How to Add a Source - part 2: Repositories

Sunday 26 May 2019 by Fouke Boss

In this second part of our blog series on adding a source, we take a look at repositories, which is the Centurial way of capturing information that allows you to retrace your sources.

The Source dialog

From the first part of this blog we learned that adding a new source in Centurial is done using the Source Dialog. We saw that the first task of adding a source is to determine the provenance of the source, which is the trail of representations, from the one you are studying all the way back to the original representation of the source. The provenance then provides you with a measure of how reliable the information in that source is.

Once you've determined the provenance of your source, the Source Dialog will present you, for each representation of your source, with an entry form that allows you to enter the details of that representation. As an example, let's take a look at an online digital image of a local goverment record:

You can navigate between the representations either by using the Previous and Next buttons at the bottom of the dialog, of by clicking the representations in the provenance bar on the top of the dialog.

Tracability

Now one of the main reasons for you to capture as much information as possible about each of the representations is to allow you, and other researchers, to retrace your sources. In other words, you will want to include enough information so that you or others are, at any moment in time, able to go back to the source you originally studied. This allows you or other researchers to check and validate the information you used and extracted from the source in its original context.

To allow you or others to go back to the information, we need to answer two or sometimes three questions:

  1. Where or how can you find this source?
  2. What uniquely identifies the source you were using?
  3. Optionally, which specific part of the source have you used?

As an exemple, let's look at the birth record of Vincent van Gogh again. If you wanted to retrace this source in order to take a look at it yourself, you would:

  1. Visit the Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum, which is a public archive that is located in the town of 's Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands.
  2. Ask for the civil register ('Burgerlijke stand') of the town of Zundert.
  3. Open the registry containing the births of the year 1853, go to page 9 recto, and take a look at entry numbered 29.

A second example might be a recorded series of interviews with your grandfather conducted by, say, a cousin of yours. If you wanted to validate the information coming from the interview, you would have to:

  1. Visit your cousin, or more specifically, his private archive.
  2. Look for the tape labled 'interview with grandfather'.
  3. Fast forward to the relevant location on the tape.

Other sources only require the first two parts: to retrace an online database entry, you'd:

  1. Start your web browser.
  2. Navigate to the relevant database entry.

Source, Repository and Format

Centurial enables you to capture the answers to each of these three questions, and does so for each representation. For usability we switched the first two questions: first we identify the source, then we specify the location of the source (which in Centurial is called the repository), en then we specify the format details if relevant:

For each source type, Centurial suggests which fields that are relevant for that specific source, repository and format parts. An authored book or manuscript is usually identified by it's title and author(s), where as for a vital record the jurisdiction (the town where the vital record was created) is more relevant. A page number is very relevant for a census, for a grave stone not much so.

Repositories

In Centurial we use the word repository in a rather broad sense, as we use it to indicate the way a source can be located. Centurial offers 4 types of repositories:

Repository Description
Public Archives Many original sources can be found in public archives. Public archives are public facilities where research materials such as historical records are held. Examples are government offices, national archives, museums or public libraries.
Private Archives Family artifacts, like family letters, birth certificates and funeral announcements are kept in the private archive of private persons.
Publishers Many authored works, like books, journals and newspapers, are published. These materials are generally widely available and can be located by visiting local libraries, by contacting the publisher, or online.
Websites Last but not least, many sources today can be found online, either at websites or at virtual archives created specifically for this purpose.

To link a source to a repository, we start of by clicking the three dots in the repository field:

This opens the Repository Dialog, whichs shows us all the existing repositories. Note that the types of repositories that are shown depend on the source type. In our case, a source of type vital record can be at a public or a private archive. Vital records are not usually published on their own, and if you found one online, you would actually be looking at a digital image of a vital record!

Now you can either create a new repository (on the right hand side of the dialog) or you can select an existing repository (left hand side). In either case you end up with this screen layout, which allows you to edit the fields of the repository before confirming the repository using the OK button:

Archival arrangements

Public (and sometimes private) archives usually organize their materials into smaller units like collections, record groups, series, and files. These too can be managed from the Repository Dialog. Here's an example from Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, in which the Wisconsin Historical Society (a public archive) owns a collection ('Draper Manuscripts') that contains a series named the 'Tennessee Papers':

In a similar fashion, websites that are specifically designed to be virtual archives, such as Family Search, arrange their materials into online collections:

Repository details

After confirming the selected repository or collection in the Repository Dialog (by clicking OK), Centurial switches back to the Source Dialog. The confirmed repository is shown as linked to the source.

Now depending on the repository type you selected, the Source Dialog has added several more fields to the source; these fields are specific to sources in such a repository. For example: records that are stored in an archive usually are tagged by the archive with some unique identifier like a call number.

Type Additional fields
Public/Private Archives The identifier fields allows you to enter the unique identifier of the source within the archive. This is sometimes known as the call number. The accessed field will contain the date on which you accessed the item in the archive.
Publishers For published sources, the published date and ISBN fields are available.
Websites For sources that are published on a website, Centurial allows you to capture the url to the web page, the path (which is the breadcrumb), and the accessed date.

Enter only what you know

When entering information about a source, it is very important that you only enter information that you have confirmed yourself. This first of all means that it is better to leave a field empty than to enter information that you've guessed or extrapolated. If the pages of a vital record book have no page numbers written on them, do not count the pages; simple leave the page field empty.

A common example of this is when you study an online digital image of a vital record, for example at familysearch.org. You study the digital image, so from that representation you exactly know how to find it: you know the url of the image. What you do not know for certain is the current location of the vital record. Usually the website contains information about the whereabouts of the vital record, but this is usually the location at the time the digital image or scan was created.

Now in this case, the way to go is to mark the repository of the vital record as unknown (the default value). Instead, the digital image contains a Credit Line field that allows you to enter the whereabouts of the scanned item as stated by the website.

Source citations

In the last part of this blog series, we take a look at source citations and the grouping of sources in the source list.