Many of the sources that I have found were a direct result of finding references to them on genealogy websites. For example, a reference on Ancestry.com to FindAGrave.com led me to performing my own searches directly from the originating source (FindAGrave). Another example was finding a copy of one ancestor’s death certificate on FamilySearch.org which took me to SeekingMichigan.org where I could conduct my searches directly. My question, then, is do I need to credit Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org in the citations for all the records that I find on FindAGrave.com or SeekingMichigan.org, respectively? If so, how do I add that credit to the citation? Or is adding the two genealogical research sites as repositories acceptable?

2 Answers 2


If you Google something to get to a website, you would not usually think of citing Google. By that same reasoning, you have no obligation to cite the intermediary source that may have led you to the actual source of information.

While not citing any sources is a bigger problem, I also think there can be a problem of overciting in genealogy. It is so easy when adding records to a tree on Ancestry.com to have the website form long and unwieldy citations automatically. When I look at a source or citation I want to know one thing: where the information came from. I don't necessarily want to know every step the person took to get to that source. In some cases, it could be useful to know the research path, but for a well-known website like FindAGrave there is really no point to complicating the citation with an intermediary source. In my opinion, a better place to put your research steps to get to that source is in a research log, or in a notes or comments section associated with that citation.

However, it really is personal preference as there is no one standard method to citation in genealogy. I'm a minimalist – I add all the necessary information for a person to locate the same record, but not lots of other fluff. I feel that if people can see the important citation information quickly they are much more likely to bother looking at the citations in the first place, and if they have to wade through lines of extraneous details the citations actually become less useful.

  • You are, of course, right. I do not cite the Google website if the record comes from a general search. However, Google does not create or publish indexes from the information found on the original sources. I believe that this is where my insatiable desire to give the genealogy based web sites their due credit comes from. Perhaps my best option, then, is to at least add them as a alternate repository for others to find the information.
    – Kari
    Jun 16, 2016 at 13:30
  • "Google does not create or publish indexes from the information found on the original sources" - leaving aside the question of what is meant by "original" in that quote, I believe that Ancestry have not created an index to FindAGrave - they have simply copied the one from FindAGrave (legitimately, I would add!), with some purely IT manipulation (not genealogical) to get the entries pointing to the right resource. I'd not bother myself with crediting Ancestry in that case as they are only playing a part similar to Google, but feel free to insert "via Ancestry index" or similar.
    – AdrianB38
    Jun 19, 2016 at 18:26
  • Re Michigan - I've no idea who created what - it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that Michigan commissioned FS to create their index for them! The question to bear in mind is what are you actually citing? If you are citing the image of the page from Michigan (presumably?), then it would not be appropriate to cite FS as a repository for that image as FS only holds the index. Give we don't know the origin of the indexes, crediting FS for those you discovered via FS would seem sensible - especially if the FS and Michigan indexes are out of step. Mention FS in the publication data?
    – AdrianB38
    Jun 19, 2016 at 18:59
  • @AdrianB38 FindAGrave was probably not the best example I could have used. However, I would have to question that "Ancestry have not created an index to FindAGrave - they have simply copied the one from FindAGrave". My Grandfather's burial record on Ancestry.com, for example, lists him as Albert E "ed" Ditlow and on FindAGrave he is listed as Albert E "Ed" Ditlow (referring to the capitalization difference of "ed" vs "Ed"). Also, if you look at the "Source Information" for these particular records on Ancestry.com, they cite themselves as the author (compiler?), not FindAGrave.
    – Kari
    Jul 2, 2016 at 13:06
  • Given that Ancestry have owned FindAGrave since 2013 it would seem odd if they duplicated work already done that they owned. And the oddity of capitalisation that you mention is to me more suggestive of a machine based copy gone a touch wonky than English speakers who would surely never write "ed". Hm. English speakers? Maybe you have a point :-) In a sense, it doesn't matter since there will always be examples like the Michigan stuff where we don't know.
    – AdrianB38
    Jul 2, 2016 at 16:50

"Citing or crediting leads?" Citations and credits are different animals, and should be placed in separate sections. Credits are usually earned, by someone going out of their way (multiple hours/days) to help you and your specific project. Leads from search engines, indexes, and shaky leaves are secondary sources, compiled for public consumption, and are normally omitted when a primary source is discovered.

If you have found a primary source, your citation should send the reader directly to that source. If you wish to thank Uncle Bob or Ancestry.com, have a separate credits page. If you want to document the steps you took, so you're not repeating your searches, keep a separate Research Log.




Internet sites. Ideal format: 3. Author(s), "Page-Title" in Site-Title at URL (accessed date). Comment.

3. National Genealogical Society, "Standards for Sharing Information with Others" in National Genealogical Society (Internet site), at www.ngsgenealogy.org/comstandsharing.htm (accessed 11 November 2003). Emphasizes getting permission.

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