Effectively Including a Resource to your Ancestry Tree

As you discover new sources for an ancestor, do you add them to your online Ancestry tree? How do you create a source citation for that source and what notes should you include? With so many genealogists using Ancestry’s tree building and hinting capabilities, our added source may end up being multiplied and added to other trees. If we document our source well, another researcher will be able to retrace our footsteps and find the original documents themselves.

When I’ve completed a research project, I like to add newly discovered sources to my Ancestry tree which syncs with Family Tree Maker (my personal genealogical database).  Using two land records as examples I’ll show how I create an informative and complete source both for a source found online and one found in my paper files.

dding an Online Source to an Ancestor’s Record

Sources for our genealogy can be found on many different websites and we can easily add them to our Ancestry tree. For example, my Texan ancestor, William Henderson Shults applied for a land grant in 1878 in Brown County, Texas. The Texas General Land Office has digitized the complete file in beautiful color and I wanted to add this source to William’s record.

Navigating to William’s Facts page on my Ancestry Tree, I can see all the sources about him in the middle column. Those sources hosted by Ancestry appear at the top, then under “Other Sources” are those that I have added which include an affidavit by his son of William Henderson Shults’ birth date and a personal letter from his daughter, Anna Shults Wells, stating his death year.

Clicking on “Add Source” opened up a new page with the title “Create Source Citation Information for William Henderson Shults.” I was invited to “Enter the specifics that can help to verify a fact/event for William Henderson Shults.”

Three steps are provided: identifying the source of the information, creating the specific citation information, and identifying a specific fact or event in the ancestor’s life to link the source citation to. Looking at each step will demonstrate how I filled out the information.

1. “Source: Where does this information or evidence come from?”

The first specific Ancestry asks you for is the source. If you have previously created sources for your tree, the drop-down menu will reflect those sources. I uploaded a GEDCOM for this tree and each source I had added is in the list. I selected “Texas Land Grants” as my source. Each source can be edited, so if you are not happy with your original entry, you can add more details, or you can add a new source. The source referenced here refers to a broad collection, a book, newspaper, etc.

2. “Citation – What are the specifics of the information or evidence provided by this source? “

The next information for you to fill out refers to the specific entry. The only required field is the “Detail.” All other fields can be added to as desired. I simply copied and pasted the entire citation from my research log into the “Detail” field. I ignored the “Date” field since that information was in the citation. This land grant file contains 17 images, so I didn’t transcribe the text, instead I described the record in the “Other information field.”  I added the URL for the record on the Texas General Land Office website.

3. “Facts or Events: What fact(s) or event(s) is this source citation related to?”

Ancestry lists several facts and events for William Henderson Shults and because I had added the land record, I could select it to connect with the citation. The finished Citation Information on Ancestry lists the complete source citation first, then my notes about the record, the web address, and basic source information.

dding a Source Document to an Ancestor’s Gallery

You may have paper source documents in your file that you’ve scanned and would like to now upload to your ancestor’s gallery. My files included a photocopy of the land patent recorded in the Brown County, Texas, record book. This patent was issued to the heirs of William Henderson Shults in 1904, twenty years after his death in 1884. I wanted to add the land patent to his record. Here are the steps I took to upload the document, and add a source citation and notes.

Upload the image

The first step in the process is to “upload media.” You should have first digitized the source document and know the location on your computer. The screenshot below shows William Henderson Shults’s Gallery view and the “Upload Media” prompt.

After clicking on “Upload Media,” I dragged and dropped the land patent onto the screen. A dialogue box opened with the title already filled with the file name I had given the document: “1904 Land Patent W.H. Shults Brown Co. TX.” I follow a specific naming protocol for my documents of date, record type, name of person, place. I edited it a bit spelling out county and Texas and adding commas.

Next I selected “Document/Certificate” as the type of source. I added the date and location, then a full source citation in the “details” field and a brief transcription.

Clicking done saved the image along with the citation and brief transcription. Adding a complete source citation will enable anyone to trace the document back to me. The specific description could also help another researcher to locate the original document.

The source information can be edited at any time, so if you’ve uploaded documents without full citations, you can add those and adjust other information to help a viewer understand the record.

My finished source describes the record enough to understand the document at a quick glance, often what we need when reviewing our research.

One caution, be careful about adding images from other websites that may be under copyright. Always read the terms and conditions of the website. If an image is not allowed, you can still add the source  with a citation and a complete transcription of the document.

Filling out the profiles of our ancestors on an Ancestry family tree not only helps us to quickly see the sources we have discovered, it can help other researchers to learn more. Creating good source citations will add credibility to our work.

Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!




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