by Michael Stills

In Preparing for the Adventure, we introduced you to concept of genealogical collaboration as conceived by Chris Whitten, creator of WikiTree. As a place “where genealogists collaborate,” WikiTree encourages individuals to work together on shared ancestors while building a single family tree.

The concept of working together on shared ancestors is not the common experience on most online genealogical sites, and WikiTree is aware that this unusual experience creates challenges for the first-time participant. To help ease the transition, Chris developed the Honor Code.

For members of WikiTree, the Honor Code is the “secret sauce” to productive and enjoyable collaboration. Most people fail to read the Terms of Service before joining any given website. However, failing to do so means entering at your own peril. With WikiTree especially, it is imperative to your success and enjoyment that you understand the Honor Code and abide by its principles.

Because collaboration requires individuals with varying degrees of knowledge, skills and abilities to work together towards a common goal, the Honor Code establishes the foundation from which everyone must work.

Be forewarned, WikiTree is a unique experience that is unsettling to many, especially in the beginning. This uneasiness begins to disappear as members learn to embrace the Honor Code. Those who embrace the Honor Code often experience an epiphany about what working collaboratively truly means. For these individuals, WikiTree is as addicting as genealogy itself. In joining WikiTree and embracing all that comes with it, you will not find a better group of genealogists willing to help and who care about doing genealogy well.

So, let’s put on our Collaborative Genealogy Goggles and take a closer look at the principles of WikiTree’s Honor Code.

Our Honor Code

1. We collaborate. When we share ancestors we work together on the same ancestor profiles.

When you share the same ancestor, there should be only one profile for that ancestor. That profile does not belong to you or the person you are sharing with, it belongs to the community at large. You will collaborate on what that single profile should look like. This collaborative element requires you to share and to discuss what you know with one another, and come to an agreement of what should be included on that profile. This process is vastly different than sites like Ancestry, where each genealogist can have their own version of an ancestor. When we have to share the ancestor, we need to engage in discussion on how we know what we know. These conversations should revolve around what evidence exists to support your statements of fact. When done politely and productively, this collaboration can lead to new discoveries and better-sourced profiles.

Profile Manager is someone who has created or adopted a profile and has accepted the responsibility of developing that profile for the community. It does not mean that they own the profile. They are the WikiTree genealogist who is currently shepherding the profile and who has agreed to respond to requests for collaboration.

2. We care about accuracy. We’re always aiming to improve upon our worldwide family tree and fix mistakes.

People make mistakes, accepting this as fact and endeavoring to work together to replace mistakes with documented evidence is part of the process.

3. We know mistakes are inevitable. We don’t want to be afraid to make them. We assume that mistakes are unintentional when others make them and ask for the same understanding.

Because we know mistakes are part of the process, we help each other without attacking those who make the mistake. If we are all working from the principles of the Honor Code, mistakes provide an opportunity for clarification. Be open to discussion. In fact, because you are agreeing to collaborate, you are agreeing to respond to requests for clarification. If you do not respond, you are not collaborating. There are processes in place to help those who wish to collaborate but find it difficult because a member is not responding. For an example, visit Unresponsive Profile Manager on WikiTree.

4. We know misunderstandings are inevitable. We try to minimize them by being courteous to everyone, even to those who don’t act accordingly.

WikiTree provides examples to help you communicate on a more productive level. Visit Don’t WikiTree While Angry.

5. We respect privacy. We privacy-protect anything we think our family members might not want public. If that’s not enough for someone, we delete their personal information.

Privacy is very important on WikiTree, if you still have questions or concerns after reading WikiTree’s Privacy policy, you can reach out and ask for clarification. The staff at WikiTree is very responsive.

6. We respect copyrights. We don’t knowingly copy information that’s owned by someone else. If we ourselves want to preserve a copyright, we’re clear about what’s copyrighted so others don’t accidentally copy it.

If you have questions about what you are sharing, you can visit the G2G forum (Genealogists to Genealogists Forum) for help. Many of our members are well versed in this area and will work with you to help resolve your concerns.

7. We give credit. Although most genealogy isn’t copyrighted, researchers deserve credit for the work they’ve done.

If someone or some site has helped you find a genealogical gold nugget, give them a shout out. You can acknowledge them on their profile or on the profile they helped you with. One of the best places to say thank you is on the G2G forum, which we will discover on our next adventure.

8. We cite sources. Without sources we can’t objectively resolve conflicting information.

Beginning genealogists sometimes confuse sources with citations. WikiTree wants to know how you have come to know what you are claiming. What evidence do you have for your statements of fact? When you first create a profile you will be asked to provide evidence for the existence of the person: where did you get this information, what is your source? While one good source may be enough to create the profile, you may be asked by other collaborators for any additional source material you may have, and to document it on the profile so that they too can find it and examine it. The act of writing it down is your citation. What is unique about WikiTree is that they recognize that not everyone is a professional genealogist. Because WikiTree cares about accuracy, they have created a climate where evidence and source citations are valued and frequently requested. We will learn more about how WikiTree values source citations when we encounter Sourcerers later on in our adventure. For now, just do the best you can.

9. We are united in a mission to increase the world’s common store of knowledge. We always respect copyrights and privacy, but we keep information as free and open as possible.

Sign Here X_______________.

[YOU], Wonderful WikiTreer.

Once you have fully absorbed, understood and signed the Honor Code, you will be properly prepared to cross the threshold into the world of WikiTree. On our next adventure, we will meet the many magical helpers waiting for you in the Lost Land of G2G.

 (Michael has been a WikiTreer since December 2011 and a Volunteer Leader since Oct 2014. He is currently working for WikiTree to help expand awareness of the site. Michael is owner of Missing Roots Genealogy and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists. He recently completed the Online Genealogical Research Certificate offered through Boston University’s school of Professional Studies.)

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Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Saundra.

Saundra became a WikiTreer in August of 2017.  She spends a great deal of time adding to and improving our Ohio profiles.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Right now I’m working on my Murchland and Van Sickle ancestors.  I have the wills for the Murchlands but don’t yet know how they are all connected.  With the Van Sickles, they moved around a lot and changed the spelling of their names so much that I’m having to deeply research the locations to find connections.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I’m working the entire state of Ohio and profiling the early settlers of each town, township, and county.  Right now I’m in Jackson county which led me to create a special category for Welsh Settlements in Ohio.  That is a perfect companion to the African American Settlements in Ohio which I started to record the freed slaves who relocated in the state.  It all will come together when I get farther along with my work in Ohio.

I’m also presently working the pioneers of “Ten Mile Country”.  This will hopefully fill in some of the blanks with my own ancestors.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

My Aunt Jan did all the preliminary work for my direct ancestry.  She took our line back to James and Mary (Lafferty) Stuart of Cow Pasture, Virginia the hard way.  Door to door, cemetery to cemetery, and handwritten letters to county court houses. . . it took her years to accomplish what I can accomplish in a handful of hours today.  Today, many people are using her work without knowing how hard it was or how long it took for her to accumulate.

Aunt Jan saw my interest in our history on a trip to Point Pleasant when I was about 12 and she planted a seed in  me hoping I would  take up where she left off.   Apparently,  I wasn’t the only family member she touched, either.  Since I’ve now the time to work the ancestry I’ve found many cousins who’ve built on to her original work.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

That would be my Dad.  He’s West Virginia hill people through and through and it makes me proud to be descended from Appalachian Scots-Irish settlers.  But, other than Dad, I don’t have a favorite ancestor.  Some people have more interesting lives than others and it’s just fun to learn more about them.  I’m always amazed when a woman has more than 6 children.  I love the families who left their established towns and moved to newly opened territory. . . the courage it took is a testament to the human race.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

Working the African American Settlements in Ohio is tough.  The records are scanty. . . the names aren’t complete. . . and there’s little chance of tracing them back to their origins.  Alex Haley was very lucky.  With so-called “brick walls” of Caucasians, I figure time and collaboration will eventually open doors and family Bibles so I just tell myself that the universe will help fill in the blanks and keep on truckin’.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing?

I’ve been on WikiTree a little over a year and I’ve learned that I have Genealogical ADD.  I’ll work a specific name or location for a time then, when everything starts mushing together in my brain, I move to another name or location.  I keep my overall focus on mine and my husband’s family and the state of Ohio so I don’t stray too far and can easily come back and continue previous work.  Since I have the entire northern half of Ohio still to work, I figure I’ll be fine for at least another year.

What brought you to WikiTree?

That was my Dad.  I was floundering looking for a decent free site to work and Dad said he liked WikiTree.  I signed up almost immediately and began working.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most?

I love the freedom.  I can add backgrounds, photos, sources, and even music and videos if they add to the profile of the person.  My husband and late father-in-law are musicians and I was free to add their music through YouTube videos.  Bob Evans, the late pork and restaurant mogul of Ohio, has a video series so I added that.  I can connect unrelated persons who traveled together to settle a specific area.  We can really flesh out history on WikiTree.

If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?

Right now, there’s so many profiles on WikiTree that I’d change the name search protocol.  When searching to see if an early settler is already on WikiTree–“John Russ” for example– then John Ross, John Rust, John Russo, etc. shows up and barely 100 years are covered on the search page.  I have to go to the bottom and ask specifically for “John Russ”.  It would save time and confusion if I had to specifically ask for similar surnames rather than having to specifically ask for exact surnames.

What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?

I hope I’ve helped genealogy by being specific.   Aunt Jan taught me that it’s “Location, Location, Location”.  There are thousands of John Smiths in New Jersey and if you don’t know their exact location you can’t know if it’s your ancestor John Smith.  So, I work hard to make sure that I narrow my locations to the smallest common denominator possible to help those who see the profiles know if it’s their ancestor.  If I can find the information, I will give a street address of the deceased person.  (I prefer not to work on those born after 1910 if I can help it.  I don’t want to mess with privacy issues.)

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Just go for it!  Create, Learn, Have Fun!  In the short time I’ve been here I’ve learned so much from other profiles and, more importantly, from the other genealogists here.  It’s OK to make mistakes because everyone knows what it’s like to be new at this.  Like it says on the page. . . Be Bold!

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Happy Wednesday WikiTreers!

Here’s this week’s WikiTree news as well as some of our favorites picks from around the genealogy community.

Happenings Around the Tree:

Happenings Around the Genealogy Community: 

New Record Additions:

Don’t forget to check  GeneaWebinars and ConferenceKeeper for upcoming genealogy webinars, online meetings, hangouts and events.

Keep calm and source on!


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Wow, WikiTreers!

imageWhat an amazing weekend! Thank you so much to everyone who participated in our 2018 Spring Clean-a-Thon.  It’s so great to see the community come together and have so much fun cleaning up our tree.

This year we handled 152,253 suggestions nearly doubling last year’s total of 80,757.  So impressive!

Here are some other stats from our event:

Top 5 Teams:

  • Team Roses: 43,393 (!)
  • Southern Super Sweepers: 12,517
  • Team GB Gen: 11,156
  • Kiwi Crew: 9,031
  • Tidying Tornadoes: 8,009

Top 5 Participants

  • Lucy Lavelle: 7,652
  • NJ Penny: 7,652 (yes, a tie for 1st!)
  • Charlotte Shockey: 7,515
  • Emma MacBeath: 5,975
  • Deb Love: 4,000

Top 5 Suggestions Handled:

  • USA Too Early in Birth Location: 25,528
  • Empty Profile: 14,695
  • USA Too Early in Death Location: 14,324
  • Separators in First Name: 9,161
  • Missing <references /> Tag: 7,590
Top Participant Per Suggestion Group:
  • Dates: Bobbie Bonner with 1,076
  • Relationships: Sandy Patak with 396
  • Names: Emma McBeth with 5,836
  • Gender: Sandy Patak with 231
  • Locations: Lucy Lavelle with 7, 297
  • Privacy: Eowyn Langholf with 235
  • Biography: NJ Penny with 3,064
  • Templates: Aleš Trtnik with 688
  • WikiData: Stephen McCallum with 101
  • FindAGrave: Chet Snow with 805

26 teams participated and 24 of them broke 1,000!  We had 385 members registered but 475 participated in some way.  Members who weren’t registered on a specific team handled 3,411.  47 individual participants broke 1,000!

Thanks again to everyone who participated.  Can’t wait to see what happens next year!

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We’re proud to announce that we just released a major round of improvements to our system for merging person profiles.

The next time you merge you’ll notice some big differences. (If you want to see them now, you could see if there is a pending merge you can help complete.)

Those of you who are familiar with our tools for merging-in data from external websites — WikiTree X and GEDCOMpare — will recognize most of the changes. We adapted the innovations made while developing those new systems into our original merge code.

Here are some of the changes:

  • You’re not limited to selecting data from the merged-away profile or keeping data from the merged-into profile. You can enter completely new data during the merge.
  • You can view, set, and modify the certainty status of data fields and parental relationships during the merge.
  • If you enter or edit the birth or death location, the standardized place name suggestions from FamilySearch will appear. You can hide these suggestions if they’re annoying.
  • You can now edit the text section during the merge. Previously, the entire text section from the merged-away profile was appended to the bottom of the text section for the merged-into profile. You then had to edit this after the merge. Now we append biography to the biography and the sources to the sources, and you can do the final edits right there on the merge form.
  • You can preview the text section before completing the merge.
  • When you complete the merge the data is scanned for likely errors. It’s the same data validation system that we have for editing profiles.

WikiTreer-in-Chief, Chris Whitten, feels very good about these changes.  As he says, synthesizing conflicting information into one coherent profile — figuring out what the sources really tell us and communicating it on the page — is high-level genealogy collaboration. It is the essence of what we do on WikiTree.

Merging can never be easy. But we can make it easier to do better merges, and hopefully that’s what we’ve done here. In the long run this should relieve some of the burden that’s been placed on the generous, experienced WikiTreers who have to clean up messy merges done by less experienced members.

Please post here if you notice problems, or if you have suggestions for further improvements, or improvements to the explanations on the Merging Help page.

Onward and upward!

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