Posted by Ancestry Team on February 4, 2009 in Family Tree Maker

The 2009 Software Update contains some exciting new (and updated) features! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my thoughts and experiences that I hope will help you take advantage of all the great new enhancements. Today we’ll look at source templates.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this: I don’t always practice what I preach when it comes to sourcing. My family tree may look great, but if you check out the sources, you’ll discover some irregularities. 

Maybe you’re like me. If I don’t know how to cite the source of a particular item (How do you source a postcard sent from France during WWI?), I start guessing. My default is to include every detail I know—whether it’s relevant or not. Who doesn’t transcribe the entire title page of a book into the Comments field, right? I reasoned that if I could distract people with enormous amounts of information they might not realize that I haven’t taken the time to do it right.

And the results of all this personalized sourcing? A family tree that isn’t consistent and wouldn’t be terribly useful to those who don’t know my “system.”

So I was very excited when I learned about the new source templates. No more guessing whether I’ve captured the right data, no more wondering whether my family can follow my research paths, and no more wasted time entering paragraphs of irrelevant information. The new source templates are based on the QuickCheck models used in Elizabeth Shown Mills’s book Evidence Explained—the ultimate reference for citing research sources.

Instead of being creative with my sourcing, now I can select the source template that most closely fits my record, and the appropriate fields I need to complete automatically appear. It’s as simple as that.If you’ve already entered many sources in the traditional way, you can keep them just as they are. Or you can map the information in your old source to one of the new source templates. I’ve already started on mine and it’s been a fairly painless process. I’m looking forward to the day in the near future when my sources are finally consistent and useful.

For instructions on how to use the new source templates, download a PDF here.


  1. Nick Davy

    Although I am finding the soure templates useful, what I do find annoying is that a lot of them seem to be defined for the United States and not for other regions such as the UK where titles like State do not exist.

  2. Templates are a great improvement!!!

    Where are the templates for identity cards (DNI in Spain), military documents, census that are not in USA, university or school degrees?
    Where does it put on the ISBN of the books in the books template?

  3. Pam Colbert

    Any good writer’s handbook, especially those used at the college level for writing term papers and thesis should have templates for referencing all types of materials used for research. The same information is needed for source citations and the format is pretty much the same for history research. Most of my history professors prefered the Chicago Style, which can be found with a Google Search.

  4. Barbara Graser

    Do I need to have the FamilyTree 2009 to use this template? I have Family Tree Legends from 2007. I don’t much about all of this. Can I download the downloads?

  5. Tana L. Pedersen

    I’m glad to hear that several of you found the PDF useful. I also noticed a few questions that I’ll try to answer for you.

    #5 and #7
    Nick and Jane, there are some templates that work specifically for the UK and other countries. When you’re accessing the categories, click the National Government Records option and you’ll see options for Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

    Also, if you click the Census Records category, you’ll see options for France, the United Kingdom and Wales, in addition to the United States.

    Jane, you can find a couple templates for school records in the Business and Institutional Records category. I would suggest that if you can’t find a template that fits an item perfectly (like your identity card) that you go ahead and use the standard fields to enter the information you have.

    Barbara, you do need to have Family Tree Maker 2009 to use these templates.

    I hope some of these comments will help.

  6. Daniel Schless

    Isn’t it about time to support PDFs? Sure we can attach them as media, but there is not built in support for viewing the files – at least have it open Acrobat.

  7. Barbara Graser

    I wrote a while back that since I have the Family Tree Legends will I be able to download the family treemaker or will there be a new download for Family Tree Legends?

  8. Eizabeth Shown Mills

    Pam wrote:
    “Any good writer’s handbook, especially those used at the college level for writing term papers and thesis [sic] should have templates for referencing all types of materials used for research.”

    Pam, I have a different perspective–one drawn from my own academic background in history and the three decades I’ve spent doing research, presenting papers, and publishing in both genealogical and academic history forums.

    It is immensely inaccurate to say that Chicago, MLA, Turabian and other conventional citation styles “have templates for referencing all types of materials used for research.” The conventional guides focus on published materials and academic archives. The good genealogist goes far beyond this, using a myriad of grassroots-level records that are not covered in those guides at all.

    Moreover, the citation models suggested by Chicago, MLA, etc., strip citations down to a publisher’s concept of “bare essentials,” with more concern for reducing the costs of publishers. (_Chicago Manual_, after all, is the guide developed by the University of Chicago Press.)

    However, in the research and analysis stage, historians (family or academic) need more specific details to foster sound judgment about the reliability of the records they are using.

    Historian Gloria Main, writing in the _William and Mary Quarterly_(3d ser., 54 [October 1997]: 858), noted: “Genealogists hew to stricter rules of evidence and more rigorous citation practices than even professional historians.”

    That is for a reason. The main role of historians is to be interpreters of society. While some do use microhistory sources, their primary interest is not in documenting minutiae; rather, it is to interpret the aggregate. As my friends and colleagues in academic history are quick to say, “An error here on a minor figure and an error there on a minor figure aren’t likely to affect my overall interpretation.” For the genealogist, however, an error on any one point of a person’s life could divert research onto an entirely wrong line and negate the validity of everything done thereafter.

    Pam also wrote:
    “Most of my history professors prefered the Chicago Style.”

    Yes, but that is not because the _Chicago Manual of Style_ had (or has) everything they need. Rather, it has been the best choice available. CMOS’s “humanities style” has been a better fit for the more-detailed needs of historians than the other guides that favor the even-leaner “scientific style.” Still, CMOS falls far short of needs for researchers who work heavily in original records.

    All of this is why major historians have enthusiastically volunteered endorsements for _Evidence Explained_, the guide from which FTM “borrows” those 179 of the available 1100+ citation models. (If you care to read the perspectives of those historians, you’ll find two of them easily at Amazon’s webpage for EE.) All of this is also why EE is already being used in history and other departments at several major universities. –ESM

  9. Tana L. Pedersen

    # 10
    Ginger, when citing a family tree you’ve found online, I would suggest using the Archived Material: Research Report option found in the Archives and Artifacts category. However, as Elizabeth points out in her book, a family tree or GEDCOM file should only be a temporary citation. Reliable trees will give sources for the specific events and to make your research accurate, you’ll want to track down these facts and cite the original sources.

    Janice, I do not know when the All-in-One tree will be available although I’ve been told it will be in a future release. I too look forward to having the chart again.

    Sid, no, you cannot create your own source template. However, you can continue to use the standard fields to create sources using the information you want to include.

  10. Beamer

    Very interesting thread. I am a true amateur and find genealogy research very addictive. To that end, it is easy to get caught up in plugging in un-cited data from the plethora of public trees on-line which change or disappear over time Source citing is extremely important and I want to say this blog has been very helpful technically and philosophically. Thanks to all for contributing.

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