Ancestry Sources

+6 votes
103 views

My thoughts on Ancestry and sources...

Ancestry.com is not a source - its a repository just like familysearch.org and is like saying "its in the library"

Ancestry family trees are not a source. They might, however have clues or point to good record sources. Just this week I found a well cited newspaper article about a death. The same is true for the FamilySearch FamilyTree or trees on other sites.

Both FamilySearch and Ancestry have a large collection of valid record sources. In general, I prefer to use the familysearch source, when available.

Here are some things you might find on Ancestry.

  • Social Security Claims and Applications: since the birth certificate must be used to get the social security card you often find birthplace and parents names, as well as clues for married woman's names.
  • US Census Mortality schedules
  • Death certificates in various places not also on FamilySearch (e.g., Texas, Idaho, California)
  • World War II draft registration: although there is a subset on FamilySearch you can find more information in the image on Ancestry
  • Iowa marriages: you can find the index on FamilySearch; Ancestry has marriage return images that contain occupation, residence, parents names, 1st/2nd/etc marriage
  • New York tax records 1799-1804
  • Sometimes you find a will on Ancestry that you can't find on FamilySearch
  • Revolutionary War pension applications
  • Various church records
in The Tree House by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (328k points)
Agreed. It could technically be referred to as a non-primary source, but sources generally need to indicate verifiable facts.  ancestry.com trees lacking sources tend to be an enemy.

However, sometimes families kept records in a bible - i.e. so and so's date of birth, and marriage, death - and built their ancestry.com trees off of that. So trees may be completely factual and accurate, but records are only available "on hand". Not ideal but valid.
Yes Mike. I have found some of those, with bible (or death cert images). In that case I will typically use See All and point to the tree and note what it contains (that is, if I cannot contact the original poster to get more info).

1 Answer

+5 votes

Lots of people with agree with you. But your main point is semantic, and what you write is in conflict with the Wikitree Help Page on sources:

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Sources

“A source is the identification of where you obtained the information.” (I’ll set aside the point that almost no one I know would think that a source is a type of identification, as this sentence states.)

To take your example, if someone copied directly from an Ancestry tree into Wikitree, with no further verification of the information, then according to the Wikitree definition the Ancestry tree is the source. This may be just sloppiness, but as Mike said, it may be from private records and it was the person putting up the Ancestry tree who is sloppy if they don’t say so. 

If you then copy a birth date, work really hard to document it and turn up nothing, and then cite the unsourced tree, you need to give that tree as the source. IMO writing “Ancestry tree” at that point is like saying it’s at the library, while giving also the tree name, user, url, access date, etc. is no different then citing a crummy, unsourced compiled genealogy sitting on a shelf in a real library.

by Barry Smith G2G6 Pilot (135k points)
edited by Barry Smith

Barry, you are correct. I guess my point was not everything on Ancestry is bad.

As for the help, yes. Unfortunately the later statement is hidden:

Fundamentally, a good source citation enables others to:

  1. judge the accuracy of the information found on the profile, and
  2. independently verify the information by finding the source themselves.

And, if you go to the Sources FAQ https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Sources_FAQ and find when should the {{ Unsourced }} box be used:

Here are examples of source citations that don't meet the minimum specificity needed to identify a particular source:

  • "Find-A-Grave"
  • "FamilySearch"
  • "Personal records"
  • "Family Bible"

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