Style and sources Do we or don't we ?

+10 votes

Wikitree instructions on style Commercial Web Sites as Sources

Links to sources on paid subscription sites such as Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage can be frustrating for WikiTree members and visitors without access to these sites. We recommend searching for a freely available copy of the source document on sites such as FamilySearch, Google Books, USGenWeb,, or HathiTrust.

My Question?
Do we remove these sources if we found one that can be seen by all or do we leave them on the profile as a duplicate ? 

Many thanks in advance  

in Policy and Style by Ronel Olivier G2G6 Mach 9 (92.3k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Please do not remove any sources from my profiles. I had Scotland Census Sources from Family Source which are no longer available. All that are left are Ancestry ones.  I would not appreciate those being removed and having to waste time putting them back.

5 Answers

+13 votes
My personal preference is that the sources on the paid sites not be removed. There is no harm done to leave it in place when you are adding the source citation from the free repository.
by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (465k points)
Add not delete is definitely the better option.  Sources shouldn't be removed, although they can be moved.
What should be done with defunct or broken URLs in the sources? Obviously try to find the same info elsewhere, but if it can't be found do we remove these sources entirely? There could be something in the URL itself which could provide hints for where to find the info in the future.

You can try and find out if the url has been archived at the Wayback Machine first and then update accordingly:

I would not remove an url if it can't be replaced with a new one, just note the dead link.

Thanks Nelda, Melanie, Mike and Stu for your assistance in this matter and confirming the importance of the work other members put into our wonderful global tree.

What should be done with defunct or broken URLs in the sources? Obviously try to find the same info elsewhere, but if it can't be found do we remove these sources entirely? There could be something in the URL itself which could provide hints for where to find the info in the future.


This is where I would move the broken source to a (as suggested by Arora) "see also" (NO header =s for that, but it can be bolded) below the Sources.  If it's removed, it can only then be found in the change log, whereas if it is moved it is still there to use as a reference for someone trying to find a similar, unbroken, source if you can't. 

You're welcome, Ronel. Of course, what I would  do on the profiles I manage myself, as Chase said below, is choose the best of the sources for the "source." When I replied to you, I was assuming you were asking if a non-manager should remove or move source citations on a profile managed by someone else and my response was based on that assumption. My philosophy and practice is pretty much "hands-off" on the profiles actively managed by others and not by myself. Adding a source, to me, is a good thing. Moving or removing a source citation on profile another person actively manages is, in my opinion, not a good thing unless you have the other profile manager's blessing.
+19 votes
I would be very upset if someone removed a source from one of the profiles I manage. I look for a free source to document every assertion on the profile. If I find none, then I use a paid source. Some of the paid sources that may appear to be duplicates are in fact links to a better source--for example, an image of an original record when the free source link is to a transcription--or sources that contradict what is on the free site.

Please do not remove any sources.
by Stu Bloom G2G6 Mach 9 (94.5k points)
Stu, good point that the sources may be slightly or, possibly, significantly different. There would be no way for someone who didn't have a subscription to the paid site to be able to make the comparison to know for sure.
+10 votes
I don't ever remove the non-viewable sources- just move them into a "See also Additional References" sub-section (I will usually  create if isn't already in the Sources section. That way everyones' contributions are still viewable, but the actual links to free sources that show the docs are  then the first thing within the Sources section
by Arora Anonymous G2G6 Pilot (125k points)
Thank you for this good advice Arora
+3 votes
A lot of the responses make it sound like the question is about whether a source should be deleted if you find a better one. However, what the question really seems to be asking about is whether you need to keep multiple links to the SAME SOURCE. If you replace a link to the source at a paid site with a link to the same source at a paid site, you are not removing a source but providing a different link to the same source. For secondary sources (eg family genealogy books), it is common for the same source to be available on,,,, and I'm not sure there is much benefit to providing multiple links to the same source -- just pick the best one - eg clearest image, free. The link is just an added convenience; the source citation is what is really important.

Note that I am not talking about sources that are proprietary databases or websites. I am talking about sources that exist as hard copies and have been scanned and posted on multiple websites.
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (256k points)
edited by Chase Ashley
It should also be kept in mind, though, that for example is generally not accessible outside the U.S.
That's unfortunate. I like hathitrust a lot because it has a "go to page" function and also lists all volumes of a series on one page (whereas you have to separately search for volumes on and On the other hand, it seems slower than, say, for browsing. In any event, as long as the full citation is there, someone can pretty easily find the source at other websites as well.

Rick Pierpont's system of linking to a freespace page for the source that has links to all the locations for the source, addresses the problem of what link to use. But that, of course, doesn't take you to a particular page, which is an inconvenience. Some people use a link to the freespace page for the title and then a separate link to a particular site for the specific page. That kind of makes sense, but the two links are a bit confusing and you still have to pick a single site to use for the specific page.
Unfortunate? Actually extremely frustrating, there are a lot of books only available for limited (very limited) search. The same problem often arises with google books. I've never had a problem accessing the same books on and they also have many more recent works available for 'loan'.
Sometimes the link to the same source from multiple repositories will give different information. For example, FamilySearch may just have a transcription (think the US World War II draft registration or the Iowa 192 census) whereas Ancestry may have a more complete transcription and the image for the same source. In this case, I would say keep both.

Others, such as the 1910 US Census, you could probably just keep the freely accessible repository.
I was not aware that hathitrust is generally not accessible outside the US. I've been using hathitrust and almost interchangeably. I'll now prefer when it has the source available.
Google Books, have a very conservative copyright date for the rest of the world in order to encompass all jurisdictions.  I did investigate this once, but can't remember exactly, but it is something like everything published after 1887 is usually not accessible in full-text from anywhere other than the USA (not sure about Canada).  HathiTrust which essentially just re-packages Google books has a similar restriction.

Internet Archive's policy for respect of copyright is much less conservative ,and often they will have a source available in full-text that is only available in snippet view in Google or HathiTrust, and as Helen mentioned they do have more recent books available for loan.

FamilySearch also seem to have some texts more available.

Consequently Internet Archive is my preferred place to get access to scanned books/journals, and I'd be pretty upset if someone replaced that with a link to Google Books for instance.
+2 votes
Many citations from paid sites, such as Ancestry, are poorly constructed.  I always reformat them if they aren't duplicates to make them to conform to standard citations and leave them.
by J. Crook G2G6 Pilot (209k points)

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