Getting Started with Ancestral Sources

  • Skill Level: Advanced, Intermediate, and New User
  • FH versions: V4, V5, V6, and V7
  • In Topics: Using Ancestral Sources 


Most of the information that is added to a family history file originates from one of just a few types of documents, namely birth, marriage and death certificates, church baptisms, marriages and burials, and census records. The concept of Ancestral Sources is that it allows the data from these source documents to be entered directly into the software, building up the family history data in a more intuitive approach than the usual methods used by genealogy applications. For example, typically entering a census household entry requires multiple facts such as census, occupation, birth, etc. to be created for each individual, all linked to a source via citations: a very time consuming exercise. Ancestral Sources makes this far easier and much quicker to achieve. Other applications, including ƒh, are now adopting some of these ‘source driven’ ideas pioneered in Ancestral Sources.

Version 7 of Ancestral Sources offers support for Census, Birth, Baptism, Marriage, Death & Burial/Cremation records.

This knowledge base page is a modified version of the Getting Started with Ancestral Sources help page which is included with the Ancestral Sources application.

Relationship with Family Historian

Ancestral Sources is designed to be used in conjunction with Calico Pie Limited’s Family Historian. Family Historian and Ancestral Sources can be used to access the same file with both programs running at the same time. Family Historian and Ancestral Sources work well together… Save the file in Family Historian and Ancestral Sources will notice that the file has changed and will reload it thus making sure that it is using the latest version of the file. Once new information has been entered in Ancestral Sources, go back to Family Historian and it reports that the file has changed and should be reloaded. As long as you remember to save the file in Family Historian before moving over to Ancestral Sources you should find it very straightforward to use these applications together.

There is a Plugin for Family Historian V5 (or later) that makes starting Ancestral Sources even easier.

Starting Ancestral Sources

When Ancestral Sources opens you will be presented with the Main Screen. In this version of Ancestral Sources it is possible to work with Census, Birth, Baptism, Marriage, Death, and Burial/Cremation sources and therefore the main screen will probably be set up to allow the entry of those sources: see the Enter Census Facts and Enter Baptism Facts and Enter Marriage Facts tutorials for details. If this screen is greyed out so that the features can not be accessed, this means that you must first open your project or GEDCOM file.

Loading your file or project in Ancestral Sources

It is highly recommended that you work with a copy of your project/file until you are sure of how to use Ancestral Sources and have decided on the settings you require.

If you are using Family Historian Version 4 (or later) then you may be using a Family Historian ‘project’. If so then click on the File menu and select Open FH Project and select your project from the list that appears or browse to find it.

Alternatively you may just be using a GEDCOM file and so click on the File menu and select Open GEDCOM file. In the Open dialogue that appears, find your family history file and open it.

If you use the Ancestral Sources Data Entry Plugin for Family Historian V5 (or later) then the above selection is automatic and the currently selected individual in ƒh is preselected in AS.

Once your file has loaded, the screen should activate and an alphabetical list of individuals in your file will appear in the list in the right-hand panel of the main screen.

Browsing and Selecting Individuals

The right-hand panel on the main screen is used to select people you wish to add to the source document you are entering. Select an individual in the list at the top and you will see information about them displayed below the list. You should also see people related to this individual in the parents, spouses, siblings and children lists. You can again click on any of the people in these lists to select them.

When it is activated (see next section for details of how to do this), the <<Select button will add the chosen individual to the source document. Alternatively you can double-click an individual to select them and click the Select button in one step.

If the keep focus check box is ticked when you press the <<Select button then this individual becomes the focus person. As soon as any other person is added to the source document this individual will be selected again.

There is more information about this on the Main Screen help page for whichever source document type you are entering.

If the individual you want to select isn’t already in the file then you can create them as a new parent, spouse, sibling or child of the selected individual or alternatively just add a new unrelated person. See Ancestral Sources Tutorial ~ Working With Tools ~ (1) Unrelated Individuals for details.

Creating the Source Records

An important decision you need to make is whether to use recording Method 1 for ‘source splitters’ or Method 2 for ‘source lumpers’ as explained in Working with Sources and Citations. It is recommended that you use the default Method 1 but do learn about this choice in the Census Settings and Baptism Settings and Marriage Settings tutorials. There are various other settings that you should find out about and consider carefully on those pages and the General Settings tutorial. Until you have settled on your choices continue to work on a test file or project and make sure you are happy with the way the data is added to your file before you use Ancestral Sources ‘for real’.

At this stage you may wish to select an image (or images) of the source document, either just to make it easier to view the image while you enter the data from it, or in order to add multimedia records in your family history file linked to the source. See Add Multimedia Census Image and Add Multimedia Marriage Image tutorials for further details.

Following the information given on the Enter Census Facts and Enter Baptism Facts and Add Multimedia Marriage Image tutorials you should now select a Record type to enter, add the Place, Address details, Reference, etc. and add the Individuals required to your entry. If their Ages or Occupations are mentioned these should be entered too.

Any data entered into a Census Grid, in cells which are in Columns with darker coloured titles, will be recorded in your file within new facts. The other data will not be recorded anywhere unless you choose to record a transcription of the entry within the source text box. If you click on the Auto button, Ancestral Sources will create much of this transcription for you but you will then almost certainly need to edit this transcription to make it match the actual text of the original census document. Family Historian v7 introduced the ability to use Rich Text within source text and notes. Ancestral Sources fully supports rich text.

Rich text census

Remember that the data being entered into darker coloured columns will be saved into your file. For example, the occupation stated will be recorded as the individual’s occupation within an Occupation fact in the file. Therefore, if the census record says the occupation is ‘Ag L’, you should enter the occupation as ‘Agricultural Labourer’ as this will make more sense when you see the occupation of the person in your file. However, if you make a transcription you may wish to amend the data in the source text to show ‘Ag L’ to accurately reflect the contents of the source document.

Similar concepts and transcription options are available for the other record types.

Once all the data has been entered you can click on Save. If any of the information entered could lead to a birth event being created or amended for any of the Individuals then you may see the Birth Events from Census / Entry screen: see the Save Census and Save Baptism and Save Marriage tutorials for further details.

While the file is being saved, the changes made to your file are logged and these changes can be seen in the Log File Viewer.

Advanced Features

Once you can confidently use Ancestral Sources to create entries you may want to investigate creating your own Auto Text Templates (or modifying existing templates) so that your Auto Text transcripts are customised to your needs.

If you use Flags in Family Historian then you may wish to have these automatically added to Individuals as Facts are added: see the Flag Assignments tutorial for details. Also you can customise how Associated Individuals are recorded by adjusting the Associated Individual Types templates.


If you get stuck read about the Support options on the Ancestral Sources Acknowledgements and Disclaimers page to find out where to get help.


Last update: 09 Apr 2021