Need a definitive answer on "What is Unsourced"

+14 votes
558 views

This question is brought about by the "inconsistency" across G2G and our help pages about "what do we mean when we say unsourced"

A previous recommendation at https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/338557/should-putting-unsourced-template-profiles-online-sources?show=643970#c643970 included links to https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/337840/when-does-a-profile-have-enough-sources

where Chris indicated 

"My understanding is the same as others who have posted, that "Unsourced" means no sources.

There is a little ambiguity in the description. We say "This template should be placed on profiles that have no sources. It should be removed once sources are added."

Yet, on the sourcerer's page there is a statement that says

  • If the only source is a link to a profile is a profile or search results page from another genealogy website or the words "Ancestry tree," "Geni.com," "Pedigree Resource Files" from FamilySearch, and the like, the profile is considered unsourced. If you add better sources to the profiles, use the Challenge Tracker to include it in your tally.
This has created a lot of discussion and a lot of "disagreement" about "what is a source".   If indeed the statement above is correct, then can we add it to the page about unsourced profiles?
asked ago in Policy and Style by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (404k points)

I would say that the statement on the sourcerer's page is not the general standard for sourcing WikiTree profiles. Rather, it is a higher standard set for the sourcerer's challenges and meant only for those competing in those challenges.

The goal of the sourcerer's challenges should be to find and add GOOD source DOCUMENTATION for profiles, not to add low-quality source references. If the goal of a higher standard for the challenges is not on the sourcerer's pages, that is the omission that should be corrected.

When I joined WikiTree almost 4 years ago, I thought sources were what came out of my kitchen to enhance the flavor of whatever main course they were poured on.  Jillaine Smith took me under her wing and patiently educated me as to what genealogy is all about.  Many of the profiles I work on are especially challenging to source and the only places I find information to support specific facts are not (what I think of as) valid legitimate sources.  In these cases, which can include unsourced online family trees, I ALWAYS append the statement Jillaine gave me (in italics) to the citation:

A more reliable source for this information is required.

This goal would be greatly enhanced if there were a searchable label that says just that: "not enough GOOD source documentation". This seems the only clean way to avoid the apparent discrepancy in the two statements cited by the OP.
In the context of what you are asking, regarding the Unsourced template it was decided that it was meant for profiles that had nothing listed as a source.

As Lindy mentioned, what the Sourcerers page says is the definition only for the Sourcerers challenges.
I think our sourcing standards should be kept stringent. Ancestry and Geni are not sources.  I do not consider Find A Grave a bulletproof source.  I think it should be recorded but not accept with the same level of proof as a death certificate.  I teach genealogy at the Community College level.  Jillian Smith has made numerous statement on G2G regarding sourcing and that is what I use in my class.  I think that is the guidelines we should follow.
@Eowyn

Understand, I still think it causes confusion.....
Maybe the Sourcerers folks can update their page so it is more clear that is is specific to the challenge only.

This is truly a sad day for credible Genealogy on WikiTreecrying

Guys, this is just regarding when an Unsourced template should go on a profile not the ultimate definition of what sources mean to WikiTree and nothing new. It's been like this for awhile. It was discussed among the community and decided that for the template's purposes only, unsourced meant a profile that had nothing in the way of sources. 

If someone thinks that needs to change then they are welcome to go through the steps here.

Hi Eowyn,

Would you please be so kind as to verify that the following pages are the correct ones? 

The unsourced template page is here. It contains the line 
It should be placed on any profile that has no sources.
which links to the page about how to add sources to a profile. On this Sources page at the top is just a one liner which I assume is the official WikiTree definition for a source.
A source is the identification of where you obtained information.

The next line is this one that is about sources and not part of the definition.
Sources are critically important for genealogy. Some even say that genealogy without sources is mythology.
 

The July Sourcerers' Challenge thread and the Sourcerers' Sandbox page have been updated with the following revised wording:

If the only source is a link to a profile, a search results page from another genealogy website, the words "Ancestry tree," "Geni.com," "Pedigree Resource Files" from FamilySearch, or the like, adding a better source will be a valid update for the Sourcerers' Challenge. If you add better sources to the profiles, use the Challenge Tracker to include it in your tally.

I checked the Sourcerers Project page and don't find that wording. It reads:

If the profile has just Geni or Ancestry (or the like) tree for a current source, adding better sources can count it for the contest. 

If the Sourcerers Sandbox page is not what was being referenced in Robin's original post please let us know which other page(s) needs to be updated.

I have read all the threads on this.   I am applying the KISS principle.

1.  Wiki does need to define a "source" and keep that definition standard throughout the site.

2. What is the simplest definition of source?   "Where you found the information"   But we mostly agree that isn't good enough for our purposes because there is so much bad genealogical information pervading the various websites.   So, to defend against that we should go with the academic definitions of sources, which is fairly universal in defining primary, secondary and tertiary sources, but more importantly, it defines an Unacceptable source as one that cannot be checked or authenticated or is undated or unauthored.

3.  The real need is to ask for citation standards that allow the Primary and Secondary sources to be found.   Regardless of the situation of paywalls, or access to rare books, a citation is valid if the source exists in some form anywhere, because with a little ingenuity, people can find it if they know where to look.

Hi Wendy,

Currently the official WikiTree pages which define "What is Unsourced" are first of all the wording on the Unsourced  Template page 

{{Unsourced}} is a Research Note Box. It should be placed on any profile that has no sources.  

As you can see that the definition for a source is not on the template page by is linked to the Sources page of the Help pages where again it links to more information pages about sources. 

I was trying to find an example of what applies best to our current situation and the clearest example is from the WikiTree Pre 1700 Self certification test's first four questions
1. What is the purpose of adding sources to WikiTree profiles?

Correct. The quality of information is only as good as its source. To collaborate in the pursuit of an accurate worldwide family tree we need to record and clearly show the sources of our information.

2.)   Is an Ancestry.com Member Tree a sufficient source for a WikiTree profile?

Correct. An Ancestry.com Member Tree — and similar user-generated family trees around the world, including WikiTree — may help lead you to original sources. The original sources should be cited.

3.)   Is FamilySearch.org a reliable source?

Correct. FamilySearch.org has both user-contributed family trees (which would not be reliable unless they cite their sources) and digital images of original records (which are better sources). Simply citing "FamilySearch.org" is not sufficient as it does not distinguish which type of source.

 4.)   Is Ancestry.com's Family Data Collection a reliable source?

Correct. This and several other databases on Ancestry.com are compilations of unsourced information. They are derivatives of derivatives. There is no way to verify the quality or accuracy of their data.

As you can see, sources are defined as from the above examples.

In my opinion the Unsourced template page need not be changed as Eowyn suggested.

Louis, I agree with you here.  I have been following these definitions of a source, i.e. sufficient source, in determining on which profiles to put the unsourced template.  If WikiTree accepts anything written as a source, then literally "a paper napkin found at McDonald's" would qualify as a source.  That is ludicrous.  We do need a better definition in order to uphold WikiTree's professed standard of quality research and sources.

18 Answers

+6 votes
 
Best answer

I'm a brand new member here, and after only a couple of days worth of looking around (and trying to understand all the various systems), the thing that bothers me the most is the lack of clarity on sourcing, what's considered well sourced, and what isn't, and what the heck is the difference between unsourced and sourced, anyway?

To start at the beginning, WikiTree has a HORRENDOUS reputation among Swedish genealogists.  Because of poor referencing.  As I'm currently in the process of tidying up my own rather dubious research, I thought that joining up here might be useful as it'll help tidy things up (and many other reasons, too, of course). That said, as a new member, I'm more confused now than ever about what is acceptable and what isn't.

I dabbled in academia for a few years, and as such I now have a very clear idea of what constitutes a source and what doesn't. I referenced a compiled volume of Greek mythology in a paper which I presented to my supervisor, who promptly told me to go back and find the original sources.  That meant digging out the LOEB edition of Apollodorus (1st-2nd century CE) and citing that, with direct references to the lines in the poems.

To me, good genealogy = good research practices.  Good research practices are to cite sources for everything you do. This doesn't always come natural to many people who don't have academic experience, but can certainly be taught and encouraged (heck, if I could learn it...!).  Allowing sources such as Ancestry trees, references to wikipedia, and other continuously changeable databases is futile as the first and foremost consideration surely must be that the research must be reproducible by someone other than the author.  That means that, regardless of the quality of the source cited, the next person that comes along should be able to find the referenced source. A link to another website is subject to change by the whims of the website owner or author and thus does not constitute an acceptable source.

On-line books are better.  They would have been scanned from an original that could presumably also be found in a library.  If the book was found online, then that should be cited, but the principal source should be considered the book itself. Books, when published, go into large public databases, get sent to libraries, and so on.  This means that someone 300 years from now could look at your research and (preservation permitting) be able to find the same books used in the research.

Original, primary, sources will invariably be accessed on-line by most of us these days.  A reference to the actual volume as recorded in the appropriate national archive should be the very minimum, with a link to where the material was accessed also necessary. Even better would be a screenshot of the appropriate part of the document. Unless the national or regional archives burn down, future researchers should be able to also find this material.

The next overarching consideration ought to be the quality of the source. As I learnt the hard way, if there's a primary source available, then use the primary source.  In this context, a primary source is a document that was written at the same time the events it's used for occurred, or that are recorded by an eye-witness.  In genealogy covering the modern period, this means that one should always cite the original document rather than the research of another person.  Thus, if you're grabbing a fact from Ancestry or myHeritage, instead look up the source used in the tree you're looking at, and then cite the original document by sighting it yourself first.  If the tree has no source cited, then look at the facts given and follow up from there in the primary documents.

Citing printed books as sources for this period is fine, but they should be treated as secondary. If that is the only source you have available, then it is better than nothing, and will allow other researchers to follow up and make corrections later on. It becomes common in the period between, say, 1500 and 1700 to use a WikiTree relevant example, that a lot of research has already been done and published.  I see nothing wrong in citing this material, but I would still at least attempt to look up any sources that have been cited, and make a note of facts that appear unsourced or that I've been unable to find supporting evidence for. If the book is out of copyright, I would also frequently prefer to cite the whole thing.

Citing books and academic research papers (secondary) becomes inevitable when you move beyond the 1500:s.  Charters and "diplomata" are only really available in their originals to academic researchers in national libraries. Many are printed which is a good thing, and these days more and more are appearing on-line so there may be fewer and fewer excuses to not cite these. Nevertheless, in the medieval period, many commonly accepted genealogical connections are essentially nothing but academic speculation that's garnered more or less acceptance.  When establishing such a profile, the whole argument should be sourced, and the diverging opinions covered off in support of the connection made.  I suppose this is why there's a Pre-1500 certification here (which I hope to obtain eventually), which is certainly a good thing.

So to come back to the original question: what is unsourced vs. sourced?  Well, I would say it depends on the period we're talking about.  What is certain, however, is that I believe that WikiTree needs:

1. A clear and strict definition on what qualifies as an acceptable source.

2. Appropriate categorisation of sources used (i.e. a distinction between primary and secondary sources, along the lines suggested in other answers above that would add a further "needs more" category or similar). This would help identify where improvements can be made.

3. Clear and strict definitions of when a profile can be considered sourced vs. unsourced.

It should be fairly obvious that I take a hard line in this sort of thing, but surely it must be better to have clarity - after all, the better referenced WikiTree is, the better its reputation will become.  That, I believe, is a good thing.

answered ago by Matt Engdahl G2G1 (1.8k points)
selected ago by Navarro Mariott
Wow, I just said about the same thing in reply to the OP.

Academic standards.    Who needs them?  We do.

Although under the KISS principle I think it is easier to define an Unacceptable source than to define all the possible acceptable sources throughout the span of time we are dealing with.  The general definition of Primary, Secondary ect should be good enough.  And I don't even want to see debates on if a source is Secondary or Tertiary.

And if a profile's only source is unacceptable, then it is clearly "unsourced"

And another note about Citations.  I don't care if you use the specific grammar rules for Citations, with the underlining and all the proper punctuation, I do care that Citations reference the work cited, the author, the date, the publisher, the location, a link to the work if available, or the repository, who translated it or when and where it was recorded.
BTW Matt, I looked at some of what you have been cleaning up, and could you add what fact the source is supporting?  I couldn't figure it out from what you posted, and it is behind a paywall, so just a comment about the data being referenced in the source ...unless it is there and my lack of Swedish is My problem : )

However, fair warning, I have Swedish Ancestors so eventually might need help translating and now I know your name!!  (joking) (maybe)

Hi Wendy,

It may be easier, as you say, to define what isn't a decent source vs. a decent one, but I suspect in the end you'd end up with just as long a list.  Ultimately it will always come down to the understanding and judgement of the person using the source!

As I'm new, I was wondering on what is appropriate with reference to indicating what a source is for.  In terms of Swedish genealogy, the type of record is encoded in the source reference.  For example, 

Stora Tuna (W) C:14 (1884-1894) Bild 29 / Sida 25, Arkiv Digital page info v129319.b29.s25 | To page (paywall) | Riksarkivet

is to be read as "Stora Tuna" is the parish (NOTHING to do with the steak of the sea, I hasten to add!), (W) is the county, C:14 means that it's the record of births for that parish, volume 14.  Bild is image, Sida is page.  The link "To page (paywall)" will take you to Arkiv Digital's paid service which has colour images, and the link "Riksarkivet" will take you to the relevant archive at National Archives website, where you can access - I *think* most of the same things by finding the book reference and then looking up the relevant page in their black and white scans.

The most commonly occurring encoding letters are as follows:

A - household examination records

B - moving in- and out- records

C - birth records, often also contains marriages and deaths.

D - confirmation or communion records.

E - banns and marriages

F - deaths and burials

H - (occasional) attestations from the priest when the person moves parishes.

And for the record, I'm happy to help translate or assist you with you research - just drop me a line (not joking!).

As for the A B C D E F, I have been working now and then on pages for the National Archives. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Swedish_church_archives

As for help with Swedish ancestors the best path,  in my opinion, is to ask a specific question in G2G and tag it SWEDEN. There'll always be somebody in the Swedish contingent who will notice. You may even get us actually competing about who is first to find the right person smiley

Also, I agree with Wendy about quoting the source and connecting it to the fact it supports.

And lastly: about the badly sourced quality of WikiTree - a lot of it stems from all those huge unsourced GEDCOMS imported in the early days, giving the impression that this is OK. I've been in communication with  people who basically say: you didn't ask me for sources in 2015, why should I add sources now?

Loving the link about the archives!  And agreed that there's obviously a better chance of assistance if a wider net is cast.  I bet I'll get there first if Wendy is based in the US, though (benefits of living in Australia, haha!).

As for the rest.  *Sigh*

As for source-less profiles, I can see how it has worked with Swedish genealogy. What happens is that a dedicated researcher or group of researchers really dig into an area - starting even before the days of computers. They compile their research - the original reserchers tend to sell their compilations, either in book form or, when that time arrived, as databases on CD, later on USB. They may or may not have been careful about including their sources (sometimes one gets the feeling they like to keep their secrets) - but when people start recycling the material - within Sweden through DisByt (did they use floppies to begin with?) and then on Ancestry or MyHeritage etc (repeated thousandfold) - the sources as well as the provenience, tend to get lost, resulting in trees giving neither the sources the facts or deductions are based upon nor the credit to the original researcher. I often come across "unsourced" trees that I recognize as valid research, but I have no idea who has originated it if it doesn't concern a part of Sweden where I myself have roots.

All in all, most of this pre-dates WikiTree. And, actually, WikiTree is more or less the  only site where people like you and me can actually work on getting things corrected and sourced cheeky

"Acceptable" for what?  We aren't doing DAR applications or TAG articles.

Often in history you just have to put the most probable interpretation on what little evidence there is, while accepting that it's not conclusive.

Or, you can go for the interpretation that's most favourable to your cause, and hope it sticks.

In any case, the defence can also present evidence, and they don't have to prove anything, they only have to sow reasonable doubt.

I just did some profiles based on baptisms etc from a user-contrib site.  I have no plans to get photocopies of the registers.  Somebody else can, if it matters emough to them.

My point was that the people didn't emigrate to Virginia, as claimed in some book.  The book quotes the same register, but selectively, ignoring the inconvenient entries.

At this point, if we try to do it by numbers, the book goes on the acceptable list, the user-contrib site doesn't, so the junk wins.

Obviously we have to worry about inaccuracies creeping into the data, to the extent that we reasonably can, though the originals are often inaccessible if not beyond recovery.  But rechecking all the data is a slow, tedious and expensive process, and not everybody's idea of fun.

Whether the data supports the conclusions or not is a whole different question.  If you decide the data is reliable it makes no difference where you found it.  There's good data in Pedigree Resource File and bad data in Complete Peerage.

The trouble starts if you want to import conclusions from "sources" without bothering to follow the arguments.  If it says John Smith married Mary Brown, is there explicit evidence of that, or is it inferred from evidence that might be ambiguous?  Both cases can be found in the best places and the worst.

Inference is often necessary.  But useful books will say "it is reasonable to suppose" when it's only a shot in the dark.  There shouldn't be a blanket license to follow any author blindly.  Or a blanket license to say "that's just his opinion" and replace it with your own at will.

I agree with your final statement, RJ, but a source listed should at least be a legitimate source that is proof of something.  Listing  "blah blah blah" is not a legitimate source.  Listing "family tree written on tissue paper" is not a legitimate source, even though they are words.  In the same token,  simply saying "Ancestry.com" although a possible location for a source, does not make it a legitimate source of information.  Listing "Smith Family Tree on Ancestry" lists possible information,  but it is still not a legitimate source for that information on the tree.  Mere hearsay.  It's like saying, "Joe is married."  That is information, not a source.  If one says, "Joe is married.  I know because I was present at the wedding on such-and-such date."  That's a legitimate source.  If the source is the copy of the marriage certificate,  that is legitimate, obviously.  If it is an index listing of a marriage, that is also obviously a good source.  Saying, "Joe marriage certificate" is not a source, it is a statement about a possible source.  

Comment: I should never use my tablet to comment!!  The typos!! Sigh

Eva,

Given your comments here and the PM:s we've shared over the last couple days, it's certainly clear that WikiTree is the product of a long history.  Just as an aside, one of the things that attracted me here the most is that it's a forum for collaboration and a great opportunity to work on the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle together, as long as we take due care to ensure that we don't put a bit of sky in the ocean...

RJ,

You raise some very good points.  Certainly there are poorly referenced databases with excellent quality data (as in your example above). The person who did that research must, however, have got the idea from somewhere and be able to prove it, so the registers should be cited rather than the site where the information came from.  A common way of doing this in publications is simply to say that it was sourced from the user-contrib site, and that they cited Whatever Register (giving a full reference to both by copying the details from the user-contrib site).  This is especially handy if you don't have access to, or the means to acquire, the original source.  But at the very least it's a service to the people that do care about those profiles and it ensures that the research can be followed up on and verified should someone wish to do so. If, on the other hand, you have access to the registers, or can easily get to them, then it strikes me as counterproductive that the user-contrib site would be cited rather than the original source.

The book goes on the acceptable list because it's possible to find it for someone who comes along after, whereas a user-contrib site can disappear in the blink of an eye.  If the book has crap information in it and you know otherwise, then you can still argue with it and support your argument by citing the relevant baptismal registers. It's appropriate to cite both book and register so that people can go back and check the work. That level of research also ensures that the next person who comes along and sees the profiles doesn't go "Well, I've got this book which says that this is wrong so I'm going to change it to match the book."  If the profile already contains the arguments (and evidence) for why the book is inaccurate, then the reader of the profile will learn something new, and the world of genealogical research will be all the better for it.

The second point that you make is that of accessibility.  This is a huge bug-bear for me (I absolutely loathe that academic institutions and publishing companies appear to think that they "own" our shared history and knowledge), and although it's getting better with more and more material digitised you need a fat wallet indeed if you want to follow up thoroughly.  As an example, I'm currently working on a handful of ancestors from 16th century Prussia and there's material printed at the time (1596) in a book which I believe is currently only held by a handful of European libraries.  If I want to read that information I have to send off and pay for scans of the relevant pages.  Will I then share that information?  You betcha!  On a site like WikiTree, I can see so much potential for collaboration and the better researched - and supported by evidence - each profile is the better the site becomes.  By sharing what you do have access to and being accurate and specific about it, other researchers can add to the knowledge and debate.   

Which brings me to the difficult point of whether there should be profiles at all of people that don't have a decent set of references (i.e. ones that are entirely unsourced or only reference a user-contrib site).  I believe that there are in general two types of genealogists: the collector, and the researcher.  Both fill valuable functions, and as someone who vacillates from one type to the other I can certainly understand that it's fun to add new people and seeing the patterns and relationships emerge.  Even as a collector, though, it's simple enough to copy out a reference to a register to make sure that there's a modicum of traceability and then those that seek depth rather than breadth can take up the baton from there.  If all you have access to is a book of dubious quality, then cite the book, make a note of what evidence the book uses, and make a note that it's a low quality source and that more research is required. Would such a profile qualify as "unsourced"? Well, it wouldn't be unsourced as there's a reference to a particular book, so perhaps a term like "undersourced" or "needs better references" would be preferable?  Perhaps there's a tag or category for that already that I don't know about?

I've saved your best point for last, on which I believe we're in full agreement.  Problems occur when people blindly follow others without engaging with the available material and the pertinent arguments. This makes the WikiTree effort all the more important - it's a wonderful opportunity to collectively create profiles that contain the full story, not just of the individual but of the research that's gone into the establishment of the presented facts/conclusions and biographies. Invariably, there'll be arguments and differences of opinion - just look at Jackson, Hlawitschka, and Wolf - whose debates have raged for decades. It is the researcher-genealogist who would dive into this sort of thing headlong. A good researcher would, however, not say "it's reasonable to suppose" without saying why it's reasonable and giving the sources to back up the argument.  For instance, it is reasonable to accept that Theophano, wife of Otto II was the daughter of Konstantinos Skleros, because she and her father are independently said to belong to the same class of courtiers, she is described as the Emperor's niece, and because of the onomastics of her children (see Wolf (1988), pp. 272, 275-6 and Hlawitschka (2006), pp. 146-151). There is a high level of inference happening in the above statements - there is no direct primary proof that the father/daughter relationship existed - but it should be clear to the reader that this is, indeed the case. Obviously it's impossible to force a reader to engage with a debate they may care little about when all they want to do is say that they're the n-th descendant of the Skleroi - but wouldn't it be much preferable if they got that information from a thoroughly researched and presented WikiTree profile?  We cannot stop the spread of misinformation, but as a responsible genealogist we should, I believe, do what we can to ensure that the areas we work on meet the highest standard we can achieve within the limits of our ability and resources. Meeting that standard means citing references that extend beyond "Liz said that Harry died in 1547".

Practically, to once more tie this back to the original question, that means that there needs to be a way to identify profiles that are lacking in quality, and the binary nature of "unsourced" strikes me as wholly insufficient to describe a matter that's clearly on a scale from "imaginary" to "publication quality".

Sources:

Hlawitschka, E. (2006) Die Ahnen der hochmittelalterlichen deutschen Könige, Kaiser und ihrer Gemahlinnen Band I: 911-1137 Teil 2. München: Monumenta Germaniæ Historica.

Wolf, G. (1988) ”Nochmals zur Frage: wer war Theophano?” in Byzantinische Zeitschrift, vol. 81, pp. 272-283.

Matt makes an excellent point about collectors vs. researchers. This is exactly what the debate is about, and it shows up one of the conflicts within the entire WikiTree philosophy: If the ultimate goal is to create a connected network with something like 35 to 70 billion entries (see John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy for a justification of this number), one is clearly appealing to the collectors out there. It encourages the importing of gedcom trees with thousands of entries, and I sympathize with folks like the user mentioned by Eva Ekeblad who understandably cringes at the prospect of having to supply thousands of sources after the fact.

Quantity of entries and quality of references are incompatible goals in this rather labor-intensive process. The more contributors you have, the more "collectors" will be among them. If you insist on quality, you have to impose entrance requirements, which clearly violates the idea of a Wiki community.

I think I understood this dilemma from the start about a year ago, so I did not even consider importing my file of some 2500 entries (mostly collected, and some from unsaviory Ancestry trees, I have to admit), but rather imported the (to me) most important ones selectively, one by one. Even then, in the early days, I took some shortcuts that I should straighten out (if I ever get a round tuit :))
+8 votes
I think there will always be disagreements about "What is a source?"

At its very base definition, its "where the information came from." But many, if not most people think that's not good enough. There are degrees of sources, as to what are acceptable and authoritative: primary, secondary, and other derivative sources.

Really, the question is (or should be): Where do we draw the line?
answered ago by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (286k points)
"Unsourced" should and can only mean "no source whatsoever". However, maybe there is room for another status to cover situations where the only sources are ancestry trees, FindAGrave pages, or even personal recollections. (Full disclosure: I have used the last of these on members of my immediate family, because a. I was too lazy to look, and b. the records are not open, anyway.) Such profiles are not "unsourced", but perhaps "thinly sourced", which would make them searchable more easily for others to contribute. (Just my two cents.)
Forgive me Dennis, but I think the base definition you gave is only true if  used outside the context of a Genealogy site. On a site like WikiTree, I feel that you have to see a reference to sources in the context of what sources mean to people who do credible genealogy.
But Louis, Dennis' definition is technically accurate. A source is where we obtained the information from, whether it's from a birth certificate or a scribbled claim on a cocktail napkin (aka an online tree).

I think Lindy Jones' comment above (which should be an answer so we could upvote it) is an accurate representation of the distinction between the use of the {{Unsourced}} tag and the work of the Sourcerers challenges.

AND we do have the case that people are applying {{Unsourced}} on profiles that are technically not without a source. But what this does do is flag the profile for needing better sourcing.

What's happening, however, is that some people are removing this template when the only source is an online tree. Technically accurate, but not supportive of wikitree's effort to improve sources.

We might need another template to tag those profiles with cruddy sources that need better ones.

EDITED: Perhaps {{Undocumented}} ?-- see Erin's answer below.
As always, when Jillaine speaks, the optimal solution instantly becomes both clear and elegant!

How about {{Sources Needed}} for a new template that could either be in addition to the existing {{Unsourced}} or maybe even replace it?  That phrase wouldn't keep raising the issue of how to distinguish between a source with weight and simply the answer to "what makes you think so?"
Hi Jillian, I am not saying the definition is wrong. I am saying that when applied to Genealogy you cannot use the same definition because the expectations in genealogy is different.

Creating a separate template which reflects that it is a cruddy source with whatever phrase is pointless. In genealogy a credible source has only one meaning. The source must be credible , else the profile is not sourced. Hence the phrase - Unsourced.
+5 votes
You really hit me where I live on this one, Robin.  I'm going to limit my answer to a very narrow single case that I became alerted to just last night.

A few years ago, I had left a Holocaust profile with {{Unsourced}} at the top and the following ending:

==Research Notes==
Possible death record:
(citation to a find a grave page redacted)<br />
Name: (redacted)<br />
Event Type: Burial<br />
Event Date: 1984<br />
Event Place: (redacted)<br />
Birth Date: 26 Aug 1910<br />
Death Date: 11 Jun 1984<br />
Affiliate Record Identifier: (redacted)<br />
Cemetery: (redacted)<br />

== Sources ==
<references />

* WikiTree profile (ID redacted) created through the import of Loewenstein Descent.ged on Sep 18, 2011.

After I had orphaned the profile, someone came by and removed the Unsourced template and the <references /> line!!!  I don't know what they were thinking about the tag, but it looks like they thought the line crediting the gedcom qualified as a source.

Shortly after that, a different member came by and edited the data, adding the birth and death dates that are shown in the record in the research notes.  That same person also added a link to this WikiTree profile on the record page at find a grave.

Last night, when I saw this, I looked at the find a grave record again and saw that it was for a person who served in the United States armed forces during World War II, with service dates that overlapped time that I can place the profile subject in Germany.  In addition, the gravestone has a cross and this person was definitely Jewish, so suggesting the possibility of that find a grave record belonging to this person represents very shoddy work on my part.

Now the profile is considered sourced (by at least two members), plus it has known incorrect birth and death dates.
answered ago by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (441k points)

The name matches, doesn't that mean it is the same person even if thousands of miles away? smiley I haven't seen too much of this on WT, but Ancestry and FAG I see a lot.

You bring up a valid point Gaile. If a profile is created for a John Smith (a popular name in England) how do other WikiTree members know which John Smith is intended? What is the distinctive identifying quality that the creator was using? E.g the John Smith who is the parent of X or the John Smith famous for doing Y. If we discover a profile has combined two real people which person gets the original profile and which person gets a new profile?

Should this identifying information appear in research notes?

Tim
Oh yes, Tim - I absolutely agree that the information that distinguishes between two different people with the same name definitely belongs in a note in the profile to prevent others from conflating them again in the future.

My example here is a bad one because I was just starting out when I made the mistake of calling that find-a-grave record "possible", but that record should still be there in the note with a statement indicating that it is a different person.  I don't think, in this particular case, it would have made any difference - the person who added birth and death dates from that record would probably still have done so - I've seen that happen before, too.  Another thing members do when I document multiple people with the same name is delete the source because it is not applicable to the person being profiled.
+10 votes
I've gotten myself in trouble on this topic before so I'll be short!!!     My standards for a  "source" probably most closely align with what's posted on the sourcer's page...     If WikiTree wants to allow a source to be an "Unsourced Family Tree handed down to me"..... YIKES.
answered ago by Peggy McReynolds G2G6 Mach 2 (26.9k points)

Peggy,

The removal of the {{Unsourced}} template from a profile containing a family tree as the only source is simply an individual interpreting "Unsourced" very literally-- it does not imply that WikiTree "wants to allow a source to be an Unsourced Family Tree...". 

If people are going to continue to interpret Unsourced literally, then we need another template to flag poorly sourced profiles.

Personally, I think leaving {{Unsourced}} on poorly sourced profiles is perfectly acceptable, but given the number of g2g threads that appear about this topic, perhaps it is time for another solution.

Hey Jillian,

The only reason I used the language  "If WikiTree wants to allow a source to be an "Unsourced Family Tree handed down to me"..... was because when a profile is created that's one of the options that pops up as available when nothing is put under the source heading.    I noticed this language showing up on a plethora of profiles I was working with.

 

America would be lost without those.

All those old family books weren't researched in public records.  They were done by writing to lots of people asking for their handed-down family information.  It didn't get better just by being put in print.  And then recycled in "Franklin County Families" or whatever.  Those books weren't researched in primary sources either.

I've certainly used those type of records for my family trees.... however, it's especially important to explain the chain of knowledge.  Our family war Civil War stories about who was murdered by bushwhackers; where people were buried; how Granny Plunkett  survived being bound and left in the burning family farmhouse;  etc. etc.  is information that's been passed down.     Our family was fortunate to have a retired school principal collect and document these stories  (albeit printed on loose pages stapled together)  in the 1970's.....smiley 

+6 votes
I do think this needs to be resolved. I look at Ancestry (and other compiled trees) as hints. If they have sourced data, I look at the sources and add them to a profile and then there are sources. Then there are the automatically created profiles of people on Ancestry, primarily in the DNA Circles area, that get referenced. The links for these go away after a while. Also users delete trees. The number of bad Ancestry member tree links is quite large.

Perhaps we also need to get people to read more about genealogy research methodology. The National Genealogical Society (USA) has some good guidelines available at https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/ngs_guidelines

The first one on research is quite appropriate for this discussion https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/galleries/Ref_Researching/Guidelines_Research2016.pdf
answered ago by Doug McCallum G2G6 Mach 7 (76.8k points)
How about adding a section showing proper sourcing format and explaining what is and isn't adequate - as briefly as possible. I know people write books about this stuff. Showing sometimes works better than telling. Just a thought from a guilty newbie.

There is a great website with tons of examples along with discussion forums on how to do good genealogical citations. It is a companion site to the book Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. For anyone serious about good genealogical documentation, that is the book to get (3rd edition revised). The website is being moved so has been down for a while but when back up it will be at https://www.evidenceexplained.com with the archived version at  https://web.archive.org.

+3 votes

A source on WikiTree is, and always has been, I think, ". . . the identification of where you obtained information."  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Sources smiley

So, it is where the researcher got their information.  If there is no indication of where the researcher got their info, then the Unsourced designation is appropriate.

All members can add more or better sources to any open profile (or enter the source on the public bulletin board space on any profile).  

I think this statement should be deleted as it does not agree with the long established WikiTree definition of Source:  "If the only source is a link to a profile is a profile or search results page from another genealogy website or the words "Ancestry tree," "Geni.com," "Pedigree Resource Files" from FamilySearch, and the like, the profile is considered unsourced."

answered ago by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (430k points)
Oh Boy...... I should be taking advantage of the last few days of Revolutionary War records..... but I'm sucked in now!   

If WikiTree has such a loose requirement for sources,  doesn't that encourage people to create profiles before getting at least a few solid facts about the profile?

A lot of (dare I say the majority of??) ancestry.com trees are built on smoke.  It took me awhile to realize how rampant it was.   I have several stories of the ridiculous webs woven around my ancestors;  I'm sure you all do.    What if I wasn't interested in details and decided to just accept the conclusion of the majority of ancestry.com trees?  Is this the product we want brought to WikiTree?   

PS..... Another pitfall,  I no longer pay ancestry.com's monthly fee and can't even check to see if the tree that's used as a source is a credible one.

Hi Peggy,   Re: "doesn't that encourage people to create profiles before getting at least a few solid facts about the profile?"

I don't think so. I would think the majority of profiles here are created from gedcoms imported from other genealogy programs.  The number of new-to-genealogy-research members that start their research by adding their twig to WikiTree, I would think are pretty small.  frown

I also don't pay for Ancestry and can not check the sources used there.cool

I failed to mention that  I really appreciate the experienced WikiTree  "leadership"  discussing these sticky issues.heart  Including, reminding everyone of the history of a policy.

Any change will be controversial.....   Maybe just changing the title of  {{Unsourced}} profile to something like...... OH NO,  you're not going to get me to make an actual suggestion, but I almost fell for it. devil

+7 votes
If {{Unsourced}} means no sources at all and an Ancestry Tree with no sources is a source, is there a way to flag things as a "questionable" source?
answered ago by Doug McCallum G2G6 Mach 7 (76.8k points)

All Ancestry records are questionable to me, because I an not a member and I don't use their website.  Edit:  meaning I can't see any Ancestry sites to check if they have sources or not. 

I wish that instead of adding more tags, we would just add a better source to the profile.  I'd guess about 17 million of the profiles could stand some improvement.  Pick any surname and you can find profiles that need our help.  You don't need a tag to find needy profiles.

If data found on Ancestry is properly cited, then it should still be valuable because it would include where Ancestry obtained the data. That is the value of proper citations, you can find the data independent of the online source you might have found it on.
Having to pay for access does not make a source less valid. There are some sources that can only be accessed if you are prepared to pay for them.
Not all Ancestry records are questionable. Unsourced trees certainly are.

A complete reference preferably (because of the nature of wikitree) including a transcript of the salient points should be encouraged.

If you can't view ancestry or visit the history centre in my local town, then you cannot view any one of 23 sets of records including parish registers, tithe maps and wills.

If you do visit them and want to see any of these records, they will point you to a computer and the images on Ancestry.

These are all excellent sources of evidence.

They have boxes and boxes of records that are not digitised so are not available anywhere on the internet. I have used several such records.

This should  be a plus factor of wikitree. We are all to a certain extent able to view online records. However, we have members from all over the world who are able to look at local sources; whether a memorial in a nearby church or a record in the archives. We can't  check them personally but if we develop a culture of requiring accurate sources of evidence, hopefully, there should be few fabricated sources
A happy medium could be to use an in-line comment to denote the questioned source, then leave the "unsourced" notation until a better source is able to be cited.

This can come into play with the situations of the Ancestry.com paywall we encounter. Many do not pay for Ancestry, but you can often look at the link and determine if it points to a valid database or just to a personal family tree. If it's notated as a family tree, I do not consider this as a valid source. Trees are not sources. Documents are. If you are unable to determine and behind the paywall an in-line comment would work for this situation, as well, to get a better source from someone who has more access.  

Proper citation should dictate you point to the actual document/source/family bible rather than the tree created with these facts. Comments could help nudge others towards this standard, as well.

As you suggest, Patricia, a properly written CITATION would provide relevant information regarding the type of source DOCUMENTATION, as well as give us a clue to the documentation's quality. Additionally, the citation should inform viewers if the documentation is behind a paywall or otherwise unavailable for general access.

Just as the biography tells us about the individual, the citation should tell us about the source documentation. And the more it tells us, the better we can judge the data and documentation's validity.

I agree, Patricia, that trees are not sources; they are mere hearsay until someone substantiates the information with a source including records of some sort whether hidden behind a paywall or in a parish register or in an old family Bible.  Even family story handed down in Smith family wuth a reference to which Smith family and contact information is better than saying Ancestry.com without any other reference.  And I agree with Helen above that we are like the many arms of one body:  we need to be able to depend on the work of other genealogists on WikiTree.  But I think that just allowing any words to qualify as a source is a problem.  WikiTree has higher standards than that and should redefine "Unsourced" accordingly.  Adding a statement indicating a need for better sources is a good idea but should not be a substiute for properly defining "Unsourced".
+4 votes
"Unsourced" means absolutely no sources whatsoever.

The part you quoted from the Sourcerers Challenge - well, I have always regarded it as a 'perk' for those participating in the Challenge.
answered ago by Ros Haywood G2G6 Pilot (350k points)
I think the quoted section from the sourcerers page is meant more as instructions on what is counted for the Sourcerers Challenge, and nothing more.

If you are competing in the challenge and add citations to a profile that only has family trees as the source for the data, then you can count that in the challenge. It really has nothing to do with WikiTree's generic definition of sourced or our use of the Unsourced template.

Any necessary clarification should be added to the sourcerers page to let all viewers of that page know that the instructions for the Sourcerers Challenge are not meant to be interpreted as WikliTree's generic sourcing style guidelines.
Well said, Lindy!
But the words, a source, should denote a legitimate source, not just be words placed where a source goes.  If it is not a legitimate source, then in my opinion the profile is unsourced.  For example in a previous comment that I made I used the phrase, "a paper napkin found at McDonald's".  Let's say these words are used as the source of information in a profile.  Under the present definition discussed in this question, this would qualify as a source.  This phrase in no way is a legitimate or sufficient source.  IMHO this phrase qualifies the profile as unsourced, as should a family tree written on a napkin.  On the other hand, a family tree documented by a person who has first-hand knowledge of the information contained in it or who can identify the person who had first-hand information of the tree is a legitimate source, whether or not anyone else on WikiTree can verify it.
+13 votes
We all have Genealogist badges
We are contributing to one tree

In order to give our work credibility, our sources needs to be credible.
The way all of us work each on our little branch of the tree reflects on the rest of the tree because there is just the one tree.

We surely cannot have members of this Genealogy site working on the One Genealogy Tree, and they are not using credible sources because that reflects on the rest of us and degrades all of the credible work done by those who do use credible sources.

When we talk about sources when we claim to do genealogy, it needs to be sources that are acceptable to genealogists and a genealogy standard.

Edit:Spelling
answered ago by Louis Heyman G2G6 Mach 3 (36k points)
edited ago by Louis Heyman

The main problem, in my opinion, is that we use a layman term like source, which has meanings which range from extremely vague to very specific.

As serious genealogists, we should attempt to eliminate vague terms from our communications. What we want to verify our data is the original source documentation (or digital image of) on which the relevant event was recorded.

We need to start thinking like genealogists and start communicating like genealogists, being specific and clear with our terminology.

Thank you Lindy. On it's own your comment deserves a thumbs up.
+7 votes

There is no easy answer to the discussion regarding Unsourced.

What a can of worms to change the WikiTree definition of a source "A source is the identification of where you obtained information." to something more akin to the Examples on the help page, which say

Fundamentally, a good source citation enables others to:

  1. judge the accuracy of the information found on the profile, and
  2. independently verify the information by finding the source themselves.

Thus, a "source" becomes a combination of those, more like "A source is the identification of where you obtained information with sufficient information for others to independently verify and judge the accuracy of the information found on the profile."

I realize that mixes the source and the citation.

Just watching my feed, with some pretty common surnames, I see many new profiles created by many new members that are using sources such as "ancestry.com" or "1850 census" or "death certificate" with no additional details. Perhaps changing the help and the initial introduction to WikiTree could help forestall future problems.

That, of course, doesn't solve the thousands of "poorly sourced" or those with "Unverifiable Source".

answered ago by Kay Sands G2G6 Pilot (138k points)
+8 votes

Our pre-1700 test specifically asks:

Is an Ancestry.com Member Tree a sufficient source for a WikiTree profile?

Aren't we sending conflicting messages, if we say that an Ancestry.com Member Tree is sufficient to remove the Unsourced template, but on the other hand it isn't considered a sufficient source by itself.

Perhaps as a few other people have suggested we need to review our definition of 'a source' or what is considered 'sourced'?

answered ago by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (268k points)
There's a distinction between a "source" and a "sufficient source".

What we need to get clear on is when to add / remove the {{Unsourced}} template. As currently explained on the help page for the template, it's related to the presence or absence of a *source* not a *sufficient source*.
A source needs to be an actual, legitimate source for the profile to be considered as source, not just words.
+4 votes

Here’s another one. This is from a profile created 4 days ago, now an orphan. Should this be unsourced?

Sources consist of

  • unsubstantiated records
answered ago by Kay Sands G2G6 Pilot (138k points)
IMO, yeah, that's unsourced. I think it really comes down to whether the citation is sufficient to determine how the fact was inferred or deduced. If I create a webpage that says "Blahblahblahblah." and I use a link to that as a "source," is that really a source? No, it's not a source, it's a really bad citation to nothing. I think the big problem here is that people confuse "citation" with "source". A citation is not a source just by virtue of its existence. Only a citation that indicates where the fact came from is really a source.
Another classic example is the "personal knowledge" of someone who died 300 years ago. That's unsourced. Period.

gotta love those "personal knowledge" ones.smiley

Of course, that was what WikiTree put in for a default.

+8 votes
When I see a source, I want to be able to find it and look at it myself.  Therefore, personal trees from other sites that can be deleted or changed or made private are not a source.  Private Gedcom imports are not a source.

Civil Records are sources.  Books are sources.   Find a grave is a source, even though they do have errors, they also have pictures you can look at.  Images of family records are sources, even if hand printed.  Newspaper articles are sources.  Web links to sites that are well maintained are sources.

That is my criteria, Can I duplicate your research with the information you have given me in your source?
answered ago by Wendy Fromme G2G6 Mach 1 (13.7k points)
I agree. I wish people did better citations. Ideally in Chicago/Evidence Explained format but any citation form that lets you find the document being referenced is fine. I do want to go and look at them. I don't trust transcriptions without verifying them and an index is not a source I want the record that was indexed (assuming it still exists).
Be wary of Find A Grave unless there is an actual photo of a headstone. Family relationships can be created which are incorrect and FAG records can be created without the record creator ever going to the cemetery. (My local New Zealand cemetery has been added by someone from another country from readily available online cemetery records, I suspect. Some of the relationships therefore are totally wrong.)

While, yes, we want to be able to independently find and verify any source given, if we apply your stance to all profiles, then we would also be removing links to, for example, Anderson's Great Migration work or any peer-reviewed journals because they're behind a paywall or only available in print format. So be careful here...

In those cases, I would expect a decent amount of paraphrasing of what the source said.   And yes, sometimes books are hard to find, but at least you know what book it was.   I am not saying to remove those kinds of sources, but they need to be explained, detailed, and fully cited. Eventually they will probably be available on line.

I am still working on figuring out for example what the heck the "Hunter's List" is that a profile repeatedly refers to and never gives a citation for.

Was it a list by a man named Hunter? or was it a list of people that went out Hunting?   Who can tell : )

Is it about the Palatine immigrants?

https://www.olivetreegenealogy.com/ships/pal_engtony.shtml

There seem to be a lot of books with lists in.  See Cyndi's List etc.

I didn't see anything in this answer thread that said books and paywalls shouldn't be used. In fact, Wendy said a book is a source. For me, I want enough of a citation that I could find the source whether online or not. I don't use Ancestry trees but if someone else does, I always go check to see if there were sources. More than half the time the tree no longer exists so isn't a source. Books can sometimes be tracked down via WorldCat.org. Sources held in only one place and not online are still sources but a citation needs to provide enough information for someone to find it. I citation for a book that just says "Smith genealogy" isn't a useful source. It needs all those elements we were taught in middle school.
Jilliane,

I would suggest that independently verifiable does not necessarily mean free. If you supply enough description of the item referenced so that it can be found, then it can be verified even though you might need to visit the library or buy a book or subscribe to some group or service.

Unpublished family genealogy and online family trees are another level of complexity. Will the person who has the family book share it with you? Does this online tree lead you to records?
I agree with you Kay. I've traveled to places to get records that are not online. The cost of a years membership in a paywalled resource is usually less than the traveling would be. I'm going to Salt Lake later this year because my list of films that have not been digitized and aren't likely to be digitized anytime soon has grown large enough that it is worth my time going rather than hiring someone else to look for me. I've found copies of books on Worldcat and then gotten some (not all) through ILL. Others are on a list for whenever I get close enough to go to the library.
+5 votes
Perhaps the Board for the Certification of Genealogists definition of documentation should be adopted as the standard for WikiTree profiles. Then when a profile has only GEDCOM and/or Ancestry references, it could be marked “Needs better documentation” instead of always questioning if it should be considered sourced or unsourced.

BCG’s definition of documentation:

“Documentation[:] The sources supporting genealogical conclusions and proof, citations to those sources, the genealogist’s comments about them, and formatting showing the connections between the sources and specific statements and conclusions.”
answered ago by Erin Klein G2G4 (4.4k points)
In this case "documentation" is being used the way of lot of people tend to use "source" but as the wording demonstrates, a source is actually part of documentation.  A source is neutral, but documentation as defined by NGS isn't neutral; it's making the case.

Perhaps we need an {{Undocumented}} template. (I can see the g2g threads now....)
{{Undocumented}} equals {{Unsourced}}. Both are too ambiguous. {{Needs Documentation | Sources}} or {{Needs Documentation | Citations}} and similar would identify more clearly what the person applying the category was observing on the profile.

(edit for typo)

Perhaps {{Properly Formatted Citations for Original Physical Records or Digitized Images of Original Records Are Preferred!}} would clarify our ideal sourcing standards. (Do we have a character/word limit for template titles?)

Seriously, though, not all WikiTreers are serious researchers/genealogists. Thus we have a minimal standard set for sourcing our profiles to accommodate casual members. Those of us who do the serious research should always remember that and act accordingly in our collaborative work.

We can help improve unsourced/poorly sourced profiles for our more casual fellow members, but we should avoid judging their work based on our higher standards and goals.

+6 votes
I've bumped into a whole bunch of cases recently where a "person" is in the book - the official "history" of the "family" - but it turns out there's no trace of their existence.  They were just made up to fill a gap in a wishful-thinking connection.

Naturally they're all over the internet, as well as being in the book.  Sometimes they worm their way into edited publications that should know better.

Finding the sources isn't the answer.  You still have to do the genealogy.

But finding the sources is the first step.  You have to know who said what where and when before you can decide what to believe.  The number of people who've copied it proves nothing.

User-contribs, while never exactly reliable, can be useful if they lead you upstream, closer to the original source.
answered ago by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (345k points)
We must all have seen the court room dramas at some time. There's evidence and there's hearsay and surely we all know the difference. A good source is the evidence, a starting point is the gossip.
But how do you know it's a good source?  What if the witness on the stand lies through his teeth and the hearsay that the jury wasn't allowed to hear would have been the truth?
I thought I knew when and where I was born and who my parents were because I was told. The evidence as far as it goes arrived when I left home armed with my birth certificate, and my father could have lied, the mid wife could have made a mistake (there was an air raid on and they could have mixed the babies up), all sorts of things, but for our purposes the birth certificate is the evidence. DNA might back it up, or might not.
The birth certificate is only evidence of what the registrar was told.

I have a relative whose place of birth is wrong on the cert.

I have another with a date of birth on the original cert and a different date of birth on the copy cert.
There is a distinction between "source" and "evidence".

Here's a link (but the site is currently undergoing maintenance) that should explain it better (when the site is back up):

https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-2-sources-vs-information-vs-evidence-vs-proof

You can access the above now, through the wayback machine:

https://web.archive.org/web/20170419200215/https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-2-sources-vs-information-vs-evidence-vs-proof
Jillaine, thanks for the post. Evidence Explained, for those that don’t know is pretty much what professionals use for genealogy work. While the size if the book might be daunting, it is lots and lots of examples.
"Came to me in a dream" is a source. It isn't evidence.
+6 votes
I think a reasonable meaning for {{Unsourced}} would be "Seems worthwhile for the project / Sourcerers / whoever to look at this".

That is, before adding a profile to the list, there should be a reasonable prospect that it can be taken off the list without spending more time than it's worth.

Profiles that wouldn't qualify would be

- too modern, only of interest to family

- too vague, not enough to identify the person

- too insignificant - eg dead-end kids who're sourced on the parent and nothing else is known

- too obscure, too unlikely to be real or found in accessible sources.

Templating those just clogs up the lists with profiles that will just sit there festering and not go away.

Beyond that, I tend to think that you fix something or leave it.  Plastering unprioritized to-dos everywhere probably isn't helpful, given that the backlog is too big to ever catch up with.
answered ago by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (345k points)
I agree with all of this proposal.

A late 19th century USA profile, untouched for years, with no source but a paywalled Ancestry tree, would almost certainly benefit from a quick look on familysearch.org for census data at least.  And if that profile is connected to a whole family group similarly "sourced" that I don't have time to fix up with census links right now, dropping an {{ Unsourced | Location }} template on the profile makes the whole group findable again for Sourcerors tackling the region and/or surname.

I do this regularly when I'm checking for duplicates of a profile I just worked more extensively on.  Especially with possible matches from areas of the world and historical periods I'm totally unfamiliar with.  I generally follow RJ's recommendations to determine whether the profile is actually "sourceable" before slapping the template on.  

I try to imagine what the profile's listing will look like on an Unsourced category page next to all of the 18th century legendary ancestors with estimated dates and locations of birth.  19th century USA profiles with an even slightly unique name pop as low hanging fruit for someone looking for Sourceror points.
+2 votes
For those who don't have Ancestry memberships, A great many public libraries have access to Ancestry and, I believe, that every LDS Family History Center (FHC) does as well. Some also have access to AmericanAncestors. I have to frequent the local FHC since many of the digitized records I need are only accessible from there. That is equivalent to a paywall at FamilySearch. There are usually ways to get access.
answered ago by Doug McCallum G2G6 Mach 7 (76.8k points)
+2 votes

The goal of the Sourcerers' Challenges is to get accurate sources.   Ancestry trees and other internet trees may or may not be accurate.  While they are a source they may be fraudulent or wonderful.  Since one of the tenants of the Honor Code is to be accurate, we set the bar for these challenges to be sources with some validity other than internet trees.  

Debi Hoag (as stated in her reply in the first thread) has updated our Sourcerers' Challenge phrasing.  Hope that will help.

answered ago by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (382k points)
Surely having accurately sourced profiles should be the goal of wiki-tree not just the sourcerer's challenges.  We all subscribe to the Honour Code so should all be aiming for accuracy.

 Challenges  are only necessary because of the huge number of profiles that have no evidence to support them.

If we (ie wiki -tree) continue to accept the simplest dictionary definition of a source (rather than one pertaining to historical or genealogical enquiry) there won't be any reduction  real in profiles for Sourcerers to work on.

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