Today I had reason to cite Facebook as a reference source. I couldn't find any recommendations for such sources, so I'll describe what I did. If anyone has a better method I'd be pleased to hear about it in an answer.

I use Family Tree Maker 2012 and the nearest source template I found was Discussion Forum or List which comes under the category of Publications - Periodicals, Broadcasts and Web Miscellanea. I considered Blog but rejected it, because I wanted to treat the whole of Facebook as a single source and not have to have a source for every individual.

The template for Mailing lists and Online forums results in a source record that looks like this (I've shown the entries I used for Facebook): enter image description here

Then having created my source, the citation dialog looks like this: enter image description here

(I've removed all the personal details of the living person I was researching).

That results in a reference note of:

Personal profile for <person>, accessed 2013-01-24 by TPL. <Person name>, 
went to <school>; lives in <place>; <relationship status> with <other person>;
from <place of birth>; etc....
https://www.facebook.com/person.name.id, Facebook, discussion list (http://www.facebook.com).

I also take a screen snipping and attach it under the Media tab, because Facebook information is likely to be ephemeral.

So that's my technique. Clearly it isn't ideal as the reference note reads slightly awkwardly, and Facebook isn't a 'discussion list' really. So how have you done it better? Has someone designed a source template specifically for Facebook and other social media sites?

  • 2
    You did a great job of posing the question. Thank you for the screen shots and for referencing the software you are using.
    – GeneJ
    Jan 25, 2013 at 2:21
  • I like your technique so far, as I was trying to think of a way to reference Facebook myself. I would be interested to know if anyone else uses FB on a regular basis as source material?
    – user1046
    Dec 16, 2013 at 1:11

2 Answers 2


FamilyTree Maker's templates are an implementation of Mills Evidence Explained.

The software specific implementation of Evidence Explained varies, so keep that in mind. Things to consider follow.

How about a take from the source? That is to say Elizabeth Shown Mills on her Evidence Explained ... wait for it ... Facebook (ha!) page post of 29 Oct 2012. In summary, "Facebook is a website like any other. Each person's page at Facebook is like any individual article or individual database at a website that offers many different items." She goes on to list with specificity the elements she recommends be included (paraphrased with some of my terms below):

  1. Name = Identity of the person who posted
  2. Post identification = title or subject
  3. Post identification detail = date and time of the post
  4. Where Posted (ala, like a chapter) = Personal/Group or Title of Page where posted
  5. Publisher/Umbrella/Web Site = Facebook (you'll want this in italics)

To what Ms. Mills recommends, I would second your personal comment about the transient nature of Facebook profile pages--we change, they change. Taking a screen shot of the profile item (which usually captures date and time) would do the trick for me.

Equally on point--how to accomplish this in FTM 2012. I've reached out to an expert, but my humble attempt below is based on FTM for Mac (we know it is different).

Shhh. I reverse engineer my citations in FTM for Mac.

In FTM for Mac, the template "Discussion Forum ..." outputs only five elements. You can modify this in the program, but the default output is as follows. And yes, at least in FTM for Mac, that default punctuation needs some work:

Citation Detail. Citation Text., Forum Name, discussion list (URL).

Based on a quick overview of the templates in FTM for Mac, I too would select the same template.

You might consider using the template template default as a guide and input as follows:

Person's name, profile page as of DD-MM-YYYY [Citation Detail]; various personal details [Citation Text], Facebook [Forum name] (Unique or best URL [URL]).

A Facebook profile page being what it is and assuming you have printed the page or taken a screenshot, then consider including in the citation only those personal details that might be critical to your logic and reasoning. (In other words, consider not elaborating on the other personal details in the citation.)

  • +1 especially useful link to Evidence Explained FB page
    – Tim Long
    Jan 24, 2013 at 23:20
  • 2
    A Facebook citation to explain Facebook citations. How... recursive.
    – fbrereto
    Jan 25, 2013 at 0:20


You have the right template, but it's worth a minute to determine what information from the Template gets put into the Citation.

"Personal profile for , accessed 2013-01-24 by TPL." comes from the Citation Details that you entered.

", went to ; lives in ; with ; from ; etc...." comes from the Citation Text.

Now, you can't change the fact that it's a Discussion Forum, but I think it could be listed as a discussion forum.

I am suggesting that you look at the fields on both screens, the Template Screen, and the Citation screen, then change the Citation screen (Citation Details and Citation Text) so that the End Note / Research Note appears the way you want. I would NOT include the display of the Web Address (removing the check mark), as I consider that for my purposes, and not for an End Note.

What are you expecting to see in the Reference Note? Are you able to get back to the information referred to in that Citation?


  • 1
    Thank you, Russ. FYI @TimLong, Russ has years and years of experience with FamilyTree Maker. In every way, he is "Family Tree Maker User." ftmuser.blogspot.com
    – GeneJ
    Jan 25, 2013 at 21:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.