Want to keep people from changing my profile pages to inline sources.

+13 votes
I don't understand the push for in-line references.  The pertinent information, if known, for each person is shown on their profile page.  Inline references just seem to repeat and, in cases of multiple census records, repeat all this information over and over again.   And, is there anyway I can keep people from changing my family profiles to include the inline references?   I don't want to lock out people from adding references/sources, just from changing the style.
in Policy and Style by Terri Jerkes G2G6 Mach 1 (15.3k points)
retagged by Maggie N.
Also, for those who change styles of profiles (and are not the owners) think of how much time is wasted by the original owner changing things back.
No that's OK Terri, I understand now. You are not just objecting to inline references, but to this type of Biography in general (one that simply restates the previous facts in a prose form.) I admit that it seems redundant to me too, but also seems to be the only way to tie specific sources to the specific facts that it supports.

My offline tree software ties the sources directly to the fact fields...would be an improvement if that could be done here.
Thank you, Joe Murray.  Yes.  I don't object to inline for those that like it, it's their choice. I prefer the source list. So, for those who do this, please don't change my profile style just because you can.
    It is the repeating of facts that I don't get. I will say that it's probably just the way my mind works...on a book reading site, most people, when asked to review the book, will write out a book report like we used to do in English class.  My review consists of "I really enjoyed (or not) this book because..."  Why repeat what is already given on the page?  But that's me.

Do you realize that the 1870 census data in the Biography part is something that you did on 30 August 2016. And you have links to the Family Bible in the Biography and the Sources which could be considered a redundancy of data.

Another Wikitreer did add a inline reference which also provides the source for the Polly name after you had done that edit on the same day. 

The category was added in September 2016 by yet another wikitreer. 

So to my understanding of your comments here your objecting more to redundant facts even though in the example profile the one inline reference isn't a redundant fact but something that you yourself added into the profile is the redundant fact. The sources that you listed are not even in a consistent fashion so how is someone else supposed to know how your preferred style is?

Please note that my statements in this post are in relation to the Mary Arrowood profile listed further up this comment thread. If you have a different recent example that was changed less than a year ago (Based on you doing minimum 1000 edits since then) that completely ruins the previous consistent style then please provide it. 

My answer below was based on it being something recent, Not something 4 years ago that you did edits after the changes. 

As you stated, the profile was done 4 years ago, and over 1000 edits ago.  No, I have not gone back over every one of my family and checked on them, and yes, there are errors.  All I can say about this particular one is that I was probably trying to make it look like others I had seen..or I just plain screwed up.

Looking at it now, no, I don't like the way it looks, and will clean it up, but with all the requests asking for an example, I did not want to use what anyone else had done, and instead looked for an example of my own..

My main question was to do with the push for inline sourcing (which should be a personal preference) and the redundancy of fact stating on a profile.  At the top of the page, you see the person's name, then their birth data, followed by parents, siblings, spouses (and marriage data) , children, death.  In the Biography section I have seen a lot of that data stated again.  And, as in Mary Arrowood's profile, also some census listing all the info given, sometimes multiple census records that list everyone's name, etc.  Now, when I go looking for someone on WikiTree, I search for their name, and get the data (name, parents, etc) from the the section above the biography.  And, if it's the person I'm searching for, I then go look at the sources, because the bio repeats what's at the top of the page (name, parents, siblings, etc.).

So, I like a source list.  I don't care for inline sourcing.  It looks fine until you get in edit mode, and then it's extremely confusing to me.

A full narrative biography is well and good if you know personal information about the person above and beyond what can be found in the sources.  Otherwise, it's just repeating facts that are at the top of the profile, or contained in the source list.

And, as stated before, I appreciate people adding sources to the profiles for which I am currently caretaker.  I don't appreciate it when they decide to re-do things to their own liking.  I am sure that someone who uses inline sources would be very upset if I chose to change a their profiles into straight line sourcing.  I have been know to add a straight source to profiles that use inline sourcing..however, I do not change their whole style.

And, while we're on that subject, for the people who like the inline sourcing, which I don't/can't do, if I find a source, would you just prefer I don't add it as a reference at all?

Terri, it appears you are responding to Darren here, but I have made some of the same points so will reply.


First, I don't see it as a problem if the narrative restates the data section.  It still seems useful, although much more can be done, usually even if you have only a few sources.  


I really do sympathize with how in-line sourcing makes working in edit mode harder.  (You should try some other pages I've participated in, but that's another story.)  One thing you can do is create a one-line space after each source. WikiTree will ignore it and it won't disrupt your paragraphs.


Yes, I would be irate if someone decide to convert my in-line sourcing on a profile I manage to simple sources.  It has never happened, and I don't think it likely.  But I also think that's a different story.


Finally, I would never object if someone added a source to a profile I manage even if it wasn't in-line.  On the other hand, I don't always feel particularly grateful.  The other day, for example, someone added some sources to a profile I manage by citing a paid site without transcribing them (more to the point, also changing the information and relationships on the profile).  Then when I contacted the person, I was told to go to the library!



Terri - My thoughts on a couple of your comments:

"I don't care for inline sourcing.  It looks fine until you get in edit mode, and then it's extremely confusing to me." - In-line source can be very confusing to look at in edit mode. Turning on enhanced edit mode can help some. Another technique I use is to define all the citations at the bottom of the bio (right above Sources) and just use the defined names in the in-line citations in the text. But I get your point.

"A full narrative biography is well and good if you know personal information about the person above and beyond what can be found in the sources.  Otherwise, it's just repeating facts that are at the top of the profile, or contained in the source list." - It's not just if you have personal information; it's useful if you have anything you want to say about the person beyond the boring basic facts in the data field or if you want to explain how you decided on what facts to put in the data fields (it's often not simple or obvious and needs an explanation).

Here's an example of a relatively simple narrative bio that I worked on, so you can see what I mean regarding both points. Henry Dicke 


I know what you mean:

"So, I like a source list.  I don't care for inline sourcing.  It looks fine until you get in edit mode, and then it's extremely confusing to me."

Inline sourcing can make reading the narrative difficult to decipher, especially with long descriptive sources. Everything seems to run together after a while. The enhanced editor has made some aspects better but if the coding is not right then trying to fix it can be very challenging.

Others may see lists of information as unrelated puzzle pieces. But if this information is put into a narrative then it becomes a story that is understandable to them.

Mentioning the name of the source or author in the narrative, especially if it is either linked to the source or in bold letters as in the source should usually do the same job as inline citations,

Realistically not all will be friendly to that concept.


This is in reply to Terri

(End edit)

Another issue is that with a Source list only is that there is nothing that ties the sources to the Facts or details. If you look at My Heritage, Ancestry.com or FamilySearch and most likely other similar programs the sources can be tied directly to the facts or details. When those Gedcoms used to get imported onto Wikitree it created Span codes in an Inline reference with lots of duplication under the Sources heading. I wonder if that is what you have seen and taking that rubbishy looking profiles and equating them with inline sourcing. (Note that I have no idea how current Gedcom importing works but the examples i have seen look rubbishy still).

Most source List (No inline Sources) profiles I have seen do a lot of repeating info in their Biography and then the source section. I don't see that in the Inline Sourcing style profiles. Yes the Biography may repeat the details from the profile but it can also include details not recorded in the Detail part(Census info, Burial locations etc).

 On Wikitree (in my opinion) the only surefire way of knowing what the sources are in relation to the facts is by putting them in the Biography narrative using Inline sourcing methods. It ensures that sources will stay in order no matter if a new source is found that fits chronologically between two existing sources whereas a "Source List" has a greater chance to get out of sync if someone just adds a source willy nilly. 

There is no other way to directly link source to fact/detail. 

On your last statement, If you find a source for a profile on my watchlist please add it down the bottom under the Sources heading. I can always add it into an Inline Sourcing method when i feel like it. I would also give a Thanks to you.

For those who find it difficult to edit profiles that use inline sourcing, if you haven't already tried it, I recommend turning on the enhanced editor and giving it a try (and work with it a bit to get used to it before deciding whether to continue). It doesn't solve all the difficulties of using inline sourcing, but it helps.

18 Answers

+26 votes

Inline references only hold the sources; they do not hold the data contained in each census.  So, although on the Edit tab, things look a bit of a mess, on the main display page of a profile, all you will see are little numbers like this [2] and then the actual text down below.

You probably won't be able to keep people from changing styles to inline sourcing.  It's really a matter of aesthetics.  My suggestion is that you learn to do it yourself, so you can control what it looks like! :)

by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)

Inline citations contain whatever was placed within them. Some members may include full document transcriptions within inline citations.

Personally, I try to keep them short and sweet.wink

I rarely use inline citations.  Occasionally, they're necessary; rarely, profiles look better with them.  I know how to use them, but I don't like them.  Every fact needs to be supported with a source if possible; that source doesn't have to be directly linked to the fact.
Lindy, I think what Ros meant was that no matter how much you add in between the two reference tags, it will still show up in the Sources section and not in the narrative.
+40 votes
Inline sourcing enables different facts to be linked to the same source. A census record gives you data on birth year, location often with a street address it also gives you data on occupation and other family members.  Having a single link under the sources heading does not link all the data to the evidence.

If you feel strongly anti inline sourcing of supporting all the fact you could add a note to profiles as to your personal preferred style of sourcing.

Please remember no one owns a profile you are a manager of the profile, collaboration is what wikitree is about
by Janet Wild G2G6 Pilot (237k points)
+14 votes
IF someone willfully converts what you have to inline stuff you can "roll back" what they did that day to a day previous where it was -- the way you wanted it --

Properly speaking it was rude, wrong of them to impose their foreign style on a profile you manage without first consulting with you to find out if you were agreeable.

You can find out who it was from your Family Activity Feed which refers to your Watch list and then send them a note about this infringement
by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (584k points)
Or just click on the "Changes" tab on the profile/s in question.
People do this all the time, and then I rudely change them back to a more palatable sourcing method.
I have posted publicly on one profile requesting no inline sourcing please!
Clarification: inline citations are not a foreign style. They are a recommended style.
Clarification: "Foreign" is a characteristic of anything other than one's own anything
+14 votes

There is only one surefire way to prevent people changing the style on Profiles you manage and that is to Green lock (or a higher privacy) the profiles. This will only work for profiles born less than 150 years ago or died less than 100 years ago. Note that anyone you have added to the trusted list for those profiles can adjust them despite the privacy lock. 

Baring that you can revert the profiles back to your preferred style(as long as it meets any of the style guides) and send messages asking that they don't adjust your style. 

Looking at my watchlist profiles I personally have a wide variety of styles but if I have got a profile to a Narrative with Inline source style and someone does a gedcom dump on it I would be upset and quickly revert it. I personally hate any profile that looks like a gedcom created profile as too often references are repeated multiple times often with only one proper reference for a fact. One profile had a 1940 USA census attached to every other fact including a burial fact despite the person living well past 1940. That one was a gedcom produced Orphaned profile (No profile manager) so I cleaned it up and got it from 250 listed sources to 20 Inline references. 

I don't know what Profiles on your watchlist was adjusted so have no idea why they may have been adjusted but a Restore Data from the Changes tab and a message to whoever did the adjustment is your best option. 

by Darren Kellett G2G6 Pilot (187k points)
+9 votes
I've had this happen to my profiles too.  I usually just change them back.  I follow good citation practices when I use a source.  Sometimes inline resources are the best way to display information, but when they're overused, they make a profile difficult to understand.  I wish they weren't pushed as the best sourcing method, but at least they haven't prohibited us (yet) from using other methods.  Let's hope that day never comes, although when we die, everything will change to someone else's preferred format, which is definitely NOT my preferred format.
by Anonymous Brasel G2G2 (3.0k points)
+6 votes
Sorry for the long answer, but, I think Terri's post and the subsequent responses deserve  attention.

@ Joe Murry: "  just curious about differing opinions on this." Joe, the important thing to realize is that there ARE differing opinions on this. Understanding that wikitree is a community made up of an array of individual volunteers  who choose to spend their time here and who all have different minds, methods and motivations is (at least to me) a part of being a good citizen of that community.

@ Janet Wild "Please remember no one owns a profile you are a manager of the profile, collaboration is what wikitree is about" Yes, while that no one OWNS a profile is the absolute bottom-line fact, another fact is that a volunteer donated their time to create and connect  that profile.  And they did it in a style/method that works for them. IF another community member has the desire to be a good citizen and  actually understands the definition of ''collaboration", they will take a moment to understand their fellow citizen's methods and may even deign to send a PM or have chat...otherwise @ Susan Smith "it was rude" and disrespectful to  your fellow citizen to go into that profile and make changes.

@ J.Crook, Darren Kellet, Jl Brasel  "...change them back..." Yes there is always that option. And for all my fellow wikitreers, it may be something to understand that if you make changes without the aforementioned 'collaboration', you may have just wasted not only your time but the time of another wikitreer.....

@ Ros Haywood "It's really a matter of aesthetics" I  disagree completely with that. For me it is a matter of function over form. In my mind, narrative and in line sources only work for me when all the puzzle pieces are known, put together and the puzzle is on the table and complete.  When the puzzle is still in pieces, this style is like turning over all the pieces so that I can no longer see patterns, shapes or colors. It obfuscates and clouds my thought processes on how to fill in those missing pieces and makes me work harder. "My suggestion is that you learn to do it yourself, so you can control what it looks like! :)" I understand you were being tongue-in-cheek and I appreciate your sense of humor...but, everyone should take a minute and understand the underlying concept to that statement. Does the need for that concept derive from a happy, healthy and collaborative community? Or could we all strive to be more appreciative, communicative and respectful of the other individual volunteers here?
by Nick Andreola G2G6 Mach 7 (71.3k points)
Thanks for the thoughtful responses, Nick. In my case I have (begrudgingly) accepted that consistency can sometimes be loose here to encourage creativity and individuality (to a point.) I really was looking for differing opinions (which I've seen now) in case I was missing something, and maybe wanted to change my own methods to a better one.

Again, thanks for your insightful comments.

Joe, Thank you for taking my comment as it was meant--as just another point of view and nothing more aggressive than that! I agree that there must be a minimum standard or we just have chaos.  For me, beyond that threshold, there is room for all of us to do our thing and that with just a little more courtesy to our fellow wikitreers we'd avoid topics like this.

I can't agree with Dale Byers more on both counts " I find more than enough work for the profiles on my own watchlist, but when I do I try and follow the style the other manager uses."

Definitely thank you.  You laid out your answer in a definitive way and one that makes it easy to understand.  And, I can relate to your answers.   I especially agree with you and the others that say if you are going to add sources to a profile that is owned or maintained by someone else (and I do appreciate all those people who do this), then just add them in a way that's consistent to what is already there.
+27 votes
Terri, The purpose of a source is to prove a fact and by using an inline reference you are using the reference to link the source to the fact it proves. The listing of sources makes it harder for others to figure which fact(s) the source "proves" but is still acceptable. As others have stated you could change them back but stopping others from using the style is not an option. I have found that the profile looks better to others and for that reason I attempt to use inline sourcing for the profiles I manage as I work on them and add sources but I very rarely add sources to profiles others manage, I find more than enough work for the profiles on my own watchlist, but when I do I try and follow the style the other manager uses.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
+7 votes

Try adding a link to the census image in the body of the biography including a short summary of information focusing on the individual's relationship to rest of household. For example, see the changes tab where I edited the Biography for Samuel D Cochran (1878-)(using link in narrative as alternative to inline citation).

Just an hunch it might work, but no promises!  

by Pat Credit G2G6 Pilot (147k points)

Alternatively you could use a timeline format:

"United States Census, 1880,": Residing in District 13, Sumner, Tennessee with his parents, 4 siblings and a cousin, possibly the brother of one of his parents.

Enter on edit page:
 : [https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YBJ-Z9B?i=23&cc=1417683&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMDWX-YBL "United States Census, 1880,"]: Residing in District 13, Sumner, Tennessee with his parents, 4 siblings and a cousin, possibly the brother of one of his parents.

This is a great alternative to inline sourcing while still showing where the information came from! Thank you!

Glad you like it! Hopefully it looks good enough and has enough additional information that no one will be tempted to remove it. I may even add it to some of my profiles.
The only issue with your example profile is that you basically repeat the source info in the Biography and the Source sections. Granted one links to the image and one to the index but it is basically the same source. An inline source version would not duplicate the source in two different parts of the Biography


You are welcome to your opinion.

My example doesn't repeat as much  as Terri's sample profile.

It was just a suggestion!

Some like lists.

Some like narratives.

Some like ...

To please them all repetition is needed.

+33 votes

IMHO, in-line sourcing is the way to go. I want to know where each “fact” came from. When someone just lists the sources below the == Sources ==, the rest of the world does not know where each fact came from. Then they have to look up every source until they find the right one, including yourself. Why would anyone not want to use inline sourcing is my question. I agree with others that if the only or main problem is the exporting of GEDCOMs, then maybe one should use another program for that. I work on my tree in Ancestry (or chose your program) then when it is complete, transfer each person manually to WikiTree and vice-versa.

Since we are unable to see your profiles (here), do you mind including a link to a profile that shows how you would like your sourcing to look?

I hope this helps!

Missy smiley

[edited a typo.]

by Missy Berryann G2G6 Pilot (169k points)
edited by Missy Berryann
I agree, Missy.
Inline sourcing might be the way to go for you..but it is not for me or many others.  Maybe because I do not repeat in the biography the data that is already viewable on the profile page (names of parents', husband, siblings, children, and other facts.  I do try to add information not readily at the top, (ex. a man's physical description as shown on a Draft Registration), and personal information if I have it.  And I like to list my sources in chronological order.
It isn't a matter of repeating facts, it's a matter of providing easily readable  evidence for those facts.  I want wikitree to be a respected repository of family history for the future and I  hope it's still there when we are all dead (otherwise what is the point?) .I believe we need to add as  many facts as possible , as much evidence for our facts as possible and that we also need to make it simple to evaluate these facts. Your account is a an interesting snapshot of Nellie. The pictures of the family bible and the marriage bond are great but beyond that why not help others to understand and assess your account?

  An  inline  citation just  makes it far  easier for readers  who may be a relative ( descendant?)  or perhaps an unrelated stranger such as a community historian to do this.The subscripts are  merely  pointers  to the relevant source and  they enable others to quickly find out how you know each fact.

Terri there is nothing stopping you from have the sources in Chronological order and as Inline Sourcing. For an example see https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/French-6869 . It is in a narrative form with inline sources, those sources in chonological order underneath the Sources heading, Full FamilySearch created citations and I can easily work out what i need to look for(the birth or christening record). I could technically add the sources for her husbands deaths but if people do want to check they can click on the husbands name in the narrative and go to the relevant profile without having to scroll up. 

Helen, agreed!

+66 votes
The profiles I've reviewed that have been done by people who say they don't use in-line sources, don't have what I would call full narrative bios. The profiles are very simple, with just a list of some facts or a few sentences and a handful of sources. For this simple style of bio, the connection between a particular factual statement in the bio and the source that it was based on may be clear enough without using in-line sources. However, if you have a full narrative bio with 10+ paragraphs, containing dozens of factual assertions and using 10+ sources, the profile is equivalent to a research paper and you need in-line citations to support specific fact assertions; just having a list of sources is like just having a bibliography and doesn't cut it. For full-length narrative bios, without in-line citations, it is difficult or impossible for a reader to determine what source or sources you were relying on when you made a particular statement. For these types of bios, using in-line sources is NOT a matter of style; it's a necessity.
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (249k points)
Chase, I'd vote you up ten times for that answer if I could.
I don't see how we can possibly write a full narrative bio based on the just few (sometimes less than 5) facts that we have. Which is why I wrote bullet points and then list my sources with links or fully transcribed in the sources section.

I too do not like the inline method, most because of the repetitiveness as has been mentioned.
I've noticed that some bios of notables, both here and on other websites, have a list of sources rather than inline sourcing. When I have fact checked these bios, some of those facts I have been unable to verify, whilst others have been clearly wrong. I think the use of inline sources encourages accuracy.
Leandra, AMEN!
I disagree that inline citations are ever a necessity. I hate them and wont work on any profile that uses them. They are inaccessible to people with vision issues.  What I do insituations as you describe, is to amplify the source with a source descriptin. Xx ::p. 424, source of marriage date between Adam and Eve ::p. 425 complete list of children w/ baptism dates.
I believe Chase Ashley makes the key point about when inline citations absolutely should be used and situations in which they may be optional.  That said, as other contributors to this conversation have pointed out, there also are these problems:

1.  It would be handy to have a way to associate a specific source to each of the pieces of data that appear at the top of a profile.

2. Inline sourcing is awkward in Edit Mode.

3. Unless the Name function is used, inline sourcing introduces redundancy.

I see one other problem that is the flip side of the 3rd just listed. Suppose I have a book of substantial length and need to site several different facts from it, each of which appears on a different page.  In an ordinary research paper, in this situation an author of course would use op. cit. or Ibid as appropriate.  But I have found no way this can be done while using the Name function.  I see only two options: (i) give the full citation for the book each time it is cited, i.e., redundancy; or (ii) the first time the book is cited, say some thing like "This book will hereafter be referred to as "Short Book Name,"  which  in part accomplishes what the Name function does.  Anyone who wants the full cite, however, needs to sort through the footnotes.  This of course is exactly why research papers have both footnotes (or end noted) and a list of Sources (aka References or Bibliography.)
Research papers are not being edited by numerous random people. I have been involved in improving several profiles here where the creator had his own version of sourcing and has used op cit often. Others have edited those profiles and inserted text into the bio, so the creator's sourcing is no longer accurate. It is very time consuming to sort it all out and convert to WT standards.

Using the enhanced mode editor helps when working with a lengthy bio and inline citations.
+19 votes

there are 2 pages that cover this:



inline sources are the preferred method, since they point to the exact source a fact comes from.  If multiple facts come from the same source, the <ref name=source> can be used to repeat it.

by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (457k points)
Danielle, where in the attached links you provided does it say that inline citations are preferred?

Jillaine, it seems to be implied in the second page by:

Embed them as references (footnotes) 

As you become more experienced and start to collaborate with other WikiTreers you will need to learn how to create references, i.e. footnotes, endnotes, or citations.

After stating a fact for which you have a source, surround the reference with these tags:

<ref>  ...  </ref>
I agree wuth you, wholeheartedly, Julie. I studied those Sources pages thoroughly when I was learning how to use WikiTree. It seems to me that just listing sources is fine for a newbie, but as we learn to use citations we are to grow into using inline citations. I think as we master WT's preferred method of citing sources we learn to appreciate its simplicity and neatness. I will add inline citations to some newbie's sources to try to model this more advanced method for sourcing. If someone removes them, then I sigh and leave the profiles they manage alone. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks some consistency in profiles which no one owns but we all work on is not a good goal.

Inline sourcing can be disruptive.  On some profiles, the references break the flow of the narrative and cause needless repetition. It can look like padding. And it may be inappropriate or even ostentatious.  Sometimes, the subject of the profile had no opportunity for education, did not read, sign their name, or complete anything unusual, but their biography is more elaborate than their obituary.  In an effort to note someone's life, it can be overdone. 

Jo, the point of sources is to show where we got the data from, ie evidence for our assertions.  I don't know how often I have seen profiles that made all sorts of assertions, with generic sources given only at the bottom of the page, no in-line sources to show where xyz facts came from, and the said xyz facts were in truth not supported by anything.  As is said elsewhere, genealogy without sources is mythology.  The fact that a person could not read or write has no bearing on this at all.

In a very basic bio, you're saying: this person was born x date in such-and-such a place, child of a & b. (source?).  They married C on y date in blah-location. (source?). They died on z date in wherever-location. (source?).  Putting in-line sources in no way detracts from the profile, but backs up the assertions so someone else who comes along can see immediately where you got the data from, without having to hunt around in the sources cited at the bottom of the page.
Well said, Danielle!
Yes, I agree we need sources.  In fact, this discussion shows that some of us have more interest in the sources than the assertions.  I read over the list of sources more frequently than I do the profiles and don't expect someone to accept my assertions without doing their own research.
So everyone who encounters your profiles must do the same research all over again?  If you linked your sources to your assertions, you'd save everyone a lot of time.

WikiTree is used in more than one way.  Some of the profiles have more references than they do sources.  They appear to lack a bibliography.  When format is emphasized more than sources, we can lose sight of the research and evaluation that's needed.  Robert Charles Anderson's Elements of Genealogical Analysis is one of many good works on the topic.

Sorry, but 'saving the time of the reader' is not something I do now. I've retired from that.

OK, Jo, that's up to you.  A major reason I'm on WikiTree is to share my research with others.  For that purpose, I want it to be as easy for them to understand as possible.
The whole point of WikiTree is that we are a WIKI, ie we ARE a reference.  So we want quality referencing on profiles we put up as references for others.  The same holds true for other Wikis.
Jo, I can agree with you on one point. (I do like to try to find points of agreement with folks.) I have found one person who puts 3 repetitive inline citations for one fact. That is obviously overkill and looks ridiculous. It is also annoying to look at. This is not a scientific research paper. However, I disagree with your main point. I find that inline citations are useful for identifying the source info for facts stated in a profile. I do not find them disruptive at all, but that is simply my opinion.

When I began by saying 'Inline sourcing can be disruptive',  I wanted to describe potential shortfalls.  Using them can create problems, they are not a perfect solution. My comment didn't get there.  

I agree, citing references inline can be necessary. They link a fact in the narrative with the pertinent record in a source.  It doesn't provide enough information to substitute for sources.  We need bibliographic citations to enable followup research.

I know of one person who used to go overboard on in-line citations, basically creating code-bloat for anybody else coming along to do edits.  But he was the exception, not the rule.
+28 votes

Terri, I've been following the discussion here for the last two hours, and would like to respond to several of your comments, and will do so here rather than scatter my responses around the thread.  You might conclude I like getting down votes--which I don't--but I'll risk it here and indulge myself in a little rant.


First, I absolutely agree with Missy and Chase (and now, Danielle).  In-line sourcing is a superior method of adding sources, at least in most cases.  It has been my impression that the main reason more people don't do it is that they don't know how.  It does take a little time to learn.  Even after I knew how to do it, I had a hard time getting familiar with how to repeat a source and was perplexed by some of the suggestions I got.  But I think the method is worth learning.


WikiTree does not require in-line sourcing (I think some projects do).  But reading this whole thread again, I can't emphasize enough that I do not think adding in-line sourcing to a profile disrupts the style.


Of course, it isn't terribly useful to add a narrative that simply repeats the data section.  That is hardly the ideal, though.  Even one of the examples you gave us, Terri, of a profile you had created had much more information than that.  On Finger-236, wouldn't it have been easier for the reader if you had added Find A Grave as an in-line source for "Nelli...is buried...in Woodway, Virginia" rather than forcing us to scroll down and find it in the sources?


You gave us an example of a profile where someone had added one in-line source to a profile you manage (reference for the nickname "Polly" on Arrowood-269).  What is wrong with that?  It is unobtrusive and it is useful.  You also mentioned the "1870 census" paragraph that is inserted into the narrative.  I don't see what that has to do with in-line sources but I agree (if that's your point) that it spoils the narrative due to its inconsistent style.  If I managed that profile I would just move that paragraph down to the sources section and incorporate it into the 1870 census source.  (But Darren is right--it does look like you are the one who added it.)


There is a difference between changing someone's style and simply adding sources in a slightly different style.  I rarely add sources to profiles I don't manage, having enough of my own that still need work.  There are a few exceptions.  First, my own direct ancestors, in which case I feel I have just as much right to work on the profile as any other descendant, no matter who is PM.  Second, if I encounter a profile that has been neglected and unsourced for years (although sometimes I'd rather just slap on an "Unsourced" sticker).  Third, if I have some unique information that would add value to the profile.  When I go to the trouble to add sources, I am going to add them in-line.  As I already said, I don't see why that would be thought obtrusive.  If a PM wants to change it later, that's his or her decision.  Maybe you see it as a waste of time, but I see it as a degradation.  And by the way, PMs aren't "owners."  Also, by the way, I think most of us have plenty to do without going around and changing other people's profile styles "just because we can."  A profile would have to be in fairly abysmal shape for me to want to do that.  Sadly, many are, yet I hardly ever change them.  


What do you and Robynne mean by repetition?  If I state that a person was born in 1850, for example, I don't generally stick five references on the end of that sentence if I have five sources for it.  Any sensible person can understand that people's ages are listed on the census.  I sometimes do list several censuses as references for a more encompassing statement such as "John and Marjorie raised five children."  When it comes to how many times one source is repeated in a narrative, I do think that is somewhat a matter of taste.


Nick, unfortunately, there is probably always going to be tradeoff between collaboration and quality--i.e., cases where the question is, should someone come in and improve a profile, even if it offends the PM?  (I honestly don't understand what you mean when you say in-line sourcing clouds your thought processes.)

by Anonymous Kelts G2G6 Pilot (513k points)
Julie, I must here admit to not being the sharpest knife in the drawer and to having become lost in this sea of words and in the multiplicity of actual topics being discussed.
"If I state that a person was born in 1850, for example, I don't generally stick five reference on the end of the sentence if I have five sources for it."

This is a case where I might reference multiple sources, and one inline reference works well to efficiently build a case. If a census is being used to support a birth year, and if there are later records, such as a draft registration or death record, to support a specific date where there is no contemporaneous birth record, multiple sources are persuasive and build a case for a particular date and year. Ages can vary from census to census, according to who is answering and when they are answering; a census closer to the birth  year and probably answered by the parent is better than later, the 1900 US census that specifically includes a birth year and month might be better evidence that other censuses, multiple census might establish a credible range, other records may include the specific date. I don't insert multiple inline references. I insert one reference, and then use the multiple sources (which I have given shorthand names in a full citation in the "Source" Section). Contrary evidence can be cited as well: Johnny Appleseed was born March 25, 1845 <ref>1900 US Census (March 1845); see also Johnny Appleseed Death Record (March 25, 1845); accord 1850 US Census,  1856 Iowa State Census. But see, Johnny Appleseed Obituary (stating March 25, 1846).</ref>

It's one footnote, hyperlinked from the reference, not distractive in reading the bio. Explaining all that would be more distractive. I really am interested in how those who do not use inline references convey the universe of information, sometimes contrary, relating to a particular genealogical fact, or why adding an inline cite would be interpreted as rude or intrusive, which is what started this thread.

I generally research US (and Canada), and the examples reflect such.
Ellen, I think in this case, it is a matter of taste; also of specific circumstances.  If I had multiple conflicting sources for a birth date, and the discrepancy was significant, I might just state that in the narrative, or explain it in a footnote, or make a research note, or possibly not worry about it at all if it didn't make any difference (i.e., are there issues dependent on an exact birth date?).  Sometimes I think it is worth a research note if it was a complicated process to decide on which source was most likely to be correct.

On your second point, I obviously agree.
Sorry, Nick.  I wasn't trying to be offensive.  I just wanted to understand what you meant.
+22 votes
How do those who are opposed to inline citation (really, old-fashioned footnotes) otherwise tie a specific source to each separate fact in a narrative biography? I'm genuinely interested.

I list, name and full cite sources under the "Source" section (Joe Smith Birth Record: [Cite]; Smith/Jones Marriage Record: [Cite]; Joe Smith Death Record: [Cite]; 1900 United States Census [Cite]; WWI US Draft Registration Card [Cite], etc.), and then use inline citations to use the sources to support each fact:

 Joe Smith was born 1 January 1880 <ref>Joe Smith Birth Record; See also, 1900 US Census (January 1880)</ref> at Bedford Falls, Bedford County, New York <ref> Joe Smith Birth Record; see also, WWI US Draft Registration Card.</ref>, the son of John Smith and Mary Brown <ref> Joe Smith Birth Record; see also Smith/Jones Marriage Record, Joe Smith Death Record.</ref> Joe Smith died 1 June 1965 at Grover's Corners, Grover County, Ohio <ref> Joe Smith Death Record.</ref> and so forth.

I don't find inline sources difficult or ugly, and I find them incredibly useful in creating a credible case for the genealogical facts of the profiled subject. Again, genuinely interested in alternative views.

by Ellen Curnes G2G6 Mach 7 (79.3k points)
edited by Ellen Curnes
+9 votes

As usual people get at cross purposes because the vocabulary is all confused.

"Point-by-point" is citing a source, or three, for every little factoid.

He was born on Augusr 17th 1847[1][2][3] at Springfield.[1][2][3]

"Inline", logically, is embedding the citation in the main text

A comet lit up the sky on the night of his birth (Dodgson, J, ''The Stupendous Dodgsons", Vol. 14, p. 576)

as opposed to using a footnote.

The Help page tries to align the word "reference" with the <ref> tag.  But the <ref> tag was misnamed by the MediaWiki programmers.  It should have been <footnote>, because its function is just to create a footnote.  It has no views on what the purpose or content of the footnote is.

by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (570k points)
Thanks for clarifying the vocabulary, RJ.

While I agree that vocabulary is relevant, Wikipedia differentiates the parenthetical referencing inline citation system from the footnoted <ref> tagged inline citation system (the latter 'embedded' system being preferred by WikiTree). Wikipedia and WikiTree both link the <ref>  </ref> tags to the <references /> template.

All WikiTree profiles provide, in edit view, source adding instructions along the following lines:

How to Add Sources

Include your sources below the biography like this:

== Sources ==

<references />

* Shakespeare, John. The Big Shakespeare Book. Chicago, IL: Shakespeare Publishing, 1914.

Include inline references like this:

The Shakespeare farm was 20 acres.<ref>Shakespeare, John. The Big Shakespeare Book. Chicago, IL: Shakespeare Publishing, 1914. Page 123.</ref>

For better or for worse, this makes it fairly clear that embedded inline referencing is mainstream.

Point is, in the output seen by the reader, you can have citations mixed in with the running text, or separated out into footnotes.

In edit mode, they'll be inline either way.  The only difference is replacing ( ) with <ref> </ref>.

As for the example, yes it does say that.  But it's a poor example, because you'll almost certainly want to refer to other pages in the book, without repeating the publisher info every time.  But there's another thread about that.

The basic issues are

1 - citations for every point, or only where necessary

2 - citations embedded inline, versus footnotes (as seen by the reader)

3 - where you put the full catalogue info for the book.  Choice of

- in the citation

- in the citation, but only the first time

- in a separate sources list

- on a separate page

- nowhere.

But the questions are partly entangled, eg. I'm more likely to include publisher info in the citation if I'm using footnotes.

Re 'you can have citations mixed in with the running text', I would think that for the sake of consistency, since WikiTree recommends footnoted inline citations, there should not normally be parenthetical inline citations. 

I agree that inline reference example in each profile's source-adding instruction is not optimal, because the implication is that bulleted source items or numbered footnoted source citation items are assigned on an either / or basis only with each source item having an identical level of detail. This leads to much confusion about 'See also' source items. But as you say, there's another thread about that.

Re  'citations for every point, or only where necessary' I prefer clustering facts' citations at the end of a sentence and including such citation clusters as needed for each sentence.

Re ' citations embedded inline, versus footnotes', WikiTree preference is clearly for <ref> tagged footnotes.

Re 'where you put the full catalogue info for the book', this may getting beyond the scope of this G2G question. Suffice to say that key Help pages hold that Evidence Explained by ES Mills is the 'ideal citation format on WikiTree'. 

RJ, you make some very good points; however, I do think, regardless of our (and WikiTree's) less-than-exact terminology, that the main issue that began this thread and that most of us have been debating is simply whether each source should be presented as a footnote (i.e., "in-line"/embedded and linked to the fact it supports) or simply listed at the bottom of the page (leaving the reader to figure out what supports what).  Within either of those options, there are variations and people have different preferences.

Maybe one reason some say the footnoting method is disruptive is that they don't like the reference being inserted repetitively for every tiny fact, as in your example of point-by-point, and to me that seems unnecessary (and annoying, though not confusing).  I would just add it once at the end of each sentence, or in whatever is the most appropriate spot.
And don't forget that one reason we have these repetitive footnote numbers is due to (sourced) gedcom uploads. The narrative text extracts the source data from the gedcom and places it with each fact that came from the gedcom.
+14 votes
I prefer inline sourcing because it connects the fact with the source, especially when there are a number of facts to be included that are not in the data boxes on the profile.  It really helps the reader (sometimes me) to sort out what came from where.    It also makes it so much easier to see which facts DO NOT have sources in the Public View or the Preview.

I do agree that it is harder to read in Edit mode.  If you haven't used the Enhanced Editor, that helps a lot.

Also a little tip for inline references in a busy profile is to put the ending </ref> on a line by itself.  This creates a little space between wording that can help you see what starts and stops where.  (Thank you Joyce Rivette for your suggestion).

Once I learned how to do them, I've never gone back.  As an editor of other peoples profiles most of the time, I really appreciate when inlines are used in case I need to look up something because it's readily there.  If I came across a nice, neat well labelled list which contain all the details such as you describe, I wouldn't change it, though more often sources are a bit messy and need cleaning up anyway, and that's a good time to make inlines.
by Cindy Cooper G2G6 Pilot (210k points)
+4 votes
On Wikipedia they have two sensible policies.

1) Cite a source for a specific statement if necessary, eg. if the existence or quality of a source might be doubted.

If somebody adds a {{citation needed}} to a statement and no citation is supplied, the statement is liable to be removed.

But generally, you start with a list of basic reliable sources from which you build the core of the article.  Anybody who wants to query or edit the article should have read and digested those sources, so you really don't need to cite them everywhere you use them.  Just give the list.

2) Stick with the existing style and structure unless it becomes unworkable.  Don't change the style just because you prefer a different style.  Don't insert a different style and create a mixture.
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (570k points)
Have you done editing on topics there?  Working from a list of reliable sources sounds harsh, prescriptive.  Does that eliminate much chance for random discovery, creativity?

Fresh associations are among WikiTree's stronger features.

"But generally, you start with a list of basic reliable sources from which you build the core of the article.  Anybody who wants to query or edit the article should have read and digested those sources, so you really don't need to cite them everywhere you use them. Just give the list."

If that's really their policy, it stinks, is not user-friendly and is contrary to sound practice.

RJ, who is our audience?  I want to create profiles so that my relatives and whatever casual readers come along can learn something about each person, and something about history.  I also want to provide information for other serious genealogists (and refute some of the garbage that I see repeated around Ancestry and on RootsWeb, etc.).

I can understand that, given the types of profiles that you usually work on (which I gather are pre-1500), the audience is more likely to be scholars and other serious researchers.  And with respect to them, you are right.  But my guess is that those people do not make up the majority of WikiTree users.

By way of trying to clarify and reinforce emulating Wikipedia policies to justify sticking 'with the existing style and structure', Wikipedia Citing sources and Manual of Style/Layout articles state that :

  • "Editors should not attempt to change an article's established citation style merely on the grounds of personal preference, to make it match other articles, or without first seeking consensus for the change."
  • "Editors may use any citation method they choose."

FamilySearch uses a similar citation method policy for research articles.

The assumption in both Wikipedia and FamilySearch cases is that, for any article, citation system is not optional and is therefore ideally ultimately implemented.  This should not in my view preclude WikiTree not requiring citation system for simple profiles. 

+14 votes
I have been working with several members of my extended family who can have as many as 20 sources to reference, including birth, marriage and death records, census data, etc. I also include Research Notes to point out inconsistencies in the data, and use the inline references to sort some of that out as well because sometimes these sources disagree as to dates and locations.

I have had people go through sites I am shepherding, and slap a bunch of sources on the bottom of a profile that I developed, duplicating, in many cases, careful research into what the source actually says. (for example, I don't post a census reference unless I've actually looked at the source, to confirm spellings and occupations.)

Without the inline references, I would not be able to keep the data that I have found straight, and I personally like to know and sometimes review the references or sources quoted in one profile in case the data also fits another relative's profile. To avoid too much clutter, I make use of the <ref name=xxxx> feature so that a reference only appears one time in any given profile.

The power of a relational database like WikiTree is the ability to leverage the posted information against potential additional sources and make intelligent assumptions about lineage.

I guess you could post a note asking people not to use inline references, but that defeats the purpose of a master database with one record per person, since multiple genealogists might be interested in your ancestor, besides I'm doing this for my grandchildren, and we all know how "well documented" information on the internet is today.

by Roy Lamberton G2G6 Mach 5 (51.4k points)
I want all my research documented and backed by sources, too.  It is just that I like my sources documented separately under the heading resources.  I can see no advantage of inline resources.   When sources are listed separately in the Source section, you just have to scroll down, and there, in that reference is normally a link that will enable someone to see the actual source.  I have seen some Biographies  (Castledine-80) that have headings (Birth, Marriage, etc.) for main events, and under each heading show the source that supports that heading.  That very clearly shows the resource that proves the fact.  I also do not mind researchers adding sources to a profile that I maintain..what I don't like is when someone changes the way I present the sources to their preferred way.  And, yes, I can and have changed it back to my preferred method, but that creates double work when it should not be needed.  I would not go into a profile that it managed by another person and re-format their work to suit me.  This is a collaborative tree, but as such, users should be respectful of other users.
I do not understand your last paragraph about defeating a master database with one record per person, as I only make one record (profile) for each person.  When duplicates are found, and substantiated, they are merged into one record.  This is also exciting because the research that two or more people have done may join or expand a family.
I hope future generations can look at what I've done, see the sources that help to prove my research, and be able to expand their view of how they fit in the universal tree.
+15 votes
Hello Terri,

I will add my agreement to Missy, Chase, Danielle, Terry and Julie; however, for the following reasons:

I understand where you are coming from. I am giving you feedback from my own personal experience because I have had the same situation as you during my first year on Wikitree.

I have had a great number of years doing genealogy. As I collected family information, I documented family information with records, photos, personal notes, etc. I have been doing my family genealogy for some 40 years, driving distances to obtain records, used mail, spent thousands of dollars and hours. I have taken classes on genealogy and genetic genealogy. These classes always included documentation (sourcing), yes, even the DNA courses. Someone, I don't know who said, "genealogy without documentation is mythology."

I think that is what several of the respondents to this discussion are trying to emphasize. If we wish to be good, responsible genealogists, we need to document and document properly. This isn't Ancestry, or 23andme, or My Heritage, or FTDNA. It's not just a matter of building trees and taking for granted that the 'hints' and 'leaves' for citations are correct.

As many Wikitreers in prior answers and comments have said, learning to 'inline source' can take time. It is a learning curve. I had to admit to myself that I didn't know everything about sourcing. Sctually, no one knows everything about anything, which is why we are all in this together.

It has been a struggle, but I am still learning this very different approach to sourcing. There have been several times where I have gotten irritated and down right angry when someone has edited what I have written in profiles that I am PM for (and now I leave a comment that if someone wants to edit to contact me first out of consideration), but need to tell myself that this is not about me. It's about having a collaborative online family tree that will be a well sourced/documented tree for our descendants long after you and I are dead. I don't want to be rolling in my grave when my genealogist great great grandson (who isn't born yet) says, "Where the hell did GGM Ume get that from? Why didn't GGM Ume inline source?"

Again, this isn't just about us and sometimes we must swallow that ire and say, "so what can I learn from this?" Perhaps requesting that people contact you first, or learn inline sourcing, etc. A great deal of terrific learning and ideas have already been presented in these various answers thanks to your question.

Thank you for your understanding.
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (653k points)
Hello Patricia,

Thank you for the Best Answer, but I truly think many of the other answers from my Wiki colleagues are much better brought about by a very fine question that happens frequently to many of us. I really need to credit the other respondents, who provoked (in a good way) thought in framing my answer. Actually, I've learned from many of these responders since I joined Wikitree! Thank you all, and thank you again, Patricia.

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