Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Adding a New Source Citation in an Ancestry Member Tree Profile

I almost always create a source citation for a record relating to a person in my family tree in my RootsMagic genealogy software program, using the source templates based on Evidence Explained as a guide.

I wanted to see how easy it was to add a new source citation to a profile in an Ancestry Member Tree.
For this test, I noticed that I had an approximate death date for Andrew Seaver (1705-1771) which indicated he probably had a probate record, but I did not have a source citation for the Death Fact.  Here is his profile in my Ancestry Member Tree:

I highlighted the Death fact on the screen above to see if I had a source citation for it, but there was no "purple snake" from the Fact to a source.

Can I find a record that indicates a death date?  I searched for him on, and easily found a 29 page probate record in the Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991 database:

Over on the right side of the screen above is the source citation information created by  It is:

Notes : Probate Papers, No 19962-20064
Source Information Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Massachusetts County, District and Probate Courts.
I could attach the record to the person in my tree, and have the source automatically created by  But I want to create a new source in Ancestry with Evidence Explained quality for this record to determine how easy it is to do.  I created a source citation in RootsMagic for this record:

Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991, indexed database with digital images, ( : accessed 3 Novamber 2015), Middlesex County, Probate Papers. No. 19962-20064, Case Number 20061 (images 1173-1201 of 1265), Andrew Sever administration, 1771; Original data: Massachusetts County, District and Probate Courts.

I want to try to put all of that into as my source citation.  On the profile for Andrew Seaver (first screen above), I clicked on the "Add Source" link below the list of Sources.  That opened the "Create Source Citation Information" screen (two screens below):

As you can see, there are four areas to enter data - Source, Citation, Media and Facts or Events.

I clicked on the "Create a new source" link under "Source" and filled in the fields as best I could:

The problem with this method is that Ancestry has a "one size fits all" source citation - it's designed for a book, with an author, title, publisher, publisher location, publication date, call number, note and repository.  I added information to the Title, Publisher, Publisher Location and Note fields.

At the bottom of the screen above is a link to "Save Source" (not shown).  I did that and the "Create Source Citation Information" screen opened.  I filled in some of those fields:

Again, I clicked the "Save Source" button on the bottom of the screen above (not shown).

I did not attach the Media item - maybe I'll try to do that in another post.

I did click the "Death" Fact in the list of "Facts or Events" in order to associate the Source with the Death Fact.

Okay, I think I'm done.  When I go back to the Profile page for Andrew Seaver, I clicked on the "Death" Fact and now see the "purple snake" going from the Death Fact to the newly added source citation:

I can click on the "View" link on the source citation and see the source citation for this Fact:

Again, it is not "all together" - it is separated into Citation information, Source information, and Repository information.  IMHO, it is better than the Ancestry-supplied source citation because it has true citation information - the record series, image numbers, the person's name, etc.

This took me about 15 minutes to figure out the first time.  I can do a RootsMagic source citation for this record in less than two minutes because I know how to do it.  I'm sure that practice would reduce the time on Ancestry.

Readers may wonder why I don't just use the Ancestry-supplied source citation and be happy with it. You know, I could copy and paste it into RootsMagic, or attach record images and the automatic Ancestry sources to persons in my Ancestry Member Tree.  Well, I've spent the last 6 years trying really hard to craft Evidence Explained quality source citations for persons in my RootsMagic database, and I really don't want to have an Ancestry-supplied source citation in my RootsMagic database.  It's as simple as "I don't want to crap up my database after spending a lot of years crafting quality source citations."

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Or contact me by email at


Bootsie said...

Hi, I am a follower of your blog for about one year. I really learned a lot today from your post adding a New Source Citation. I am a new member of Heritage,org and belong to Ancestry. I am really trying to expand my knowledge on how things work and apply them to my own research. Ancestry just updated my tree to the new method and a source I just entered had a purple line drawn to it. You called it a snake. I had no idea of what this meant and no time to call ancestry in the middle of what I was doing. Your article today explained that and more. I love that you post pictures of the site as you explain it. Seeing what your talking about is a great reminder in how to use it. I had no idea because I am new to Heritage that you could check for others that had searched under this name.
Anyways, thank you for your blog posting and emails. I enjoy both and you are teaching me a lot. I am attending my first Roots Magic in Feb. 2016 and am looking forward to learning a lot more. Maybe I will see you there??
Thanks again for all you do to pass on all your knowledge.
Judith Sago

Marian Koalski said...

Hi, Randy. I frequently have to add citations to my tree manually when the source is outside Ancestry, for example an Ohio marriage license application on FamilySearch.

My difficulty is in re-using that citation for the other parties named on the marriage license application... and there's always at least one other name, right? Ancestry makes me retype that information... into all of those separate boxes. I've never been able to get Ancestry to acknowledge that this is a problem, let alone work on a solution. Their "solution" is for me to buy and use FTM, but I'm happy with Reunion. I was hoping that the New Ancestry might have revised their tunnel vision, but no.

Family Sleuther said...

I'm surprised (although I probably shouldn't be) that Ancestry hasn't beefed up the caliber of their own pre-fab citations or created a more user-friendly template to input an Evidence Explained-esque citation. Thank you for outlining these steps. Helpful.

Darren Price said...

People who have Family Tree Maker databases tree-synched to their Ancestry trees aren't necessarily stuck with the citations generated by the website. The usefulness of Ancestry's generated source citations (and note that I say "usefulness" rather than "correctness") varies considerably from one Ancestry database to another, in some cases generating sources without any citation whatsoever (i.e., a blank citation record). The source records can't be modified from the FTM side (they'll just be overwritten with the next Tree Synch), but the citations can be.

Also, for citations crafted entirely on the FTM side, there's been a much better effort at EE-like templates.