Is there some sort of standard or accepted manner in which to indicate that an ancestor's connection to your family line is not fully supported. YET! That it is still in research mode. I'm thinking a symbol in front of the fact in question eg name/DOB/parent's names etc.

I know you can have your sources, but sometimes you can have some sources for that individual but still not know if they are indeed family. This becomes a problem when you add them to your online tree to allow further research and then someone comes along and just blindly copies what you have down as fact. Then someone else copies them, and very soon you can only find matches and hints to information that you added originally.

So is there some sort of symbol you can put in front of a person's name that will be understood by everyone to mean ...'oh, this is just a research possibility!'??

A load of question marks make it look messy, but I will happily continue using question marks if that is all there is.

However, sometimes the name, eg John Smith, is correct but it is the individuals parent's that may or may not be your John Smith's parents! How would you indicate that the name John Smith is definitely correct. That the parent's name of a John Smith are correct but the John Smith and parents that you have found may not necessarily be for your John Smith. In an upfront, at a glance, sort of manner?

Or should I just avoid linking my 'possible' research to my online tree.

Well in that case, I can't find any documented proof that my gran was ever born! She died, but she was never born. Should I remove my entire maternal line from my tree?!

This is just general example, I have plenty of evidence she existed and I have christening records for her sister, so I can positively connect to ancestors further down the line. But if this was a less recent ancestor - such certainty with little to no linking documents is a lot harder to justify. And if you get it wrong, the mistake propagates across the internet as fact.

I'm not looking for myself as I am well aware of how researched my connections are. This is more for preventing the research being taken as fact by other users, who do not look for sources or read any notes.

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    The ones who do not look for sources and do not read notes also won’t spend attention to your your symbol or other ways to indicate a tenuous connection.
    – lejonet
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


Take a look at these Downloadable Image Icons for On-Line Family Trees provided on the blog Genealogy Junkie. Sue Griffith created these to mark which lines were verified by DNA research and which were still questionable.

Her example looks like this:

enter image description here

Sue writes:

The Question Mark is useful to use as the "profile picture" for tentative individuals (see above). I use this to both identify for myself that I need to do more research to confirm the identity, but also to try and limit other Ancestry subscribers from indiscriminately copying these "iffy" relatives to their own trees (not sure if this helps or not – probably not, but at least I'm trying as best I can to limit the perpetuation of questionable information).

See her website for other screenshots, including how the icons look in pedigree view.

The downside of this approach is that when you substitute an icon like this for a photo, you may generate photo hints for all the people who have similar-sounding people in their trees. But -- who knows -- you might find a researcher who has other information that way.

VERY IMPORTANT WARNING: you only need to upload ONE copy of any of these icons to your image gallery on Ancestry. You can use the ONE image for many people. See Using Media in Your Ancestry Family Tree for a video by Crista Cowan on how to do this.

  • That's an excellent suggestion. I hadn't thought of using the image as info! Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:48
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    @EveryBitHelps A belated welcome to G&FH.SE! Always happy to see new community members coming to us from other sites on Stack Exchange.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 17:20
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    When someone saves that tree in GEDCOM format, and reloads it into their own, then that image will have been lost. I don't see a good way without some support from the industry, and they don't seem to be listening. I suggested such a scheme to findmypast, and it was binned.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 17:21
  • Users of the versions of FTM who use TreeSync can also put something in the Notes -- I believe those Notes are preserved in a Sync. Presumably the Notes would also be included in a downloaded GEDCOM? (Contrast Comments, which are NOT included in a sync.) I'll have to experiment.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 0:12
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    My feeling is that if you have one or more question marks embedded in the name, or, as Sue Griffith has, "(Tentative)" in the name, any 'grabber' would have to edit the name to 'erase' the tenuous connection. Seems like it would be less likely to be propagated as a fact, rather than depending on an attached icon or an image that may be dropped via a data file such as a GEDCOM.
    – deke
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 20:12

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