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Despite its flaws, FamilySearch Family Tree has the easiest-to-use citation (sourcing) process.

My godmother recently invited me to share editing of her tree on Ancestry, so despite not being a subscriber, I now have some experience with trying to attach sources there.

If the source is not from Ancestry, the process is absolutely horrid. If there's a way to attach a source to multiple people, I haven't found it, and none of the fields for creating a new source make any sense whatsoever for citing an online image of a record. Even if the source is on Ancestry, the citation is by default worthless, identifying the broad collection, but not the particular location, denomination, or even date. (Not being a subscriber, I can't get at Ancestry sources, so I don't know what the process is for attaching them; all I can see is the end result.)

The only part that Ancestry does better than FamilySearch is tagging: if you open a source, you get a checklist of every conclusion currently entered for the person the source is attached to, so you can check the box for everything that the source applies to.

Neither of the other communal trees I've tried makes sourcing as easy as FS. On Geni, you end up with a worthless thumbnail image of an error page, with all of the details buried about three links deep; it's no wonder that 99% of the profiles I see there have zero sources. On WikiTree, sources are supposed to be of paramount importance, but citing them involves coding in a mix of not-quite-HTML and not-quite-Wiki-markup that I can never quite remember how to do (and I'm normally pretty good at computerese).

Compared to all of these, FamilySearch's "Add Source" and "Attach from Source Box" are an absolute breeze to use. The "Attach to Family Tree" button on images and SourceLinker for indexed records each have their faults (no tagging on the one, utter crap for source titles from the other, for example), but they're marvels of efficiency in attaching sources to multiple people quickly and easily.

So thank you, FamilySearch, for not only providing most of my sources, but also making them easy to cite on Family Tree.
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  • Juli
    I agree I kind of a have a pet peeve with the communal trees such as Ancestry. Back in the 1990's they offered free subscription just submit your family data. But later to find out without a subscription fee which is now almost $200 a year you can not get sources documents found to individuals due to they've bought the rights to public records that many have a hard time obtaining. Also less collaboration from from family members of extended branches.
    Family Search as you say has it's flaws but it rates #1 in my opinion towards a one tree with more active collaboration than Ancestry, GenWeb, or other attempts. And the price is right the cost is your active research and documentation of family members.
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  • The integrated citation system is the most important feature of FamilyTree for me.
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  • One of the biggest problems with the citation system on Familysearch is that it does not properly deal with the archival citations for their documents. For example the UK National Archives has a very, very clear set of instructions for citing documents in their collection:

    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/he...

    Now the most used Kew collections on the system are the England and Wales censuses. Let's take an example of a census source I attached to a profile last night:

    https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/619...

    So that is a England 1901 census record and the record series at Kew is RG 13. So for a citation of the whole series the text would need to be:

    The National Archives of the UK (TNA): RG 13

    By contrast the FSFT citation is:

    PRO RG 13, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey

    Now moving to the specific bit within that series the correct citation would be

    The National Archives of the UK (TNA): RG 13/2907 f 85 p 29 sch 216

    In the transcribed bits of the record itself the page and the schedule number are mentioned. However there is no mention of the folio number and there is no mention of the piece number (2907) in the citation. The point of a citation is to be able to find the original document purely from the information contained in that citation. The FSFT "citation" for the actual original census document is completely inadequate. The lack of reference to the piece and folio numbers makes it impossible to find the original document. Whatever else you say about Ancestry's sources, or indeed Findmypast's, they provide the full citation information which means that you can go to the original archival catalogue and find the original document in that catalogue.

    With some other archives the citation policies are less clear and the catalogues are less comprehensive. Nevertheless the aim should still always be to get the source citation text to the point where someone could walk into the archive, get a reader's card and then order the original documents that the images come from. That is not possible at the moment.
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    • That's a collection citation. It is not a record citation and to get record citations you have to go behind the pay wall. A pain in the neck, but somewhat understandable. That specific collection is an index, so it's hardly surprising particular entries are behind a pay wall.
    • Record citations behind a paywall is utter nonsense. It's like buying a book with lots of footnote numbers, but needing to buy another book to actually see the footnotes themselves.
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  • David's point about content of citations illustrates that there are at least 2 aspects to the citation / sourcing process.

    1. Technical ease of use (finding which button to press, etc.)

    2. Content of the "citation".

    I would tend to agree that FS's technical ease of use is fine, where it is accessing a source in FS. I'm not experienced in non-FS sources.

    The content of the "citation", as David indicates, can be poor - though this is very much dependent, even wholly dependent, on the indexing process, of course. Incidentally, I really like "someone could walk into the archive, get a reader's card and then order the original documents that the images come from" as a criteria for success for aspect 2.

    I'd actually add another criteria (criterion?) for success in relation to content - how easy is it to get access to another version of the original published on a different internet site? Important where FS only has an index and it points to Ancestry (say) but I only have access to FMP. Obviously that will depend on how FMP have configured their access queries and FS can't be psychic about that, but there needs to be enough in the descriptive content - dates, places, record types, etc., - to be able to work things out. Not sure how well FS does on this score - almost certainly you need to go beyond the PID and off to the source-index in the Historical Records.
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