Suggestions for creating Sources and Respositories for original certificates

I’m just getting started with Gramps. I’ve recently acquired a large amount of physical records from my recently decease grandmother, who was an avid genealogist. I want to make sure that I create solid, dependable records not only for myself, but because there is simply so much information to manage.

I’ve read through the user guide, chats, etc, and found some good suggestions for sources and repositories, but I’m not sure how to handle some of the information I have. Specifically, I have original birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates. I think I have a good naming scheme for the Sources: Country code (Alpha-3), State postal code, County name (if applicable), department/facility/etc, year, description (e.g. birth certificate). In this case, I used USA, AL, Department of Public Health, , Birth Certificate. I didn’t include the county court because it’s the original issued from the state.

I started creating the Respository, which I named “USA, AL, Department of Public Health”, but then I was stumpoed on the Repository Type or for the Media Type.

What have you guys used in the past? Any concerns or considerations for my approach? I’d really love to see a collection of best practices because I don’t want to enter hundreds of items only to realize I’m not going about it the best way. Thanks in advance!

Gramps 5.1.5, Windows 10

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There are as many ways to set up Repository/Source/Citation as there are Gramps users. I can only tell you what works for me.

I treat documents that I have gathered from close relatives differently than a scan of a document from a site like Ancestry.

For the documents I hold, I have myself as the Repository. For each type of document, I have a source like “Birth Certificate” with the Author “Scanned Document”. For the Citation it would be something like the state and its document number. Anything that identifies the document uniquely. I then put a scan of the document in the citation’s gallery tab.

For sites like Ancestry, I have that as the Repository. The Source is the name of the Database, the Author I put as the initial collecting agency and the publication holds the information where Ancestry got the information. A site like Ancestry will have much of this information on a page dedicated to that particular source.

I store my scans in folders by document type; Birth, Death, Marriage, etc. Other users have folders by the family or person. For a birth certificate, I use “Surname, Given Name YYYY-MM-DD” to name the file, Same for most other documents.

Scans that have lists of information about multiple people get named according to how you would find them again navigating the database in Ancestry…

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If you use yourself as the Repository, you can also use some of the Repository Reference fields for each Source to keep track of which file cabinet, drawer, shoe box, etc. you’ve stored the originals in.

Regardless of what approach you choose, it’s a good idea to enter a few records and then see how the information looks on the various screens and reports in Gramps, and how easy it is for you to filter on it.


I treated all the documents recovered after the death of my grandparents as a fonds, a more or less coherent overall archival concept, in my case all the documents of my grandparents. I cut it into a few categories - civil records, figurative documents (photos, postcards, …), military documents, administrative documents… - and created repositories by category. For example, here is one of these repositories: Patrice Legoux (because I am the repository), André and Marcelle Legoux Fonds (to specify this fonds), Civil Records.

Like you, I’ve the same type of source naming so a birth certificat from that fonds perfectly match with that naming.

There are different approaches to the use of a repository, but in general, I see it as the place where the original document is stored, or was, at the moment that you acquired a copy of it. And in many cases, that is not the author.

This means that the deciding factor is, if you, or a fellow genealogist, would still need to visit the Department of Public Health in Alabama to get another copy. And as far as I can see from here, the answer is no, because a quick search from this side of the ocean suggests that the archives of this department are held by the Alabama State Archives.

This is how thing work in many places in the world, meaning that any documents that were once issued by the town where I live are now in the provincial archive, which has its own web site where anyone can see scanned documents. In that case, the archive is the repository.

An example is a naturalization document for my deceased cousin Herman Borgsteede, which was once issued by court in Massachusetts, which is the author, and is held by the NARA, which is the repository:

“Massachusetts Naturalization Index, 1906-1966,” database, FamilySearch ( : 4 December 2014), Herman Borgsteede, 1963; from “Index to Petitions and Records of Naturalizations of the U.S. and District Courts for the District of Massachusetts, 1907-1966,” database, ( : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M1545 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 34.

And in this case, one can argue, that you’d never go to that repository to acquire a copy, because you can download it from FamilySearch or Fold3 (or Ancestry). But personally, I would still cite the NARA as the repository, because it is more future proof than these sites.

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I agree with your approach and would add a few comments:

  • The record you cited is actually an index card, not the original document. Presumably NARA has a copy of the original document as well but I don’t know. The original could be in the courthouse.

  • For a petition of naturalization, one could argue that the author is the petitioner rather than the court. Otherwise, I think the author would be the U.S. circuit or district court located in Massachusetts, but not the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

One thing to remember is that the Repository entry does NOT print as part of the Source/Citation in reports, etc. For this reason, I utilize the Repository entry as “Where did I go to find the information.”

Using @ennoborg 's example, a source I have in my records:

Title: Massachusetts: Naturalization Index, 1906-1966
Author: U.S. District Courts for the District of Massachusetts
Publication: National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
Abbreviation: USA:Nat:MA:I


with the Call Number being the URL to that database on the site.

You also have to consider where items go if you want them part of a gedcom export. The attributes are not included in the export so I add the site URL on the Volume/Page field.

And just to be a little more particular – while you might say that the author of the original record is the Court, I think the author of the index (which is what you are citing) is actually NARA.

Well, in this particular case, it looks like the index was made by Fold3, so I think that they, or their users, are the author. And in this case, we have a total of three levels, because I used an index on FamilySearch, which looks like a (licensed) copy of the index made by Fold3, which in itself was made from a microfilm owned and published by NARA.

The original is an index card, that you can see on Fold3, and which was signed by Herman. And in this case, I’ve chosen to cite this as a database entry, for which I put the name and event year in the volume/page field in the Gramps citation, because they are sufficient to find this card, and URL’s may change.

Learn something new everyday. Somehow, I’ve yet to come across the word ‘fonds’. @PLegoux, thanks for linking it to the wiki page.

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The term was new to me last year too. It came up during developer discussions about expanding the Citation structure in Gramps.

Had to add Fonds to the wiki’s Genealogy Glossary. It is another interesting incarnation of a Repository.

All the references to Fonds online were from Europe & Canada.

A fonds is not a repository but some particular, remarkable or not, content in it. A subset.

I’ve treated it like a repository in Gramps because I’ve found nothing else satisfying to represent it (like a set discussed in another Gramps Discourse thread)

Yes, that’s interesting, isn’t it? I have a nice example for this on the site of the National Archives in England:

When you visit this site, you can see that the Gloucestershire Archives have organized part of their collection by the families that donated their documents, like in this case the Trye family, of which I’m a descendant, and which, as this document suggests has French roots.

Now, when I want to add a citation for this document, the obvious way to do this, is to create a source with the name of the document, from which I can cite several pages when I want to. It will then be difficult however to find a place for the name of the collection, which in this case is Trye Family, with reference number D1809. I don’t like putting that in the source title, because that is already occupied by the document title, and I can’t put it in the repository name either, because that should be Gloucestershire Archives, so I really need to find a compromise.

I have a similar problem when an archive decides to ignore the fonds, and moves all church books containing baptism, marriage, and burial records, to a new collection where each book is simply assigned a number, and the connection to the original fonds is not reflected by the location in the archive, or the call number, which then simply consists of the number of the collection, followed by a sequence number for the book, in which case I need to do some extra work to find the name of the church that created it.

I bet that you won’t see much of that when you want to cite sources in the US, but you will see it when you find sources in Europe.

I use the Publication information field for that. Something like “Trye family fonds. D1809” or the same title used by the archives: “Généalogie de la Maison de Trie (copied by S. M. Trye, 19th cent.). D1809”. This let the title field free to write what I wnat the way I want and in the reference to the repository (Gloucestershire Archives) i can indicate the full reference of that source (e.g. D1809/F5/1)

This let me filter all sources of that fonds searching for that publication information field content

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