Hyperlinks to Source Documents

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What Is a Hyperlink?

A hyperlink is a reference or navigation element in a document that takes you to another section of the same document or to another document. Hyperlinks can be very helpful in a family history filing system by linking source documents, that have been digitized, to an electronic research log, analysis table, or records manager.

Creating hyperlinks (or we may simply call them links) can make research much easier, faster, and accurate. If all documents are digitized, they can be linked in a simple chain. You can access them from any point in the chain, as the following illustrates:


How Can We Create Hyperlinks?

A key benefit to electronic family history research is the ability to keep all documents linked together for data verification and updating.  Connecting source documents to our research logs by means of hyperlinks can greatly improve accuracy in research and when giving source citations. This can also become very enjoyable as the information about our ancestors adds color and personality to the basic facts about their lives. (A separate article discusses the concept and broad picture of the values of a Research Compass that points from research logs to source documents.) The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how to create the hyperlinks in a Windows-based program. You can follow these simple steps:

1. Select the desired text or graphic in your research log.
2. Right click to bring up a small menu. Choose “hyperlink” to open a dialog box. (Alternate methods: click the Hyperlink icon on the taskbar, or enter Ctrl + K.)
3. Navigate to the document on your computer, select the title, and click OK.

The same procedure can create a hyperlink in the source document, which you can use to link back to the research log or to whatever document you want connected. Other examples of documents you may want to connect to sources are a Research Analysis Table, a final report to a client or a family organization, photographs, electronic family group sheets or pedigree charts, maps, and other local history documents.

Notice in the illustration above that a hyperlink audit trail exists from beginning to end, from the sources clear through to the records management software. That software ideally needs to allow OLE (Object Linking or Embedding) so that the research log and analysis table can be opened from within it, using the native software in which they were created. For example, if the log and the table were designed in Microsoft Word, we should be able to create an OLE link to these from the records management program. This allows us to update the log and table while involved in updating family group sheets and pedigree charts. Although the log and table do not automatically populate fields in the records manager, they are close at hand and will be less likely to be forgotten in the update cycle.