Updated 2 February 2021
Reason statements are an integral part of working with the FamilySearch family tree. Discover how to explain briefly why you attached a marriage record to your ancestor's profile.
What is a Reason Statement on FamilySearch?
A Reason Statement briefly describes the logical reasons for changing the family tree on FamilySearch by adding sources, editing facts and names, or deleting information. It is not a lengthy genealogy proof analysis or argument.
Remember to follow the Guiding Principle to record as much information to help you remember why you attached a particular record to the family tree.
Find a Document That Identifies the Marriage of Your Ancestors
Be sure you have connected the marriage record or index to a couple on factors more than just their name. There are plenty of Richard Richards who married Mary Tripp in a little village in Cornwall. To ensure the record documents your couple, you need to pay attention to:
the date the marriage happened
the officiant's religious affiliation
the location of the wedding
biographical details about the couple- middle names, previous marriages, occupation, age, birthplace, residence
These factors can help you separate the handful of Richard Richards who married Marys.
After you know you have the correct document for your relatives, it's time to save that source to the FamilySearch family tree.
How to Write a Reason Statement for a Marriage Record
To write a reason statement for a record like the one below, remember why you're explaining yourself in the first place.
You're recording your thought process to remind yourself and tell other researchers about our decisions making process. You can never go wrong when you keep that in mind.
Start with what the record says. In so doing, you won't always have to look at the original document on FamilySearch while analyzing evidence.
The marriage license of Henry Banta and Hazel E Byers was recorded at the Randolph County, Indiana Circuit Court on 12 December 1917. The certificate also states that R H Welsby solemnized their marriage on the same date.
Next, you need to determine if the record supports or contradicts information already in the family tree.
This marriage document aligns with the couple being in their parents' homes in the 1910 census and together in the 1920 census.
This document coincides with the marriage announcement that appeared in the local newspaper on 13 December 1917.
Notice how this example shares what the document stated and why you connect the documents to Henry and Hazel in the FamilySearch family tree.
This document did not identify information such as their age, birthplaces, or parents' names.
What Happens If I Need To Correct information on FamilySearch?
As you attach documents to the FamilySearch family tree, you may need to correct information on Person Pages. You can edit any fact about a person on this collaborative tree.
You can correct a spouse's name, birth date, birthplace, residence at the time of marriage, and so on. When you do, you'll need to add an explanation for why you're changing these facts.
Perhaps this record previous research did not have a middle initial for Hazel, and her surname was recorded as Brown and not Byers. You would need to offer an explanation such as:
According to Hazel's marriage document recorded at the Circuit Courthouse in Randolph, Indiana, her middle initial is E, and her surname is Byers. While her obituary recorded her maiden name as Brown, this information was likely provided to the newspaper second hand. Hazel's name on the marriage record seems more reliable as this is the name she used when presenting herself for marriage at the courthouse and the officiant.
With words like "likely" and "seems," you can signal to other researchers that you're confident in your conclusion but also that you are open to other possible explanations.
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A Reason Statement for a Marriage Record that Supports Previous Evidence
The marriage license of Henry Banta and Hazel E Byers was recorded at the Randolph County, Indiana Circuit Court on 12 December 1917. The certificate also states that R H Welsby solemnized their marriage on the same date. This marriage document aligns with the couple being in the homes of their parents in the 1910 census and together in the 1920 census. This document did not specify information such as their age, birthplaces, or parents' names.
Notice how this example shares what the document stated and why you connect the document to Henry and Hazel in the FamilySearch family tree.
If this reason statement is insufficient to explain my decision to attach the source, I would have to write a more complex statement.
Go Ahead and Add Reason Statements for Marriage Documents
The family tree on FamilySearch is only as reliable as the content users add to the free platform. When you attach sources to individual profiles, along with reasons the sources document that ancestor, you increase the validity of the relationships and the facts.
For more training on evaluating records or writing reason statements, check out the following blog posts.
More Tips on Writing Reason Statements for FamilySearch
Marriage certificate source: Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V5PS-RRL), Henry H Banta and Hazel E Byers; citing county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,665,896.