Help:Sources Style Guide

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This is a style guide for how to cite or record sources on a profile.

See also:


"Evidence Explained" Styling

There are a number of common styles used for citing material and creating bibliographies.

On WikiTree the preferred style is the Evidence Explained format[1], based on the Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS).

This is the ideal. Almost no profiles are perfectly sourced.

Sources and References

On WikiTree we have two basic types of what could interchangeably be called "sources" or "citations". For simplicity, we call them sources and references.

Usage is briefly explained on Sources. Here are more details on our standards for them.


What we call sources could be called items in a source list, bibliography, or works cited.

On WikiTree we put them beneath the references and a line that says "See also:".

Sources in this list should always be complete citations, while the references that refer to them can be abbreviated.

This list can contain web pages, books, and other sources where more information about the person can be found, whether or not they were specifically consulted as sources.

Ideally, this list is organized in alphabetical order, by the name of the author, editor, compiler, or translator (in that order of precedence), and by title if no information is given on authorship of the source. This ordering needs to be done manually and it's not generally a priority.

The Sources headline should always be a level two, i.e. == Sources ==. On very early profiles you may see it as a level three, i.e. === Sources ===. This should be fixed when you see it.


What we call references could be called citations, reference notes, inline references, footnotes, or endnotes.

A reference provides a source for a specific statement in the text. Ideally every fact related to a person has a reference.

The same source is often used multiple times to support different facts. Instructions for doing this are on the Sources page.

A reference may include a page number or section while the source list item describes the entire work.

A reference may include annotations, i.e. discussion or analysis of the cited source. Alternatively, a reference note may simply be an explanatory note and not a source citation at all.

References are automatically listed in the sequence that they are used in the text. This happens in place of the <references /> tag in the markup.

Since text may be rearranged, references should never be manually numbered, and you should not use terms like "ibid."

There should be no "Footnotes" or other headline above the references. You will see this on some older profiles because it used to be the default style.

Formatting Example

Here is an example of a properly-formatted sources section:

== Sources ==
<references />
See also:
* Smith, Elsie Hawes, ''Edmund Rice and His Family'' Boston, MA: Meador press (1938)

The "See also:" should be removed if there are currently no references above it or bulleted sources below it. However, the <references /> tag should never be removed since references may be added later. Ideally, there should always be individual references but we appreciate that often there are not.

If there is an Acknowledgements section (which is always optional), it should appear with a level-two == Acknowledgements == headline at the very bottom of the profile, beneath all sources.

You may notice profiles with "Contributors" sections. This is non-standard. If contributors need to be named in the text (instead of just in the Changes) it should be done with an Acknowledgements section.

Commercial Web Sites as Sources

Links to sources on paid subscription sites such as Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage can be frustrating for WikiTree members and visitors without access to these sites. We recommend searching for a freely available copy of the source document on sites such as FamilySearch, Google Books, USGenWeb,, or HathiTrust.

If the source record is only available to paid subscribers, when providing the URL please also extract as much information as possible, such as relevant names, dates, and the source of the original data.

  1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co.; 3rd edition (May 22, 2015). See also the author's blog by the same name: Evidence Explained

This page was last modified 15:45, 22 September 2023. This page has been accessed 46,889 times.