I've been using ancestry.com for a couple of years online, and recently got their desktop software to help manage trees better. One of the reasons I had created my trees online was the ease of incorporating sources for the events in people's timelines. One of the problems with the way Ancestry.com does it is that it makes it difficult (though not impossible) to use the same record as a source for facts/events about multiple people. This seems to come up often on marriage and death records that mention parents' names, on ships' manifests that mention relatives, etc.

I have read some interest descriptions of gramps on this site, an have installed a copy. I imported a small GEDCOM tree to test things out. As described in the documentation, some of my source information didn't get copied into gamps. (Mostly these seemed to be notes describing the sources.)

I like the idea of treating sources as first-class objects, but I am concerned about the tedious and error-prone data-entry that I think I need to do to add new sources to a gramps database. Here I am thinking about an example of finding a census record on ancestry.com or a marriage record on FamilySearch, and then having to transcribe it into gamps.

So I would like to know what are established best practices for adding new sources to gramps for records found through online searches? Is there a way to import the stuff in some semi-automatic way, or must everything be re-typed? How are images of documents best handled? What are good naming patterns for image files?

  • Gene Can you clarify what you mean by "transcribe" a record into a new package. It could mean something other than "describe", which is what I do. What do you want to finish up with?
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 6:35
  • You might consider breaking these into several questions. The focus of the first question might be a specific marriage record on FamilySearch; you could even link from here to the source/source record and then bullet out the questions for just that record.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 13:10
  • 2
    I think this is an excellent question. He wants to know what the easiest way for adding sources in Gramps. Does he have to copy and paste the URL, record details, and citation as well as save the image and load it into Gramps himself, or is there an automated approach? What's wrong with that question?
    – user47
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 15:45
  • You might get better answers if you rephrase the question and title to say, "Is there an automatic way to import a source from Ancestry or FamilySearch?"
    – user47
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 20:18

7 Answers 7


When using FS, the possibility for copying errors is reduced if you use the built-in Copy function. Family Search copy record

This puts the full text of the page (with the exception of the suggested citation) onto your clipboard. You can then create a Transcript-type note in your new Citation object in Gramps and paste directly into it.

You do need to manually select the Citing this Record text on the page to be able to copy it into a Citation-type note within your Gramps entry. However, FS does provide a form of error check. Clicking the My Source Box icon (beside Copy) saves a link to the record complete with the text of the suggested citation within your FS account.

In addition, the piece of the text most prone to error (the Id string , such as MM9.1.1/XTYK-MXS) is embedded within the transcript copied earlier.

  • The built-in Copy function seems like a good first step! It seems straighforward to parse that data to pre-populate fields for a new source. Has anyone looked at building that capability? Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 20:28
  • Pre-populating fiels with data copied from FS sounds like a challenge for the guys at RootsDev.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 2:11

Maybe a way to automatically import a source from FamilySearch into Gramps but it looks abandoned, see the following:

  • Legado- Python client for the new Family search based on Gramps

It states that "It added the functionality to be able to connect to the FamilySearch API.", so I believe that what you want may be possible with this.

I looked on the Gramps site but can find no mention of it having been added to the program.

  • 3
    Interesting. I think I will need to investigate this. Perhaps it might interest some others as well to get a project going. Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 1:23
  • 1
    Legado was never fully finished. The developers of Gramps are waiting for FS to finish their API. If you would like to work on this, let me know.
    – Doug Blank
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 1:19

Personally I just add everything manually.

Using the new source/citation model in gramps 3.4 that only means, for common sources such as censuses, adding a new citation to the source with any image attached and then attaching that citation to any records it provides evidence for.

One thing which is useful is to keep the gramps clipboard window open, then when you add a new source or citation you can drag it to the clipboard and keep it there ready for dragging into the source tab for events etc as you are adding them. You can also share events between people in the same way by using the clipboard.

  • 1
    My most significant concern with manual entry is that it is a potential source of errors. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 15:49
  • @GeneGolovchinsky: it sounds like you're looking for an automatic import. What is the source of the data that you'd be importing from? I.e. you have to tell gramps to take the data from somewhere -- where do you want to point it?
    – bstpierre
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 17:16
  • At least to date, most of the records I have found came either from Ancestry.com or FamilSearch.org. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 17:19
  • Avoiding errors is one reason why I do like to do it manually - my gramps tree is my carefully curated record with everything properly evidenced while my ancestry tree has lots of auto added stuff that may not have been fully checked.
    – TomH
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 17:38
  • @TomH I'm not talking about copying stuff from other people's trees, but from record collections. The odds of introducing errors are much greater than the odds of catching a wrong transcription or other problem with the digital record. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 21:47

I use several programs (gramps, myheritage, etc) and many websites with family trees. Keeping my sources in sync has been quite challenging. I like WeRelate.org for my web pando (my tree as part of everyone's tree) since it's a open-source, crowd-sourced site run by a non-profit which seems to have the right mix for a serious amateur (ie not as 'throw everything in' as ancestry and not as rigorous as some professional genealogists - although many professional genealogists use it because it allows you to be rigorous).

So I have taken to making sure the sources are correct in WeRelate.org for my ancestors and then just using the url to link to each person in my pc/mac software. This is far from ideal since the details and linkage (eg this source for this birth date) are not on my local machine. But it has the advantage that I leverage all the citations others have already done on werelate (ie it's a source pando as well). And this technique avoids the transcription errors and the tedium of keeping them all in sync.

In the ideal world, werelate would have an api and gramps would build to it. Maybe I'll get to it in my spare time :-)


I don't know much about javascript, but if you do, I think it's fairly easy to grab everything you need from an Ancestry or FamilySearch result page, and write that to a file in Gramps XML format.

JustinY already wrote a chrome extension that reads names from pages like these and allows you to start searches with these on other sites, so if you like a challenge his rootssearch extension may be a good place to start.

Defining what parts of the results go where is mostly common sense, I think, and if you want to discuss those, please go ahead. Writing the code is too big a hurdle for me now, so I won't do it myself, but when someone volunteers, I'd be glad to share my opinion on field mapping and so forth.

  • 1
    I hadn't thought about scraping using a chrome extension. That certainly makes sense in terms of parsing. Ideally, I suppose that whatever the extension writes out should be appended to a file so that multiple records could be ingested at a time. Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 22:04
  • 1
    This is something I'm currently working on, scraping from (saved) web pages (Familysearch, Ancestry, and many others) and creating source records in a "standard" format. I'll look into whether a Gramps XML file can have just source records, that might be another useful output format.
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 22:29
  • Gene, I agree on the idea of appending. Another option could be that you clip all source pages that you want to use to a notebook on evernote, and then read from that with a dedicated client, or maybe even a Gramps plugin. They both don't exist yet, but using evernote as a sort of intermediate storage has the added advantage that you don't force other users to use chrome. The evernote clip add-on exists for many browsers, and the evernote API is open, and there is a python version of it. Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 18:10
  • I scrape the source information from Ancestry.com manually and enter the information into the source in Family Historian. More recently, I've been putting notes and source information and citations into Scrivener first, putting it into Family Historian later. I have Elizabeth Shown Mills' Quicksheets on Citing Ancestry.com Databases and Images, and Citing Online Historical Resources, as stylesheets. FH's Auto-Source citation makes it easy; you create or choose the source and extract the data; the source citations are added as you enter the data into FH.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 14:42
  • Not sure if up-to-date,but a Chrome extension exists: github.com/rootsdev/genealogy-search
    – oligofren
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 15:19

I don't know about Ancestry.com, but FamilySearch does not seem to have a way to export sources. FS does provide an explicit citation that you can copy/paste.

If you can export sources to a gedcom, you can import them to Gramps. Otherwise you will need to copy/paste manually.


You could possibly use something like Outwit Hub to scrape the data from the site into a suitable format that you could paste into Gramps. You can create your own scraper to get exactly the data that you want and then format it appropriately. There are other similar screen scraping tools that you could use.

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