Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fixing Source Citations on My Ancestry Member Tree

After I wrote Source Citations Created by Mobile App two weeks ago, I received an email from a Genea-Musings reader that said:

"I agree that the source citations suck, and the ones created by the Mobile App suck even worse, but how would you fix them?  Is there any way to edit the Source Citations in the Ancestry Member Tree and make them Evidence! Explained quality?"

I love a challenge, and I finally figured out how it can be done.  But it is not easy to do, and takes several minutes for each one once you get the hang of it.

Here is the process I used:

1)  From a Person profile (I chose Frank Walton Seaver, 1852-1922):

2)  The screen above is the "Overview" tab.  After clicking on the "Facts and Sources" tab, and the "Source Citations" button, I saw:

3) I wanted to edit the 1880 United States Federal Census citation for the Name, Birth and Residence Facts.  The "Detail" line said:

"1880 United States Federal Census" without any information about the town, county, state, ED, page, household, NARA publication or roll number.

4)  I clicked on the "Detail" text (it was clickable) to get to the "Source Citation" screen below:

The screen above had fields for "Transcription of Text," "Detail," "Date," "Web Address," "Other Information," "Source Title" and "Source Repository."

The "Transcription of Text" had this entry:

"birth date: 30 June 1852; birth place: Medfield, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States; residence date: 1880, residence place: Leominster, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States."

NOTE:  The census record provided only an age (27) and birthplace (Massachusetts) - the "transcription" above used information for birth date and birth place from the information in the Ancestry Member Tree, not from the 1880 Census record.

5)  In order to see and edit the Citation Detail, the user has to click on the "Edit citation" link in the right hand column on the screen above.  This brings up the "Edit Source Citation" screen with fields for "Source," "Citation," "Date," "Transcription of Text," "Other Information," "Web Address," and  "Facts or Events."  Here is the screen before editing the information:

6)  If I click the "Edit this source" link next to the "Source" field, I can add or edit information in fields for "Title," "Author," "Publisher," "Publisher Location," "Publisher Date," "Call Number," "Note, "REFN," and "Repository:"

7)  In order to create a source citation that follows the Evidence! Explained model for an 1880 US Census image, I deleted everything in the "Edit Source" fields above, except for the "Title."

Then I deleted the information in the "Citation Detail," "Citation Date," and "Transcription of Text" fields.  I also changed the Repository text to be " (, Provo, Utah" from "iPhone Tree."  The iPhone Tree isn't the Repository - it is the means I used to access the repository of the digital image, which is

Lastly, I opened my RootsMagic database, went to Frank Walton Seaver, highlighted the 1880 U.S. Census Fact, found the Source Citation for the image, and copied it to my clipboard.  I went back to the Ancestry Member Tree and pasted it into the "Citation Detail" field.  The resulting "Edit Source Citation"  screen looks like this:

8)  The edited "Source Citation" page looks like this now:

The 1880 U.S. Census Source Citation for Frank Walton Seaver is almost in EE model - except the NARA Film Number and Roll Number were excised due to a character limitation in the "Citation Detail" field.  I could accommodate that by using abbreviations for "United States," "Population Schedule," "National Archives," or some other phrase.

9)  I clicked on the "View List of Source Citations for this person" link and saw:

The reader can easily see the difference between the 1880 U.S. Census citation and the other source citations.  

If I click on the "View Record" button on the list above, I can see the record summary with a Source information of:

Source Citation:  Year: 1880; Census Place: Leominster, Worcester, Massachusetts; Roll: 565; Family History Film: 1254565; Page: 525C; Enumeration District: 850; .
Source Information: and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. All use is subject to the limited use license and other terms and conditions applicable to this site.
Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

I sincerely doubt that will ever modify their source citations for digital images to reflect anything close to Evidence! Explained models.  There are just too many record collections for them to make the time and effort to modify them, and then people like me will complain some more about the format.

So that means users have four choices:

1)  Accept the generated source citations as provided and not worry about them being of Evidence! Explained quality.  I believe that most persons who attach records using Shaky Green Leaves will not give a damn about the source citation format, and will just accept what Ancestry gives them.

2)  Go into their Ancestry Member Tree and modify the source citations created by Ancestry resulting from the attachments of the digital images, using the process above.  I believe that no researcher will do this for more than a few citations.  I have hundreds of citations like the above, and my judgment is that it will be a serious time suck and time waste.

3)  Sync their Ancestry Member Tree to a Family Tree Maker 2012 database, and edit the source citations using the FTM 2012 source citation template.  Some researchers will probably do this, and this is better than 1) or 2) above, plus you have the link to the record summary and the record image on your Ancestry Member Tree.  If someone has many attached records, this may be a long and tedious process.

4)  Don't attach records to persons in the Ancestry Member Tree.  Download the record image to the user computer, and attach them to persons, events or sources in their genealogy program, and craft an Evidence! Explained source citation for the record.  This is the path I chose two years ago, and have not regretted it since.  I do this in RootsMagic 5, and occasionally GEDCOM the file into FTM 2012 and create a new Ancestry Member Tree with EE-quality sources and attached record images.

What has done to enable record image attachment to persons in Ancestry Member Trees is admirable and very easy, almost mindless, to do.  It is a seduction that should be resisted by genealogists who want EE quality source citations.  At least until Ancestry fixes their source citations.  I'm not going to hold my breath!

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Barbara Jean Mathews said...

Thank you, Randy, I needed this post. I can't understand why Ancestry won't put in the "detail" on a source you capture from them. If you go into the source to edit, then you can't save it until you yourself put in that detail. Urghh.

Cousin Russ said...


As you know, I use FTM2012. I am taking this year to transform ALL of my Sources and Citations into the Template format that is in FTM2012. Any time I add a new record from or any genealogy database I change the "free form" Source and Citation and put them into the Template format.

I am more concern with my data, as I generate Books and individual reports, and I want the Reference Notes to be in the Evidence Explained!! / generally accepted format.

I few extra minutes, perhaps, but the end product is my concern.


Unknown said...

I can tell you, Randy, in FTM2012 it's still hard work. I decided against using the templates, and just fill the appropriate standard GEDCOM fields in such a way, that sources are exported (more or less) properly for use in other genealogy software.

Unknown said...


You may have anserwed this somewhere before, but how do you Fix Source/citations in FTM?