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Adding sources to your Geneanet tree

Posted by Sean Daly on Jul 7, 2023
tools shapes over an archival document

At Geneanet, we believe genealogy is about sharing — cousins and fellow genealogists benefiting from your research and vice versa. A key aspect of that is documenting your tree: providing others with information proving the accuracy of your tree, in the interest of all. Copying bad data is bad!

Everyone active in genealogy has encountered a situation where you search for an elusive ancestor and you find him or her in a dozen online trees, without sources, and with barely believable facts (born in the UK, immigrated twice to Australia before winding up in Chicago, 154 years old at death, etc). Clearly, someone’s mistake has been replicated as tree copiers added unverified information to their trees.

Of course, everyone makes mistakes (and sometimes big ones too). Information found in, say, a 19th-century book can be unreliable as well, as it is second-hand information. Source documents may be unfindable in databases because names were mangled by registrars, or poorly transcribed decades later, requiring further measures to locate (if they exist). And who hasn’t been tempted to add some unverified info (even temporarily), just to get some hints or matches which could break that brick wall?

Breaking the cycle of bad data

The cycle of bad data — common to all online tree platforms — can be broken with just a bit of extra effort: adding sources to your tree which will help other genealogists evaluate if the info is accurate. Of course, the further back you research, the sketchier the data available; most countries didn’t start censuses until the early 19th century, or civil birth/marriage/death (BMD) registration until late in the 19th century. Older records are usually religious, or about landowning or renting. Some genealogists are thrilled to find a “gateway ancestor” whom they can connect to well-documented aristocracy centuries further back (which hopefully is confirmed by DNA). But from the 1880s on, and with the exception of some archives destroyed in wars, floods, fires, or mismanagement (cf. Ireland’s Four Courts fire in 1922, or the USA’s lost 1890 federal census), records in most places are plentiful enough that the effort to document your tree isn’t unreasonable.

Use Geneanet’s Consistency Checker feature to quickly identify possible issues with dates in your tree.

Geneanet’s Consistency Checker will find the probable errors for you such as children getting married, a mother giving birth after age 50, or bride and groom with a 50-year age difference (or living on separate continents at the time of marriage). Of course, such cases do exist, teenage brides in arranged marriages for example. But rather than ponder if facts are correct, isn’t it far preferable to access source documents that tell the real story?

Making that (little) effort

The fundamental goal of citing sources is to allow any other genealogist to access the source document and verify a tree’s data. Professional genealogists have well-established formal proof and citation standards when writing reports for clients, covering the “Who, What, When, & Where” of a source (and most often the “Wherein” as well: page, image, or sequence number, etc). For most online trees, we don’t have to be as formal (although if you have the time, it’s always a fine idea!). The key is to leverage today’s Internet and databases to provide others with enough information to easily locate a source document, whether online or offline.

Some sites, such as Geneanet’s parent company or Geneanet partner, generally have you source a tree by attaching a digitized document from a collection (found in a search, or offered as a hint) directly to an individual in your tree or in a shared tree. Geneanet is different: most sources are text citations to online archives (which are often free in Europe). That said, you can of course upload a photo or document and attach it to a person or event. You can document your Geneanet tree in these ways:

  • Upload a document from your computer: a photo or document scan (JPEG, PNG, PDF, BMP) and tag people in it, and events too
  • Link to a Geneanet source (an index or digitized archival document)
  • In a “Notes” field: insert a text citation, a free-form note to yourself, even a long text about your ancestor
  • In a “Source” field: link to an external website, or add a short text citation or other information
  • Or any combination of these!

Notes and Sources fields

In standard data entry mode (when you click on someone in your tree), toggle “Full form” to green at the upper right to show the detailed input form which displays the Notes and Source fields:

There are “Notes” fields available per person, per event (birth, marriage), or per couple; add as much text as you wish, including your own notes and reflections. Keep in mind however that these notes will be visible for others unless the individual is masked; don’t keep a contact’s e-mail address or telephone number here. Reminder, we have a help page explaining how to configure the privacy of your Geneanet tree.

In tree mode, sources are listed in the right side summary at the bottom, while notes are available per event by clicking on the arrows to the right.
In Profile mode, notes, sources, and uploaded documents are visible at a glance.
Notes can be very complete, such as this excerpt from a 1904 book quoting the pastor of St Marks Lutheran Church in New York City about the General Slocum steamboat disaster.

Reminder: If you are a Premium member, you can filter search results to show only sourced data (our algorithm detects the presence of notes, sources or images). Just check the “Most relevant data” box in the “Data relevance” filter that appears to the left of the search results list.

Use this Premium filter feature for higher-quality results!


Great Idea, I Totally Agree with Anthony BARBIERI. Sources are a Must I have my family list here & 1 other site. Sources are crucial to every kind of history.
Sadly my other site uses “sources” from what anyone put son a web sites [notably Ancestry!]. For example, I as an historian & genealogist, know that Italian civil records do NOT go back to the 13 century! Yet that other site has names n dates of mia famiglia from before that time! I’ve only gotten to the late 18th century, even though I have famiglia documenti dating to the 1300s. I won’t add any of it, as it could be “famiglia storia” not factual.
To Carol WOODS – I’ve been a “non-paying” & Premium member here for years. Though Premium gives you more access on the site, with Non paying you put up your whole GEDCOM, & Geneanet sends you E-mail alerts of someone with the same data you have for you to check out. It’s great.

comment corriger une information? supprimer une personne?

Answer from Geneanet: Vous voulez dire de votre arbre ? Visitez notre forum en français où vous trouverez des réponses à vos questions merci

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