Credible sources?

+10 votes
I have been doing Family Tree Maker and its predecessors for 30 years. Consequently I have used World Trees, Ancestor trees on disk, microfilm, copies from original documents and everything I can think of for sources. I am sure many can relate. Many of these sources are no longer available.

In my original GEDCOM many of these useless citations were imported.

Is there a list of accepted citations for WikiTrees? And how do I clean up the citations that are unusable?
in Policy and Style by Claudia Scarbrough G2G6 Mach 3 (31.8k points)
edited by Robin Lee

5 Answers

+9 votes
Best answer

To answer your question, no, there is no approved "list" of sources. Citations are addressed in the sources style guide.

You can use the tree sources, but you should look for the actual documents/sources to support what the trees you cite. They were, hopefully, based on something. You can use other sites, family search, books, etc to find sources to support the facts on the profile. I have used this page to help a few times:

by Natalie Trott G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
selected by Brad Foley
Just to add that I have very frequently found clearly wrong information in family trees on Ancestry and elsewhere on the web. I treat such trees with caution, and try to find alternative sources like church records and censuses.
Yes, I have found the same thing, Michael. That's why it's best to look for the sources and documents to support or, perhaps,  disprove links in a family tree!

Yes, I have seen incredibly bad data on family trees listed on other sites1. Nevertheless, I have no problem with people linking to family trees on other sites, with two caveats:

  1. Link to the actual tree! "Family tree on" helps nobody2. Even if it's a site (like Ancestry) that doesn't let non-members see anything, put in the link to the actual tree, so those people who are members of that site can find that tree.
  2. I always put those links under a "See also:" line below the actual sources. It's a piece of evidence which may or may not be accurate3. Provide the evidence, by all means, but don't call it a "source".


  1. The one that pops immediately to mind is a site where one guy was born six years before his father was. I'm pretty sure that would have made "Ripley's Believe It Or Not", if it had been published back then.
  2. You have no idea how much weeping and gnashing of teeth those stupid links to the home page of some other genealogy site (rather than to a specific tree, person, or source document) have caused over the years. We hates them! Nasty, sneaking, linkses. Hates them, we do!
  3. Personally, I think those who assume that "unsourced" means "wrong" are going too far. My great grandfather was still my great grandfather, long before I turned up the copy of my grandfather's birth registration listing my great grandfather as the father. 
hmm, Greg, becoming Golum are we?  :D :D :D

Had to clean up one lady who was supposedly married to my ancestor, but also married to another man.  Trouble was, this other marriage was before she was even born.  All compliments of Ancestry's little ''suggestion'' gadgets.

I put Ancestry family tree links below sources and clearly label them ''Ancestry links''.  That way people can still go look at them but they are not tagged as a ''source'', they are in fact a repository.
+13 votes
Hi Claudia!  that is an excellent question.  Here are some guidelines from WikiTree Help:

Also there was some discussion here:
by Shirlea Smith G2G6 Pilot (295k points)
+10 votes
On cleaning up sources after a GEDCOM import, I think you have to do this separately for each individual imported. I don’t think there is a less laborious way of doing this. You’ll find lots of individual profiles on Wikitree which originate in GEDCOM imports and where sources, and other things in the profile, ought to be cleaned up. If I need to do something else on a profile like this, I normally clean things up at the same time.
by Michael Cayley G2G6 Pilot (243k points)
edited by Michael Cayley
+5 votes
I would add to what  has been said already that you can leave the tree reference but go through and find those real sources. Several trees that purport to be my family are works of pure fiction. Not just a little off but so stupidly iff that you have to wonder where it came from.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (556k points)
+3 votes
Internet sources seem to have a fleeting existence. Whenever I can, I print the webpage as a pdf, or down load the image. For those sites that do not permit images to be downoalded, I take a screen shot. There is always a loss in resolution, but it is better than nothing.

Secondary sources that you mention can provide valuable clues, but try to verify the info against real sources whenever possible. Sometimes a secondary source will provide a number of actual sources, I suggest reviewing these for relevancy, I have seen situations where the sources have nothing to do with the data they are supposed to verify.
by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (684k points)
Some internet sources aren’t likely to be fleeting. FamilySearh is quite stable. Many national/state/provincial and othee “official” archives are likely to be stable. The user supplied websites are the least stable. Ancestr and other user trees can be deleted at any time making them fleeting. Worse is the current trend of using the dynamic trees created in Ancestry for DNA circles. They go away quite quickly so should never be used.


All sources need to be evaluated in this way.
Sorry, but all internet sources should be assumed to be potentially fleeting - just look at RootsWeb - or potentially lost for some time - see soc.genealogy.medieval.  The internet has archives and other mechanisms, but they are all still having growing pains.
Family Search has evolved. At one time when you downloaded an image from Family Search you got a unique name. Now you get some generalized term that is the same for all images.

Some films have been re-posted, which invalidated the citations I previously had to those films.

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