Should templates for external links be officially recommended? [closed]

+22 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

On September 9, I asked "Should templates for sources be officially recommended?"

I don't think there's enough support for that proposal. Thanks to the thoughtful responses, a new possibility has come up. This might be a very reasonable compromise.

What if templates were recommended for external links, not for source citations?

The difference here is subtle. On the draft of I suggest that we distinguish between source citations, works cited, and external links. Templates would be acceptable for the latter two only.

Nobody would have to think about templates while sourcing, and nobody would find their manually-created source citations replaced with source templates. Template-savvy members would be invited to supplement source citations with templates for works cited or external resources that were not specifically used as sources.

What do you think of this draft policy page?

Please check it out and post your thoughts here. Thanks!


closed with the note: New proposal at
asked in WikiTree Tech by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
closed by Chris Whitten
Chris, I read this and the proposed policies, and I still don't understand the differences.  Could you please give more examples, as your examples "For Bibliography Items or Links" and "For Works Cited" are identical.

Many times I use citations to FindAGrave several places in a Biography.  How would this work with a template, especially as you are recommending that templates not be used in citations?  I think it means that I wouldn't use a FindAGrave template and continue to use the full citation to FAG the way I do now.

You also say that templates for links to external sources that are used for See Also should be generic and should not contain the date a particular person accessed the link.  For both FindAGrave and Wikipedia, I think it is essential that the access date be included, as the information on these externals sites, especially on Wikipedia, is extremely volatile.  Would I then include Wikipedia in a template, but, after the template, add the date I accessed the site?
Vic, the examples aren't exactly identical, just close.

For bibliography items or links:

== Sources ==
<references />
See also:
* {{Find_A_Grave|123}}
* {{Wikidata|X}}

For works cited:

== Sources ==
<references />
* {{Find_A_Grave|123}}
See also:
* {{Wikidata|X}}

In the latter case, if you were citing Find-a-Grave, you could have text like this: John is buried at X Cemetery.<ref>Headstone as photographed and displayed on Find a Grave, accessed 29 Sep 2016.</ref>

Then you could include the Find-a-Grave template as a "work cited" in the example format above. If Find-a-Grave was not actually used as a source -- if it's just being given as a helpful link -- it should have a "see also" above it.
Could you give a concrete example of an External Link Template and how it would be set up to be used in conjunction with a "Source Profile" (i.e., a Free Space page that describes a source)?


How it links to

And how it's used, e.g. on

What you see on the template shouldn't be considered final, though. I'd like to first decide whether we should approve usage of template for external links. Then we can get into further details about their formatting.


Is this the example?

Please bear with me while I sort this out in my own mind ...

What I think you're saying is that a template would need to be created that would contain a link to the Source Profile (a.k.a., Free Space page that contains information about the source), and that template might contain parameters like Page # and/or Volume. (e.g., {{Source Name | vol # | p #}} )

My current solution is to use transclusion to access the Source Profile and to provide examples within that source profile on how to format "footnotes" (i.e., references) instead of adding another layer with a template.


This instructional information would then be moved to the template page instead.
I know you're not a fan of transclusion like this. I'm just trying to understand what I would need to change to continue using these source profiles.
Also, one drawback (?) I see with adding the additional template layer is that only Leaders and the Team can create templates. This is only a drawback in the sense that it could potentially be a bottleneck. On the positive side, it could also add a "review" step for the format of the source profiles.
It would also require that a process be put into place when someone wants to create a new source profile that needs to be "templated."
So, if I'm understanding all of this correctly, I think I could learn to live with it, even though I am a fan of transclusion. ;-)
@Vincent -- that's the current output from the WikiData template.

It makes sense if you understand WikiData, but in my mind, it needs to be expanded to include more explanatory text.

Hi Julie,

Note that the template guidelines are now official, so using free-space profiles for templates and transcluding content is not approved.

When I wrote the draft I was not envisioning these external link templates being used for sources like "Owen County Cousins" and "Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society."

I was only envisioning large sites like Find-a-Grave, Geni, and Wikidata -- sites that would primarily be used as external links, not as cited sources.

I was thinking that the allowance for using the external link templates as works cited was bending to the reality that sometimes they would be used as such. I wasn't thinking that it would be opening the door to all sources having templates. Maybe this needs to be rethought. There does not seem to be much support in the community for using templates as sources. See the previous discussion.


I read the page Chris. Still confused and unable to grasp. But that is because I'm not technically minded and I trust that you and the Wiki-techs know what is best for WikiTree ... someone said "time" - that is my motivation for doing something in a certain fashion or using a certain methodology. Time should be facilitated in a way that works best for the collaborative enterprise in it's goal to achieve validity of data. Not every one understands how the technical side of WikiTree works, nor need to (I do not understand how my Smartphone works, but is does amazing things for the organization of my activities and my communication and networking), and I have to co-coordinate a project with more than ten thousand profiles, and we are very effective in the amount of validation we do with primary sources (at this very moment I have to check around 200 of them before they get project profile protected). And then that is only the first stage of validation (LANB and date of baptism). Find-a-grave is in our project irrelevant, we have our own eGGSA version of it. And finding a corresponding grave is interesting but only one of the documents validating a life, not the primary source of validation.

So I'm exactly sure what if any difference this would bring in practice to the amount of work we do in one month within our project.

9 Answers

+13 votes
Best answer
I admit that when Magus suggested this I was opposed as I am a "technologically-challenged" person BUT I now admit that his Find A Grave template, which is quite short and simple, actually is MUCH EASIER to use than the other way that involved brackets [ and ]  etc.

My perspective, far from either a "pro" genealogist or even English teacher (although I was a University-level historian for years and therefore understand the value of clear & concise source references) is:

When I read a profile, I want to be able to "check" what it states with easy-to-refer-to SOURCE(s) and preferably On-Line ones (yes, I know they disappear but...).  And ones that do not require me to join a paid-site (like Ancestry or Heritage...).  If using a Template that is Easy to Write and takes me to the exact page I need (like the F.A.G. one) is easier for a biography writer, and therefore will be more-widely used, I am all for it being written that way, whether an "inline source" or just a "see also" reference.  Frankly, I admit I don't see a huge distinction between the two and neither do most profile managers, IMHO.

So long as using a template is not "Forbidden," then I can live with whatever is put on the Styles page.  I agree totally that, when being described, a template should refer to the entire-worded-source not acronyms ( vs. F.A.G. or FAG).

I doubt I will ever "write" any template (see above - "technologically-challenged") but I now appreciate what they do.  I remain less concerned about Sources telling a casual reader exactly when the Source was accessed - the Changes page will give dates for someone who really wants to know.  But if others want to add that, and apparently it is standard professional genealogical practice, why not?!

Just my thoughts today.  I can be persuaded to change but for now for the Template, I find it easy and useful and would personally recommend it for any type of Sourcing.

Chet Snow
answered by Chet Snow G2G6 Mach 3 (34.3k points)
selected by C S
I agree with Chet, as usual.  Anything that makes the process easier without making a programming problem.
Thank you, Kitty (as usual)!  Looking forward to the Source-A-Thon this weekend!!

Chet and now maybe you got a new argument why use templates because Find A Grave are creating a new website with a new URL see G2G ==> we can hopefully just change the Template to get a correct URL for all links using Template:FindAGrave

+5 votes
The first problem I see is where you say above it is not for sources cited. That could exclude the most important ones. The wording on the draft page is better in that it seems to say that the template should not be in an actual source citation, which is fine. But some of the additional explanation on the draft page is not clear.

If you can word it so the templates are allowed at the end, even when they link to a source that was cited, that should be good. But calling them External Link Templates seems a bit odd if they have to link to a WT free space page.
answered by Mikey Anonymous G2G6 Mach 4 (45k points)
Including a link to a free-space profile for information about a resource does not mean you can't link directly to the resource.
Ok, 2 links in the template, one direct to the external site and one labeled "More info" or just "Info" to keep it short.

I think "Source citations" and "Works cited" might be too similar to distinguish. One option could be to refer to "Specific" or "Detail" or something like that that would be less likely to be confused with the broader Works Cited. "References" probably doesn't help as that could be either.

The "Works cited" in this paper include a compendium of anthologies, references and personal diaries found in the National Library. The "Source citations" are derived from the previously mentioned collection. Please note the "References" section for a complete list.

Me.... PM

Are there Wiki specifics I need to be aware of, changing the common meaning and usage of these terms? If so, please add that link. I will learn.

I am not being rude, but the difference between me and the rest of you is time.

Not ability.

Thank you for your attention

+7 votes
I like the idea of a template for the websites that are used for sourcing. This separates the website on which the source was found from the actual source and it's citation. If your source was a birth record, you could realistically have multiple templates that would take you to familysearch, ancestry, findmypast, freereg, a book, or any other website that hosted your source.
answered by Jeanie Roberts G2G6 Pilot (120k points)
Maybe I'm confused... Are you saying you would cite the actual record as the source, and use templates for the links to where it was found? That would be OK, sort of, except where it is found can affect the content.
I write my citations along the lines of Evidence Explained, so that when I find say the a particular page of the 1880 census on Ancestry, that is included in the citation along with the date I accessed it. But this same census page might be found on any number of websites, so you could use a template to link to any of the other sites that you would look for it without having to write a citation.

I don't see how the content would change for this type of document.
Transcription errors, poor quality images, cataloging and labeling errors... would be nice if we could count on every source site (including physical sites not just cyberspace) to all have accurate, high-quality, identical data but that is not realistic. Some libraries have census transcriptions in books and the names don't always match what you see on microfilm.
+4 votes
Too confusing for me. In your example I could see no reason for Find A Grave to be below the See also line, I would always put the source citation between the <ref></ref> in the biography when telling where the person is buried. As for Wikidata I do not see that ever being used in the profiles I work with.
answered by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Find-a-Grave would be below a "See also" if it were not used as a source, if it were just being offered as a place for additional information about the person.
Still not logical to me, I see this as making things more complicated and not easier.
+4 votes
I like it. I was able to find site definitions of templates v/ citations. It linked to examples of source citations, I now have bookmarked.

The only suggestion I could make is a way to navigate to the Source examples. It doesn't drop down, in the path name, the Help page/ Source Page, isn't the same as listed on your draft?

Having appropriate, consistent, reliable examples are enough for my current needs.


edited for mis-statement link should have said citation.
answered by D Osborne G2G3 (3.5k points)
edited by D Osborne
+9 votes
Chris, I feel that external link templates are a useful tool; however, the main benefits are for the technical aspects such as site maintenance and troubleshooting. As such, most profile managers don't understand how or why to use them as source citations or within the citations.

Another aspect that I feel causes confusion is that templates exist as both simple link replacements and as image boxes. I actually feel that is where most of the hesitation in template usage originates - managers think that the link templates will add images in undesirable  places within a biography.

Although I favor full - but optional - usage of external link templates, perhaps we need to clarify - in as simple terms as possible, and with more visually useful examples - the benefits and uses of templates themselves.
answered by Lindy Jones G2G6 Pilot (160k points)
Re-read. None of the credit is mine. I never said that. I thanked Magnus and Chris.

I said while everyone was debating what profile managers, understand, care about, or what make it easier for us, no one was listening to the only profile manager speaking.

Then to say my input isn't appreciated? What is Wikitree about then? Is it as you want, only about those with airplane pics on their profile? If it is, by all means, repeat yourself. I, and many like me, will be happy to let you have it all, in peace and quiet.

I'm new here. I will say that again. I'm new here. I have questions about how things work. I appreciate anyone's help with that.

Go ahead, "Marsha" call. Mr. Brady, he's an architect, professional, (Nerd) who'd like me just fine :) Do I need to prove my nerdiness? I know who I am. No, I have nothing to prove for acceptance in the "it" crowd.

As I said, I appreciate any help. I will respect and thank those who offer it. I'm not afraid of airplanes.
"[N]o one was listening to the only profile manager speaking."  Huh???  I think you'll find that everyone who has responded in this thread is a profile manager, so we are all responding from our experience and trying to find the best practice for Wikitree.
Thank you Vic. It is a not distinction I made, but accepted. Count the number of times that distinction is made in this thread alone*.

I don't argue your statement. I appreciate you making my point. Perhaps you could address it with those who set themselves apart, who think I am unable to understand, and should not speak.

But, I can't be criticized for accepting common usage, meant to set a certain group apart, while being criticized for not being technically correct. It can not be both ways. You know that.

What may I find? Assuming I haven't already found. Assuming I don't understand, don't read, don't care. That's a lot of assuming.

Again, thank you for your comment.

*edit-  on review I realized this thread came out of a couple of other threads, so more accurately... distinctions were made in these threads.

Hi, D ... first of all, didn't you mean "IT Crowd?" ;-)

Secondly, since you're "new here," I just wanted to clarify that we are all Profile Managers, and G2G is where we discuss proposed changes to how we do things. So I am also confused by your statement: "the only profile manager speaking." 

Not to speak for Lindy, but I believe (s)he was using "profile managers" as a collective noun representing the entire community of WikiTree.

My intention is not to sound snarky up there ^^^ ... I just want to make it clear for anyone who may be reading that everyone who discusses things in G2G -- including our Team, our founder (Chris), our Leaders and everyone else -- are all profile managers, and we all work on our genealogy here. So, your opinion and that of everyone else who chooses to participate in these discussions is very welcome and very important! :-) 

Also, to those who are watching and listening and not participating because you're intimidated by the subject matter: PLEASE chime in. If you don't understand and never say anything, we will never know that you don't understand. 

Hi Julie,

I don't think you sounded snarky at all. I really like what Chris has proposed. It is easy to understand and I think something in a progression of learning for anyone wanting it.

What I suggest is the page of sources, with examples, Chris linked through this page, be readily available. Either from the edit page or the drop down.

This was my experience: Welcome to Wikitree, a really friendly place! and be sure to include your sources> Oh, Your sources need to be formatted the Wiki way> Oh, You need biographies> Oh, You need to add your sources to your biographies> Oh,You need to change the way your sources are listed in your biographies. (I am still working back through those profiles)

I had started G2G discussions about sourcing, and got answers from conflicting to confusing to don't even bother. It didn't feel friendly by this point. I was trying to get it right.

I'm not being critical, only pointing out how my experience could have been different.

But, since I didn't get was this information, I suggest it be available and then the page for templates be linked, as further information.

I wasn't responding to Lindy's use of a term so many use. I accepted common use of PM across so many discussions, in reference to users without knowledge of formatting.

I would have liked to respond by saying, maybe the reason most don't understand how or why, could be inability to find the needed information, speaking from my own experience.

I appreciate your comment that this discussion should include everyone and noting those who are reading, unnoticed. I often wonder, when reading some discussions, why those numbers go unnoticed.

I certainly hope the effort Chris Whitten put into this is appreciated. Even if a user doesn't have a need for templates, the page makes them understandable.

Thanks again Julie

D --

What you've experienced is a danger when we have a site that is run, primarily, by volunteers. It's also fall-out from a situation where guidelines and policies have not been solidified yet. So, I'm sorry for the confusion. I think we've all gone through that to some degree at one time or another.

My best suggestion is to use what you find in the Help pages as the "final" say -- or as final as it can be in a wiki environment :-) -- and stay up to date on G2G. 

A note about the Help pages: You can get to the Help Index in the upper right Help menu (for anyone reading who doesn't know that yet. :-) ) 

Using them becomes easier the more you use them. So, I suggest spending some time here reading through them now and then. They're the closest thing we have to a User Manual. 

Also? Use bookmarks liberally so that you can organize the pages in a way that makes sense to you. 

And a quick plug: 

Have you signed up for the Source-a-Thon this weekend? :-D

We are well over 400 people now!

OH, clicking through I see those pages have been changed. Great! Yes, I do have it bookmarked now, thanks.

No, I'm not signed up for Source-a-Thon. I'm having tech problems I can't get answers for. It would be disastrous for me to go editing any profiles I don't manage until I get that solved. I'm combing the G2G archives for similar problems or clues. I think it's going to take awhile.

Ask another question if you can't find an answer, D! You never know what kind of help you'll find out here. We have an amazing community. :-)

Well, I'll TRY to reply to everyone who replied to my post!

Robin: Yes, we need clear benefit statements; but I think it starts with templates themselves, not just the external link templates.

D: My statement was a personal opinion that most of us profile managers are here because we are interested in genealogy; and that our interests and skills lie there, not in programming.

Mikey: I think the external link templates are intended for general use, as well as the tech side.

D, Mikey (next 4 replies): NO COMMENT!!!!

Vic: Thanks for bringing us back to the main point!

D: I don't see where you think anyone is making a distinction or setting him/herself apart. Everyone is just adding individual point-of-view input to the topic - at least that is MY POV!

Julie: Thanks for your excellent points, too, that we are all equals on G2G and welcome to add our thoughts and opinions any time. Also thanks for pointing out that we need comments from managers who feel they DON'T understand the issues and want more clarification and examples.

D: Like you, various profile managers see the benefits to the overall community of using external link templates for oft-cited websites like Wkipedia and Findagrave. And, as you also point out, finding the information and clear instructions on how, when, where, or why to use them (and templates in general) is difficult to find.

Your (and others) idea of improving the drop-down menus sounds like a great first step. Perhaps we could add a drop-down item dedicated to specific WikiTools like templates, categories, free-spaces, citing sources, etc., to make them more visible to the typical profile manager.

Thanks Lindy, 

Except for examples of sources, which has already been changed to be prominent in "Help", I don't think templates should be on a drop down list, but available as further information. It wasn't my intent to suggest otherwise.


I last asked 3 days ago. How often should I re-post questions?


+7 votes


Wikidata template for persons could be added automatically for linked persons. 

Connections can be automatically imported from wikidata (every day) and on connected profiles, it could be added by wikitree on right-hand side in Research section next to RootSearch and FamilySearch links.

answered by Aleš Trtnik G2G6 Pilot (364k points)
Hi Aleš,

Can you explain a little more about how this would work?

Also, how do you think this connects to the discussion on whether external link templates should be approved? Are you saying we wouldn't need templates in profiles because we'd be maintaining a separate database of Wikidata connections?



With this link or similar you can get all connections from wikidata database into a file. If gives you XML file, but you can control it (not from browser) by setting accept header to get tab delimimited file.

Accept: text/csv ?p ?pLabel ?pDescription ?pWikiTreeID WHERE { { ?p wdt:P2949 ?pWikiTreeID. } SERVICE wikibase:label { bd:serviceParam wikibase:language "en". } }

You get file like 

p,pLabel,pDescription,pWikiTreeID,David Cameron,"Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party",Cameron-1947,Stephen Harper,22nd Prime Minister of Canada,Harper-2149,George W. Bush,43rd President of the United States,Bush-4,George Washington,first President of the United States,Washington-11,Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,European composer,Mozart-3,Ludwig van Beethoven,German composer and pianist,Van_Beethoven-1,Barack Obama,44th President of the United States,Obama-2


where first and last field defins connection.


I wrote here, since Wikidata template was mentioned.

As we (Magnus, you) initially decided links are maintained on wikidata page for now. It is over 22000 of them. And to put template on 22000 profiles is a lot of work. It would be better to do this automatically as mentioned before.
Too much focus on Wikidata. Most of the people in profiles here or on other genealogy sites will never be in Wikidata/Wikipedia. And I personally don't want my ancestors there. Genealogy focuses more on common people not the ones who already show up in history books. External link templates should focus first on sites most relevant to every day genealogy, such as FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindAGrave, archival sites like, and sites like the Library of Virginia's online collection. Wikidata is a very specialized use as far as people are concerned (but would have more general application to locations and historical events).

That was my thinking too, until I learned that wikidata object can exist without wikipedia article. That makes it open to other uses and can become central interlink for all genealogy sites. Wikitree is not the only one there. Also FindAGrave,, FamilySearch(not populated jet) are there.

We will see what future brings us, but for now it is good to link to notables and also increases inbound traffic for wikitree (free advertising).
The problem with this is you are making an assumption that Wikidata holds the accurate information. This is not always true. Wikidata is not tge source of all accurate knowledge. I've had to correct (with sourcing) the site many times.
That is correct, but errors in notables are more common on Wikitree side. Both sites are also improving every day. But where is a data difference, it is worth looking into and correcting, if error is on our side.
+7 votes
I am in favor of using templates so that we don't have to use long, complex, URLs, in WikiTree profiles. I am not in favor of using Templates as a type of text substitution for sources (author, title, pub.).

In today's version of the "External_Link_Templates" help page, it appears that there are three different kinds of sources: Works Cited, "General Sources", and 'other sources'(??? "See Also").

I hope that whatever policy is put in place, it applies to all sources, wherever they appear in the profile.
answered by Rick Pierpont G2G6 Mach 9 (99.2k points)
Hi Rick,

Can you give me the quote you're referring to on the draft page so I can understand your issue with it? I can't find it.

Note that this discussion is specifically not about endorsing templates for all sources. That archived discussion is here:


Here are some quotes:

  • "They should not be used inside <ref></ref> tags." 
  • "If the links are used as works cited or general sources, the "see also" should not be used."
  • "So that they can be used as "works cited..."
  • "So that they can be used as "see also"..."
  • "You may use the external link templates for works cited, i.e. as full citations to support inline references."

I am not sure what the exact intent is, but I read this to mean Templates could be used for sources sometimes, but not all the time, depend on where they are put in the WikiTree profile.

I know about that archived discussion, but this new discussion is talking about sources too. When I first saw this post about "Should templates for external links be officially recommended?", I thought we would not be talking about sources, other than it being one example of where external links are used. I use external links for describing locations, historical events, historical buildings, and sources. 

It's worth noting that sources don't necessarily stay where and how you put them. I've had sources that I used moved under See also to be replaced by online links that didn't exist at the time I gathered the data. So, where and how it's entered can change. And also worth noting is that most profiles bring their sources with them through GEDCOM import so formatting is not done according to Wikitree guidelines. Adding an external link template to some of those could be a quick improvement.
+3 votes

Sorry to be critical but this seems a poorly thought-out idea. It's not even clear what problem you're trying to solve, let alone what your solution accomplishes.

Let's start with the first word: External. What does this even mean? Everything outside wikitree is "external" - although you still want to include an internal link too. It's meaningless. Second word: Link. What does this mean? A clickable hyperlink? So it can't be used for sources behind a paywall? Or those without a website? Or do you just mean a method of finding the source? In this case link is a very poorly chosen word as most people would associate a link with needing a URL.

Far better names for your idea would be some variant of "Online Source" and "Offline Source". An online source would, of course, have a URL and a date/time accessed. An offline source would not. It's completely clear then what we're talking about.

Now my real beef... wanting to distinguish between sources and works cited/see also. This is a really terrible idea as several people have pointed out. In academic referencing it's common to split directly cited sources in a "References" section and general addition info in a "Bibliography" but the format of the references is the same! Throwing this away and having a new template which couldn't be used for directly cited sources just seems crazy. You're adding complexity not reducing it.


answered by Matthew Fletcher G2G6 Mach 7 (70.9k points)
edited by Matthew Fletcher

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