Posted by Ancestry Team on March 14, 2008 in Family Tree Maker

I would like to start a discussion about rating source-citations. Below are some steps to rate a source-citation in Family Tree Maker 2008.

Family Tree Maker lets you rate the reliability of your sources. You can rate each source-citation to note both the legibility of the source as well as its potential accuracy (i.e., primary source, secondary source, family legend, etc.).

  1. Click the Sources button on the main toolbar.
  2. Find the source-citation you want to rate and click it in the Source-Citations list.
    (The screen shots are not meant to be a model for proper sourcing, but illustrate how rating sources works.)
    Family Tree Maker 2008 Sources
  3. Click the Links tab, if necessary.
  4. If the source-citation has more than one individual linked to it, click the person’s name on the Links tab.
    Family Tree Maker Source-Citation
  5. Click the Rate the source icon (a yellow star). The Rate Source window opens.
    Note: You can click the gray (X) button or the Reset button to clear the current rating.
    Family Tree Maker 2008 Rating a Source-Citation
  6. Use this chart to change the source’s rating:
    To do this Do this
    Use your own rating system In the Quality score section, click the number of stars to indicate your rating. The more stars you choose, the higher the quality of the source-citation as it pertains to that fact.Note: In the Ratings column, self-rated stars appear in blue. 
    Use a standardized rating system Click the Use standardized ratings checkbox. Choose how to rate the source:  

    • Source. Choose whether the source is an original document or a transcription or translation of the original.
    • Clarity. Choose the legibility of the source.
    • Information. Choose whether this information comes from primary or secondary sources.
    • Evidence. Choose whether the source states a fact or requires additional evidence. 

    Note: In the Ratings column, standardized stars appear in gold. 

  7. If necessary, you can add additional comments about your ratings in the Justification field.
  8. Click OK. You will see the rating you chose for the source-citation on the Links tab.
    Note: You can also see the rating in the People workspace. Click the Person tab.; then select the sourced fact in the Individual and Shared Facts section. The rating appears on the Sources tab in the editing panel.

Note that source-citation ratings measure the quality of a source-citation as it applies to a specific fact rather than to the quality of the source or source-citation in general.  That is because a single record may provide excellent proof for one fact but marginal proof for another.  For instance, a census record often lists a person’s name and age at the time of the census.  Thus, that single record provides fairly good proof of the person’s name (3 or 4 stars), and only a vague reference to a birth date (1 or 2 stars).

Please let me know your thoughts on rating source-citations.


  1. Caroline

    My first reaction is rating the sources in you own Family Tree Database is pretty much a waste of time. If I’m interested how reliable a source for a particular fact I’ve recorded is, I’m not going to rely on some number of stars I put on a source when I first recorded it, I’m going to go look at the full citation and know exactly where I got it. I think a better idea would be to add a field that saves Primary Source, Secondary Source, Interview, etc. The only place I see them as being very helpful is when you share your information for someone else to evaluate what you’ve sent.

  2. Larry Czarnik

    As per Judy Adams,

    What about instead of “The screen shots are not meant to be a model for proper sourcing, but illustrate how rating sources works.” you DO provide a model of proper sourcing.

    Or more importantly provide NECESSARY options (like including more than just date on the Outline Report, a book facility, or easier ways to manage sources (multiple sources), or when importing scrapbooks from previous versions not forcing the user to have to go back and re-arrange all their photos back under the individuals, or … or … or …?

  3. Daryl Rickards

    I agree with Caroline, Judy and Larry. There are more important issues with FTM 2008 (V17)than rating source information. I am currently validating all my records for source information (3000 in all probably small compared with others)but be assurred that what I put in as source has been thoroughly researched to the best of my ability and the restrictions of external databases.
    Let’s not waste developers time on “features” that nobody wants.

  4. Tyler Rasmussen

    OK, so no one seems to want the rating system. I would like to say I find the rating system to be useful for one thing: when I have contradicting facts and I’m trying to sort out which fact is the correct one. Using this system, I can just take a glance at the stars and tell which one I trust more.

    I think an entry on proper source citations would be useful, myself.

    And I think though the rating system is probably one of the more side features of FTM 2008, sources are not. I would like to see this feature continually enhanced. Specifically, I would like to see the tool mirror the capabilities of Word 2007’s Citation Tool (Microsoft did something right! but they stole it from other word processors, I’m told). This tool helps people enter the proper information based on the type of source they are using and allows the user to change the default style for bibliographies. There are a lot of specialized types of sources genealogists use (census records, SSDI, certificates, vital records) which FTM could have specialized tools for entering relevant information for sources.

    Also, I would better control of when the citation text is or is not displayed (on the person page vs. on reports, etc.). And now that I’m looking at it, could person page give mouse-over views of sources with citation text the same way the “Link to Source” view does?

    PS – In Firefox, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, the “Submit Comment” button disappears. Please fix.

  5. Rod Fields

    I totally agree with Caroline, I dont care about stars, would much rather have the Primary, Secondary, etc with maybe a comment field to where you could put info about the source, location, clarity, or whatever. This would be much more helpful researching.

  6. Tony D'Antuono

    Thanks Benjamin – Great Tip. After working on this for a while, I agree with Tyler, more informative mouse over information for the rating would be awesom!! I ended up with some media that I had directly attached to Facts without first creating a source, which, after thinking about it was not what I wanted. Since you are able to have media attached directly to facts without creating a source, is there a way to rate the media directly – and would you ever want to?

  7. Kathy Marie


    Increase the field lengths on the “Add Source Title” form for: “Title of “Source”, “Publisher”, “Publisher Location”, “Source Repository” and “Call Number”

    In many cases the lengths of these fields are way too short and I end up having to be very creative with abbreviations in order to get the full information I need into the provided number of character spaces. They (especially the Source Repository field length) are causing information to be truncated if the user is not cognizant of the allowed field length. Many users have complained about the truncation of the repository information and probably don’t realize that FTM 2008 only allows so many characters.

    Standardize the terminology being used, and also standardize the Source Information [AKA Source Repository] and Source Citation [AKA Call Number] information provided by TNG/Ancestry.Com. See example below

    Source Citation: Year: 1920;Census Place: Omaha Ward 3, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T625_988; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 32; Image: 271.

    Source Information: 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA.

    The information (example above) which is provided along with the search results from Ancestry.Com is quite helpful, but some improvements can and need to be made.

    First, the terminology needs to be standardized. The output from a search on Ancestry.Com uses the terminology “Source Information” for the exact same thing that is called “Source Repository” in FTM 2008 and the output from a search uses the terminology “Source Citation” for the exact same thing that is called the “Call Number” in FTM 2008. [I am not quite sure about this last statement because elsewhere in FTM 2008 there is a form called the “Edit Source-Citation” and it is “created” from things called “Source Title”, “Repository” , “Citation Detail” (which looks a lot like the Source Citation from Ancestry.Com) and “Citation Text”.] The terminology used within FTM 2008 itself also is confusing (e.g., using different words for the same thing), but when trying to match FTM 2008 terminology with the terminology within Ancestry.Com it becomes doubly difficult with a whole new set of terminology. All-in-all the entire set of terminology is very confusing. What needs to be done is to standardize the terminology within FTM 2008 and then use that exact same terminology in all the TNG groups/companies documentation

    Secondly the information provided by Ancestry.Com as part of the output from a search needs to be standardized. As stated above the information is quite helpful. The problem is that that every time a new “Owner”/Merger occurs within the now called “The Generations Network “ group of companies, the descriptions provided for the Source Information [AKA Source Repository] and Source Citation [AKA Call Number] are changed. The end result is the user ends up with, for example, two different repository/source information descriptions (one before the merger and a different one after the merger) for the exact same census obtained via Ancestry.Com. The way the Source Information description is written it is more like a marketing tool or has marketing information embedded within the description. Standard descriptions (that don’t change when a merger/new owner occurs) will go a long way toward minimizing changes by users and improving customer satisfaction of the system

    The “Add Source Title”, “Add Source-Citation and “Add Repository” forms provided by the system are very limited in their usefulness and can be considerably improved.

    All three of the forms can be moved about the monitor screen(s) by the user. They can even be dragged to a second monitor if so desired. This is a good feature.

    However, all three forms are way too small and you can’t see the information you have entered or are entering into the forms. [The size of the “Add Repository” form and visible text borders on the ridiculous.] In order to efficiently use the forms and minimize errors you have to type the information you want to enter into the forms on a word processor, edit it and then copy and paste the information into the forms.

    All three of the forms need to be redesigned so that they can be resized by the user. By doing this (and allowing the user to establish the size of the forms) users can resize them to the size they desire in order to see as much of the information being entered/already entered as they want to see. [By the way there are many other forms within FTM 2008 that suffer from this problem and they all need to be reviewed and redesigned so the user can establish the size desired by them]

    The forms also need to be redesigned with a “Memory Capability” so that when the user reopens the forms they reappear in the same place and at the same size as they were when the user previously closed them.

    A word processing (spelling, editing, etc.) capability also needs to be provided for entering and editing data into these forms. Indeed this capability needs to be provided for entering ALL data into FTM 2008. I just wish the capability had been provided for previous versions of Family Tree Maker. I am in the process of checking the data entered into version 16 so that I will be able to use it efficiently in FTM 2008 (when FTM 2008 becomes a more viable system) and I find most of my data errors are due to typographical errors that would have been eliminated at the data entry stage if a word processing capability had been previously provided

  8. Athena

    I think we need to be fair to Ben. He’s well aware of the dissatisfaction many of us have expressed about missing or degraded features and is actively working to get those things fixed. In the meantime, he is posting tips about how users can get the most from FTM2008 in its current state.

    RE rating sources: I agree that media ratings would be helpful too. It’s not uncommon to find a box full of old pictures and often identification involves a bit of guessing. It would be nice to be able to flag those guesses in some way.

    Even more helpful to though, would be some way to flag an individual as “iffy”. The ease with which information can be merged from the web carries its own hazards: too many unproven relationships. Researchers work with possibilies all the time: “Are these the parents of [whomever]?” “Is this the right John Smith, brother of my ancestor Samuel?” People need some visual indicator on charts and in reports — eg. dotted box lines, hatch marks, font change, etc. — that the individual is a guess rather than proven relative.

    Users need to be able to use the software to keep a record of these possibilities without cumbersome workarounds involving two different databases (never being sure which one is “pure”).

  9. Dusty

    Bravo, Athena, bravo. Very well stated. I, too, feel that Ben and staff are working hard on problems stated by the current users and are making head way. Recently tested the upcoming patch (Beta 902), and observed quite an improvement in program speed, functionality, and a whole lot less crashes by the program. None, by the way, after using the patch for a couple days. The Paste Source/Link function was a great addition to data entry, too. Saves alot of time once the initial Source has been entered, especially when doing census entries for large families.

  10. Will

    I tried Source-Citation ratings initially but gave up on them. They’re a good idea, but I was overwhelmed by the prospect Gold Starring thousands of citations. It would have resulted in a lot more clicking than my finger could handle.

    In general, I’m pretty careful when inserting facts to my tree. If I feel a statement is on shaky ground or needs further explanation, I describe my reasoning in the Note field.

    I appreciate the FTM team for continuing to improve the product. You can argue that the initial release was perhaps premature, but they’re listening to constructive criticism over at and making great strides.

  11. Jeff Jahn

    Here’s the problem I see with the rate of sources. First if you follow that standard rules the most you will ever get is 2 stars. Why is that will if you use ancestry, most of them are index’s hence second hand sources basicly subject to the indexer errors. Second why would i want to go through all that time to rate my sources only to have it not show on reports. If I have added a source i feel comfortable with it so no need to rate. Rating would only be used if i want to show someone else how comfortable I was with that source.

  12. Paul

    The stars sound ok in theory but in practice, at least the way they’re implemented here, their use is very limited. The only way I would use them was if I could easily look up weakly sourced facts (ie 1 star) that need more research. But even then I don’t think it would be the best way to identify the “iffies.”

    On the most basic level, of course, genealogy is not about facts but about relationships. The facts are there to attest to the relationships. As Athena points out, what you know about an individual is where (or even if) he or she fits in the tree. What I want to know is not how credible the source of a fact is (like other here I generally know the credibility of my sources). I want to be able to visualize how comfortable I am about the validity of links between people. I wholeheartedly agree with Athena that the ability to assign visual cues to relationships is more useful than the star system.

    That would be (as they say) sweet.

    Also I’m looking forward to the next release. I posted some early rants on FTM2008 but it looks like our concerns are being heard and worked on.

  13. Fran

    It seems to me that at times it is not the reliability of a single source, but the summation of several sources which confirms or adds to the certainty for some information. For example census data (or even better several decades of census data) that confirms information in a published biography in a county history, a published obiturary, and information from family lore. As a single source of information, all of these could be suspect, but when the information is consistent or inconsistent in a particular way, the sum may give you a fairly good picture of “truth” of a particular fact. It seems to me it is the accuracy of a fact rather than the source which is important.

  14. Rating of sources/source facts is a necessary evil and should be done.

    However, as many FTM users have expressed concerns regarding the inordinate time required to rate thousands of individual “sources”, e.g. Census records, why not have an option to either rate each “source” individually or rate all “source facts” in one operation as most FTM users know as the source?

  15. Debbie Wilson

    I am getting rid of a 2002 desktop and I’ve saved all of my Family Tree Maker info to a flash drive. If I buy the newest version and put it on my laptop will I be able to retrieve all of my all info. Forgive me if this is a very elementary question but I need to know. Thanks!

  16. I also do not think more “bells and whistles’ are needed. This software is already big and bulky enough. Fix the other concerns first.

  17. Athena

    I’m certainly not going to get involved in rating all my citations; I only rate questionable ones.

    I would also remind everyone to be careful about interchanging the terms “source” and “citation”. Rating a source may not be as useful as rating the citation. While my level of confidence in a particular source — e.g. a particular census — may be high, confidence in a specific citation might be very low.

  18. Michael

    I recently attempted to export a snippet of a very large tree in both FTW and GEDCOM formats and discovered that ALL sources were exported, not just those attached to people in the snippet. I really do not wish to share my entire source database with others, when really, I’m sharing only a few people. Any ideas on how to correct this? If not part of standard feature functionality this would be a nice enhancement.

  19. Benjamin Nettesheim


    This issue is identified and will be fixed in the next Service Pack Update, due to be release to the public shortly.

  20. All,
    while I agree that there are some issues that need to be addressed in FTM 2008 let’s not beat a dead horse here. Should Ben remain mute on the other features of FTM because there are issues?

    Regarding the feature, I think it is great. There are some research items that I want to record as a lead to be followed up on later but am not convinced are correct. This is a helpful way of documenting the confidence I have in the info.


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