Question about sources: I have a HUGE family tree going on Ancestry, but how to source it?

+11 votes
I have a HUGE family tree going on for an American friend's family. The last name is Bristow, but there are 140 connected last names for a total of over 500 people who are directly related. I'd love to transfer it here and add it to the community, as I think a LOT of people would benefit from it, but I don't know how to source any of it.

My own Polish family tree is only ~140 people, but almost all of the sources are either me or a family member who knows a lot about our family history, and I don't know how to get the GedCom file to translate that, too.

Also, could someone explain to me the story behind sourcing? It's obviously a lot of work and slows things down, so I'm wondering why it's done (I'm a newbie, forgive the ignorance)
in The Tree House by Living Adamiec G2G Crew (670 points)
retagged by Ellen Smith


Sources are used to prove that you are right and also that other people understands why you have added the facts you have done. A non sourced family is story telling

If you would like to climb your own family tree you need sources. If you dont care what people you have in your family tree you don't need sources but then its story telling and not genealogy. 


Genealogy Without Sources is Mythology!

© Lorine McGinnis Schulze

How can you tell if the information posted by individuals on Internet genealogy sites is valid? Some sites have sources, others don't. How do you know what, and when, to believe what you read online??

A good rule of thumb is....

Don't trust anything you find on the 'net (or elsewhere) if it doesn't have sources.

Without sources you can't verify it, and you don't know whether the information came from a reliable source or whether it came from Great Aunt Martha who may have some of it right, but may have mixed up a lot too.

Maybe the info came from a book written by someone 100 years ago who didn't have access to sources we have now, or who just plain got it wrong.

Perhaps the information was transcribed for a webpage from a book source. That book source was transcribed from a microfilm record which was itself transcribed from the original. The chance of human error is greatly increased with each succeeding transcription.

Even if the information has a source, you should double-check it personally, either from the original source or from an independent source.


You also want to think about the source itself. Is the source a good one? After all, if Great Aunt Martha gives me information on the birth or baptism of my 3rd great-grandpa and I put it on the 'net, and source it as "Remembrances of Great Aunt Martha", that's not necessarily a reliable or accurate source. After all, Great Aunt Martha did have that fall from a horse when she was a child and she IS 97 years old......

However if I source the birth or baptismal dates with full details on the church where I saw the original record, or the published transcript of those church records, that's much more reliable.

When in doubt, remember.... .

"Genealogy without sources is mythology"

© Lorine McGinnis Schulze of The Olive Tree Genealogy at Article may be copied as long as identifying information and link to website is left intact

This is an exceptional answer, it covers genealogy standards all the way around.  Thanks for making it succinct and easy to understand.  I'd like to add a thought on "Grandma's story".  I don't see the term "Family Tradition suggests" . . . When it does come from the family, it can be mis translated (or a nutzy grandma) or an truthful memory that could be important.  I never ignore these stories and am glad I didn't.  I had an experience with  an old aunt telling another younger aunt that her father owned in a gin and a general store.  The old store was about 5 miles from Hills Creek. When I searched and got maps, I found that he did own a general store, the PO was in it and it was five miles from Hills Ck, But more importantly -  The "Old Store" was the name of the community in the late 1800s the aunt was referencing. It's origin was from a 1700s community first established in the area.

Another if you'll bear with me:  I had a derivative story about a 3 generation family in the early 1800s.  Each person interviewed (which got passed down) had a different "relationship" for someone else including children of two wives who married half cousins, etc.  Crazy, no way to figure it out.  This was before software.  Got the first gen software, plugged in each person's "recollection" of who was related to whom, and proved every person's explanation was correct!

I recommend always including "Family Tradition" recalls" . . .  which is a clue to be careful but pay attention.  Also if the story is a direct first generations who knew the party in question - it can be a stronger clue than if several generations removed.

I found this in a library folder, decades old:  "A story I heard once:  A little girl knocked on Sarah's door (Sarah died 1836) .  She had a note pinned to her dress which read:  "Take me in a treat me well, for in the house my father dwells.  Sarah did and never said a word."  Now this could be a real leg puller but was worth the fun of it . . . and not used as a "truth."

The sources topics are really important, there is always something to learn from them.
Barbara's right, never ignore the stories.  My Mom used to tell me about an uncle of hers who was killed for rum-running during Prohibition.

Well, no, he wasn't; he lived to be 100+.  But one of his brothers was murdered, the same year that Prohibition began (unrelated to it, though).  If I hadn't had the original story, I wouldn't have gone looking for records of it, and I would never have known about Clarence:

2 Answers

+8 votes
Well, Ancestry has tons of actual sources, so you might want to start adding them to your profiles there before transferring them here.  I don't do GEDCOMs anyway, but i do download to my FamilyTreemaker from  I'd suggest you enter by and (cut and paste) at least a couple of generations of your family here if you haven't already done it.  Then if you want you can try creating GEDCOMs for each ggrandparent  and addign them one at a time.  This should help you decide if you're actually save time entering them as a batch and then cleaning them up and source them, or it's actually quicker to enter individuals and source them as you go.  BTW, you don't want to enter the actual documents from on Ancestry, but look for the citation info which should be on every census or other document and copy that here.  If they're part of a GEDCOM you should make sure the links work, but bear in mind that most people here aren't ancestry members so they won't actually be able to see the document page.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (410k points)
I have the same problem. I have done Ancestry for years and want to transfer my extensive family tree to Wiki but do not know how and at my age I do not have the time left to source thousands and I did so want to put my information here so others could find the answers they need. Wiki has so many empty holes I want to fill. I have tried emailing your person in charge to contact me to no avail. Sorry we all lose here.
I know what you mean about all the profiles to move over. The supposedly easy way is to do a GedCom download and then upload it, but I didn't have much success with that. I'm too old to learn that new trick. So I transfer them over one by one/ I feel a certain amount of urgency, too. I am 63 and losing my sight. I encourage you to just start transferring profiles over one by one.  And when you find you link up with someone - offer them access to your tree and suggest they might want to transfer some of those profiles for you.
+6 votes
Sorry, but I had to laugh when I read your question. I too have a huge family tree on ancestry. By their count about 7,000. I have linked with some family members, so that includes a lot of people I am not related to, but they are. I figure it about 1,700.


But anyway,,,I started with WikiTree in November and have  been transferring over profiles 1 by 1. Most of my personal tree is original sources- personal interviews with the person , their parent, child, or sibling. So that is my first source. Than I look for one source that confirms that info. I usually start with Find A Grave. Than I start looking for census records.  After that I do a Google search and see what comes up.   I'm very happy that most of my personal family tree has been confirmable this way, but some has not.  I have found people have more kids, or their names were misspelled or their ages wrong, or they lived somewhere unexpected.  my tree has expanded a lot because of sourcing profiles further. Yes, it is a slow and tedious process. I have transferred about 1,400 profiles. But I take great joy when I feel like one of my branches is all transferred over and I am confident it is accurate.  Take your time and you will find this extremely rewarding work.

But here's a hint. Keep a list of the ancestry profiles you move over with their new WikiTree ID. That makes it much easier to be sure you have gotten to them all, and refer back and forth to them. Good luck!
by Susan Fitzmaurice G2G6 Mach 5 (57.4k points)

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