Should we give sources their own pages?

+17 votes

Bottom Line Up Front:

I propose that a separate namespace for published sources be created.


Wikitree has a variety of namespaces already existing: Free space pages exist in one namespace [[Space:]], categories exist in one [[Category:]], etc. (for more information on wiki namespaces see )


It is best to start with what the aim is not: The aim is NOT to replicate the excellent work already done by The purpose is to help make it easier to add formatted citations of published sources across profiles in a consistent manner using the built-in power of wikis to do page inclusion and substitution.

Suggested/Example Use:

The actual usage could take different forms depending on what is best for the particular source – for example most of the citation of a census or vital record is unique to the record and details one or a few individuals of interest so substituting a “fill-in-the-blanks” template is probably most helpful to users. As an example putting {{subst:Source:US census 1870}}in a profile and then saving could add to the profile:

1870 U.S. Census, _____ County, !STATE, population schedule, !CIVIL DIVISION, p. ___ (stamped), dwelling __, family __, !PERSON(S), NARA microfilm publication ___, roll ___.

which can then be edited to fill in the relevant details. When using substitution the result becomes an editable part of the profile and changes to the source page are not be reflected in the profiles. It's main benefit is in reducing the time spent looking up the appropriate formatting to use for a specific source or type of source.

A different use is for books or periodicals that cover many people - these can be created so that adding {{Source:Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte|p=25}} to a profile would result in the display

William F. E. Morley, Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte: Including Geneaologies of Old Families and Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens. (Toronto: Rolph and Clark Limited, 1904), p.25.

When using this method changes to the citation format on the source page also appear on the profiles that cite the source which allows a user to deal with situations where they lack the information for a full 'proper' citation; for example, a member of the profile improvement project might encounter a source where publishing information has been omitted – rather than having to look up the missing information to finish the profile, they could enter {{Source:______}} and if it already exists it will populate, if it does not already exist it will show up in red.

Appropriate parameters can be set up for each source such as edition, volume, issue, page, article title and author, etc. This is essentially a trade off between ease of use in creating the source and ease of use in citing the source a hundred times.

Namespace 'format':

I suggest that the [[Category:]] namespace be the model for the proposed [[Sources:]] namespace as it does not have privacy settings, watchlist integration, or an image upload area. Sources are almost universally a matter of public record, even if the content is not, so having no privacy settings is appropriate. While a 'watchlist' for frequently used sources might be appealing, this can be worked around by instituting an intuitive naming convention for sources. Having a separate namespace for sources does however improve the possibility of developing an individualized 'favourite sources' in future. The ability to upload images for sources is not necessarily desirable as it may be seen as encouraging people to upload pdf versions of sources, possibly in violation of copyright. Images (if required) can still be linked from the narrative.

Presumably the 'tagging' functionality of categories (using square brackets instead of braces) can also be replicated so that profiles can appear as articles under a source creating an index of names that appear in a source.

Similarly the functionality of sub-categorization can be used to organize sources - this could potentially be used to keep track of sources that cites other sources, or all the works by specific authors

Required decisions if implemented:

Naming Convention – the names of sources should follow a simple pattern where a person familiar with the convention does not need to look up a specific work to know the appropriate name to use

Citation formatting convention – What citation format should sources follow. I would suggest Evidence Explained Reference Note would be the appropriate format – people who do not have access to EE could use any format they are comfortable using, with the understanding that the formatting may be changed to EE format later.

Parameter conventions – to be intuitive, short, standardized parameter names such as “p” for page, and “v” for volume should be agreed upon.

Source formating conventions – What would be the suggested content and layout of the source page itself? It should indicate if the Source is intended to be included or substituted; it should detail what parameters are allowed; it should give an example of the formatted citation.

Some other G2G discussions consulted or considered:


in WikiTree Tech by Rob Ton G2G6 Pilot (274k points)
retagged by Lianne Lavoie

2 Answers

+6 votes
I do not understand how rob's proposal does not duplicate WeRelate's effort.  I can't stress enough how challenging this was to implement at WeRelate

if we were to do this-- create a separate namespace for Sources-- I strongly recommend we work with They spent years YEARS  making quality source pages.  It's TONs of work and makes NO sense to replicate. It would be a total waste of time to replicate this.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (764k points)

I agree that if we could work with or integrate source data with it would be ideal - but I have no idea about any 'contractual' or technical details that might be involved in an agreement between the sites or how long that would take to implement, or if it is in the works. While I agree it makes little sense to replicate the years of work has put into making quality sources it makes equally little sense to do nothing here in the hopes of a cross-site integration that may or may not happen. Moreover if cross-site integration is worked out a down the road there are millions of Wikitree profiles that would need to be edited to use the werelate sources. As a minimum my suggestion could help any future integration because it would be easier to automate a find and replace or remap of {{Source:Some Title}} to {{WeRelate:Source:Some Other Title}} than to manually go through every profile manually changing 'free-text' citations to a link to werelate.

Once again, the focus I am suggesting is on creating only formatted citations that can be transcluded or substititued into Wikitree profiles; only creating those sources as they are used and not importing entire catalogs of sources that all need to be cleaned up as werelate did. While adding links, source evaluations, etc. to a Wikitree source page could be done at the users discretion the citation that is displayed on the profile is the foremost and only stated purpose of this suggested namespace.

I can guess at some of the technical issues of any potential integration with werelate: a)while cross-site transclusion is possible it is not the best use of bandwidth, it creates a reliance on the other site being online, and would still require lots of coding as Wikitree, lacking parser functions, cannot use labelled section transclusion - either Wikitree would have to be updated to a newer Mediawiki version or a custom solution between the sites would need to be created. b) Creating plain links to the external data is not integration and does not make creating a proper citation in the Wikitree profile any easier. C) mirroring a copy of werelate's entire sources database/namespace creates an issue of versioning updates between the sites.

I can waste my time replicating the work of werelate or I can waste my time copy/pasting and/ or manually formatting sources while I wait for such integration.If that integration never happens the former seems like much less of a waste of time.


Btw, the naming conventions aspect of this was probably the most challenging at WeRelate.  Then there was the deduping which wouldn't be an issue here because wikitree has not imported a huge existing source database as WeRelate did.

I should point out that while I am raising extreme caution, I think a source namespace is a good idea.  I just think wikitree should find a way to collab with WR on this vs the wikitree community doing its own thing.
Excellent, comprehensive and thoughtful post, Rob. As usual.
Jillaine, I'm glad you chimed in. I was hoping you'd be a part of this discussion.
For the naming conventions, maybe we can just imitate what WeRelate did -- learn from their experience -- rather than try to partner.
A partnership with them is unlikely right now. Dallan has been talking about a complete transformation in order to apply to become a Wikimedia Foundation project. Regardless of whether that happens, I don't think we should count on anything about WeRelate being stable.
If we go with Rob's recommendations, I think it's important that we don't make it mandatory. Beginners are already overwhelmed by WikiTree. We shouldn't discourage anyone from simply listing sources at the bottom of a profile.
This would be something for the advanced users. Something for those who want to use it. If you see the tradeoff Rob describes as worthwhile, you do it. If you don't, you don't.  Is that how you were already envisioning it, Rob?

Yes I was envisioning this as another tool in the toolbox - like categories optional, but there for the people who find it useful - in this case people who find themselves citing the same source across numerous profiles or trying to remember the format for a type of source.

As far as imitating the werelate naming conventions I think they are excellent, but minor tweaks for our use might still be warranted as they can be a little unwieldy for use as a time/effort saver - If it takes longer to enter the source name than to switch to another document and copy/paste an already formatted citation people may avoid using {{Source:}}.

As an example, I don't think the author's full given names are required -  Initials should be sufficient although surname alone may be fine. Omitting any punctuation in the title might also help since it can be hard to differentiate commas from periods, and colons from semi-colons on some scanned sources (which many people use) as well as being typo-prone.

Thanks for clarifying where things stand with werelate/wikitree - I know it had been mentioned a year ago as something that was being looked into.
You answered my question before I could ask it. The possibility of a namespace for sources sounds very interesting, but it's a great relief to know that if it goes forward, it won't become mandatory. Part of the beauty of WikiTree is a certain level of freedom not always available on other sites. Giving people a choice, when it makes sense, produces a happier, healthier community. As you said, Chris, some of our beginners truly are overwhelmed when they begin their WikiTree journey.

This is exactly where WR got choked up in their own process:

"I don't think the author's full given names are required -  Initials should be sufficient although surname alone may be fine. Omitting any punctuation in the title might also help since it can be hard to differentiate commas from periods, and colons from semi-colons on some scanned sources (which many people use) as well as being typo-prone.

There will be many opinions about this. For example, there will be enough of us who will want citations to follow "industry standards".  Rob's suggestion above doesn't support that.  

Im sorry to learn that WR and WT are on divergent paths. 


Just to clarify - the surname only and punctuation comment is for the source page's name - not the citation that is displayed. For example here is a page title for a source on werelate:

Source:Foote, Abram William. Foote Family : Comprising the Genealogy and History of Nathaniel Foote, of Wethersfield, Conn., and His Descendants; Also a

This is unwieldy, unintuitive, unnecessary, impossible to enter manually without looking up (since it arbitrarily ends mid title).

My comment is that a user should be able to enter something simpler when editing a profile, such as:

{{Source:Foote AW - Foote Family comprising the genealogy and history of Nathaniel Foote|v=2|pg=1234}}

which is meaningful even if the source page has not been created yet... Once the source page is created the citation displayed should follow "industry standards" such as:

Abram William Foote, Foote Family: Comprising the Genealogy and History of Nathaniel Foote, of Wethersfield, Conn., and his Descendants; Also a partial record of Descendants of Pasco Foote of Salem, Mass., Richard Foote of Stafford County, Va., and John Foote of New York City, 2 vols., (Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle, 1907-1932), 2: 1234.

The title given to the source page has absolutely no bearing on how the citation is displayed on profiles.

*further edited for greater clarity, and to improve the citation example.

Thanks for clarifying that, Rob. I'd misunderstood you.

I concur that the *page* name should be as simple as possible. I really disliked WR's implementation of their page naming.

Rob, could you mock up a what such a page would look like?


I have done a very quick and rough mock-up using the category pages (since that is what I am suggesting we model the proposed source namespace on)... obviously everything I have done in the mock-up is up for discussion and can be added to, removed, or tweaked.

I made the actual underlying 'source' page entry a little more complicated than is required just to illustrate some of what CAN be done, for example:

1. I added a backlink so that when the citation appears in a profile you can click on the symbol to the left to visit the 'source' page. (On WeRelate you click on the author/title to go to the source page)

2. I added "self-categorization" so that when the source is cited on a profile, the profile appears as an article on the source page (sort of like WeRelate's "what links here") This can effectively recreate the person index that appears in many published genealogies.

As a sample I have added {{Category:Burritt_L_-_The_Burritt_Family_in_America|p=14}} to the profile for

While I would like (if possible) to keep the categorization feature so that profiles can be indexed as articles under a source - I think how categories appear listed on a profile (above the narrative) would be redundant to keep as the sources will be listed in the narrative already.

What I did not do with this example:

1. I did not setup a parameter for a direct link to the electronic source... but I imagine people would want to provide their own if they are pointing to a specific page in an online source.

2. I did not use nested templates to format the citation 'on-the fly', but it is possible to do - as the page where I was originally developing this idea shows {{Space:The Burritt Family in America|t=EE source}} would call {{Template:EE source}} to format a source list entry, while {{Space:The Burritt Family in America}} by the current defaults calls {{Template:EE citation}} giving a full reference note. I have not created a template for subsequent reference notes, but that could also be done with relative ease. 

* Edited to correct the preceding paragraph to reference the sample {{Space:}} instead of the not-yet-existing {{Source:}}

From a Newbie - I like the concept.  If you need some additional hands, I would be willing to help out as a "tester"  perhaps on orphan profile clean up projects.
I also love this idea. If this project ever gets legs, I'd be happy to participate in requirements, testing, and adding content.
If we do this, we should set up a separate namespace for Sources (and not use Categories).

How difficult is it to set up a new namespace, Chris?
+1 vote
Was there any further discussion on this topic?  I think it could be very useful and am willing to help the effort.  Rob, I think I saw a page you had created laying out a proposed framework at one point - but I've not been able to find it since.
by Andrea Powell G2G6 Mach 4 (41.5k points)

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