time, I begin to “get it” but I have so many census sources to make consistent that the mind boggles. Especially when I can’t return to the task until several weeks later, and have forgotten exactly how to do it.
    So. . .for me, as simple as possible, so long as the method is reasonably consistent with EE. Completely exportable to GEDCOM doesn’t matter as much as clear and simple matters to me.
    Meanwhile, I’ll spend my time learning Reunion 10 and leave the “cleaning up” sources for later!

  16. says

    I’m curious as to why people want “consistent with EE” or “reasonably consistent with EE”. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just asking about the reasons. Standards are good, but is EE necessarily the best standard?

    Based on only a very limited (so far) understanding of EE and of your Practical Citation, I can see the appeal of the latter over the former. Genealogy being the amateur-dominated field it is, just getting people to cite good sources at all is a worthy goal. Getting them to learn dozens of formats for dozens of source types, with various rules of punctuation, typography, ordering, wording, and so on? Is that realistic? And is it necessary?

    Chicago-like rules of citation are based in centuries of accumulated tradition, some of which still makes sense, some of which doesn’t really translate well to the Internet age. Again, standards are a good thing, but perpetuating minutiae for its own sake doesn’t do us any good. A simple approach — as simple as possible, but no simpler — seems to me the right way to go.

    The professional journals aren’t about to step to the front of any revolutions, but I’m not doing this for publication.

    Throw in the problem of GEDCOM safety and now there’s really a strong case for a simple, easy to understand, easy to carry out approach to citing sources. There’s also a case for completely rethinking genealogical data exchange, but that’s another topic.

    • says

      I agree with doctroid. I want us to be rigorous about our evidence and sources, but as simple and practical as possible in documenting them. I have wasted a lot of time trying to figure out which EE-based source template I should use for a citation in FTMM2 and which information I should put in each field in the template, only to end up with something I can’t find the next time I want it. This does not improve the quality of my research, prove the quality of my evidence, or make it easier for someone else to validate it; it just wastes a lot of time.

      I would also vote for making the template compliant with the GEDCOM fields that do universally translate between programs. While GEDCOM is flawed, it’s about all we have now for sharing between different programs. A cheatsheet would be a good start.

  17. Karen Trearchis says

    Yes, Ben please create the “bastardized EE source types.” I am just switching over to Reunion 10 from Reunion 9 and am unsure what to do with my sources, some of my sources need to be more formalized or deleted. So I am glad the Gedcom won’t transfer my sources as they need to be corrected.
    However, once corrected on Reunion 10, then what will happen later on when transferring to next genealogy program. I vote to follow you in your new plan and thank you so much for the work you do!

  18. Phil OSBORN says

    I’ve spent the last day or so going over you’re whole site, yes it’s that interesting.:-)
    I too am methodical about my sources and the GEDCOM problem between software. Others have different software thus sharing either way exposes the problem.
    Your methodology is praiseworthy to say the least. I too spend so much time on this. Sometimes I think that the developers must be so close,,, that when they get it right, I will suddenly come to the realisation that I burned up a lot of my time in for what,,, in the long-run anyway?
    Those thoughts aside, for now what will work for me is this:
    1. Owning all the software so as to be able to work with others native files that I’m given by them instead of them GEDCOMing it to me with loss of data. And then being able to give others a copy of my data in their native software.
    2. When I work with info between my own working family files, I make sure that I enter the basic GEDCOM info that works across all software files. What is important in that goal and is “most important”. That is to reference all my software program/application sources to two external places. i.e. external to the genealogy software.
    a. Referenced to hardcopy files of my own, originals, scans, or prints.
    b. Referenced to actual digitised files (of (a) on my computer.
    Both of these places can be DropBoxed individually to others who require copies for themselves.
    ***The important thing is that these two bits of source info relating to a. and b. within the genealogy software sources survive any processing e.g. GEDCOM export import.

    What I am now considering for myself, after all the reading I’ve done on you and other’s user groups, e.g.
    Reunion’s, is this. These two digitised references in themselves could be copied and converted to “EE compliant” spreadsheets rather than just.pdf or images. These then I could also make available to others individually via DropBox.

Leave a Reply