Master Source Definition

Just trying to understand exactly what a master source is.
For example, a newspaper cutting for which a copy is held on FindMyPast or ancestry etc.
Is the master source the newspaper itself (eg The Times) or is it FindMyPast.


The above are the definitions provided by Evidence Explained, Third Edition by Elizabeth Shown Mills on page 46.

Myself, and some others, don’t consider places like Ancestry, FindMyPast, etc to be true sources. They’re just repositories, in the same way that a physical library is a repository. They aren’t originating any information, just storing and presenting it. (Granted, in the case of a service like Ancestry, they do occassionally produce original information in the form of their own data indices.)

Others take the counter perspective and treat whatever place they get the information as a source in its own right.

How you view sources will shape how you treat the “Master Source” templates in RM.

If, for example, you do an Ancestry TreeSync, RM will treat Ancestry as a source and use a source template called ‘Ancestry Record’ as it creates the various facts and related citations. That, in turn, affects how the Footnotes, and the sources they cite, appear.

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This is how I classify it (unless it’s a reprint of some other source). FindMyPast is a repository. The town library where the newspaper was published is a repository. Etc.


Thank you both. That is exactly what I was thinking.

For your consideration:

  • Master Source is the origination of the physical evidence, i.e. The Times newspaper.
  • The repository is the archive of the physical evidence.
  • The digital publication of the copy of physical evidence are the online platforms like Findmypast, Ancestry.
    I think it is important not to confuse repository versus publication, i.e. physical versus digital content. Anyway, that is the system I use. From a purely digital perspective, then a digital repository can also be a digital publisher, but that is not always the case. As always, there are no absolutes just guidelines that one must interpret that best fits for yourself.

Thank you Handy for your post

I think I will go for the Master Source as the newspaper itself, followed by the library or online digital source as a repository.
Thanks all.

You’re welcome Alan.

You’ll probably end up having to create your own Source templates to get things just the way you like them. (You can’t modify the built-in templates, but you can copy them and modify the copies.)

By the way, you might also want to consider if it’s the entire newspaper publisher that you consider a source, or the specific edition that you consider the source. It will affect the quantity and flexibility of your citation scheme.

Personally, I don’t feel a need to provide a repository. My template gives the city and state and the newspaper name, the edition, the page and the column numbers as well as the person of interest. If someone wants to double check and they can’t figure out how to find the Ottumwa, IA Courier or the Des Moines, IA Register then that is on them.


I include repository information, not so much for future readers as for me.

Taking the long view, it’s pretty certain that whatever repository gets referenced won’t be available in future decades. Databases change, collections get moved, etc.

But for the shorter term, I like having the repository information handy so that it’s easier to quickly go back to it if I need to. I do download images, etc. But sometimes it might be desirable to go back and look at some things before or after that particular spot.

I can think of at least 5 different repositories that have the above mentioned newspapers. Pretty certain I will remember if I need to. I also acquire images or photocopies or prints from microfilm.