Links to ancestry sources?

+6 votes
Looking for help.  When I come across a profile with sources, that cannot be seen, I want to replace them with, and Find a Grave, which anyone can view, but I don't want to step on too many toes.

Is there a policy for this?


Thanks for all help!
asked in Policy and Style by Susan Tye G2G6 Mach 1 (19.9k points)

Hi Susan

There is a Style Guide which covers this issue.  The Links to Trees in the "Delete only after checking" Section of WikiTree Help | Styles and Standards GEDCOM-created biographies says:

Only retain these links if:

  1. No other source is available on the profile, and
  2. The link is not broken (many are).

We retain such links in the absence of better source information even if the link goes to a private family tree. However, our goal is to provide better, more original sources.

It's a good idea to document why you've done what you've done in the Explain your changes field.  I usually enter something like, "post-merge tidy - see". Or when I've found a more original source:  "Removed family trees - an insufficient source. See:".

5 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer

I agree with all of the answers but I will tell you what I do.  I never remove a source unless I can find a better one that is an exact match,  Thus I will remove a source that links to a census held on Ancestry only if I find the same census on Family search.  The reason is the link to Familysearch will at least give you the transcription of the source and still provide a link to Ancestry for those who have an account there.  If however I do not find an exact match to the source I will leave the Ancestry source in place for others who do have the ability to check that source to use it and make a decision.

answered by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
selected by Jillaine Smith
+6 votes

I don't believe there is a policy specifically for this although it has been discussed quite a bit here in G2G. I think everyone prefers any source to no source, and most people prefer a free source to a paid source assuming they are equally legible.

As far as linking to images of original documents or publications I can't see why anyone would object to links that point to freely accesible sites such as FamilySearch,, Hathi Trust, as well as the many genealogical socieites, archives, museums, and libraries that are digitizing content.  Aside from being free, we can reasonably expect that the information is not going to disappear.

FindAGrave on the other hand, like any 'user contributed' information (including Wikitree and personal websites), is likely to change or disappear entirely as editors of profiles see fit - there is no expectation that what is there today will be there tomorrow. I personally wouldn't replace a link to ancestry with a link to findagrave simply for this reason. Imagine you came back to your profile and found your working link to a document on Ancestry now pointed to the same info on findagrave but the link was dead because the content was changed. Again, not something I would do.

Another option is simply to put the links together [FamilySearch Copy] [Ancestry Copy] - if links break in the future now there is some resiliency.

answered by Rob Ton G2G6 Pilot (272k points)
+5 votes
Hi Susan!  Thank you for your work on the WikiTree!

If there are citation links in the document to the Ancestry sources, I don't make any changes, but simply add my additional FindAGrave or FamilySearch citation to the Sources section.

If there are no internal profile links (Bio to Sources), I try to delete all the extra nonsense that comes with the Ancestry entries and keep the actual link to an Ancestry database with some information.  I call that link [] and I hope that it works because I have no way to check.

I try to balance cleaning up the profile with removing someone else's work.  Generally, as Rob said, free sources are better than pay, any source is better than none.  If you are in doubt about the value of a bit of data, leave it there and just add your additional sources and re-sources.
answered by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (463k points)
+6 votes

Good question.  Simple answer - don't remove any valid source - add any new souce that you can.
answered by Philip Smith G2G6 Pilot (247k points)
+2 votes
Surely an Ancestry source that is a real image of a document is just as good as seeing it ;in the flesh' and  preferable to an index elsewhere.

My earlier research comes from visiting archives and reading parish records or microfilms of censuses. The internet hadn't even been invented so my citations  from then will include the record office, name of the parish or the census date and place or details from  birth/death certs which I had to find in the index and buy (no different now in the UK for those)

Pay to view sites like Ancestry  have  images of many of those PRs online now  and all the census images (from the UK)  Using  that as a source and citing where the source came from  must be valid.

I think it is better than citing a free source that is just  an index. They are good and I certainly use them but the original document may have so much more information than the indexer included

 eg: .Recently,  I was able to view a baptismal register  on Ancestry.  The priest noted in the margin that the child being registered had actually been baptised at birth, five years previously in Northampton Gaol.

Some years ago I used the   index  on Family search for that baptism and none of that was mentioned so in reality,  the date of the baptism was wrong and the extra information  obviously opened up a whole new line of research into the mother.

(NB There is a caveat: I like Free Reg for English PRs and cite it quite a bit. They tell you not to use it as a definitive source but  the indexers do put extra details like that in the notes . I'd still prefer to see and cite the original record though)
answered by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (192k points)
Thanks, I didn't realise!  I'll keep the ancestry stuff, maybe just push it to the bottom.
Helen, The only thing I disagree with about your answer is that you say Familysearch is just an index, it is a lot more than that. Yes everything that you see at first is an index but if an image is available they will provide a link to that image and some of them are free for you to view.  Yes they have some that are on pay sites like Ancestry but at least on familysearch you can still see something without paying and there are a  lot of record images that you can view for free.
Yes, I think that is right in some parts of the world. I have come across a census image for Canada and I know there are a few from the UK but never any I've needed.

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