I am sure as you have been looking at Family Trees online, you have notices sources in footnotes and links. What is a source and why do you need them?
Every professional genealogist will tell you that you must have sources, notes that identify where you took your information from and that verify your information is accurate. You are probably going why should I tell you. Honestly it’s not for anyone else, it’s for you. I was very much the I did all this research I am certainly not going to tell the world where I found it so they can cut me out of the picture, when I started. I then realized that sources were more for me, so I could remember where I saw it, especially if it was a family line that I was slowly working on.
Sources should be the record that verifies your information and allows you to move back a generation. Sources should not be a family tree that you found on the internet. If you copy some information from a website and want to remind yourself what website, then site it as a source, but you should verify the information for yourself.
When you start your research, writing down what you know of yourself, your sibling, your parents and grandparents, your source is yourself. While it may seem silly when thinking of yourself or your siblings, you should verify your information with an actual record. Most likely you have seen your birth certificate, so therefore your source would be your birth certificate. The same would apply for your siblings and parents. On the assumption that your parents where married you would then source their marriage through their marriage record.
Moving back a generation to your parents, you may have a copy of their birth certificates, birth record or baptism records. These would be your source for their birth name and date. You may not have access to these records and wish to pursue them or you may have this information in a family bible or journal and that would become your source.
Depending upon the age of your parents and grandparents, census records become a vital source of information for sibling that you may not have known about. In my records I look for a birth, marriage and death record as well as all census records that may be available for a person. Census records are only currently available until 1940.
I originally did not look for death records and only looked for marriage records if I ran across them. Now while researching on my Canadian and Belgium sides I always look for birth, marriage and death records because they do not all list the parents and sometimes godparents can be found on birth records that led to more family members. The same can be said for witnesses on marriages and who recorded the death of a person. I also discovered when I sent for a copy of an ancestors (who had died as a child) death record that he had died from tuberculosis, something that no one had known, or remembered. Because of this I sent for a great uncle’s death record who seemed to disappear into thin air, he too had died of tuberculosis and so did his wife (a person I did not know about until seeing his death record). Obviously there had been an outbreak in the family as well as the community.
I have notes, family tree sketched out, my sources but what do I do I do with them? How to find a database next in Genelogy 101D