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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From our WikiTreer-in-Chief, Chris Whitten:

Happy New Year, WikiTreers!

This year is special for us. This year we turn 10. (Don’t ask me for an exact birthday. It’s complicated.)

If you’re reading this, you are probably part of our community and have contributed to WikiTree. Some of you have put as much time, energy, and love into this project as I have.

I hope that you are proud of what we have done together. I am. I believe that we are growing something of real value here.

There are objective measures of our success. The size of our tree. The number of members. Traffic to our pages. By all these measures, WikiTree is doing well. 2017 has been an especially good year for us. The number of people who view our ancestor profiles is about 50% higher than a year ago. It’s over a million people a month.

But the true value of our tree can’t be easily measured.

Our true value is in the stories of our ancestors that we record and preserve. It’s in the branches of our shared tree that grow stronger and more accurate every year. It’s in the families we connect.

WikiTree is unique. Although there are a couple other good, single family trees, they don’t have communities like ours. How we work together is special. Our tree doesn’t just get bigger every year. It gets better every year.

If that’s too abstract, think about some of the profiles you have contributed to. Have you helped to preserve family history that might otherwise have been lost? Have you shared it with family members who might otherwise have not seen it? Most of you have. Many have even met relatives you might otherwise have not met.

We are writing pages in the great book of world history that wouldn’t have been written without us.

And these are not just virtual pages that will disappear when our website is gone. Well, I mean, yes, they are :-) … but the content won’t disappear. I believe that the shared and open information we are growing here will be around as long as there are people who care about where they come from. In 2017 we took some extra steps to make sure of it.

So, here’s to us. Here’s to WikiTree and here’s to you. Thank you for working with me these past 10 years.

Onward and upward into our second decade,


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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 Marty.

Marty Acks became a WikiTreer in July 0f 2014.  He’s active in our ScottishSourcerers, and Pre-1500 projects and also enjoys working on Data Doctor Suggestions and exploring the DNA features in WikiTree. This year he started giving presentations about WikiTree and has a couple local gigs lined up for next year.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Lenover, Acks, Porterfield, and Malicote/Mallicoat (and variations).

What are some of the locations you are researching?

In the United States, it’s all over the board. Generally, my research is in Illinois where I have lived and the northern and southern migration routes taken by emigrants from Europe. In Europe, I am focused on Ayrshire and Renfrewshire in Scotland where my Porterfield ancestors originated.

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

About the turn of the century is when I started getting interested in genealogy. My mom and dad had done a great job doing non-internet research. They shared some of their files and I went to work from there. I started by doing “hermit” genealogy on the internet for about fifteen years.  A few years ago, I found the WikiTree community and later joined multiple Chicago area genealogical groups.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

The 17th century Porterfields of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, Scotland have captured my attention for a long time. They were Covenanters during the killing times in Scotland and found themselves victims of the religious oppression of the time. The laird of the Porterfield estate had his lands taken, honors stripped, and was sentence to death for supporting the Covenanter movement. Favorable political changes resulted in the death sentence never being carried out and some his lands were eventually restored.

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

While I have broken through some secondary brick walls, I am stuck on both my Lenover and Acks lines. The trail runs cold on both lines around 1800.  Lenover seems German and some think it may have derived from a surname of Lindover. Acks, was perhaps an Americanized version of Ochs. This line may have come from Ersingen, Bilfingen or Spessart in what was a Catholic pocket in Baden, Germany.

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

I’d probably opt for Harry Chapin, a folk singer and activist at a time when it was not cool or hip to be one. He was a great storyteller through his songs and seemed to have relentless drive and a passion to fight hunger.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Although genealogy seems to have sucked the life out of many former activities, biking, LGB G-scale trains, travelling anywhere, and musty used bookstores still remain as active interests.  Spending time with my grandson (plus a granddaughter on the way) would top the list though.

How long have you been on WikiTree and how active are you?  Are you involved in projects/challenges? Which ones? What do you enjoy about them/what are you working on?

I joined WikiTree in July 2014 and would consider myself rather active, particularly for someone that has a full time day job. Scottish, Sourcerers, and Pre-1500 projects have been my main interests. DB Errors have gotten rather consuming as of late and I am just starting to explore the DNA features in WikiTree. This year I started speaking about WikiTree at local genealogy groups. I have a couple of speaking engagements planned already for next year.

What are some of the features/aspects of WikiTree that you love/don’t love as much?

I volunteer as a Ranger to help keep the tree clean from corruption and bad actors. I’m probably not as passionate about this as others, but it is important work. A WYSIWYG editor would be nice or at least an editor that highlighted the wiki markup elements to simplify the editing process.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

I was familiar with wikis and Wikipedia when I started, so I probably had a leg up on that side of things. I would say just start inputting with yourself and move on to your parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins. Check out the G2G forums for help. There are so many things going on in WikiTree, like genealogy in general, that it can be mind-numbing.

I remember the thrill of connecting an ancestor on the global family tree for the first time. It opened up a whole new world of ancestors and cousins for me.

Respect the privacy of others and be aware that collaboration works best as a team sport. Those would be my final thoughts.

If you could leave one message for your descendants, what would it be?

I hope to leave a well-organized physical and digital (including WikiTree) footprint. That being said, this is my message: “Here is what I found which I thought would be of interest to future generations. Sorry I’m not around anymore to answer any questions.”


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