What is the appropriate way to cite a FamilySearch profile?

+6 votes

I recently added a citation to a Wikitree profile from a FamilySearch profile as follows...

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/KL64-LWQ : accessed 2020-10-10), Profile entry for William Collinson.

I have seen many profiles where people have cited a FamilySearch profile as a source to a Wikitree profile.  However, I have seen many different examples.  Since I have seen numerous examples, I was wondering if this should be standardized for consistency as well as style.  If the citation has been standardized on an instruction page, can someone direct me to the link? 


WikiTree profile: William Collinson
in Policy and Style by Living Maynard G2G2 (2.9k points)
edited by Living Maynard

6 Answers

+21 votes
Best answer

Hi Joy,

I see you're working on the profile as part of the England Project Orphan Trail, it's looking much improved, thanks for all your hard work! And welcome to the England Project!

We don't use FamilySearch profiles as sources (or Ancestry profiles etc), although they can be very useful as clues. So you can certainly link to the FamilySearch profile, just not as a source. 

The way to link is to use this tool provided by Wikitree. You just enter the Wikitree ID and the FamilySearch profile ID. The link to the FamilySearch profile then appears automatically on the Wikitree profile. There is a Help page here.

by Nic Donnelly G2G6 Mach 6 (69.3k points)
selected by Kevin Conroy
Thanks Nic, I just happened to discover this about an hour ago, but I was going to discuss this first with my trailblazer.  I will go ahead and use the app to associate the WT profile with the FamilySearch profile in the research section on the lower right side of the WT profile.
This is an interesting tool. I did not know about it before and I think it could be potentially useful. One problem with it is the placement of the link. When I am discussing, in Research Notes, some alleged (unsourced) piece of vital information or some alleged (unsourced) relationship I saw in a FamilySearch profile (or in a "tree" on another genealogical website), I'd prefer for the "link" to the profile (or tree) to be right there where I'm writing about it/referring to it. It would be nice to be able to embed such an automatic link within the biography rather than having it off to the side so that I then have to write a sentence describing where to find the link on the page.
I agree, Nelda.  The link is not very noticeable in the location where it is listed.  Is there a way to get it changed to make it less inconspicuous?

I don't know, Joy. The programmers do some great things here, though, so they might be able to create an embeddable link to a profile at FamilySearch if there were enough people who wanted it. For now, though, I think what you proposed to do in your original message is fine (except in projects where reference to FamilySearch profiles is prohibited.) I know you didn't intend to provoke a debate about the whether or not to cite a FamilySearch profile, but it has been an interesting discussion and has caused me think deeply about the subject of sources and source citations in general. All the best to you!
+4 votes

Your format looks good to me. When you add a profile from familysearch using the wikitreex extension the citation is formatted like this: 

I don't see a standardized format anywhere in the help 
by Christina Mckeithan G2G6 Mach 1 (12.3k points)
Thanks, Christina.
+15 votes
I have noticed some of these as well. I do not think Family Search Profiles should be used as sources, Period. The same applies to Ancestry Trees.

Your example demonstrates this clearly, because the profile cited is already gone.

The sources on Family Search can be cited because Family Search acts as a repository for these and they will not be modified after you cite them. This can also apply to Ancestry sources, although only Ancestry members may view the sources that Ancestry holds.
by Bill Pease G2G6 Mach 2 (23.4k points)

And your answer was excellent! smiley 

It went into detail I didn't add (because I was doing stuff in other tabs), but which better explains the whole thing.

Again, Familysearch profiles are NOT sources. Neither is a WikiTree profile for that matter. However if you are lucky it will CONTAIN sources. (both Familysearch and WikiTree)

I always added sources FROM the Familysearch profile and then put a link to the profile under ===see also=== at the bottom of the profile.

Again - according to Wikitree, a source is where you found your information.  If the "where" was a profile on FS, then that IS a source.  It is not a GOOD source, but it is A source.

The same goes for WT profiles - and I have had people cite profiles I created and thoroughly sourced as the "source" for a profile they created (that I had chosen to not create due to inability to correctly source the information).

A source is where you find the information.  How good it is can be determined later.

A FamilySearch profile can be edited (including merging to the wrong person) after one has used it as a source here. If someone makes mistakes at FS, now your "source" here is pointing to errors.

While that is true, it does not change that the profile was where information was found, thus it was a source.

ANY source such as that should be only the bare starting point to better, more descriptive, sources.  But it is still a source according to Wikitree.

If people want that standard changed, there is a process for proposing such (I would support it), but while it IS the standard, we have to accept that a profile on FS is a source.

We've gotten way off from Joy's original question which was HOW to write a source citation to a FamilySearch profile which she may have had a valid reason to include in the narrative biography or research notes. (I presented a scenario for doing so in the answer I wrote to Joy.) The inclusion of a "source citation" does not convey magical accuracy to the source or the information found in the source. It is merely a reference to the location of the information. (By the way, we frequently cite many error-fraught sources. Census records are notoriously full of errors. And the online indices of the information within census are also error-prone.)

Just "adding a source" via a source citation to a profile really doesn't do much at all except say where information is located. It is then up to us to extract the information and evaluate the information and the source from which it is extracted. Including our extraction of information and evaluation of the source and the information within the narrative is all the better.

It is important, because of the mutability of online information and its location, to include a date of access within the source citation. It is also important for those of us who use any online source (regardless of its level of reliability) to occasionally revisit that online source to see what, if anything, may have changed, or if it can even be accessed at all.
Would someone please link for me to the discussion in G2G where it was proposed that the Honor Code would be ignored for sourcing post-1700 profiles?
Sometimes it is necessary to cite a source of (tell the location of) bad information or a myth so we can, in the biography or research notes, write about why it is bad information or a myth and present other sources to support our conclusion. Source citations tell WHERE the information (even bad information) is located; it is our writing in the biography or research notes which tells about the reliability or accuracy of the source. If all we do is cite the source without telling what information it included and evaluating its information and reliability, then, yes, that would not be good practice. But if we cite a source, then discuss the information and the reliability, we have done absolutely nothing wrong.
I've yet to see anyone cite the Family Search tree and discuss why the information is incorrect.

FamilySearch or Ancestry or anywhere else where all that is being cited is a family tree as opposed to an actual document, are all listed as unreliable sources pre-1700 I believe.  Don't know if the profile that started this falls in that time frame or not, didn't look.  But the basic definition of a source in WikiTree unfortunately remains ''where you got the data''.  Without regard to its reliability or accuracy.  Which engenders endless debate any time the subject comes up.

+10 votes
Every week I receive a message about profiles I am watching on FamilySearch that have had changes. Some of the changes are drastic - even removal and changes of basic information. Rather than citing the profile, look at the sources on the FS profile and if those are correct, use them. Those same sources could be gone tomorrow on that profile so it really does no good to cite a profile and not cite the correct sources

The answer given by William Pease is absolutely correct. Just using FamilySearch or Ancestry is not a source. It can be used under the See also on the WikiTree profile but keep in mind that one day the information may not be correct.
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (930k points)
Thanks, Virginia.
+5 votes

Hi Joy, Thanks for your assistance with building the one world WikiTree!

If I collect information from a FamilySearch.org profile, I list it as my source.  "You must include your sources when you put information on WikiTree. It's in our Honor Code. For more about our policies, see the Sources FAQ." 

When I use a FamilySearch.org profile as my source from a WikiTree-X extension new profile addition, the citation is automatically added as the source. See https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Holland-12139 as an example.

I also use https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Special:EditFamilySearch tool to connect WikiTree profiles with FamilySearch.org profiles.  I have this link bookmarked as a button on my browser toolbar for quick access.

I do not use the business entity, Ancestry.  Ancestry profiles are not easily, freely accessible.  FamilySearch profiles are.  Click the link and you are there.  It is a much better system and a gift to those interested in genealogy and family history.

by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (585k points)
Thanks, Kitty.  I also don't use any pay sites such as Ancestry.  Therefore, when people discuss it, I am lost, especially when I see the various ways they are included as sources with links on WT profiles.

You might want to check out Kitty’s Library for lots of free, on-line reference sites.

Wow, Kitty!  That sure is some impressive work.  Your commitment to help others is appreciated, especially new members of Wikitree such as myself.  I have already bookmarked the page and I am sure I will find it to be useful in the future.  Thank you so much!
+9 votes

Joy, after reading your question, I've spent the last hour or so looking at Evidence Explained (online and the book.)  Anything can be cited. I could not find a specific example citation in Evidence Explained, but I think the citation you included in your question is adequate and appropriate for a FamilySearch profile. It is fairly close to what I constructed based on what elements should be included according to Evidence Explained

Even though the FamilySearch profile can be cited, I would not consider the FamilySearch profile itself to be evidence or proof. Sometimes when I am discussing a person's relationships, most particularly in their research notes, I do need to provide a link to the FamilySearch profile or to an Ancestry.com family tree because it is where I saw an alleged relationship. The FamilySearch profile is, therefore a "source" of where I found the information about the alleged relationship I am discussing/analyzing but the profile or family tree is not a proof or confirmation of the relationship. A citation of a source by itself does not evaluate the reliability of the source. Therefore, it is probably necessary to make a note at the end of the source citation and/or within the research notes, something to the effect of "the alleged relationship discussed in the Research Notes section is not supported by the sources attached to the FamilySearch profile." If the alleged relationship was supported by one or more of the sources, I would cite those sources rather than the FamilySearch profile--citing the FamilySearch profile would not be necessary.

by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (453k points)
Thanks, Nelda.
I think this is the best possible answer. A source is where you got your information from. Sadly, too many Family Search profiles are created from Ancestry profiles many of which were created with no source documentation to support them. However, the vast majority of these have some original source that caused them to be created - so the reference to them has value. The bad news is that those types of profiles are a clear indication that while the journey to discover a definitive source may have begun, but it's definitely not over. At best, I would indicate that more research is needed to prove key details.
Absolutely, Scott. The reason to include unsourced information (and a link to where I saw such information) is to remind me or others to search for a reliable source to either confirm or disprove said piece of information. That's why it is relegated to "Research Notes."

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