Current WikiTree policy and Data Doctor Policy wrt using Ancestry References as source

+15 votes

I would like to know Current WikiTree policy and Data Doctor Policy with respect to using Ancestry as sources and citation references.

I have read the policy in the help pages,  here

Are the current Data Doctor recommendations public? or do you have to be in a discussion group to read them? Do the Data Doctor style guides match the policy?

This issue is very important to me, I was drawn to WikiTree precisely because it's policies strongly discourage the use of paid service citations.

Recently, I completed entering a line of my cousins. Each profile had several sources with complete Family Search citations. 

I was astonished to find that all the citations had been replaced with Ancestry links.

I've spoken to the person briefly, they were very nice about working this out. This person was doing data Doc work.

I need to understand if the policies are changing before I discuss this issue further with the person who made the changes.

The source replacements are not acceptable in any way to me. I am left wondering if a policy so basic to WikiTree is indeed changing. 

Any information appreciated.

in Policy and Style by LG Price G2G6 Mach 4 (48.5k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
I don't think there's any policy against using Ancestry sources, just a preference for sources that are freely available.  I find quite a few Family Search "sources" are references to documents available only at Ancestry.  In those cases, I think the primary source, the image of the actual document, should be used.
Did they say what Data Doctors suggestion they were responding to?
They did not say. I will ask, but first I want to confirm the policies

5 Answers

+32 votes
Source documents available without charge are preferable to sources which charge. I almost always attempt to locate a Family Search record before using an Ancestry source. If I do use an Ancestry-based record, I append the information which the source provides, in italics to the end of the citation. Rather than using long Ancestry URLs, it's preferable to use the method described here:

Here's an orphaned profile I sourced recently using that technique: (see the death certificate citation at the bottom).

In my opinion, it's not acceptable to delete a perfectly good Family History citation and add an Ancestry one in its place.
by Bill Feidt G2G6 Mach 5 (52.6k points)
It is important to note that not all who do "data doctoring" are actually Data Doctors, but someone just wanting to help out.
The person who made the changes is willing to cooperate and change the profile back to what it was before. I will ask them and explain that these were not acceptable changes.

None the less, there is nothing to prevent such changes. Someone could make hundreds of similar changes and the changes might never be noticed.

apparently these are acceptable as sources in general.
You can revert the profile back to what it was before the changes, it doesn't have to be done item by item.  Just go in the change log and you'll see how to do it.  And yes, links to Ancestry may not be the best sources, but they are valid sources.  PM's are notified of changes to the profiles they manage, so similar changes should not go unnoticed.
Melanie, the person who made this change does have the Data Doctor badge.

The images at FamilySearch are not available to everyone. It depends on where in the world one is accessing the site. I've seen comments there that images are only available at FHCs due to licensing agreements, yet subscription sites have the images available, so I doubt the reason supplied for making people attend a FHC is a valid one. My local genealogy society is an affiliate FamilySearch library. Yet I can log in to my FS account on my tablet, but the society's computers won't accept the same password only moments later. It's impossible to report most transcription errors to FamilySearch, and they are prolific. The transcriptions often miss useful information in the records. I have found numerous transcriptions on Ancestry and FindMyPast that originated at FamilySearch, yet they cannot be located at FamilySearch. The saying "you get what you pay for" certainly holds true with FS.

Ancestry has some records that will never be available on FamilySearch. For example, Ancestry has a lot of Anglican records with images, and underneath them is a statement like this: "Original data: Anglican Parish Registers. Manchester, England: Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives. Images produced by permission of Manchester City Council. Images may be used only for the purposes of the family history research in accordance with Ancestry’s website terms of use. At the request of the Manchester Diocese it is highlighted that the use of images for retrospective or proxy baptism is not permitted." It is also possible to share images from Ancestry that may be accessed for free by anyone. I frequently add the shared image link to a citation from FamilySearch.

Interesting comments Leandre. But do you have permission from from Ancestry to attach these shared images to WikiTree ? Doing so seems to me to violate Ancestry Terms and conditions. Have you asked Ancestry to be sure?

There may be records that are only at Ancestry and must be cited there. (A note they are only available there and require a subscription - or not - might be helpful.)

Similarly there are documents in private libraries that can only be cited but not shared.

This conversation was originally about preferring public, sources over private and certainly not replacing good public citations with poor Ancestry views. This is not about the pros and cons of Ancestry over Family Search, per se.
Ancestry provides links to share the same images on Facebook and Twitter and does not place any conditions upon the share function. Whilst generally I would not replace FS sources with Ancestry sources, the person provided a free share link which allows viewing of the image, so nothing was lost. You seem to have overlooked the part where I pointed out that FS images are not available to everyone, so in fact, the person who made the changes provided more information to some people than they had with the FS citations.

Leandra, Please read all the comments. Ancestry does have Terms on these these shared images. I discuss that at the last entry. Someone will have to contact them to get a definitive answer - given that - they reserve the right to change their minds at any time.

Please read the comments of people who looked at it carefully. There was  a lot lost. You are making statements that are simply not true because you have not read the discussion carefully.

If you are correct then Ancestry's own share feature contravenes their terms of service. That sounds logical. The TOS refers to a significant quantity. What is a significant quantity? Given the total number of images held by Ancestry, the busiest person here would have shared a very small fraction of one percent. In any case, a good source should contain enough information to find the record when the link isn't working. So if Ancestry decides to stop the share feature, the source is still a valid source and there is enough information to look for it elsewhere and be confident that the correct record is located.

I have just phoned Ancestry and been advised that sharing the free image link on Wikitree is fine with Ancestry.

In section 2.1 of the TOS, "Not to distribute, republish, or sell significant portions of any Ancestry Content;" refers to the sale of content. It has nothing to do with sharing feature.

+14 votes
Data Doctor policies *are* WikiTree policies.  There is no difference. Of course, you will get the occasional Data Doctor who makes a mistake - but then you will also get the occasional WikiTreer who makes a mistake. ;)
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (2.1m points)
Agree with Ros. Family search links should not be removed and replaced with ancestry sources. Depending on what was done, you could use the restore to revert the profile back to the previous version. The person that changed the profile should be told that family search citations should not be replaced with ancestry ones, for the simple reason that the majority of people do not have access to it.  Even if they are including a free image from ancestry, it should not be replacing family search. If the problem continues, review the problem with members page.
I'm not an Ancestry phobe. They provide a service, including providing easy access to a lot of records not readily available elsewhere, and those of us who choose to use it and pay for the service can do so. Those who do not or cannot can go to a library that has a subscription or can trust the person who recorded the information and citation with doing so accurately. But it seems to me there is NO EXCUSE for EVER using Ancestry links for U. S. Census records, since those records are available for free on FamilySearch, and there is likewise NO EXCUSE for EVER replacing a free link with a paid link to the same information.
Stu, I fully agree about there being no excuse for ever replacing a free link with a paid link to the same information.  Just one thing though - I am sometimes (too often) frustrated when a record - most often SSDI, but occasionally a census record - is available at ancestry and no matter how specifically I look for it at family search, I cannot find it.  As a result, I am sometimes guilty of using an ancestry citation for a census record.
I understand. Sometimes the FamilySearch census index fails. When that happens, I find the record on Ancestry, then manually navigate to the same page on FamilySearch. The image numbers for a specific census page match between the two services, so if the record is on image 28 of 42 in Ancestry, it's on image 28 of 42 in FS. At least for the locations I regularly reference.

When I have trouble finding a census in Family Search, I use the links for the year from Federal Census Space Page.  Usually I only enter a name and the Residence, no birth info, and it usually finds it from that method.  You can also enter the Film Number that might be on the Ancestry link to search in Family Search to find the citation.

I learned very early as a Data Doctor not to replace Ancestry citations with FamilySearch citations either.  She went to all the trouble of entering the Ancestry records and was very upset that I just deleted them.  So now, I imbed the FS record in the biography and move the Ancestry record to


See also:
Stu Bloom, US census images are not available to everyone on FS. I checked with a number of people living in different countries after working with a voyager in the Profile Improvement Project who couldn't see the images I could see. I have since worked with others who can see census images at FS that are not available to me.
Stu, I have gone to Family Search and tried to use their census records, but I don't get all the years--for instance, an ancestor who was in the same town and in four censuses only pops up one census result in FS, while in Ancestry I get them all.  I have no idea why.  Do you?
I've seen the same thing. I don't know the reason.
+9 votes

One more comment or interpretation of the use of Ancestry document QuickViews or Sharing View. I went to Ancestry and read the help file  for these views. I also sent a view to myself at another address as I did not see any Terms for using these views. 

After sending the view, I was shown a page that looks like what I had sent. That page does refer to Ancestry Terms and Conditions. When I click on that and look at Section 2.1 Ancestry Content - It seems to me that attaching these views to WikiTree Profiles violates Section 2.1.

This is my last posting on, this topic, but it seems to me that someone at WikiTree needs to look at this carefully before thousands of similar views have been added to WikiTree.

Additionally, I believe Ancestry holds the right to change it's policies at any time. This has the potential to cause a huge messy problem for WikiTree. 

I believe this is a warning for allowing any commercial content to be embedded in WikiTree.

by LG Price G2G6 Mach 4 (48.5k points)

If the actual image is downloaded from and uploaded here without permission, it may be a violation of's Terms and Conditions (depending on whether the image were public domain or not), but I believe adding the "shareable link" to images in source citations here on WikiTree would not be at all problematic and should be encouraged. It would not make sense for to provide "shareable links" to images if they did not want them shared.

Edit...just want to add that I agree with you that your original sources citations from FamilySearch should not have been removed and replaced with source citations from If someone wanted to add the source citations as a supplement to the others, that would be quite a different matter. 

+8 votes
I don't at all like people using these external family tree sites as sources. Primary sources are church and government records, first hand accounts, newspaper records, and photos.

As family tree researchers, our aim is to use these primary sources, to try and present the lives of our ancestors.

Secondary sources are government index sites and second hand accounts of stories, handed down.

Ancestry, Family Search, and others can do a great job of gathering primary and secondary documents, and are really useful tools, and it is quite ashame that it has become a lucrative market, in selling access to these documents.

But as I said above, I think our job is to provide the sources, and create the story. Not provide links to links to the source. Besides, it looks tacky. A good profile done properly, too me, looks a whole lot better than a profile with gedcom comments or ancestry links. I could give plenty of examples.

So, for the sake of making our profiles look better, please take the details from the source that you have found on ancestry, and put those details as a source on your profiles, not a link to ancestry.

Feel free to look at the profiles of any of my ancestors. I'm trying to work my way through them all, making them look like they have been done properly. I've finished going through my great great grandparents, and will be starting soon on my great great great grandparents.
by Ben Molesworth G2G6 Pilot (166k points)
I would say yours is the best response of all and something for WikiTree to aspire to.

That said, would people adhere to this?

People prefer the fast and easy. sites that allow family tree information to be copied with no real research at all are a scourge to genealogy in my opinion.

I have no interest in debate on this topic and none in arguing.

I wish people who enjoy WikiTree and are conscientious in growing WikiTree the very best.

I really am signing out.

Linda Price
Thank you Linda. I think that Wikitree makes it clear when we go through the honor code and pre-1700 certification, that our aim is to present the best we can. I came across Wikitree while trying to find ancestors, and joined because it seemed to come up so often. So now I'm doing the best I can, hoping that when people find their family, that they will find the best presentation of the sources for their family, that can be presented.
I'd disagree about links. If you know some basic wikitree formating and don't just paste the full link it's pretty easy to make the profile look clean. I always try to provide a full citation (ie Randolph County Illlinois Deeds Vol B p399) AND a link to the source. There's no reason that a person who wants to verify my source should have to page though the deed book on familysearch or ancestry when I have the link avalible.
I don't disagree with what you have just said. But when you open a profile, and all it has is a link to an external site, it isn't a great look. However, when I am adding sources and citations to a profile managed by someone else, I will push the external links down the list, placing primary links first. I don't delete their links, unless they become obsolete.
One of the reasons why many repositories have made their records available for imaging by FamilySearch, Ancestry and other commercial sites, is to minimise the handling of fragile records.

For most of us it simply isn't possible to view the original primary record. An electronic image of an original record is a perfectly good source.

A newspaper is not a primary source. One can read variations of the same story in multiple publications and see that they contain variations. One can read newspapers from 200 years ago and see that editorial comment from publishing rivals brings their own biased viewpoint to their commentary. Propaganda in newspapers didn't start with the current crop of media moguls.
Some of the definitions of primary sources on this site are a concern, as is the attitude of their infallibility. Birth, marriage and death records can be a secondary source. Many of us are aware that some of the details on a death record are only as accurate as the knowledge of the informant, but birth and marriage records are not infallible either. Those of us who have researched extensively, using a wide variety of sources, have encountered situations where BDM records are wrong, either accidentally or intentionally.

Only the mother of the child really knows who the father is, and sometimes she doesn't know at all. I have an ancestor who had a baby outside of marriage to a married man. Her mother notified the birth. The birth certificate contains intentional false information. The father's entire name is in reality his first and second given names. The record indicates that the child's biological parents were married to each other, when they weren't. All of this came to light when several people tested their DNA and two us checked all the shared matches, then trawled through BDM records.

I've encountered numerous marriage records where a brother's name was recorded as the father of one the parties. I have a number of Bratchell ancestors where the name has been recorded as Bradshaw. My great-grandfather is alleged to have jumped ship in Australia and he has falsified his father's name on his marriage certificate, as well as some details on his naturalisation papers, all to avoid detection and deportation. I've used DNA to identify his family and a range of records to disprove his alleged father and immigration details.

My gg-grandfather's death certificate took a while to find because his surname was registered as Lee instead of Lane. My grandfather's birth was registered as Howard Olive, when he is actually Howard Clive. I've seen the original handwriting with my own eyes to verify that. Obviously the person who transcribed the details into the official record mistranscribed it.

Valid sources consist of more than just BDM records. The information they contain can only be evaluated when one understands how those records are created and are aware of the potential limitations. A variety of secondary sources can confirm or deny the validity of the primaries.
+11 votes
I have been using for many more years than I have been using wikitree. Because of my experience there, I continue to use it. I have tried getting sources at the free FamilySearch site, but I am just not that familiar with it and because of that, I cannot get the same quality and quantity of sources there.

But because of that, I try to always give FULL details info on my sources, so that will hopefully help others to track down the same sources at their favorite sites. For instance, I try to avoid just citing the year of the census ... instead I add the full citation with roll numbers & pages and complete household list.

As a Data Doctor, I never delete and replace sources from other websites. For instance, what I usually come across is where others have given the typical FamilySearch census entry with the URL for one person. I will ADD my source with all the household members listed.

Lately I have been running into a number of FindMYPast sources where they just state a one liner like "Marriage reord on FindMYPast" ... since I don't have a subscription there, I do wish that more details were provided to describe what can be found within the source.

For instance, in a marriage source from, I would state the date, place, both spouses names, ages & parents if mentioned.

Many people put down because of the many unsourced trees there. But if one knows how to search for sources on there is so much info available that I have never been able to find on FamilySearch. Maybe regular users of FamilySearch feel the same way. That is why I feel the addition of sources is beneficial even if they may contain the same info ... for instance a census source at both those sites allows others to access it where they are most familiar.
by N Gauthier G2G6 Pilot (305k points)

I agree with you I will definitely continue to use for research. If they have a source I can't find elsewhere in a free repository, I will cite Ancestry's source here and provide a link to the shareable image if one is available. I was working on a profile for a relative the other day and, if I had limited my research to only FamilySearch, there would have been very little sourced information I could have added to her profile because, other than a couple of census records, FamilySearch just didn't have the sources, but did, so most of the sources I cite on her page are from I've been an member since 1997.

I locate many records at Ancestry first before I search at FamilySearch, otherwise more time is spent searching for records with the half baked search engine.

I very often do the same, Leandra. The FamilySearch "search" feature is not that great at searching sometimes. frown

I use Ancestry first or after trying to find first on FamilySearch and can't.  I find that Wild Cards don't work for me on FS where they do on Ancestry.  If I find a miss-spelled word on Ancestry I can then go back to FS using the miss-spelled work and find the record.  Same thing for MyHeritage

Related questions

+14 votes
2 answers
+10 votes
5 answers
+14 votes
3 answers
613 views asked Aug 13, 2020 in The Tree House by Beulah Cramer G2G6 Pilot (583k points)
+5 votes
3 answers
+12 votes
7 answers
+6 votes
1 answer
154 views asked Jul 1, 2021 in Policy and Style by June Cabourne G2G2 (2.8k points)
+8 votes
3 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright