When did it become acceptable to not use a proper source citation?

+18 votes
Several times now I have come across this:
<ref>{{FindAGrave|12345678}}</ref> (number is a made up example) as a source. It gives no detail of place, date, name and it doesn't even give the web address. It is therefore not a proper source citation. Should Find A Grave cease to exist or even go down temporarily, the above "source" provides absolutely nothing. This is not good genealogy.

One of these was put as part of a source citation on one of the profiles for which I am PM recently and it did not even work - I got a "failed to redirect" message, so I had to replace it with my own citation anyway. By all means put this thing at the top or bottom of a profile but please don't use it in place of a full citation.
in Policy and Style by Gillian Causier G2G6 Pilot (243k points)
edited by Gillian Causier

Your final clause states you have seen this used to replace a better citation. I believe that is quite rare, so it is not "acceptable," but simply probably one person who could use some mentoring. I see your example code all the time just tacked on to a profile with the other sources. While that comes accross as lazy, I don't see any harm in it. It is easy enough to expand it to a full citation later. Of course, it should not be the basis for creating a new profile, and it cannot be the basis for creating a new pre-1700 profile...

I for sure do not advocate only using this link as a source, nor using it as a replacement, that is bad practice.

But the fun bit with the template is the automatic linking and checking of data. WikiTree+ will compare the WikiTree data with that on FindaGrave, thus aiding in finding more good or erroneous data (the latter being often the case).
It does in fact link to a url (in that case it would be like https://www,findagrave,com/memorial/12345678) and is much better than simply putting "findagrave.com" which I see sometimes. #therewasanattempt
Seems like there’s a need for a settings switch.

Switched on you see the Template.

Switched off you see the URL.
No Barry, when I said don't use it to replace a full citiation, I meant don't use it in the place of a full citation. Maybe I should have made that clearer, although it has also happened to a profile of mine that someone "tidied up", removing the url and replacing it with the widget. I'll edit that to make it clearer.
Aaron, it didn't go to the url, I got a "failed to redirect" message.

It should be quite clear to anybody who considers themselves competent genealogists that this widget is not a very good example of best practice. If people are being told a widget is preferred to citing facts, I shake my head in sorrow.
I’m guilty but I’ve been correcting as I go now to use the citation provided on a Find A Brave modified for addition this direct link.

I see. I thought that when you said " it doesn't even give the web address", you meant that the number didn't result in a url, which would be strange indeed.

If FindAGrave is the only burial source one has then it is the source used on a profile, new or otherwise. It provides a clue of where to look for a more reliable source.
Earlier this year I used a FindAGrace source because it had a photo, and the other source I had at the time was a newspaper article. I got chewed out for using it and told that the other person wouldn't use it unless the burial could be confirmed by the cemetery's burial register. Although same person has no qualms about using FindAGrave as the only source for a birth. The person on the profile died in London and was buried in Scotland, in the family burial ground. Who would think of looking in Scotland for the burial? Better that the FindAGrave citation is on the profile than off and a more reliable source can be added later when it is located.
When the template was originally introduced, many of us were under the assumption it was the preferred usage because it could be updated automatically should findagrave change its internal linking. And as someone else has said, it works somehow with wikitree plus. After a long time using it that way, I learned we are not supposed to be using the template inside of ref tags.

5 Answers

+5 votes
Can you indicate where on the Find-a-Grave website, I would find a citation to use?

I have no idea where they are, so I usually have to just use the memorial number.

by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (928k points)
At the bottom of every FindAGrave page is a "source citation" link in blue. If you click it, the citation opens up. Or you can write your own.

Even the web url gives more detail than this fancy "widget", eg

Once you have that, you paste it between <ref>tags</ref>,

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 27 September 2020), memorial page for Samuel Wensley Blackall (1 May 1809–2 Jan 1871), Find a Grave Memorial no. 68485150, citing Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, Brisbane City, Queensland, Australia ; Maintained by Dragon Lady (contributor 47330740) .

 remove the link to findagrave.com, and add the template whatsit to the memorial number and the end result should look like this : 

<ref>Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 27 September 2020), memorial page for Samuel Wensley Blackall (1 May 1809–2 Jan 1871), {{FindAGrave|68485150}}, citing Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, Brisbane City, Queensland, Australia ; Maintained by Dragon Lady (contributor 47330740).</ref>

<ref>{{FindAGrave|12345678}}</ref> style is recommended by wikitree, the longer form isn't. So seems obvious why people use it.

If the Find A Grave memorial is not being cited in a source citation, include it in a "See also" section below the sources, like this:

== Sources ==
<references />
See also:
* {{FindAGrave|1234}}

Source:  Linking to Find A Grave from WikiTree

Thank you so much!!!!
Robynne, thank you!

I will be on the look out for these differences in the profiles and will correct them accordingly.


It is NOT required that profiles must use the {{  }} method of citation.

I never do. I am happy to copy the citation as given - which is why I asked - but I will paste that directly into the sources section. I never use ref tags.

So please do not change any of Find-a-grave sources on profiles that i manage, just because they dont fit Wikitree standards. Thank you.

Melanie, what you have provided, to me (after reviewing the entire help page), is "best practice" when it comes to FindAGrave source citations. If it had been an answer rather than a comment, it would be worthy of a best-answer star because it confirms Gillian's point that the source citation, per WikiTree guidelines, should include more information than just the FindAGrave memorial number. We should all be striving for "best practice" when it comes to source citations and all our other work on WikiTree.


P.S. I just looked at what is said about FindAGrave source citations at Evidence Explained. I compared the "copy/paste" citation FindAGrave provides to the example source citation provided at Evidence Explained and they were almost identical. I was surprised that Evidence Explained left off the contributor information. The contributor was omitted from the example because of inactivity and lack of contact information. Otherwise, I assume the contributor information would have been retained. Evidence Explained added a notation at the end of the source citation referencing the image on the FindAGrave memorial, if there was one. 

Evidence Explained re FindAGrave source citations

The major differences in a source citation here at WikiTree would then be to omit the URL for FindAGrave's main page and to replace the memorial number with WikiTree's "memorial number template" (the {{FindAGrave|12345678}}). This is all illustrated in Melanie's post above.

I always strive for best practice an logic tells me no info other than a number which relies upon a redirect to take me to a different website is not best practice. I'm sure everybody would be up in arms if i just started sourcing my profiles with https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QPWB-R1TD.
Totally agree, Gillian.


Yes, unfortunately there are many profiles that just have a bare URL. The FindAGrave template, by itself, is essentially a bare URL.

The sources help basically says to include enough information to find the source, preferably following CMoS or EE. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Sources#Examples

The profiles that have the Find a Grave template by itself as a citation are wrong and should be corrected.

I have seen a URL for Find a Grave on profiles OR only the template, changed it to the full Find a Grave Citation with the template and people have changed it back to the full find a grave url or the template alone!!  It happens all the time, unfortunately.  People also use the Family search citation for Find a Grave, which also should not be used because the Find a Grave citation should be used.  For a while, the Family Search citation was not including the Grave ID, causing it to really be worthless. 

Using the template with the Find a Grave citation provides a full citation, as well as a direct link to the Find A Grave page.  If they change their url as they did recently, all of the urls will not necessarily work, but the 'template' will be changed to make all of them continue to work. 

Help Page for Find A Grave shows that the Source Citation should be retrieved from Find a Grave and shows that the template can be used in place of the Memorial ID in the citation.  It has been requested that the Help Page be changed so that the See Also does NOT have only the template, but it hasn't been changed. 

+14 votes
It is not just for Find A Grave too many abbreviations being used. A url for a web page is more useful than just Parish records, Census or BMD index. Family search has citations as do many other websites.

If you are citing English records take a look at https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:England_Orphan_Trail:_Citation_templates

New members may not be aware of how to write citations but if you are updating something you should try to do it right.
by Hilary Gadsby G2G6 Pilot (176k points)
Oh Hilary, that is great! Much applies anywhere, not just England. I see a new bookmark in my collection.
I am using this as a guide to create templates for the app I use to help with my citations. It was created by several members of the Orphan Trail team to help those doing the trail but is a useful page for everyone.
+8 votes

I've used the cited 'bad' example <ref>{{FindAGrave|12345678}}</ref> for a long time because it was (still is?) recommended by WikiTree. I only use it as a burial citation when there is an image and where the cemetery records can be found in or linked in Find-a-Grave or can be verified elsewhere. I've not yet found a link using that which has not worked. In the projects where I use this (again, only as burial citation, nothing more) the longer form citation adds nothing for the space it takes and the majority of the time these memorials contain no additional information, often lacking even the basics of place of birth and death (which I do send to the memorial managers who generally do accept those edit suggestions).

by T Stanton G2G6 Pilot (201k points)
I was just about to say basically the same thing. I use the template exclusively, although I do usually add "for <decedent's name>" after it. If I'm citing it in a Research Note for unsourced information, I add "Unsourced"; e.g., "Unsourced {{FindAGrave|12345678}} for John P. Brown."

When there is a photo, I used the form "<ref>Photo of gravestone of John P. Brown ({{FindAGrave|12345678}}).</ref>" I don't include the cemetery name, because that is in the body of the biography that the <ref> is supporting.

I agree that the longer form adds limited useful information for the amount of verbiage, but if somebody wants to expand a citation on one of the profiles I manage, I have no problem at all with that.
+7 votes

Melanie Paul's comment under Robynne Lozier's reply provides perhap the best method to do Find-A-Grave citations.

The WikiTree Help page for Find-A-Grave needs to be revised. Currently, it does seem to suggest just using {{FindAGrave|12345678}} as the full citation.

by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (217k points)

If the Find A Grave memorial is not being cited in a source citation, include it in a "See also" section below the sources, like this:

== Sources ==
<references />
See also:
* {{FindAGrave|1234}}
The guidance for See Also citations needs to be conformed to guidance for inline citations. There is no reason for See also citations to be different. The See also example given on the Help page is just as deficient as a See also as it would be as an inline citation.
I think some are missing the point OR I am.

The items you put under "See Also" are External Links not Citations or Source Citations.

Correct me if I am wrong.
The WT guidance on "See also" is a mess. By normal (non-WT) usage, "See also" should be used for citations to sources that are relevant and that might be of interest/use to a reader, but that are not relied upon in or cited in the narrative bio.

As far as I know, citations and source citations are the same thing (citations are what one uses to identify and refer to a source) and external links can be part of a citation/source citation.
Yes, citation and source citation is the same thing. A reference to a source of information. That's why all your citations and inline citations are placed immediately under the <references /> tag under the heading Sources.  A profile without the <reference /> tag, will not have its inline citations displayed.

"See also" is just a line that could easily be labeled "External Links" or "Additional Resources" or whatever. But it should not be used for citations or it would be like i.e., putting your citations under the Index instead of under Sources.

This is how I see it and understand it.

Another way of saying it is that See also is for additional sources that you ARE NOT citing, but you are providing in case the reader wants to see the additional information.
Agreed. I think we are just using the word "citation" differently. I was using it in the broad sense of any reference to a source, which would include a reference to the source under See Also. I wouldn't use External Links as a replacement heading, since, to me, a link means a web link, and a See Also source reference is more than just a link and does not have to include a link.

But, apart from terminology, and back to the original issue, I think using {{FindAGrave|12345678}} would be just as deficient under See Also as in an inline citation. (I admit to having used it, however, as I was under the misconception that it was the WT recommended style.)
+1 vote
I use just the template when:

1) on an ipad, sometimes the ads on FindAGrave cover the source citation box (does not matter if ipad is being held "landscape" or "portfolio", but you can grab the id#.

2) FindAGrave sometimes sets off the virus warning on my work computer, so if I can grab the id# from FamilySearch, I will at least use the template format.

3) on an ipad, sometimes if you have FamilySearch and FindAGrave open, it seems to exhaust ipad's resources, data on WikiTree is sometimes wiped out as you switch back to the new profile tab in WikiTree, I try to copy as little as possible, thus the template id method.  I usually just shut down if this starts.

But it is really frustrating if I have put the full source citation on a profile, and then I see another member wipes it out and puts the URL instead.  The URL does not provide the cemetery or location, so if something happens to that website, that data is lost.  As well, if someone is adding the cemetery category later, they cannot search the cemetery name in WikiTree that has that name, as it is not there or has been removed.
by S Stevenson G2G6 Pilot (108k points)

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