How to Add Sources

March 10, 2017  - by 
How to Add Sources

Since Family Tree is a collaborative tree and we all share the same ancestors, it’s important to verify the information you enter and provide sources to show others where your information came from. On FamilySearch’s Family Tree, now it’s easy to attach actual images of the sources. Here are the most common scenarios and some tips to help:

A) Adding sources to individuals from the Person screen.

Perhaps the most basic way to add a source is by attaching one you already have to an individual on the Tree. For example, I have a scanned copy of the birth certificate of my great-great-great-grandfather, Edmond Harris, that I would like to attach to him.

Here’s how:

  1. On the Person screen, scroll down the page to find the Sources section. Here you can scan sources already attached to your ancestor. Edmond’s birth record is not listed, so I select Add Source. A box like this one to the right pops up.
  2. Fill in the source information as thoroughly as possible. Give it a simple title, and then enter the full citation. For Edmond’s record, I could write: Church of England. Parish Church of Wingrave Buckinghamshire. “Parish Records for Wingrave, 1550-1956.” FHL microfilm #1966920.
  3. Attach or link to the source. If your source is online (as a FamilySearch document or somewhere elsewhere), you can paste in the url. If it’s a scanned document or photo on your computer, click Add a Memory. From here, you can upload your source or attach one from your Memories Gallery. (The Memories Gallery is a great place to store documents, family stories, photos, audio clips, and more.) I upload and attach Edmond’s scanned birth record from my computer.
  4. Select the events in your source. This will attach it to these pieces of information. Since I selected Birth and Christening, Edmond’s birth source will also show up with this information at the top of the screen.

B) Adding sources from a record search.

Another common way to attach sources found in FamilySearch’s record collections is from the source itself. Perhaps you just did a search and located your ancestor in a historical record (for help doing this see: How to Search). Or maybe you saw a Record Hint icon prompting you to check out a certain source (see section C for an example of this). No matter how you located your source, FamilySearch makes it easy to attach it directly to that person on the Tree. For this example, I want to attach a World War I draft registration card to my great-grandfather, Earl Albrecht.

This is how it works:

  1. After doing your search, click on the record of interest to get a screen like the one above. This draft registration card transcription looks like a match to me, so I choose Attach to Family Tree.
  2. Match the record to your ancestor. You will get a screen with the details from the record (in this case the draft registration card) on the left. On the right, you select which ancestor from your tree the information matches. Keep in mind that the name of the correct ancestor doesn’t necessarily appear on its own. I had to start typing Earl’s name in the search box before he was listed as an option.
  3. Compare the two columns. After selecting the ancestor from the Tree, you’ll see a comparison screen.
    Since the record information matched my information about Earl Albrecht, I scroll down to enter the reason I’m attaching the source, and then I select Attach.

C) Attaching a record to more than one person.

Earl Albrecht was the only person in my family who was included in the draft registration card. However, many records, such as census or marriage records, have names of several ancestors in them. FamilySearch makes it possible to attach the source to all your ancestors at one time. Just follow these steps:

  1. Find the record of interest to you. In this case, I clicked on a Record Hint for a marriage record that appeared to the right on Leslie Vincent Huber’s Person page. Since the record summary fits my ancestor, I click Review and Attach.
  2. Compare possible matches one at a time. The resulting match page this time pulled out a number of names from the record on the left side. Similar people from my tree are put on the right side. I start with the person I searched for—Leslie Vincent Huber. After confirming this is the same person and adding a reason, I click Attach.
  3. Follow the same process with other potential matches. The next match for me is Anna Friedman, Leslie Vincent Huber’s wife. Remember that if there is new information on the record, you can add it to the person. You can even add new people to your tree in this process.

If you’re feeling bogged down in the details, remember that FamilySearch provides prompts along the way. The best way to learn is to dive in and give it a try!

Leslie Albrecht Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber has written for dozens of magazines and journals on genealogy and other topics. She currently does communications consulting and contract work for nonprofit organizations. Leslie received a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked as a professional genealogist, helpingothers trace their families, and has spoken on genealogy and history topics to groups across the United States.

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  1. Thanks, Leslie.

    Perhaps someone will now write an article on writing Reasons for merges, entries and changes.

    Most patrons seem to be unaware of the need for them or of their lasting usefulness to everyone..

  2. This is a helpful article, but there is an error in the layout. Under the “A)” section paragraph “1.” is almost completely covered up with the inserted example. It is impossible to read whatever is covered in paragraph “1.”
    Please revise the layout and resend this blog post!

  3. I would like to suggest that it is inappropriate to link a baptismal record to an ancestor as a source for the birth. There are far too many circumstances where the baptism took place long after someone’s birth.

    1. HI Richard. That is certainly true that there can be a gap in time between births and baptisms. Unfortunately though sometimes we have to make due with less than perfect sources because that’s all there is!

    2. It depends of the area where the births and baptisms got place. In my country (Costa Rica) more than 50% of babies got baptized same day they where borned and the rest usually got baptized in the next days after their birth…that was in the XVIII and XIX centuries!!

  4. I am completely amazed at how often instructions of this nature fail to talk about the need to supply the reasoning behind any addition or changes made to a person’s record and that includes adding sources.

    Please, Please, Please, in the future, emphasize the importance of providing the reasoning behind any changes, including the addition of a source, even though it may appear to be self-evident to the patron making the change or addition.

    1. Note that in the example, the reason statement is totally ignored. It should never be left blank and put the reasoning behind the action should always done. That’s why the reason field is there!

      1. Yes, this useful article presented a great opportunity to show a clear and meaningful Reason in the “Reason” box. That would have alerted patrons to the importance of Reasons and to what they consist of.

    2. Please explain or illustrate what you would suggest for a reason in this example. To me, it seems I would usually add an obvious reason like, “I’m adding this source document his birth,” and etc. It seems to be too obvious to be helpful. I just want to understand.

      1. I suggest this:-

        “This WW1 draft registration card for Earl Leroy Albrecht provides his birth date and place. Also the place of his registration.”

        Even more important to enter is the description of the contents of the source, as we may not always be able to automatically see an online copy of the source, as has been available over about six months in FSFT.

        Many times, I have later obtained benefit from reading the Reason why the source was attached. Other patrons may also have found the reason useful. Notice that the reason includes some actual personal data. Sometimes the greatest value in attaching a source relates to some other person who is incidentally named in the source. This should be noted.

        Reasons are many times more valuable and necessary when doing a merge or for making entries or changes in Vital Information.

        An entered reason explains a great deal to later users. It also helps the person who enters the reason, to think carefully about what is being done.

  5. It should also be noted, in addition to providing the patron’s reasoning in adding a source, that they also must make sure that the source they are adding is actually for the person they are adding the source to.

    We have enough problems with patrons taking shortcuts in trying to get names ready for temple work, that some of the most important factors are overlooked!

    1. I have spent the past week deleting and adding information in my tree that my brother ‘helped’ me with because I lacked the time. I was looking at the Bible record/family record, that I wish he had used instead of inputting what someone else had done. He had the sources attached by them, but some were for the wrong person. I got tired doing the reason part because the information was plain wrong. I wish people would do more accurate and less sourcing if it is attached to wrong people. I have seen attached birth records where the mother was 5 years old or already deceased and no one checked! I would rather have accuracy!

      1. It is not a matter of choosing between adding sources and being accurate. Both are important. In correcting your brother’s entries, you could help everyone understand and trust your substantiated corrections by simply stating something like: “The original entry of the birth date for Joe Jones, in the family Bible used by that family in the 1840s (now in my possession) is 4 April 1845 and not the FSFT entered (but unsubstantiated date of 14 March 1845.” People will be able to place more trust in your correction if you do that, and they will be less inclined to change it.

  6. Attaching Sources. I don’t believe “A New Way to Attach Sources to Family Tree” is a new way. I doubt it even comes up like the 2014 instructions say because it has been updated and changed. Can you check it out and delete it if you agree?

    1. Hi Sister Peacock. It’s true that the ways to attach sources in this attached blog are no longer new! This blog came out when it was new to be able to attach a record to all members of a family at once. Not all of the screen shots are exactly the same now as in the article, but the overall approach is still accurate. I chose to link that article because it went into more details than I had space to in this article and I thought some people might appreciate the detailed steps it contains.

      1. I look at my family tree on Family Search frequently. I was shocked the other day when I found that someone had requested or reserved my 2nd Great Grandparents to do their sealing ordinances. Mr Corley and Sarah Ann had no dates or places listed for them. This is my brickwall. I messaged the person and explained this and questioned how they could do the ordinance with only names. She replied that she was looking for temple ordinances to do. She was not related and had no information to add to them. How is this allowed?

        1. I have been often frustrated when I see work that I have done changed, ever so slightly but enough to warrant request for Temple Ready again.Often changed completely with wrong information. I have identified at least six people so far in my country doing this.
          I have resorted to contacting the people , but met with less than expected behaviour. It would be wonderful if only the people who can prove their lineage can do the work or that nobody can change data without proof of lineage or sources. We have people who are gathering names in order to say that I have so many names on my website/or databasis”” , Not related to the names they gather. It is hard to see how abuse of a sacred program, abuse of others time and work occurs.
          I have members who are patrons coming in and refuse to use Familysearch for their Familysearch due to this. They use other related programmes. Cant something be done to stop this. I often have to sit hours to help members correct information that was originally correct . Is it only in South Africa that this occurs?

          1. Sadly, it seems to happen everywhere. I ask people who come in to keep their research on a separate computer program or in print, so they do not lose the information. Suggest only adding people to FamilySearch when you are ready to do the temple work for them, and print off immediately. Even then we may work for a couple of hours to correct wrong information already there as you mentioned. Examples: one woman had been sealed to her son; a man was married to 10 women in 4 countries (he’d never left his birth country and married only once).

  7. How about for those people who reside in areas that you cant get the above listed above ie birth certificate, in Africa its so rampant

  8. This article is VERY helpful. Thank you. Is there a source of information that would suggest uniform or standard items the source information? You suggested, in this case, “Church of England. Parish Church of Wingrave Buckinghamshire. “Parish Records for Wingrave, 1550-1956.” FHL microfilm #1966920.” I’d like a reference to turn to when deciding what information, and in what order to enter the source. Also, once I’ve identified the source, is there a way to use that same source again for other facts found for other people in the same source?

    1. Hi William. That’s a great question. Here’s a FamilySearch article that provides some examples and links to other places: Elizabeth Shown Mills’s book Evidence Explained is the best resource out there for this. She has many examples on her website here: As for using the source for more than one person – Yes, you can do that. The article above discusses this briefly in section C.

  9. Por favor es posible encontrar estas explicaciones en español. gracias, al revisar los diferentes artículos que publican siempre llego a un punto donde ya no puedo avanzar ya que gran parte de el está en inglés.

  10. I have this problem with at least 2/3 record hints I open. Click on blue box, box opens with message on bottom to review and attach. So far so good. But when record comes up to review, there is nothing to attach. Everyone is there from record and names on tree. But they appear to be already attached, and there is no way to attach them. After closing the box, and refreshing the screen, the blue record hint still remains. Wasting a bit of time.

    1. Hello Nadine!!
      I figured out that in those cases there are duplicates… you have to check the ID for the name that the record is attached to, write it down, compare that number with the one that your ancestor has on your tree, it will be different so you will go to “Find Duplicates”… probably the sistem won’t find it, but you have the #, so you can “compare by ID” and eliminate the duplicate!!
      I know it is not the fun part of the work, but it is very important to do so we won’t duplicate ordenances also

      1. Thank you for your response. I checked a couple out. This does not seem to be the problem as the ID numbers are the same. Also, when the person’s detail view is opened, the blue hint boxes are there, but the text beside it is in red font. Also, on a different issue, the blue hint boxes will sometimes never go away. Even after it seems like the attaching went smoothly.

        1. I had this same problem and recently figured out a solution that worked for me. When the hint doesn’t go away, it may be because it hasn’t actually been attached yet (even though it might look like it has). Look again at the page where you would attach the record. If you see that one side is green and the other side is still white, it isn’t attached, even though it is only giving you the option to Detach. You should see an exclamation mark where it says “Detach”. If you hold your cursor over this exclamation mark, it will tell you why it isn’t attached. In my case it was because that same source had already been used somewhere else for a different person with the same (or similar) name. I had to go look at that other person and decide which one was the correct person to attach the record. Once I had that resolved and the record correctly attached to just one person or the other, the hint went away.

    2. HI Nadine. I’m not sure why that’s happening for you. I haven’t had that experience with attaching sources. I suggest you call support and have them walk through it with you to try to determine the problem.

  11. I’ve noticed a few quirks with adding sources for multiple people. For instance, a census record. Sometimes if there is a new child in the family I can add it from the attach source screen. Recently I had an instance where the software refused to let me add a new person & kept presenting the same “suggested” person, based on similar name & birthdate. However, the suggestion was in Australia, not Wisconsin! I finally exited that attempt, went to one of the parents, scrolled down & added child. I noted the ID# for the child (just in case I still had difficulties & needed to find by ID). Went back to source document & “reviewed attachments” and was then able to link the source to the new child.

  12. please also note that this is a great opportunity to see that duplicates exist – when going to add a new name sometime choices pop up, write the ID’s down and check them out – also at the bottom you may see the person listed a second time

    1. Leslie, it is easy to see, from the nature of the issues raised by contributors, that patrons are in great need of education on basics like your topic. FamilySearch Blog could be used more often to offer such basic education. I think more patrons would get to see this blog than those who study GetSatisfaction.

      Please present the essential information that is applicable to writing reasons for entries, changes and merges. Please provide people with examples of well written reasons (and also examples of useless reasons such as ‘duplicate’ for a merge or ‘I obtained it from the library’).

  13. I thought copyright restrictions would prevent putting a birth or death certificate on to this site. I usually do a transcription of the information to ado my family tree.