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Magna Carta Project Reliable Sources

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Magna Carta Project

Project:Magna Carta ~ How to Join

See also this project page.
The Magna Carta Project either does or could co-manage with other projects all of the profiles within the scope of the Magna Carta Project. Therefore, not only does this page have a section with links to many of the projects we co-manage profiles with, but the following list also refers to other projects' pages (such as linking to the PGM Project's page for Anderson).
Please note that the following are not generally considered primary sources.[1] The ideal is to source genealogical facts to primary sources, although sometimes they can be wrong too.

Reliable Sources

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

Douglas Richardson's works:[2]
  • Richardson's Royal Ancestry (see this source page for copy/paste-able citation/footnote format)
  • Richardson's Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd ed. (see this source page for copy/paste-able citation/footnote format)
History of Parliament Online (see this project page for citation format; see also the History of Parliament Online FAQs)
Cokayne's Complete Peerage, 2nd edition
Anderson's Great Migration Series[4]

Reliable Sources with Conditions

Visitations - range from primary source to possibly unreliable.

The following comments are from G2G discussions:
"The books themselves are compilations from the original manuscript(s), and they will have an extensive introduction discussing these sort of issues, and will often draw on other documentation. If you ever need to use the genealogies from a Visitation you must read the introduction to get a full understanding." (click here for full comment)
"As for the veracity of the visitations, they were what was reported at the time of the visitation. So one in 1565 should be OK for the previous couple generations but not necessarily for earlier." (click here for full answer)
For more information, see Notes About Visitations, below.

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. See also the (entry on the Pre-1500 Resource Page).

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 - Peter Bartrum's work (available online through The Bartrum Project - 'An electronic Version of 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).

Database compilations:

  • http://our-royal-titled-noble-and-commoner-ancestors.com/ (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. Only use this source when it specifically cites Douglas Richardson's books (and be sure that Richardson's books support the information shown). Citations of Richardson should be given as well. (see this project page for citation format).
  • http://thepeerage.com/ (thepeerage.com). Darryl Lundy's database: this is largely based on a combination of Burke’s works and (increasingly) emails sent in to the compiler. Information sourced to emails should at most be regarded as just a pointer for further research: it should not be used for sourcing. Burke’s Peerage and other Burke reference works are not reliable sources: they have many errors. Any 19th century Burke reference work should be regarded with particular caution. thepeerage.com can be helpful in identifying possible relationships and lines of enquiry, but its use as a source in its own right should be avoided as far as possible.

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.

  • Note that EuroAristo lists Find A Grave as Unreliable.[5]
  • Puritan Great Migration Project also lists Find A Grave as Unreliable.[6]

Wikipedia articles can also be problematic. 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), Ancestry.com. 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). This database is useful for research, but is not acceptable as a source on its own.

Unreliable Sources

Database compilations:
  • 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. Cokayne's Complete Peerage covers some of the same ground (see Reliable Sources above).
Online trees:
  • Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilySearch Pedigree Files, Geni, etc., are unreliable sources, although they may include clues or citations for a reliable source.[7]
Many sources commonly imported in gedcoms:
  • The Puritan Great Migration Reliable Sources Page has an excellent collection with comments - see the Unreliable Sources section of the PGM Reliable Sources page.

See Other Projects' Pages Also

Pre-1500 Resource Page

Pre-1700 Resource Page

Puritan Great Migration Project Reliable Sources
  • Reliable: Anderson's The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III
New Netherland Settlers Project Reliable Sources
US History Project Reliable Sources
US Southern Colonies Project Reliable Sources
Penn Project Reliable Sources
Quakers Project Reliable Sources
England Project Reliable Sources
Welsh Royals Project Reliable Sources (not yet developed)
EuroAristo Project Reliable Sources
  • Reliable: Sources listed on Joe Cochoit's medieval genealogy page here.
  • Unreliable: "Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage: This source is rife with errors and is not deemed reliable."
  • Note: As of 5 August 2019, the EuroAristo Reliable Sources page covers all three of Richardson's works and the Lewis database (referred to as "Royal-Titled-Noble-Commoner website"). As noted above, the Magna Carta Project does not recommend the use of Richardson's Plantagenet Ancestry for Magna Carta Project profiles, as it is not specific to the project. The project also uses the formatting shown on the Source pages for Magna Carta Ancestry and Royal Ancestry, which is based on Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained, over what is displayed on the EuroAristo page. For formatting for citations to Lewis's database, see this project page.[8]

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)

Selected WikiTree Source Pages

Some of the following have been mentioned already, but are collected here for easy reference:
WikiTree Source pages can be very helpful.

Working on Magna Carta Descendant Profiles?

If you are working on profiles that are or will be in a Magna Carta Project trail (and, therefore, managed/badged by the project), please use the project's Checklist to develop and/or review the profile. For additional information, please also see the following project pages:

Suggestions?

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, archive.org, FamilySearch, Google Books, and/or WorldCat links) & why you would put it in the section you're recommending for it. Thanks!

Notes About Visitations

Visitations can be considered a primary source, depending. See the Comment on this page with links to G2G discussions. One answer about the reliability of Visitations is repeated in full here:

"Sometimes the informant would tell the herald what he remembered, but memories were faulty. Sometimes he might have a pedigree written out on a fancy scroll, but the process of producing those things wasn't too scrupulous. Available data would be used, but could be misinterpreted. Then blemishes would be removed, gaps filled, extensions grafted on.

"Sometimes the herald went prepared with a pedigree drafted from previous information, intending only to update it. Those trees contained errors as well.

"At the end of all that, there might be two or three copies of the report, not identical. Further copies would be made. Copies went into circulation, and people made additions and alterations. The copy at the College - if there was one - wasn't immune. The heralds would doctor their records to supply ancestries for the newly-ennobled nouveau-riche.

"Sometimes the editors of the books complicate things by making their own combinations from different sources. They often add extra pedigrees that didn't come from visitations at all.

"So as with all "primary" sources you have to use them judiciously, bearing in mind the ways that errors creep in, and the fact that people don't always want the truth recorded in the first place."

Thanks RJ!


  1. For the record, primary sources are considered reliable. When using a primary source, you'll want to post enough details so that another researcher will be able to locate it. If it is online, please include the URL and the date accessed.
  2. The Magna Carta Project was created not long before the 800th Anniversary Celebration of Magna Carta to provide WikiTree with reliable profiles for the 25 surety barons and to work on cleaning up and linking profiles of the Gateway Ancestors documented in Richardson's Magna Carta Ancestry to one of the 17 surety barons with descendants past the fourth generation. Magna Carta Ancestry (2011) and the more recent Royal Ancestry (2013) are the project's foundational references for its work. If you're working on Magna Carta profiles, please see the links (above) for more information.

    The project uses both Royal Ancestry, which is more recent, as well as Magna Carta Ancestry because the latter is specific to the project and Google Books has a copy available in snippit view online. The WikiTree source page for Magna Carta Ancestry has a link to the Google Books copy and other information, in addition to the copy/paste-able footnote/citation formatting.

  3. See details on the Pre-1500 Resource Page (here).
  4. See the listing on Puritan Great Migration Project Reliable Sources page.
  5. See details and additional sources the EuroAristo Project considers unreliable on the EuroAristo Project Reliable Sources page.
  6. See PGM Project's Note about Find-a-Grave on its Reliable Sources Page.
  7. Please re-take the Pre-1700 quiz for a refresher (see this page), but user-submitted online trees are unreliable sources, although sometimes they cite reliable sources. You would want to cite both the online tree and the source it cites for a fact. The goal is both to provide information that might be used to find the source for a fact and to give enough information for someone reading the profile to assess the quality of the source. For example, a Family Search pedigree file (a user-submitted online tree) is an unreliable source, but it may cite an image for the person's baptism, which is a primary source. Some WikiTree members will cite only the image; others will cite both the pedigree file and the image.
  8. Information from Lewis needs to be verified against cited sources because of the citation style followed by Lewis (citations are at the end of a phrase or sentence, implying the citation is for all information given in the phrase/sentence when this is frequently not the case). One of the Magna Carta Project's maintenance categories, Needs Source Check, was created primarily for this reason, as WikiTree profiles created with information from Lewis's database have been found to attribute to Richardson information that is not in Richardson's works.

This is an active Magna Carta Project page with up-to-date information
(linked pages may not be current).
Reviewed: Noland-165 18:57, 5 August 2019 (UTC)





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Comments: 4

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Oh my!! G2G is a wonderful source of info... Did you know that freereg.org will generate a citation for WikiTree for a record?

From Helen Ford's answer to a G2G post:

I noticed that you used Freereg as a source on his fathers profile.
If thats the same place you foud Henry's baptism I would use their citation as it hopefully gives a stable URL .Personally I would slightly amend it.
Go to the record, press generate citation, choose wikitree. My variation would be to add son of John and Audrey after Henry Tillie in the citation

Too Cool!

P.S. "Free Reg" is on England Project's Reliable Sources page (under Parish Records, which includes other useful links too).

posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Still looking for assessments of sources on this page.
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
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 - https://www.british-history.ac.uk. These are referred to on the general pre-1500 resource page, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space: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