Citing images from an Ancestry Media Gallery

Dear Editor;

I have located some useful certificates and family photos in the Media Gallery of an Ancestry user. Would it be reasonable to treat an image in a user's Media Gallery as an item in a collection?

Reference Note: Jenness Mowbray, "Media Gallery", browsable images, Ancestry ( : downloaded 10 August 2022) > 1 of 3 > "Birth Certificate", image, Province of Saskatchewan, Certificate of Birth no. 10-07-001297 (issued 21 September 1972), Johan Martin Hoffos, born 26 March 1910.

Subsequent Note: Jenness Mowbray, "Media Gallery", Province of Saskatchewan, Certificate of Birth no. 10-07-001297 (issued 21 September 1972), Johan Martin Hoffos, born 26 March 1910.

Source List: Jenness Mowbray. "Media Gallery". Browsable images. Ancestry. : 2022.

Submitted byEEon Wed, 08/10/2022 - 13:42

History-Hunter, when I use that URL, Ancestry tells me "the page is no longer available."

My first thoughts when I read your citation were these: "Jenness Mowbray" created a database or collection at Ancestry that is labelled "Media Gallery"?  So we can look for her special "Media Gallery" under named collections?

Or did Mowbray create a named tree, in which there is a profile of a person to which media is attached? I'm assuming here that this is what you mean.

The pattern with Ancestry URLs is this:

If we switch from "facts"page to gallery page, this occurs: = 1

From that, we can drop the question mark and everything to the right of it, giving us this:

If we select one item from the gallery at this link, a lot of changes occur.  For example:

If it is your intent to cite a media item attached to a profile, then it seems to EE that the cleanest way to do it would be this:

Jane Doe, "Does of America," user-contributed tree, Ancestry ( : Date) > "Eliza Doe Tombstone Image."






Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Wed, 08/10/2022 - 14:52

I tried my proposed citation and see the same error as you did. So; based upon your response, I did a bit more digging.

Mentioning Ancestry user-trees is something that I generally prefer to avoid, because I'm not interested in propagating a potentially erroneous conclusion. However; if the user has posted an image copy of an artefact, such as a birth certificate, I do want to take advantage of that as an information source.

I discovered that there appears to be another URL that links all of a user's public content to just the user Id. It has the form:<Ancestry-User-ID>

The page at that URL includes content that may not yet have been associated with any of a user's trees, yet which may have been picked up by Ancestry as a "hint". I've had this happen in a few cases. This may be a more useful URL to use, because it should contain all photos and stories from the user that are still publicly available on Ancestry. (Note: Per Ancestry, "Please note that content about living individuals won't be listed".)

The URL for the page titled, "Public Family History Content from Jenness Mowbray", is:

Following your lead, I'd propose the following Reference Note:
Jenness Mowbray, "Public Family History Content from Jenness Mowbray", user-contributed content, Ancestry ( : 10 August 2022) > Photos > [page] 3 of 3 > "Birth certificate", image, Province of Saskatchewan, Certificate of Birth no. 10-07-001297 (issued 21 September 1972), Johan Martin Hoffos, born 26 March 1910.

Submitted byEEon Wed, 08/10/2022 - 18:22

That's an interesting workaround. EE cannot agree that references to trees should be avoided. In EE's view, that information is an essential part of the analysis process. From the standpoint of media galleries, it also will create a misleading attribution in a great many cases.

For example, that citation (if it were to be the standard pattern) would credit Mowbray with  "contributing" each of those images that are clustered under her name. However, the first one I clicked on, "Ingeborg Andersdatter," brought up a fact panel stating that "lofquiatfamily originally shared this photo on 24 Nov 2013."  Mowbray in this case was not the actual contributor.  She copied someone else's contribution. Ditto for several other photos.

As with other types of sources, EE would advise tracking the "derivative" (the copier's page) back to the original poster, and then communicating with that original poster regarding the provenance of the photograph.

In the case of the document you reference, the birth certificate, this issue does not exist because Mowbray was the original poster of the document image.  EE, on the other hand, has to think in terms of best practices for all permutations of an issue.

Thank you for your observations regarding potential risks. I am already taking steps to mitigate them.

I fully understand why EE tends to address questions in a way that is suitable for all permutations. There is just too great a risk of good general advice being misapplied by a person who blindly follows what is said.

Based on a few unpleasant experiences early on, I will still tend to avoid citing other peoples trees. I always try to dig down to, or as close as possible to, the original records and do my own analysis and construct my own tree. I've found far too many trees that referenced other trees as their source, and those trees referenced others trees, and so on.... In the end, there was often no actual proof or supporting citations that indicated the tree/information was correct. This has happened often enough that I found that citing other peoples trees was often too great a risk without a large time investment in validating the trees. So; I now treat the tree information as a potential clue for further research, but I NEVER actually cite it as part of my formal research.

I was aware of the potential of there being a reference to an original image poster and I always try to trace back to the original submitter and use their page and/or contact them. However; in the case you mention, the "lofquiatfamily" had already deleted the image of "Ingeborg Andersdatter" from their gallery. In such cases, I would typically try to contact the original poster, but some posters have blocked messages. So; I may need to resort to stating that they cite the original poster and posting date. Perhaps, some day in the future, the original poster will accept messages and the needed info will be in my citation. In summary; I see using gallery material as a calculated, but sometimes necessary, risk. In the specific case of the image copy of a birth certificate from the original poster, the risk is quite low. Still; if I can get a copy directly, by messaging the original poster, I do prefer to do that. It often comes with a great deal of other useful info.

Submitted byEEon Thu, 08/11/2022 - 09:10

Ah, yes, History-Hunter. Far too many trees cite no sources—or totally unreliable ones—for their assertions.

On the other hand, researchers use many published histories from yesteryear whose assertions are totally undocumented. We use many histories by modern academics whose footnotes copiously cite the published works of other scholars, then assert personal details about individuals without any supporting evidence—a practice justified by the premise that those individuals were just minor players in their narrative, individuals whose details don't make or break the historian's overarching conclusions.

Today, especially when working with autosomal DNA, it is impossible to pursue genealogical research without using those online trees. EE’s foundational principles, I think, provide a safe practice for using those trees:

  1. We use what exists, analyzing it carefully.
  2. We cite what we have examined.

By extension:

  1. Every “fact” we take from a derivative source is temporary, a place-holder until we have verified the accuracy of what the derivative asserts.
  2. Placeholders have to be documented while they are being used; without that documentation, we are not able to evaluate the temporary information against new findings.
  3. Any time we take a piece of information from a derivative source--whether it is the work of David McCullough or David Newcomer—if it is supported by valid evidence, we note what that evidence is. Conversely, if it is not supported by valid evidence and we need to use that information temporarily, then our citation says just that.