Are we not supposed to use Bibliographies any more?

+4 votes
I have spent countless hours researching sources, writing biographies  and including inline citations as well as full citations in a Bibliography section on my profiles. While it may be redudant, I like the way this looks, the bibliography is at the bottom, below Sources, above any potential See Also: entries. Now two people have changed profiles of mine and removed the Bibliography. One went to the trouble of reformatting the text so that the full citations were attached to the inline citations, the other one just replaced the ===Bibliography=== with See Also:. I spent a LOT of time formatting and writing these profiles. I looked at the Styles page and couldn't find Bibliographies mentioned, let alone if they were or were not to be used. So, which is it? I'm not thrilled with the changes if they are to no longer be used. That was a lot of work.

Anybody? Bueller???

in Policy and Style by Debi Matlack G2G6 Mach 8 (84.5k points)
It did go to the actual source. If that's what you intended, then that renders your bibliography kind of moot. I understand why you did it that way (easier to read in edit mode.) I still say that your way, even if it is a little unorthodox, is far superior to those bios which have little to no sources.
Oh, I see what you were saying now. Yeah, it is a bit redundant, but hey, too much information is better than none.
Thank you for that, Melanie.

replying to

"Thing is, if I put the full citations under See Also: it's not usually providing new information or supporting information, it's just cataloging the full citation for future possible need. If you do find any Help pages that are more definitive on this subject, please let me know. As I said, I'll stop doing it, but I'm not going to make a point of 'correcting' what I've done until I get back to that profile some time in the future."

I do basically the same, Debi - I place ALL of my citations (as full citations) in the See also: subsection. My inline citations almost always are abbreviated citations (usually with a link).

My opinion is that you/we are not violating any of the style guidelines, since the guidelines are, for the most part, flexible and open to interpretation. And only when a member chooses to take a style disagreement to "the powers that be" for judgment should we really be concerned that we may be going against style.wink

Thank you, Lindy.
I have only ever used See also: to add secondary sources, such as links to other peoples' research pages and webpages of interest that provide background information. I'd never use it for primary sources.

So omit the word Bibliography.  After the ==Sources== <references /> tags, list your items that you want to add.  Like so:


<references />

* vital stats of the state of cc rider page x

* biography: [link (title) biography of joe blow published by sam spade x date, so-ans-so publisher...]


One of the big problems I have seen with afficionados of the Bibliography use, and I am mainly referring to someone who is no longer with WikiTree, nobody in this conversation, is that there are a whole bunch of items given under the bibliography, but the actual bio is missing proper references to where a piece of data comes from.  Or points to a tertiary source. And the bibliography consists mainly of secondary or tertiary sources, primary sources shine by their absence.  Like a marriage record, for instance.


I also see instances where there are quite a number of sources listed under the header like this:


<references />



and so on.  And the bio itself is empty!  Which I find extemely annoying.  Making a short narrative bio is not difficult:  

Joe was born x date, baptized y date, in abc place, son of gg honey and of pp heart.<ref>source</ref>

He married zelda z on x date in bling church <ref>source</ref>

The couple had the following children: 

list <ref>source</ref><ref>source</ref>

He died on x date in such-and-such a place and was buried there on y date, being given the age of vvv on the record.<ref>source</ref>

There, a basic bio, with inline sources.  Clarification of where the sources can be found can be added after the <references /> tag.

Sorry, seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but there are too many profiles lacking bios but showing various ''sources''.

A bibliography is very useful way to organize and present sources.  I would not put subheadings under sources but rather just separate it out with ":See also", ":Bibliography" or a ":Source list". E.g. William White

Danielle, I agree. I'm a writer by inclination and I'd much rather read/see a narrative biogra[hy than a list of items like a grocery list. People were and are so much more than a simple collection of facts. Thanks for your digression.

I actually don't like the ''See also'', for one thing, when you deal with profiles who were not English, seems wrong to put that there.  And also, when you are in edit mode you see the <references /> tag, but an outside viewer will not.  So you see your Sources header, the in-line references show up first as numbered items, then anything else you added.  Who really needs more?

4 Answers

+8 votes
Citations should go under ==Sources==, not Bibliographies or Footnotes.

I use Bibliographies solely on the profiles which belong in my English Authors subproject, but that is just to show their works; and citations still go under ==Sources==.  

Take a look at this page.  It tells you which headings are required, and which are optional.
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
My sources ARE under sources, linked to each inline citation, but I then add the full citation to the bibliography. For me, it's easier to edit if all that extra text is contained in the Bibliography rather than all being contained in the body text. Yes, I know there is an enhanced editing view, it doesn't work for me. I'm an old fart.

Well, all I can say is: you're not following the Sources Style Guide, so don't be surprised or annoyed if someone comes along and changes it so it does.  This is the proper order:

and, note: no bibliographies.  It's been like this since about 2015, so it's nothing new. ;)

I had a look at the link the first time, and I did indeed see that Bibliography was not included. I've been doing it this way since about 2015 and this is the first time I've  encountered any kind of commentary or attempts to 'correct' my work.

I think the sticking point might be that there is nothing specifically stating that using a bibliography header is not allowed.

The help page is a recommendation, a guide, not a mandatory "you must do it like this".


Disclaimer - I am not a fan of a bibliography section in addition to the rest, but I would not change what someone else had done just to fit "my" style of adding sources.

Exactly my point. I started doing my profiles this way when I had done a ton of inline citations without the full text of the citations as I had found them. It was pointed out to me that if the links changed, there would be no way for someone to possibly track down the source if the rest of the citation wasn't there. At first I wasn't a fan of the extra text, but it seemed to make sense and now it's just how I do things. If it is indeed frowned upon, then I will stop doing it on new editing, but I'm not going to go through seventy-something pages of my watchlist to edit every single profile right this second, it will happen when it happens. I welcome contributions to my profiles, but not abitrary changing of half of my text. At least run it by me first...
In the examples I looked at, Debi has Bibliography as a level 3 subheading, i.e. three equals signs on either side. The style guide explicitly says anyone can add these with whatever headings they like. It seems absolutely clear to me that this allows ===Bibliography=== if the editors want.
Thank you, Barry.
Well, I can see why someone may have presumed that there was a duplicate heading - level 2 and 3 headings have a very subtle difference between the two when they're apart a bit like that. And I'll admit that my first knee-jerk reaction was that you "should" merge Sources and Bibliography together. But upon further review, it doesn't seem to be hurting anything and while it does do some level of duplication on the profile, it's just a different style of doing things. I don't see anything wrong with it. It's not "my" style of doing things, but I've learned many years ago that if you don't open your mind to "possibilities", then you end up close-minded and never improving upon how things are done. I'm OK with it, and the only concern I might have would be the potential amount of rework that you might need to do with all this. But since you've been doing this for awhile and it seems like a comfortable way of adding your sources, then I'd agree that others should let it be.
Just my 2 cents...
Thanks, Scott.
+7 votes

I actually am a fan of it, Debi, and it's also something of a soapbox issue for me (so, darnit, another long post; I couldn't control myself). And "bibliography" is not a dirty word in the WikiTree Style Guide: "What we call sources could be called items in a source list, bibliography, or works cited.... Sources in this list should always be complete citations, while the references that refer to them can be abbreviated."

Although I use bibliographies slightly differently than you and, unfortunately, have had very, very little time to revisit and expand profiles. Here's one example where it's at least formatted the way I want, but still needs work. I don't use "===" subheadings under "==Sources==" but I do clearly distinguish between what is a shortened version of a citation and a complete and hopefully thorough source list (bibliography). But maybe I should use subheadings.

Not to assault a deceased equine, but the WikiTree Style Guide is very loosely described and might--or might not--conform to any of the major style systems, like AP, APA, Bluebook, Chicago, ISO 690, MLA, the Oxford Guide (Hart's), or Turabian. You really wouldn't be able to publish a humanities (think history) or physical sciences research paper by following the WikiTree style guide. But still it tries to be a bit more prescriptive than does Wikipedia.

The WikiTree Help:Sources page includes this: "The ideal citation format on WikiTree is Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS), generally following Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained." Let's take a quick look at commentary by the Purdue Writing Lab about the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition and bibliographies:

"In the Notes and Bibliography system, you should include a note (endnote or footnote) each time you use a source, whether through a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary. Footnotes are added at the end of the page on which the source is referenced, while endnotes are compiled at the end of each chapter or at the end of the entire document....

"If a work includes a bibliography, which is typically preferred, then it is not necessary to provide full publication details in notes."

I don't own the 17th edition, but I do own the 14th. And the subject of bibliographies is covered extensively in the 148-page Chapter 15: "Notes and Bibliographies."

And in Evidence Explained, Elizabeth Shown Mills presents distinctions among a "Source List Entry" (i.e., a bibliographic entry); a "First (Full) Reference Note" (in which page numbers or specific locational information is added to the content of the bibliographic entry); and a "Subsequent (Short) Note" (additional footnote citations to the same work or information already cited).

By all accounts, if we were actually to use the Chicago Manual of Style and Evidence Explained as "the ideal citation format on WikiTree," all profiles would include a detailed bibliography.

My viewpoint is simple. I don't consider source citations to be merely substantiation that I found or used a piece of information. In that regard, WikiTree is not a fixed-in-print publication and which, somewhat ironically, begs even more for a comprehensive bibliography.

Here, profiles are dynamic, collaborative efforts. Minimizing the documented information that I've researched helps no one. It then becomes only a clue and you have to go and read the information yourself to decide if it's pertinent and how it applies.

What I hope to do is not just provide a "here's where I found it" citation for a piece of information. Quoting Evidence Explained again, "...Source citations have two purposes: to record the specific location of each piece of data, and to record details that affect the use or evaluation of that data."

Emphasis mine. When I have time to create a bibliography, I expand beyond the minimums required by the APA or the Chicago Manual of Style; which practice, BTW, neither discourages. I want other researchers to have not just the absolute bare minimum that WikiTree might consider "sourced" but to have enough detail so that they can see what I found, and how those details "affect the use or evaluation of that data."

But you don't really need that level of detail in a footnote; I think you should be able to click on the title in that footnote and go to the complete bibliographic entry, however. And some people really don't like that level of detail at all.

An example. Not long ago, I had a very experienced WikiTreer, a member for five years, visit the profile of one of my 4g-grandparents and, because the citation detail looked too long, they removed the detail leaving, in some instances, only links. All my U.S. census citations include data that is as complete as I can make it; e.g., the county, the precinct number and/or enumeration district, the page number, the dwelling and/or family number, the enumeration date, the household members with ages and relationships and state of birth where presented, sometimes information about profession or estate/land value, and preferably links to both Family Search and Ancestry. Those entries were deleted on my 4g-grandfather's profile leaving only linked text that read " – 1850 U. S. Census - [person's name]," " – 1860 U. S. Census - [person's name]," " – 1870 U. S. Census - [person's name]."

Text on a profile is cheap. It doesn't take much fileserver space to store text. But I do get that, as footnotes, extensive documentation is bulky and distracting. That doesn't mean it should ever be deleted in favor of just a link. Every single bit of that information has value. Which is why, best case, I prefer an exhaustive bibliography with, as Shown Mills refers to it, the "Short Note" format for footnotes. The reader needs to hop down to the detailed bibliographic entry only if she wants to.

More, I also want other researchers that come after me to see where else I looked and what I found. Per the Chicago Manual of Style and the APA, if a bibliography is used there shouldn't be a footnote/endnote that doesn't also have a bibliographic entry, and there shouldn't be a bibliographic entry that wasn't used as a footnote/endnote citation denoting a specific piece of information. That's where "See Also" comes in. There I also expect fully-fleshed bibliographic-style entries, with "record details that affect the use or evaluation of that data."

If I were "publishing" a genealogy, I wouldn't document as much as I try to here. No standard, including the BCG, requires it. But we're doing more than publishing. We're working together in a collaborative effort and the profiles I edit, hopefully, will still have interested, active researchers long after I and the ephemeral internet links--that some feel are adequate as citations--are all long dead.

by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (366k points)
Wow, Edison, thank you for that extensive and wonderfully helpful answer! I appreciate you taking the time to break it all down. All I want to do is show mt sources and make it possible for others to go to that source. Than's why I have an issue with Ancestry links and other pay-only sites because not everyone can access them, myself included.
A problem with referencing styles is that they were originally designed for a paper-based environment, not an internet environment. You either had footnote/endnotes with a number in the body of the text and the full citation in the footnote/endnote, or a shortened version of the citation in the body of the text, usually author/s surname and publication date, with a full citation in the Bibliography/Reference List.  Both had their problems, but you could find what you wanted eventually.  (There are a couple of referencing styles that require both a footnote, and a bibliography but not many.)

I definitely support full citations but closely following any existing referencing style in the internet environment creates problems.

If you use an endnote style but instead of just a number, you enter the full citation, as we can do on WikiTree, this can make editing the biography difficult because there is a large amount of text between the ref tags. (Though I do find the enhanced editing view assists me)

If you just enter a shortened version of the citation (author/date), which I've seen in some Wikipedia articles, then it makes editing easier, but you still have to scan the bibliography to find the full citation.

Then if you link the footnote to the full ciation via span tags, or similar, then it might be considered too complex for some people to understand how to add to that system, and it could make collaboration difficult.

The other option I've seen on WikiTree is to have a free space page for each source, and link your citation to that page, but personally I would find this means two or three clicks to get to the citation rather than a direct link.

So I don't think there is any one sourcing style that overcomes all issues, and it is somewhat up to the person writing the biography.  Unless of course WikiTree mandates just one style.

Thanks for the best answer star, Debi.

John, I don't believe the issues you describe are intrinsically internet versus paper. What we can do with database-driven content management systems on the web today has far more flexibility than does any paper publication. Ergo, any standardized style system can be used on the web, and most are in active use somewhere.

The issue there, in my opinion, is that the version of WikiMedia that WikiTree runs has been so highly customized that it cannot be upgraded, only further customized. In fact, yesterday was that version's 13th birthday. The very basic <ref> tag we use was an extension added on to that version; that's how old it is.

So while Wikipedia itself, to which I am a contributor, has continually grown and changed in terms of features and tools for source citation (, WikiTree has stayed essentially static in that regard for over a decade. For example, since I browse scientific publications daily, I use Zotero to help collect, annotate, and organize research papers of interest. Zotero can generate a WikiMedia-compatible complete citation template. All I have to do is add the <ref></ref> tags and then literally drag the full, multiline citation template between the tags. Wikipedia makes extensive use of citation templates which are flexible, much easier to work with for inline references,  and help assure relatively complete and consistent information delivery, but WikiTree can't use any of those templates.

So we do the best we can. But for us, I think the proper analogy is not a group of authors presenting a final research paper for publication, but rather a group of authors actively working together to write the research paper. Some profiles may become complete, but hey, I'm still expecting new work to be published this year or next about additional investigation into the DNA of Richard III using next-generation sequencing, so even 15th century English monarchs might still need editing.

It's in that regard that I feel expanded bibliographic entries are warranted. Because in an active collaboration I'm not just providing datum about where I found a particular factoid, I'm providing another researcher with more annotational information: here's where I looked; here's how I found it; here's what I found; here's why it seems relevant. And I'll use the "See Also" area for other entries that are tangentially related, and even for negative and negating evidence, e.g., I looked here and expected to find mention of this, but did not; the hypothesis was that John Doe would be a yDNA match to James Doe but he is not, negating the notion that they share the same patrilineal line.

A final note on FreeSpace pages. Nothing lasts forever, so I hope everyone periodically does some GEDCOM backups from WikiTree of their lines of interest. There is absolutely nothing in the digital world that I would spend my time working on without making multiple backups. Been there, done that.

The downloaded GEDCOMs are messy because almost everything in a profile comes in as GEDCOM "note" fields, but if it's on the profile page it does download. Using FreeSpace pages as a repository for reference/source information means none of that data will be downloaded with the GEDCOM. The notes text will contain a pointer to the Space page, but if the Space page is no longer available or if there is extensive use of multiple Space pages for references, being able to recover that information for your research becomes problematic. If Space pages are employed in that way for profiles, I'd recommend maintaining a capture of the full text of the pages; hopefully they'll have privacy set such that they're editable. At the very least, running a manual capture of the pages at the internet Wayback Machine at isn't a bad idea...and maybe including that generated link in the pertinent profile(s) but commented out so that it isn't visible to readers.


 off topic but  picking up your mention of Zotero. You may have missed this thread. (it was in 2017; time flies)


Thanks much, Helen. I'd not seen that older G2G post and, in fact, hadn't seriously considered using Zotero for genealogy. I may have to give that some thought. I could see how careful organizational consideration in building Zotero "Collections" could keep things (potentially) manageable. Don't know offhand how I'd approach that for genealogy. You've given me another to-do item that I now won't be able to get off my mind.

Elizabeth Shown Mills is one of my favorite peeps, and I have to admit it was kinda fun seeing her weigh in on the subject in that 2016 thread on the Zotero forum.

Bringing things (somewhat) back on topic, it just so happened that after I wrote that last bit yesterday evening, this morning I had occasion to do a significant amount of editing on a Wikipedia article and checking that formatting reminded me of one of their Help articles that I should have linked to above:

The WikiMedia {{sfn}} template in conjunction with the {{reflist}} and various types of the {{cite}} templates have been constructed to do precisely what Debi, Joe, and I have been discussing...but in a compact and much easier to maintain form. It even offers the ability to declutter profile biography body text with the {{sfnm}} template which allows multiple, short footnotes for a given passage to be need for a string of four or five footnote numbers at the end of the sentence, every citation can indicate distinct page numbers, and then also display a "References" section after the footnotes that contains detailed bibliographic entries for each source consulted.

Other than G2G, WikiTree is built with WikiMedia. I can't fully appreciate the complexities of having so customized an Open Source platform that we can longer upgrade to the current version. But recent versions of WikiMedia support all those templates upon essentially the same infrastructure, and seemingly just the few I mentioned would solve several citation issues that seem to come up in G2G time and time again.

I brought up GEDCOM export above. Since all biography information exports from WikiTree as freeform text in the GEDCOM "note" field, use of the WikiMedia templates might afford a way for the end user to programatically do at least a bit cleaner job of identifying and possibly formatting source citations that are included as an inline <ref> only. Like all WikiTree templates and stickers, those WikiMedia templates distinguish separate fields with the pipe symbol "|"; so for example the basic {{cite}} template for an academic  journal would be:

{{cite journal |last1= |first1= |date= |title= |url= |journal= |volume= |issue= |pages= |doi=}}

Each element designated by the pipe symbol and a prescribed text field name. The output the reader sees from that particular template would be something like this:

Overpeck, J. T. (January 1985). "Quantitative interpretation of fossil pollen spectra". Quaternary Research. 23: 87–108. doi:10.1016/0033-5894(85)90074-2

It may not be doable to include the WikiMedia citation templates here on WikiTree, but it seems like it deserves investigation. And if not doable, then it also seems, since the functionality was recognized by Wikipedia as necessary and is clearly no less necessary here, that some workaround should be developed and presented by WikiTree as a standardized alternative of accomplishing the same requirements.

+4 votes

I use a bibliography on almost every profile in conjunction with inline citations.  It is a vastly better way to organize sources, and keep the inline citations readable in both the profile view and in the edit view.  I do prefer the term "Source list" to bibliography, since it is used in Evidence Explained and references in genealogy can be so varied.

There is no one way to do sourcing on WikiTree.  Your way is just fine.  I would revert those persons, and move on.

by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (235k points)
Thank you Joe. If I have to change the word from Bibliography to Source List to stop the unsolicited and arbitrary editing (this is the ONLY thing being changed), so be it, but it'll happen when I get to it, I'm not making a project out of that task alone.
+4 votes
I just sent a private message to someone who changed my heading from ===Bibliography=== to See Also:. If someone finds something somewhere on Wikitree that forbids using the ===Bibliography=== heading, I will comply, but until then, I'll keep on keeping on.
by Debi Matlack G2G6 Mach 8 (84.5k points)

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