Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to add sources to FamilySearch Family Tree

I got an interesting comment about how adding sources to the information we gather as genealogists was too hard, especially for beginners. Well, no one is compelled do genealogy. It is an entirely optional activity and if you are going to do it, as my Father used to quote his father, anything worth doing is worth doing right. But it is not just "right" to add sources, it is the core and very essence of the activity. Genealogy without sources is nothing but rumors.

Now, notwithstanding the origins of the data in FamilySearch Family Tree and notwithstanding the lack of documentation and sources to that data for whatever reason, and further notwithstanding the effort that may or may not have been put into the data in the past, the current program has an elegant method of adding sources and promises to break the endless cycle of copying wrong information. But it only works if it is used.

First, it is important to note that there is a way to directly connect sources to support each event or fact from itself that makes the process slick and relatively easy. There is also a way to reference and link to sources outside of As with anything even mildly complicated, you might just have to read the manual of instructions. In this case, the manual is called "Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (3 January 2013)." The date refers to the date of the latest changes to the program and will increment as the program evolves. There are two versions of the Reference Manual: one that contains the extra information about Temple ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and one where that information is omitted. The Reference Manual is located in the Help Center on a page called Family Tree Training. You may need to register and login to the program to see all of this information.

The references about to how to enter sources are contained in Chapter 7 of the Reference Manual, currently from page 99 to page 126. The entire process of adding sources to Family Tree revolves around a temporary individual storage area called the "Source Box." This is each users' individual source box and cannot be accessed by any other users. Here is the description of the Source Box from the Reference Manual at page 102 (page numbers may change as information is added to the Manual):

Your source box contains the sources that you want to attach to your ancestors. It lets
you reuse sources instead of retyping a source each time you need to use it. 
You can add up to 10,000 sources in your source box. However, most people find that
having too many sources makes it hard to find the one they need. Use these hints to
manage your source box effectively. 
  • In your source box, keep only the sources that you need for the ancestors that you are currently working on. Your source box is not intended to be a place to permanently store every source that you have ever created. 
  • After you attach a source to every ancestor that needs it, remove it from your source box.
  • Use folders to organize your sources into groups. For example, you could create a folder for all of the sources about a specific family line. When you open that folder, you can see a much smaller set of sources and more easily find the one that you want. You can have up to 50 folders in your source box.
The link to the Source Box is in a pull-down menu from where your name appears at the top of each page in You click on your name to see a link to the Source Box. When you find a source in's Historical Record Collection, you can add the source to your Source Box by clicking on the link, which changes to say "Add a Source." The Reference Manual explains this as follows at page 99:

You can get a source into your source box in these ways:
  • You can enter the source by typing in a title, URL, citation, and notes.
  • You can find a record on, and add it to your source box. When you add a source this way, does all of the hard work for you. It creates the source title, URL, and citation. All you have to do is enter any notes that you want. If improves any of the information about this source, it makes the changes in Family Tree for you.
  • You can find a source that is attached to someone in the tree and add it to your source box for use on your own ancestors.

If you add a source from, all of the information about the source is automatically copied into the reference in your Source Box. Once and entry in in your Source Box, that source information can be linked to any of the pertinent individuals. This is done by going to the individual's information page and clicking on the links to Add a Source. If you add a source from outside of, then you will have to type in the information in a form and then add the source.

All this sounds more complicated than it really is. Right there on the Family Tree Training page there is a video called, of all things, "Adding Sources." I suggest viewing the video also.

I will continue this discussion in the future and address the commonly asked questions about sources.


  1. I have been using Family Tree for about a year now and love it! I have spent many hours finding sources and attaching them to my ancestors. Over the last few months I have learned a few things that others might benefit from, besides the basic 'find a source-add source to Source Box-paste or type notes-attach to all ancestors mentioned in the source' procedure.

    Family Tree Tips
    a. If you want to use a book (not usually the best source but useful for clues) from as a source for someone in your Family Tree, be aware that the URL in browser is very temporary. You should be able to find a permanent link, however. Right now I see 'Copy Link' in the top right corner by the title of the book I just accessed. When I click on 'Copy Link' it opens the permanent link that I can copy by using Ctrl-C. Then I paste it into the web page field of the source I am creating.

    b. Use the little 'Copy' button located beside 'My Source Box' on the landing pages of the sources you find in This copies what has been indexed so you can paste the indexed data into the notes field in your source. It does not pick up household information on census records, however. You can copy and paste that in also if desired.

    c. If you find a source attached to one of your Family Tree ancestors that is not in your Source Box (maybe someone else attached it there or you removed it from your Source Box by mistake) and you want to attach it to a relationship or to someone else,
    1. click on the title of the source you want,
    2. click on 'view'
    3. add it to your Source Box as you would any other source you find on
    The entire source, including notes, will be copied and you will still be able to tell to whom and to which relationships it has already been attached.

    d. Be sure to attach sources to your husband-wife AND parent-child relationships to prevent others from coming in behind you and deleting correct relationship data.

    e. I think it is important to put a transcription of the source data in the Notes field in Family Tree. If a website outside of FamilySearch disappears, the information from it will persist in Family Tree. Even if the Source is on, including a transcription or extract makes it easier to make sure you attach the source to all persons mentioned in it. Transcript is a very helpful free program that can be downloaded from It allows you to open an image you have saved to your computer and right below the image you can type the information you see in the image.

    f. At drag the ‘Tree Connect’ button to your browser bookmark bar. (It works with Chrome, Firefox and Safari but NOT Internet Explorer) When you find a source on a webpage other than, click on the 'Tree Connect' button, sign in to and save it to your Source Box, so you can attach it to your ancestor(s). If you highlight the information you find in a source before clicking on the 'Tree Connect' button, Tree Connect will put that information in the notes field.

  2. I was one of the people who said it was hard... I admit it. You are right though, for sure. It is way important to add sources. I was spoiled by features like Hints and the button on Member Trees you can click that auto-populates the search form and shows you results. Then you can connect sources directly from any source you find without the middle step of adding it to a box first. It is a few less steps. I do think the "My Source Box" of FamilySearch is more versatile than the shoebox of though. I just want the best of everything. ha ha Well, that is that. I will keep adding sources and hoping it keeps getting easier.