Is this profile sourced or unsourced

+25 votes
I would like to know if this persons profile I added the other week is considered sourced or unsourced. I'd like feedback in detail as to what is and what isn't correct about the profile.

Thanks for the feedback!
WikiTree profile: Samuel Stein
in Policy and Style by Louann Halpin G2G6 Mach 6 (62.4k points)
Very nice, wish mine looked so good

Good job !  I know how much time a nicely written profile can take.  laugh

Thank you. I don't get all the credit my husband was a big help!
Thank you Jo!
What a beautiful profile!  You did an amazing job, and you should be really proud.  If you have more questions, you should look into the Profile Improvement Project.  To join you go on a "voyage" with a mentor to improve a couple of profiles.  Its an in depth process and I know I learned soooo much.  It answered a lot of questions about the different sources and policies and styles.  It really is worth the time, I'm working now to apply what I learned to my profiles.

14 Answers

+13 votes
Best answer

This G2G question is rhetorical because there is zero possibiility of an 'unsourced' answer. The real question is how good the Stein-2480 profile is and the real sub-questions are:

  • Is the profile well-written, comprehensive, well-researched, neutral & stable?
  • Does the profile conform to style norms in terms of a concise header statement, appropriate section heading structure, consistent sourcing style, appropriate media and captions, and focused write-up length?

I offer the following specific suggestions:

  • Obituary is currently assumed to be a transcription (mostly) of the obituary published in The York Daily Record on December 20, 1930, which should be so identified. Where is there an image copy of this obituary original?
  • If the profile is to be written as an obit transcription, the transcription should not be interspersed with ref-tagged numbered inline citation references, with a photo not included in the obit and wiih FAG memorial phrase.
  • The obit record should be included as a fully detailed asterisked source.
  • The Pennsylvania State Firemen’s Association write-up should be included as a fully detailed asterisked source.
  • Ideally, the profile should be conversational text paraphrasing from merged obit and Pennsylvania State Firemen’s Association write-up allowing citation from text as required.
  • There is no need to show line-by-line details of Ancestry census marriage & death records. WT's preferred sourcing style format is Evidence Explained. Census source citation would for example read something like: 
    • 1930 U.S. census, McCreary County, Kentucky, population schedule, Whitley City, enumeration district (ED) 0002, sheet 10B, dwelling 183, family 184, Herman Worley; database with images, FamilySearch ( accessed 16 Feb 2019); citing National Archives and Records Administ ration microfilm T626, roll 765; FHL microfilm: 234050
  • Etc.

Edit:  .. captions? > ... captions, and focused write-up length?

by D Amy G2G3 (3.0k points)
edited by D Amy
Thank you for the suggestions!
+13 votes

It's a great job, and well sourced!  (But I'm sure you must know that!)  smiley

One comment - there's a bit of inconsistency in the way each source starts.  A colon only works if it's in the very first column of the Edit box, not after a <ref>.  That's why the 1880 and 1920 census begin with an extraneous colon.  The others begin with a blank line, because the bolded source title begins on the following line to the <ref>.  What you want is to drop the initial colon for each source, and begin the bolding and title immediately after the <ref> (e.g. <ref>'''1920 Census...).  Otherwise, really nice work!

by Rob Jacobson G2G6 Pilot (127k points)

If you would allow me to be nitpicky, I would drop the 3 word phrase "Citing this record:" in each source.

I honestly don't know if it is properly sourced. Every week and currently there is a discussion going on about Ancestry sources being valid sources. And the same with Find A Grave and this profile is built off of using Ancestry and Find A Grave.

I don't mind the nitpicky things or pointing our the errors in my syntax. I was in to much of a hurry to get it posted.

I'm just a family genealogist and get completely overwhelmed at times here on WikiTree. I'm not fishing for compliments I just want to know for example when I do sourcing if I should even participate in the challenges any more because all I'm providing are Ancestry links. Also using the Shared Ancestry Links that are free and do not require a subscription.
A 1920 Census is a 1920 Census, no matter where it is found.  Your sources are fine, especially as you have extracted and displayed all of the pertinent info from the source.  The problem with some Ancestry 'sources' is not that they come from Ancestry,com, but they point only to
Ancestry, or to a profile there, not to a source found there.

There are some people that dislike sources from Ancestry, even good sources like yours, because they only want free sources.  I believe that's wrong, because there are some sources that are *only* found on pay sites.  If you don't want anything that's not free, then you are limiting the sources on a profile, and cannot claim the profile is fully sourced.  There are sources that Ancestry has that nobody else has.

And personally, I don't think a profile is complete without a link to FindAGrave and/or BillionGraves.
Thanks for taking the time to respond Rob. Your comments make sense and I think I'm beginning to get a better grasp of why & what some don't like about Ancestry.

I know I have made a few posts that I wish WikiTree and Find A Grave would work together. They each provide a part of a persons profile.
Rob, are you aware of the fact that especially in central Europe graves get inexistent after a certain time? I know for Germany that time is usually between 25 and 40 years after the burial. After that time the grave is levelled and doesn't exist anymore. So especially central Europeans will have problems to put a "link to Find A Grave or Billion Graves" on the profile of their ancestors, unless the ancestors are really famous.
I also take issue with the idea that Findagrave is an essential source. It is dominated by North American burials.I rarely look at it.

Many Graveyards in this country (Engand)have been reused/ redevelopped. In most older churchyards a large proportion of the stones are weathered and illegible.

 None of my direct ancestors had gravestones, they weren't wealthy enough so anyone photographing at the cemeteries and graveyards they were buried in won't find their graves. My husbands family were better off and there are a couple still extant . One is on Findagrave.That one is simply a copy of the Commonwealth war graves site; I'd rather cite the original. The other, not on findagrave, is in a tiny village churchyard. It is a family plot with several burials but the flat stones have only a few words decipherable.We know what it said from  list complied many years ago and kept at the church

Burials in this country are usually better sourced from burial registers.Images of  the burial registers for the areas that these people came from are not on Family search.They are on Ancestry so I'm inntotal agreement that its an important probably essential repository for my needs.
Jelena and Helen, you're right of course.  We Americans often forget about how the rest of the world works.

One comment about FindAGrave (and the like) - I don't recommend the inclusion of a FindAGrave link just for its source value, which can certainly be of problematic quality, but also for its 'memorial' value.  *If* it's available, it's one place where descendants can 'virtually' gather, and leave flowers and notes, remembrances of their ancestor, especially if personally known.  This is particularly of value, because as you say, most of them were not sufficiently notable to have their own Wikipedia page or other web site memorializing them.  Genealogically, 'flowers and notes' are not our highest priority of course, but why can't our profiles become more than just a data collection, become a definitive gathering place for all info, a recognized source for all mentions of the person?
Louise, I think you are a bit confused.  The discussion is this:

1) Citing a user-generated "source" such as a Find-a-Grave memorial or an Ancestry (or any other) family tree is not a source in and of itself.  I can say Queen Elizabeth is my mother on a user-generated tree and anyone else could pick that up.

2) However, Find-a-Grave and Ancestry and any other site can be sources IF you find an actual source there.  A photograph of a gravestone corroborated with a death record can be an excellent source.  In this instance there is something to show that the person creating the memorial used something other than their imagination or "copy and paste" of someone else's imagination to create the memorial.

A census record on Ancestry, FamilySearch or elsewhere is a proper source, regardless of the site from which it came.

3.  A tree is NOT a source, a birth, death, marriage, census, probate, land exchange, will, or other contemporary records are sources.

Thank you Kathy! Me being a bit confused is an understatement! crying

Jelena and Helen you are correct. Around the world burials are done in a myriad of ways. There are those of us that are fortunate enough to have another piece of our family history through Find A Grave. I make sure for my family I make a copy of the information about the Cemetery and pictures knowing that someday it may be gone.
Sometimes Find a Grave is all a person has for a death record.  Sure there can be mistakes, but it's better than nothing.  Also, some entries include family members and although they are just a starting point, it sure helps to have a name to get started.  Many of my ancestors either never had a stone or it has been broken and chucked into the bushes on the outskirts of the cemetery by the maintenance guy, or the stone has completely sunk out of sight, which happens to stones above wooden caskets.  When they rot, the ground subsides and the stone disappears. If I win the lotto tomorrow, I'm going to hire an archeological dig and restoration project in one of the old cemeteries here, because I have a lot of sunken ancestors there.
+12 votes
What a lovely profile with a great bio, Louise. The relationships are clearly shown. If I were being critical, the facts about things like his education, working life and death are not specifically sourced (unless that’s in the newspaper obituary). The obituary is stated in the body of the profile rather than in the source list which seems at odds with the rest of the sources. Similarly, I’m not quite sure where to place the original author. Is he too a source? I hope that’s the sort of feedback you wanted. I wish everyone produced bios of this quality!
by Fiona McMichael G2G6 Pilot (169k points)
That is exactly the kind of feedback! Thank you Fiona!

I'd love to be able to write good profiles but I sorely lack in writing skills.
+9 votes

Louise, this is a very well sources profile. The biography flows nicely, and your sources are where they belong.

I would also drop the "Citing this record:" in each source. It is repetitive, and not necessary.

I have used census from ancestry, and if they are written correctly, there is nothing wrong with using them.

Also, Find-A-Grave can be a great source if there is a headstone with dates on it that correspond to the dates on the written profile on the FAG site.

Not everyone has a profile as nice as this one.

Congratulations on working so hard on it.

by Cheryl Hess G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
Cheryl thanks for the feedback!
+9 votes
Have you got a primary source for birth or death ?  Fag is not necessarily a source but a reference as I have seen re-interments and new tombstones re-written incorrectly. Census are great but not a primary source.

In saying all that it is nice to see someone take time to gather as much information as possible. Copying all the information from a census could be written as a narrative in the biography as that is not a source but information.
by Rionne Brooks G2G6 Mach 6 (61.0k points)
It seems backwards to me to consider a birth or death certificate a primary source but not the US Census, considering that the certificates (especially death) collect information from a third party while the census reports collect information directly. I have seen certificates with just as many errors as census reports. Find-a-grave is secondary, but typically just as accurate.
Death records are primary sources for date and place of death (done at the time).  They are not as good for birth and parents (third person), but still good clues depending on whether the informant is likely to know (child celebrated father's birthday every year for 23 years or friend who lived next door).

Census records can be notoriously wrong.  Picture a woman answering questions to a stranger (or acquaintance) with her three small children creating mild chaos and her reluctance to give her real age.  They can be good sources depending on the enumerator and the informant.  

All sources need to be evaluated in relationship to each other.  I've seen census records in which a woman ages only seven years every 10 years.
I agree.  I worked in a law firm in the Probate Department for years and we consistently found errors in death certificates.  To the extent that many had to be corrected before we could go forward.  Names were misspelled, dates were wrong, etc. This information is provided by a relative and often wrong.
Thank you Rionne. I have to go back to my husband and see if he has them. Otherwise my bad for not including them in his profile.
+15 votes
I would definitely consider it sourced. I did however note someone brought up Ancestry as far as if it was a source or not. Ancestry can BE a source, an Ancestry TREE is not. However a tree can help confirm info, contain sources, or give research hints.

I also like how the census data is readily available in the source section. Usually we are lucky to get a citation, it may be considered overkill, but I like it.
by Steven Tibbetts G2G6 Pilot (310k points)
I'm finally beginning to understand the difference between Ancestry sources and Ancestry Family Trees. From when I started on Ancestry I quickly discovered how terrible some of the Family Trees where so in that sense I agree with a lot of others here on WikiTree. So my Ancestry sources are sources as long as I get to the original document.
+19 votes
Definitely sourced, but FamilySearch citations are so easy to copy and paste and accessible to everyone that I don't know why you don't use them. I only use Ancestry sources when those sources are not available elsewhere.
by Edie Kohutek G2G6 Mach 8 (83.0k points)
My thought exactly.  Familysearch has much of the same data as Ancestry without all the extraneous gobbledygook of proprietary sources and, furthermore, is free.
Maybe someday this old dog will learn a new trick?
Louise, it is so easy. You do have to set up a free account with and sign in every time, but the citations w i th the link embedded are ready to go.  For example,  if you look at the latest census record I added to a profile on Louisa Pogue [Flowers-2945], go to the link in the first cited source and click on it.  Scroll down and you will see "Document Information". Click the down arrow and it opens source information. You just copy the "Citing this Record" information and paste it as an inline citation on the profile. Voila!

And if you learn how to use RootSearch on WikiTree you will be able to do so much more in a short period of time.
I followed everything as per your instructions and you are 100% correct... Voila! It's all there.Thanks for sharing the information.
+13 votes
It certainly looks well sourced to me.  As a matter of style, you have the information from each source located with the source citation, where I would put it up in the biography, but the important thing is that the information is there, and the reader knows where it came from

In the discussion the phrase "valid source" appears.  It think this phrase causes untold mischief, because it's a binary phrase admitting only of two possibilities, valid or invalid.

The truth is that no source is perfect.  I prefer the phrase "reliable source" because then you have degrees of reliability.  An original record is quite reliable.  Censuses are fairly reliable, although we know that when you had census workers with little education in a rush to get information from an illiterate farmer who really wanted to get back to haying before it rained, and who pronounced children's names in the local dialect, adding an "r" when none should have appeared, errors show up.  A site like Find A Grave can be unreliable because it doesn't include sources, but is better when there's a picture of a grave.  And Find A Grave in the 1900's probably was put in by a family member who knew something and I'd trust it more than a Find A Grave entry for the emperor Constantine.  A lot more.  And so forth.  But it's a continuum.

When I come across a profile with no information in it, and the only information I can find to add is from an unsourced Geni profile, I'll add it, because that tells us a little bit more about who we're seeking information for, but I leave the unsourced template on it because it really does need more and this is a good way of flagging that.

When it comes to creating new profiles, the bar is much higher.  We don't delete profiles, so adding weak information to an unsourced profile where there was nothing can improve it, but new profiles shouldn't be created with unreliable sourcing.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (368k points)
Thank you Jack! I like your "reliable sources" vs "valid sources". They both basically mean the same thing however to me "reliable sources" helps alleviate the stress I feel some days here on WikiTree.
+12 votes
The profile is beautiful and surely in the top one percent of WikiTree profiles, both for style and content.  But you asked for feedback in detail, so here is a little more:

The first thing that struck me is that I didn't really need to see the same photo of the man three times so close together.  It doesn't seem to me that it needs to be inserted in the text (biography), because it is adjacent to the text in the image section.

Secondly, it wasn't immediately obvious to me that the whole first section was the obituary.  I would put the source line at the top (i.e., Obituary, published xxx:) then the obituary in quotes, and same for the second section.

I like seeing all the census detail listed right there.  As a reader, I don't want to have to click back and forth repeatedly.  (The reason my own profiles don't similarly show all that detail is that it's a lot of work!)

Finally, I have seen comments from some people who appear to look down on Ancestry as a source, apparently thinking everything should be free.  But I believe that Ancestry is such an essential research tool that people are cheating themselves by not using it.  What's a little money compared to the value of our time that so many of us spend so freely on genealogy?
by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (482k points)
A little money is finally getting a steak dinner instead of alwas hamburger. LOL And people keep getting misperceptions of the ongoing battle with Ancestry. 1, free is bettter, 2, if not then use ancestry sources, 3, ancestry TREES are not sources but they can give hints to find sources.

I don't like Ancestry sources only because I can't check them and people don't put them as citations or show the info. Louise did that so it is awesome.
Steve, I had an Ancestry tree for several years before I joined WikiTree.  I use Ancestry sources (not Ancestry trees) because that's what I have.  I know not everyone can see them and have tried over time to improve my presentation so that non-Ancestry readers can still understand my references.  But no matter what, I'd rather give a limited source than none at all.  Also, once people know that a person is listed in a particular census, for example, and how, they can probably find that record on Family Search.
Thank you for the feedback Julie! I greatly appreciate constructive criticism.
+9 votes

Good job. Here's what's wrong: 

citations go after the punctuation in a sentence, not before (see 4th paragraph); 

don't cite the FAG template box-- it goes inside the citation (where you also have it, so delete one); 

don't repeat info from the citation if it's already clearly there.

 Here's how I'd cite the death certificate, for example.<ref> Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 114501 - 117650  Certificate Number: 115325. [  Pennsylvania Death Certificate] 

:Name: Rev Samuel H Stein

:Gender: Male

:Race: White

:Age: 59

:Birth Date: 18 Mar 1871

:Birth Place: Annville, Pennsylvania

:Death Date: 19 Dec 1930

:Death Place: Cumberland, Adams, Pennsylvania, USA

:Father: George W Stein

:Mother: Caroline Ranch

:Spouse: Marian Brenner


I don't know what the shared Ancestry link is for, so cannot speak to that.

For the obituary, it should be put in blockquotes and cited within them.

The "monument photos" and "written by" credits are citations, not part of the text. 

Without blockquotes it's hard to tell what is obituary and what is yours. If you'd like a demo I can show you on the profile.

by Stephanie Ward G2G6 Mach 9 (94.3k points)
a shared Ancestry link is visible to non-members. That is the difference.
Stephanie thank you for the feedback! I appreciate your offer of a demo however I'm going to work on Rev. Stein with all of the great feedback/constructive criticism I received here on this feed. I will keep your offer in mind if I get stuck!
+4 votes
I think we have to clarify what we mean by a source vs what we accept as a source that verifies data.

A source is anything that gives information.  That information may be either good, correct data from reliable locations or documents like birth records, marriage records, death certificates, burial records, military records, school records, and other records that come from government or authority type institutions.

A good source can also be an interview with a living person when that interview is documented by time and place.  These can be things like newspaper articles, book sections on famous people in a specific town or industry.    They can also be first person family memoirs where you or the person you are interviewing actually knew the person and is giving details based on first hand knowledge and you explain how long you have known that person and how you know the person.  

We accept as verifying for a profile any of those above.  

Internet trees, gedcom imports, and even some Find A Grave entries can be based on some good data and some made up or misunderstood data so those are suspect.  And because we have seen how wrong so many can be we no longer look at these without good primary sources attached to them as a verifying source for a profile.  We think of them more as clues than as a source.  So they should go under Research Notes or Acknowledgements.  Some people say if the Find A Grave has a photo of a tombstone that should be ok but I published links to "tombstone makers" that are apps that create authentic looking tombstones online.  So now Find A Grave may have some additional questions.   In the Sourcerers' Challenge we are still accepting Find A Grave but we periodically review what we count as verifying sources for a profile which is what the Challenge is based upon.  

Census records are also one of those things that can be highly accurate or highly inaccurate it depends on when it was taken and where it was taken (in the 1800s one of them had to be done twice because a lot of dead people were included in kind of fraud attempt to make the location look bigger and in Scotland the 1841 Census used rounded to the nearest 5 ages) .  So while we view these as an authoritative source some caution needs to be used and we can generally find something to validate the data in a census.  

As to how many sources, trees, etc should be allowed, I don't think we should set limits.   We can condense the info into something like US Census records for New York City, NY 1800 through 1910 and drop in the url link to the one with the most details for a family.  However I still like putting each one in if there any differences that I think need to be highlighted.  When the same people are in the same place I tend to list the years with one link.  

Hope that helps kind of tie the two discussions that really are related into one answer.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (688k points)
I'm going to say a belated Thank You! How about better late than never? I don't know why I have such a hard time following up on the g2g feeds. Your last sentence re-worded "This will help tie the two discussions that are related into one answer". It did perfectly tie the two together. Thank you for the well written and informative answer.
+3 votes

My only suggestion would be to put the marriage information in the Biography (with the source, like you have done with the census records), rather than just in the Sources section.
by Victoria Surr G2G6 (8.6k points)
+2 votes

Profile looks amazing. The only thing that I personally would like to see is the United States Federal Census that back up the facts. US FED CENSUS, and US STATE CENSUS are not copy written, and prove chronological order where each person lived, and can be put in Images for all to see.  Most all pay genealogical websites make you pay for every bit of source you obtain from them if you are not a member, that is why when someone uses a source from genealogical sites like most, you will not see sources unless you shell out bucks. With the exception of , there website is free

by Keith Mann Spencer G2G6 Mach 1 (17.0k points)

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