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26 January 2016

Guiding Principles for Writing Reason Statements


A reader asked me, "I would love to know the kinds of phrases you enter into those reason statement boxes on FamilySearch.org, because I'm always stymied by what exactly to say that explains the situation."

If you aren't aware, FamilySearch.org 'pesters' you with a box that says "Reason ..." when you attach a record to a person in the family tree or when you make changes to any fields on a person's profile. They ask for reasons when you merge, delete, or edit relationships. Whenever you are prompted on FamilySearch by these boxes,  Fill in the Box.

Since asking for more participation in filling out those boxes, readers have asked me how to write better statements. I am happy to share my recommendations.


My first tip was to: Write better I Know Statements.

My next tip is to:
Leave enough details so that not only can you remember why you attached a source or made a change and but someone else would be able to understand as well.
I can't tell you the number of times I see someone write, "matches" or "census record." 

Great. Thanks! (click your tongue, shot a pointer finger at the computer and wink)

Statements like these are less than helpful. Any further posts that I share of example reason statements will have to conform to this guiding principle, leave enough information to know why I did whatever I did. 

If the record matches, what does it match? If it's a census record, what does the record tell you and why do you know it's relevant?
This census record has the same birth date and place, first, and last name of Robert Townsend that I have for Robert Townsend based upon a previous birth record. 
So, this information isn't a genealogical proof analysis, but it at least says:
  • what record I'm attaching
  • what information it contained in the record
  • what part of this record's information matches what I know 
  • where I found what I previously knew
The guiding principle simply asks you to record the logical steps that you took to determine why you are attaching a record to someone on the universal family tree. If you will commit this guiding principle to memory, you will soon discover the best way to write a reason statement.


Does this help? What other situations do you encounter that you're not sure how to handle in the Reason Box? What tips do you have for others starting to learn about family history, especially using FamilySearch? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Stay tuned for more reason statement writing posts.

For more inspiration on capturing and preserving your family history, order my book 21st Century Family Historia

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