How to Write Effective "Reason" Statement in the FamilySearch Family Tree
Whenever you add, edit, or delete information about an individual in your family tree, you should explain why you are making the change. This reasoning is intended to prevent improper changes and to direct other interested researchers to the sources that prove the information.
In your explanation, include the following types of information, as appropriate to the situation:
- Write clearly. Use complete sentences.
- Avoid using "I" statements (such as "I found that... or "My research indicates..."). Write in third person (such as "The census shows that..."). This keeps the tone professional and neutral. It also focuses the explanation on the the ancestor whose data is being recorded and the sources used to find the data.
- Indicate what information is clearly supported by sources and which is not. For example, if the birth month and year came from a census, say so.
- Identify the sources you used. If possible, you should also attach those sources to the individual.
- If the records contain contradictory or incorrect information, explain why you think the version that you added is the most correct in spite of the evidence provided by other records.
- Explain why the information contradicts family stories.
- Explain why the information is correct, even though it may seem illogical.
- If you derived or estimated the information, explain how you reached your conclusion.
- If you are deleting information, explain why the information you are deleting is not correct and why it should be deleted instead of corrected.
- Point out relevant discussions.
The reason fields are not the place to hold a dialog or debate with other users. Do not use them to post questions or requests for information. If an issue needs to be discussed or if you need to request additional information, use the Discussions feature rather than a reason field.
All Sources Agree
If all of the sources about a piece of information agree, you can simply state those sources. For example:
Mary's birth certificate, 1920 U.S. census, marriage certificate, and death certificate all indicate that her full name was Mary Ellen Blackshaw.
Sources Contradict Each Other
Frequently, sources contradict each other. In these cases, your reason statement should explain why you entered the version you did. For example:
Mary's birth certificate and marriage certificate indicate that her full name was Mary Ellen Blackshaw. On the 1920 U.S. census, her name is shown as Ellen. Throughout her life, she went by her middle name to distinguish her from her older cousin, whose name was also Mary.
Sources Contradict Family Stories
Doing family history research sometimes disproves stories that people believe about their ancestors. For example:
Mary always told her family that she was born in 1902. Her church membership records (which contain information that she provided herself) state that she was born in 1902. She listed that as her own year of birth on the birth certificates of her children. That same year was listed on her obituary and on her tombstone. However, she appears on the 1900 U.S. census as a 6-month-old baby. Her birth certificate also indicates that she was born in 1900.
No Source Exists for Information Being Deleted
Sometimes information appears in the tree, and no source can be found to validate it.
Mary's name has been documented on several sources, including her birth certificate, various censuses, church records, and so forth. None of the original sources found to date indicate that she had a middle name.
An Index Contains an Error
Indexes of original records frequently contain transcription errors.
The Utah Marriage index shows their date of marriage to be 14 June 14, 1927, however, the marriage license, church records, and Western States Marriage Index indicate they were married 15 June 1927, in Manti, Utah.