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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As we leave 2017 and head into 2018 (our 10th Anniversary year!), we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the highlights of the year.  Here are some of our favorites:

Over Three Million Profiles Added

Just after New Year’s Day in 2017, we passed a huge milestone – 13 million profiles, with about two million of those being added in 2016.

Our present to ourselves in 2017 was to pass 16 million profiles on Christmas Eve!  Which means that in this one year, you all added over three million profiles to our growing family tree.  Not only that, but because of our focus on sourcing and accuracy, our tree isn’t just getting bigger – it’s getting better!

RIP, Nancy Lee Cousins

Not all the highlights of the year were necessarily happy ones but we can’t look at 2017 without mentioning Nancy Lee Cousins, or Lee,  as she liked to be called.  In April, she lost her fight after battling a long illness.

Lee was a WikiTreer for about four years and made innumerable contributions.  She was spunky, delightful and fun. During her struggles, she wrote to one of our team members and said, “I am an old woman and shortly after I retired, I had a massive stroke. That really put the old brakes on someone who was so active in everything. I had to give up all my projects that I had looked forward to working on in my ‘twilight years.’ Then came Wikitree and saved my life.  It really gives me a reason to get up in the morning …  I feel as if I know each of you and love you as friends.”

Lee was greeting new members until just a few weeks before she died.  She continues to be greatly missed in our community.

Member-Created Apps

Our WikiTree Apps project is for programmers who want to help develop features and functions that enhance WikiTree for genealogists, and for outside developers and researchers who would like to make use of the global family tree for creative, non-profit purposes.  This year members created some cool apps!

  • Julian Laffey made an app that allows a quick search of your watchlist, photo face tagging and collapsible descendant trees.
  • Created by Jamie Nelson, this app will give you a list of your brick wall/dead-end ancestors.

Successful “‘Thons”

In April, we held our first ever Spring Clean-a-Thon, an event that stemmed from Laura Bozzay’s idea for a community clean-up weekend.  Our goal was to clear out as many database suggestions as possible.  As a result of everyone’s hard work, in 72 hours we addressed 80,757 suggestions.

Top 5 Participants:

  1. Lucy Lavelle – 3,167
  2. Emma McBeth – 3,046
  3. Charlotte Shockey – 2,763
  4. Dorothy Barry – 1,897
  5. Anonymous J. Penny – 1,732

Later, in October, to celebrate Family History Month, we had our second annual Source-a-Thon, the goal being to add at least one source to as many unsourced profiles as possible.  In 72 hours, we sourced 53, 245 profiles!

Top 5 Participants:

  • Lucy Lavelle (again!) – 1,780
  • Morgan Mulligan – 1,495
  • Deb Durham – 1,445
  • NJ J Penny – 1,242
  • Emma MacBeath – 1,177

We can’t wait to see what you guys pull off in our 2018 “‘Thons”!

New Leaders

Almost everything on WikiTree is done by volunteers. Some volunteers become very active in the community and committed to its mission. They start and lead projects, take responsibility, and help others. From among these natural leaders, a very small group has been given the official status of “WikiTree Leader.” These Leaders have special powers and ongoing responsibilities.  We were thrilled to have some amazing WikiTreers join our Leader ranks in 2017:

Ellen SmithCindy LesureNatalie TrottSusie MacLeodIsabelle RassinotEva EkebladSarah HeineySarah RojasDebi  HoagMel LambertSummer Orman and Jamie Nelson.

We were equally thrilled to have Guy Constantineau and Jillaine Smith return from “Leader Emeritus” status to become fully active leaders again.

Lastly, in February, we added a new member to our small team, Julie Ricketts. Though new to the team,  she’s been heavily involved in essential WikiTree projects such as the Greeters and Mentors for years.  Julie helps administer projects and project leaders.

RootsTech 2017

Each year a bunch of the Team, Leaders and other WikiTreers get together in Salt Lake City to work our booth at the RootsTech Conference.  More of you join us each year and it’s a blast!  It’s really the only opportunity we have where we can get together face to face for a few days and we really enjoy it.  Last year’s group had way too much fun:

GEDCompare 2.0

As of September, we stopped doing traditional GEDCOM imports.

“Importing your tree” never really made sense here, where we share one tree. Working with the old system was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We forced you to compare everyone in your GEDCOM with potential matches on WikiTree, skip everyone who appeared to be a duplicate, and import the rest as new people, all in one painful step. And that was just the first step. If you didn’t go on to edit and improve the profiles that were created through the import you would be leaving messes for others to clean up later.

Now we have something that fits more comfortably with the way collaboration works here. It’s a dynamic process. It still begins with automatically-suggested matches. But as you compare them and explore existing WikiTree profiles, you can update those profiles and add relatives one person at a time using your GEDCOM data and your good judgment as a Wiki Genealogist.

Thanks to your feedback, we are continuing to improve this new process and look forward to it being even better in 2018.

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few more quick highlights we thought worth mentioning:

So as we move onward and upward into a new year, we want to say thank you, WikiTreers!  WikiTree is what it is because of you and because of what you are contributing to our community.

2018 will be an exciting year as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary!  Don’t miss the fun stuff already happening like the WikiTreer Awards, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, challenges, projects, ‘Thons and more.

See you around the Tree!

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