Should links to citations on pay sites be included in biographies?

+14 votes
When editing and citing siurces in the biographies I try to include a hyperlink to the cited publication whenever possible.  This works fine for citations that are freely available to everyone.  I have a problem providing a hyperlink to a source that is only viewable on a pay site.  Though I belong to (as an example), I know a lot of WikiTree members do not and if they click on the link will be solicited to join.  I know I get frustrated when I click on a link that should have useful information only to learn that to actually see the material I have to join the site.  I don't want to be the source of frustration to others.  What are the thoughts of the WikiTree community?
in Policy and Style by Living Thompson G2G6 Mach 2 (22.5k points)
retagged by Chris Whitten

6 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer
I think the primary concern should be to cite sources for any genealogically relevant information.  If you get the information from a family bible, another person viewing the profile likely won't have access to that source.  The same is true for information gleaned from personal interviews.  I'm sure there are other examples.  To put it another way, is it better not to cite at all?  I would say no.  If you would like to give a profile's visitor the heads up, you can always add a comment to the citations (i.e. " (pay site)" or something similar.

WikiTree is free, but the genealogists who post the results of their research here are not limited to free sites or easily accessible sources and I for one would rather know where they got their information - otherwise (for all I know) it's all hearsay.  It's part of WikiTree's Code that we cite sources whenever possible. Document, document, document.

Of course, you could always cite the source and *not* include a hyperlink to the page - but it is a convenience for those who *are* members of those sites.  For those who aren't  well... knowing the source site is a pay site makes having the link a moot point really.  I don't see the inconvenience to them, the source is what it is.

Short answer: Yes, we should be citing our sources (whatever they are). Providing a link is nice, but it's a personal choice whether it's a pay site or not.

- Mike
by Michael Gabbard G2G6 Mach 1 (19.6k points)
selected by Living Thompson
I agree with Michael; a citation some can read is better than no citation at all.  I would simply say that the record being linked to should be described as well as possible, in the case that the record may be found in some other way, so that someone looking at the citation can determine what record to look for.


Just to clarify my question. I definitely agree that all sources should be cited, I was commenting about embedding a hyperlink within a citation. For example:

Barbour, Lucius Barnes, 1982, ''Families of Early Hartford, Connecticut'', Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., Baltimore, Maryland and Connecticut Society of Genealogists, Inc., Glastonbury, Connecticut pp.290


Barbour, Lucius Barnes, 1982, [ ''Families of Early Hartford, Connecticut''], Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., Baltimore, Maryland and Connecticut Society of Genealogists, Inc., Glastonbury, Connecticut pp.290

Of course, In Wiki Markup you wouldn't see the actual URL, just the title as a clickable link.

This reference is readily available in libraries but only available on-line (as far as I can find) through so the link would redirect a non-ancestry member to the “if you want to see this, pay up” page.   

I agree that the source should be cited properly, not just a link! I don't subscribe to Ancestry, but at the library I can search the database for free (Ancestry Library Edition), so the source citation is still helpful even if the link isn't.

I don't see an issue with including the links. First, as an example, several of Ancestry's collections are free to search. So, not all of them are behind a pay wall. Second, I think it is important to see exactly where the researcher sourced their materials as there maybe slight differences between transcribed sources and the actual thing. Finally, you can cite the source in a way that indicate the web source a little better. I tend to cite my web sources like this:, 1930 United States Federal Census (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2002. Original data - United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626), [].

The link is not wrapped around the source title. Instead I add it last and it wraps the website name so it is clear where it is going.

My point is that I think we should document the source as fully as possible.  If the source was a Census record, and that Census record was accessed through or some other pay site, I see no harm in saying so.   I don't espouse simply listing the source as "," which is an incomplete citation. With a complete citation of a census record (for example) the profile's visitor can choose to search for that record using any alternative means at their disposal, including ordering microfilm, requesting a photocopy of the film from a geanealogical library, making a personal visit to the National Archives, or following other avenues on the internet when available.  They do not *have* to go to the pay site.

I disagree with the notion that we should remove any link to a website that was, in fact, used to access the source information by the researcher simply because that site charges for membership.  It is not advertisement, it is simply fact, with the added bonus (for those who *do* have a membership) of being able to click on the link go there directly.   It's also a good point that many records on that particular site are free to the public.

My responsibility for the lines that I research and choose to post on WikiTree is to include documentation.  I don't have to provide a web link at all, but I also don't think it's my obligation to only provide links when the source is a 100% free site.  WikiTree itself is free.  Sources don't have to be. I think it's a courtesy to be transparent about the fact that the link leads to a service that requires a membership fee for access.  Then the profile's visitor can make a determination for themselves whether to click or not to click - which I think is equitable and fair to both those who have memberships to pay sites, and those that don't.

For the record, I do not have an membership.  I make use of free sites as much as possible, and on the odd occasion when I really need to access it or any number of other pay sites I go to the Library where it is free.
I include in parentheses after the link "(paid subscription required)" so no one is surprised when they click...
In the case of I think one should download a copy of the document, such as a census, then upload it to Wikitree, and then link to that document in wikitree, and include original source information.

Pain in the ass, but your descendants will thank you.
That would actually be a copyright infringement, so please do not upload images  from Ancestry!
How is it copyright infringement? I am paying to access public files.

While the original document is not copyrighted, you a downloaded image from is not a copy of the original. Others have argued that can't claim copyright to their digital copy of a public document. I'm not a lawyer.

BUT you did "sign" a user agreement (license) when you subscribed or even created a free account on their system. Your membership to allows you to download copies for personal use; uploading to another web site is not allowed. I believe has a similar user agreement. 


If you're worried about uploading census files from to other sites, and I don't see why you would be, then use to obtain the file information and download the same file from the National Archives before uploading it to another site.

 I refuse to link to Ancestry which I belong to. I have never yet found a link to Ancestry,com on here that doesn't send me to an advertising screen  (my membership is to . It is infuriating especially when it decides that I really want to go to ancestry France because I'm in France at the time.

I put the citation with as much detail as I can, including the  reference number from the original repository and now  also put 'viewable on'

Re copyright, apart from Jillaines point about the terms and condition of the pay sites.  This is a site that has members from outside the US and not all documents on Ancestry originate from there.

The National Archives for the UK makes clear that images from 'their' documents (which includes the census) are  not to be reproduced on the internet without permission.

"You must obtain permission from the Image Library of The National Archives for the reproduction of copies of any records, whether they are protected by Crown copyright, are non-Crown copyright or are out of copyright, for publication, on the internet, for broadcasting, for exhibition or for any commercial purpose" 

I recently used an online  French  municipal archive to find a baptismal record. The terms on that site permitted reproduction on the internet  but only on payment of an annual licence fee based on the number of times the document was viewed.

It can take longer ( and in the case of wills, it can take a very long time) but  transcribing the information and including that in the profile or as part of the citation allows all the information to be included without infringing copyright. (Magnus has also suggested this in his answer below)

+6 votes
Its very thoughtful of you to consider non-paying members when linking your citations!  As a member of this category, I also find it frustrating to be constantly asked to join or subscribe.  However, in the even that a few records are opened in the future, perhaps maintaining the link would be a nice feature.  More thoughts?
by Becky Dowil G2G Crew (400 points)
+4 votes
It is truely a good question.  I appreciate you asking it and your concern.  I for one would oppose Pay Site Hyper Link Citations.  This is a free site to all genealogists recreational or serious.  Once pay sites are introduced it could appear we are advertising.  We don't need to set a practice that those less scrupulous may begin to attempt to profit from our group.  Those who would join may find it and turn away.  Site the source and where you found it in a standard citation fashion please.  Those that have the pay site available will be glad to have that knowledge.  Thank you for this.
by Living Butchino G2G6 Mach 4 (41.2k points)
+4 votes
When I'm cleaning up a profile, I leave links to paid sites, unless there are other sources that can replace them. I figure, they're better than nothing, because at least some people can see them, but if the same record is free somewhere, it's better to have the free one.

On the other hand, I almost always delete links to Ancestry trees, because they are not a real source anyway.
by Lianne Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (425k points)
+6 votes
I've seen this on merges - with many links to pay sites - and I find them truly  frustrating.  I think, when doing a merge expecially of ancestors > 200 yrs - the pay sites and/or ancestry links should either be removed or leave the citation, but remove the http link; or mark it with $$$$.
+3 votes
Why can't you move the source citations to WikiTree and add Transcriptions?

The basic idea of working in a common family tree is that we all understand what facts are proven by what source and also your conclusion.

If we can't understand the citations/sources we can never understand why you have added your facts to a profile...
by Living Sälgö G2G6 Pilot (275k points)

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