How to Not Introduce Reason Statements

For weeks I have shared a number of examples of how to write reason statements for the sources you discover on As this is the only website that requires you to add statements when you link a source, I have only focused on this website. Additionally, I spend a lot of time teaching beginning family historians how to use this site and the number one question they have is ‘What do I write in the box.”

One resource that they have discovered is an old Family Search blog post entitled A Faster, Easier Method for Attaching Historical Records to Entire Families. For the most part, this post is great. I have no real problems with it. The one concern that arises with my students and other budding family historians is this image.
The problem isn’t a thorough explanation and the simplicity of the process. The problem is how daunting the visual length of the reasons statement in this box.
There are times when a lengthy reason statement is so critical to ensuring that someone understands the reasons a particular record applies to a family when the conclusions aren’t obvious. Discovering the likely brothers of my 3rd Great-Grandfather William Townsend is such a situation that requires a lengthy discussion.

Yet if I showed such a long reason statement to a new family historian, they will assume that all sources need statements of this length. The next thing that happens is they shut down their efforts to join the ranks of researchers. This would be such a tragedy.

On this blog and in training sessions, I focus on keeping reason statements as simple as possible while still leaving a clear reason why a source was attached to a relative on the family tree.

If someone finds that disturbing, I just have to agree to have differing opinions. I’d rather have a brief but reasonable recording of someone’s actions with regards to these records from a larger pool of participants than a small group of researchers and their lengthy proof statements.

Will this result in mistakes and poor connections in the tree? Yes, but at least we can see a reason why those connections were made even if the reasoning is flawed.

But, as newbies learn to improve upon their statements, they will know when a longer statement is indeed warranted. They will eventually recognize that many beginner-level situations only need a shorter statement is the norm but will need to write longer statements when necessary.

So, let’s be careful in how we teach newbies about writing reason statements so that they are open to participating in this grand journey of family history discovery.
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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