The Dangers of Reunion Free-form Citations

Reunion for Mac allows you to create source citations by either entering discrete source information into structured fields, entering all of it in a free-form text field, or a combination of both. Entering a citation in just the format you want using the freeform edit box can be an appealing idea; however, you ought to be aware of dangers of entering citations this way.

In this video I show you examples of what can go wrong down the road if you use free-form citations in Reunion for Mac.


  1. says

    Dear Ben,
    Thanks for this informative video — now I understand what happened when I upgraded Reunion. Some early entries I had as free text and these disappeared into blank numbered files in the new program. Your video is a great reminder of how important it is to populate the source fields rather than depend on free form text to hold information.

  2. Tracy Langley says

    It is insane the timing of this information! I just stopped using FTM this week after importing files into it because several source citations did not import from my Reunion program and I did not want to re-enter the content! Thank you for the valuable information you provide!

  3. Linda K. McNeil Wilky says

    I wish I had known all this 20 years ago. Back then, I couldn’t see the value of one type over the next, except that free-form text seemed to be easier.

    So, is it safe to have both free-form text AND source fields at the same time for the same source number? It looks like, as long as I have the appropriate Source Type selected at the bottom of each source, I shouldn’t lose anything while I work to transition from using only free-form text to source fields. Does that sound correct? Thank you!

    • says

      That’s correct Linda. The Freeform citation is separate from the source fields so it won’t be lost when you change source types and or populate source fields.

      —-Ben >@<

  4. Robert Godfrey says

    I agree that source fields should be populated, and not doing so can result in problems when exporting Reunion GEDCOM files into other software; however, is the cross-software problem really due to deficiencies in the other programs that do not import the GEDCOM data properly? Or, is it a shortcoming with GEDCOM or with Reunion not creating GEDCOM properly?

    • says

      Thanks for the clarifying question, Robert.

      I would love to place the blame on an inadequate GEDCOM standard, but I don’t see that as the issue this time. Neither is it a problem with the implementation by the team at Leister–I do take issue with FTM for Mac displaying only a period instead of the note. Rather, I see it as the best solution, given the constraints, for enabling people to enter a Freeform citation. I simply recommend steering clear of it except in rare cases and only then with full awareness of the consequences.

      —-Ben >@<

  5. Warren White says

    I would be interested in how to fix a Reunion file with multiple free form source citations, some of which are used for different people. I am a bit worried about just deleting sources and then putting new sources in their places.

    Thanks for all you do!

  6. Bill Clayton says

    I just migrated my Reunion families to an iPod using Reunion for iPod and none of the sources came through, not even the titles. I have been using the free form with an appropriate title for many years and now will have to go back slowly and populate the source fields.

  7. Meg Hougland says

    At issue seems to be the lack of proper GEDCOM tags. Can you help us develop sources with the correct GEDCOM tag for the information? We often put information in free-form because we don’t know how to deal with the situation. I sometimes hesitate to make new sources because I don’t know the four letter tag that will translate when going into other programs.

    • says

      Hi, Meg. I find the whole citation format business entirely too complex–so much so that I think it results in fewer people citing sources in a helpful way if at all. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve been wiring through this process of creating source types for Reunion that follow ESM’s recommendations for “basic” formats. I think we need a simple, pragmatic approach that is easy to remember and apply.

      I’m working on it.

      —-Ben >@<

  8. Barb says

    Hi Ben,
    Thanks so much for this heads up. My 500 or so sources are all freeform. I experimented by changing one to Person as the source type instead of Freeform but when I exported it to FTM for Mac it didn’t go. but when I made a new source using Person, it went okay.
    It looks like the changing over of source types may not be an easy process. I do hope you will find an easy way that works for us!!!!
    thanks for all your help

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