Is it better to use sources from or Ancestry? Does it matter?

+7 votes
I'm new to WikiTree but I have been working on my family's genealogy for several years now.  Most of my trees and research are on Ancestry though I do have a smaller tree on FamilySearch that I've used to get passed a couple of road blocks.  

I love the fact that everything here needs to be sourced by something more than someone else's tree but I have noticed that people are using links to their sources.  Should I do that with the Ancestry sources I have (knowing that unless you have a subscription you can't see them) or should I attempt to find the same sources at FamilySearch and use those links?
in Policy and Style by Tamara Brayton G2G Crew (440 points)

5 Answers

+13 votes
Best answer

In general, for the convenience of those wanting to use your sources for research, it's preferred to provide a citation for a site that doesn't require a paid membership.

However, a citiation here on wikitree should include the information that was extracted from the source! If you do that, then the actual repository for the information becomes less significant.

Another reason to include the extracted data for something on the web is that websites come and go, sites move data around and URLs become dead, sites change the name of their databases, etc., etc.

A prime example of that is when rootsweb got hacked a while ago, and the entire structure was taken down. There is an effort to slowly restore the pages, but there was very valuable information on rootsweb that may now be gone forever.

by Bruce Veazie G2G6 Mach 5 (57.9k points)
selected by Tamara Brayton
I've been moving the first few generations of my tree over from Ancestry by hand and haven't gotten around to doing much more than documenting the sources but I like your idea.  Being able to create a biography for each person was part of what attracted me to WikiTree
Good for you, Tamara. It's tedious work but certainly the thing to do. Years ago, when it was the "thing to do," I uploaded a big gedcom and I'm still working on editing the profiles (when I can remember where I left off!) The gedcom added the citations, but not the details of the data.
+15 votes
I prefer Family Search because it does allow someone to see the original information I used. This is helpful especially in cases of odd names or seemingly off dates. We can all make typos, and sometimes just don't catch them. There are some resources that unfortunately only Ancestry has digitized. I don't think it really matters as Ancestry can be accessed through a library system, I think the important thing is a primary (or well documented) secondary source with proof it came from somewhere.
by Katrina Whitaker G2G6 Mach 3 (36.0k points)
Hi Katrina, thanks for the feedback.  I like the fact that Family Search is free but their format and the way they work drive me nuts so I don't use them that often.  I also find that their searches aren't always the best at finding the information; for example, I have one great uncle listed in a census as "Sonny Boy" (his real name was Elwin) I was able to find him in the census at Ancestry but not at Family Search.  I have a habit of going back over people when I'm frustrated by a road block so maybe the next time that happens I'll work on duplicating sources at Family Search.
Katrina, I agree, I also prefer Family Search since I can look at the source. I know libraries & Family History Centers provide Ancestry but I no longer have a car so seldom am able to check iit out.
+14 votes
It would be helpful to use Family Search when you can, but there is nothing that says you cannot provide a source from both places!!

So a link to the Family Search source and a transcription (citation) of the Ancestry source would be IDEAL - as per Bruce's suggestion below
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+11 votes
You can certainly use both (although not the family trees on Ancestry, which are often unsourced themselves).  WikiTree does recommend that you try and find a free source (like FamilySearch) if at all possible, because many WikiTreers don't have an Ancestry subscription and therefore won't be able to see the source.
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
Thanks for the feedback, Ros.  I have a love/hate relationship with the family trees on Ancestry.  I have learned to keep multiple trees on Ancestry and only use family tree information in my research trees until I find more sources to confirm the information.  I then move confirmed information to my permanent tree which keeps me from having to delete a lot and has helped me past a couple of roadblocks.

WikiTree does not have any specific recommendation to prefer free resources over paid. Nor even freely available resources, verses hard to look up resources (books, libraries, government records, etc.).

Most resources are not free, nor even freely available on the internet, even with a fee.

And many WikiTreers actually do have paid Ancestry accounts, and would be more than happy to look up specific information to assist those who don't.

ok, I stand corrected. Thanks.

but I think that's silly.
+8 votes

A good number of primary sources are identical on both Ancestry and FamilySearch, although you may find the transcriptions different and therefore can be missed in typical searches. For example, I've found ancestors on one that I couldn't find in the other because of transcription misspellings, and vise a versa.

But each one also has some sources available that the other just doesn't have.

Personally, I find Ancestry's search (and hint) capabilities far superior to those of FamilySearch, and thus well worth the expense. But that may depend on how often you plan on using their resources.

But these two resources are just the tip of the iceberg as to what is available out there, most of which is not (and likely never be) available on any internet resource, free or paid. Don't limit yourself to these two resources alone.

Both have "family trees", as does WikiTree, and there are many errors in all of them. Research carefully.

by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (540k points)
The errors in the "family trees" are one of the things that drive me crazy about Family Search.  Just this morning I was going through my tree on Family Search and found a spot where someone had attached parents to one of my road blocks but when I actually looked at the records there is no way that those people could be the parents - they were 12 and 11 years old at the time of her birth. So now I've got to disconnect erroneous information from my tree.  At least with Ancestry, it is up to me whether or not I add someone from another person's tree.
In my FamilySearch tree, there were 1st cousins with the same first name and birth year.  Ignoring the notes on the profiles, someone decided they were the same person and merged them, despite the fact that they had different parents.  Then they merged the mothers, despite the fact that NOTHING matched.  Of course there were 10+ children in each family.  It took me 2 days to clean it all up.
yes, and we have the exact same problem here at WikiTree too.

That's one of the drawbacks of a "One World Tree".

But personally, I still prefer it over independent, individual trees, because those errors can be sourced and corrected. To me, this benefit far outweighs the drawbacks.

I too have recently separated two ancestor cousins or the same name and year, and adjacent counties. At least with FamilySearch and WikiTree, the damage is minimal. With Ancestry, I'm still contacting people who have bad info in their trees, that continue to infect others.

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