Magna Carta Project Reliable Sources

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Surnames/tags: magna_carta pre-1700 pre-1500
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For general WikiTree guidance on reliable sources, please see the help page on Reliable Sources.

Please note that the following are not generally considered primary sources. The ideal is to source genealogical facts to primary sources, although sometimes they can be wrong too.

For untranscribed primary sources, the page on palaeography lists some resources that may help with reading old handwriting.

Reliable Sources for the Magna Carta Project

As with all sources, mistakes are sometimes made, but the following generally are considered to be reliable.

Douglas Richardson's
  • Royal Ancestry (see this source page for copy/paste-able citation/footnote format)
  • Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd ed. (see this source page for copy/paste-able citation/footnote format) - substantial snippets viewable on Google Books
  • When using these books, try to track down the sources Richardson lists
History of Parliament Online
Cokayne's Complete Peerage, 2nd edition
Anderson's Great Migration Series (see the listing on Puritan Great Migration Project Reliable Sources page)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (available by subscription only)

Reliable Sources with Conditions

Visitations - while useful, they need to be used with caution:

  • prefaces to published volumes usually discuss some of the issues that arise
  • they are generally (but not invariably) fairly reliable for a generation or two before the date of the Visitation - before that, muddles and mistakes are more common
  • different Visitations may have conflicting information for the same person; occasionally there are conflicts between what is said about a person in two different pedigrees in the same Visitation
  • Visitations were copied, altered and added to - including versions held by the College of Arms
  • many published volumes contain additions by the editor, often with no clear sourcing, and often with nothing to indicate what was in the original Visitation and what was added

Cawley - Cawley's MedLands (online database; see this source page). An excellent source when an entry's facts cite primary sources, but they don't always. See this G2G answer for a good explanation of the problem.

Richardson's Plantagenet Ancestry - For Magna Carta Project-managed profiles, this source is not recommended because the focus is on Plantagenet, not Magna Carta ancestry. Facts should be checked against Magna Carta Ancestry (2nd edition) and/or Royal Ancestry. Google Books has a copy available in snippit view online, so citations to PA can be useful by including a link to the page cited. See WikiTree's source page for Plantagenet Ancestry.

Bartrum - Welsh Genealogies AD 300-1500 by Peter Clement Bartrum is an excellent source of information, but needs to be used with caution, especially as you follow the lineage back. Many of the people charted do not have any date(s) given, and generations are sometimes condensed. For details, see Darrell Wolcott's article, 'The Bartrum "Welsh Genealogies"' (accessed 1 August 2019).

FindAGrave: many entries on FindAGrave are in fact reconstructed from trees and represent information uploaded by users. These entries are no more reliable than family trees found on Ancestry and other websites. Biographies and family relationships on FindAGrave should never be relied on. FindAGrave should be used as a source only where there is an image of a tomb or memorial, or else a clear good source for the death or burial information (in which case it is probably better to cite that source). Even then, be aware that some memorials were erected by descendants long after the person’s death. Common sense should be used in judging whether memorial information is sufficiently reliable.

Wikipedia: genealogical information in an otherwise well-researched article may not be supported by a source at all or the source may be one that WikiTree would consider unreliable. When citing Wikipedia as a source for parent/child relationship(s), birth, marriage, and/or death information, please include not only a link to the Wikipedia article and date accessed but also the source(s) cited by Wikipedia for genealogical facts from the article.

Books and Databases (Magna Carta-specific and Colonist-specific):

  • Roberts, Gary Boyd, Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants, [database on-line]. (Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry Operations Inc, 2006). Original data: Roberts, Gary Boyd, The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants, (Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2004). If a lineage is in this book but it is NOT in Richardson, then it is not acceptable proof for profiles managed by the Magna Carta Project. (See also WikiTree's source page and Genealogical Library, limited preview.)
  • Weis, Frederick Lewis and Sheppard, Walter Lee Jr., Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists who Came to America Before 1700: 8th Edition, (Baltimore, Maryland, Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009). If a lineage is in this book but it is NOT in Richardson, then it is not acceptable proof for profiles managed by the Magna Carta Project.
  • Weis, Frederick Lewis, Ancestral Roots, [database on-line], (Provo, Utah, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006.) Original data: Weis, Frederick Lewis, Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700. (Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2004), If a lineage is in this book but it is NOT in Richardson, then it is not acceptable proof for profiles managed by the Magna Carta Project.
  • Weis, Frederick Lewis, The Magna Charta Sureties, [database on-line], (Provo, Utah, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006). Original data: Weis, Frederick Lewis. The Magna Charta Sureties, 1215. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1999. If a lineage is in this book but it is NOT in Richardson, then it is not acceptable proof for profiles managed by the Magna Carta Project.
  • Faris, David, Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth Century Colonists, database online, (Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry Operations Inc, 2006). Original data: Faris, David. Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth-Century Colonists (Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996): can be useful for research, but is not acceptable as a source on its own.

Unreliable Sources

The Puritan Great Migration Reliable Sources Page has an excellent collection with comments - see the Unreliable Sources section of the PGM Reliable Sources page.
Database compilations:
  • (ORTNCA - Marlyn Lewis’s database), which includes many descendants of the Magna Carta Sureties. Marlyn Lewis also gives information, with Richardson as an apparent source, which is not actually in Richardson, especially on dates and places. Where Richardson is cited by Marlyn Lewis, this needs to be verified against Richardson’s works, and only Richardson should be cited on WikiTree. Avoid giving Marlyn Lewis as a source so far as possible.
  • ( Darryl Lundy's database: this is largely based on a combination of Burke’s works and (increasingly) emails sent in to the compiler with no furthwr sourcing given. The site can be helpful in identifying possible relationships and lines of enquiry, but its use as a source in its own right should be avoided.
  • Tudor Place

Burke reference works:
  • all Burke reference works (including Burke’s Peerage, Burke’s Dormant and Extinct Peerages, and Burke’s Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies). They have many errors. 19th century editions are especially unreliable.
Cracoft's Peerage
Online trees:
  • Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilySearch Pedigree Files, Geni, etc., are unreliable sources, although they may include clues or citations from reliable sources.

Other Projects' Source Pages

Pre-1500 Resource Page
England Project Reliable Sources
EuroAristo Project Reliable Sources
New Netherland Settlers Project Reliable Sources
Penn Project Reliable Sources
Puritan Great Migration Project Reliable Sources
Quakers Project Reliable Sources
US History Project Reliable Sources
US Southern Colonies Project Reliable Sources
Wales Pre 1500 Resources

Other Useful Source Lists

Joe Cochoit's medieval genealogy page here.
Chris Phillips's Medieval genealogy sources page
WikiTree source list for The Middle Ages

Research aides

  • Stemmata Robertson et Durdin, compiled by Herbert Robertson, (London, 1893), InternetArchive, database online, Creative Commons License: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland. page 102, Table 30. This source can be useful as a supplement to figuring out obscure relationships.
  • McKechnie, William Sharp, Magna Carta a Commentary, database online, (Glasgow, Scotland, James Maclehose and Sons, 1914)
  • National Archives UK Research Guide to Medieval and Early Modern Family History


  • Cheney, C R, revised by Jones, Michael. A Handbook of Dates for Students of British History, new edition, Cambridge University Press, 2000, Internet Archive: especially useful for regnal years, saints' days and religious festivals


To make a suggestion for this source list, please post a comment on this page. For additions, include the source's full citation, appropriate links (e.g., WikiTree Source page,, FamilySearch, Google Books, and/or WorldCat links) & why you would put it in the section you're recommending for it. Thanks!

Comments: 5

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Thanks Michael! The focus of this page is on non-primary sources, but thanks for the info!
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Two suggestions for the list of reliable sources:

1. Calendars of UK State Records. There are a number of these. Patent Rolls, Close Rolls, Feet of Fines, etc etc. Some but not all of them are on British History Online - These are referred to on the general pre-1500 resource page,, to which there is a link on the MC project reliable source page, and you may think that enough.

2. Original deeds and charters. There is too wide a range of them, in too many different places, some online, some not, to point to particular books or websites.

posted by Michael Cayley