Hi WikiTreers,

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here. GEDMatches has really changed the way new genealogists experience and interact with WikiTree, and many more are trying it. There have been over 1,000 GEDCOM uploads in the past month.

Wait. Can that be right? Double-checking … Yup! One thousand thirty-nine GEDCOMs uploaded since Christmas.

Part of the credit goes to Valerie Craft who wrote a nice blog post this week encouraging new people to get started on WikiTree with a GEDCOM. Her earlier post, Using WikiTree: The How and the Why, still stands out in my mind as one of the very best reviews of WikiTree I’ve seen. How could you read that and not want to join? 🙂

For those who do join, one thing that’s different this week: They’ll see a checklist on their Navigation Home Page.

The procedure for becoming a new member is a bit complex because it has multiple steps. Anyone can be a Guest Member or Family Member without much bother. But we reserve the full Wiki Genealogist account level for genealogists who agree with our mission and Honor Code. The checklist should help new members understand how it works.

If you’re already a full member you won’t see the checklist, so here’s an example of what new members see:

Checklist for New WikiTree Members

GEDCOM Equipped BadgeThanks especially to Liz Shifflett for helping develop this.

Uploading a GEDCOM is on the checklist but it’s an optional step. For those who do, we added a new badge: “GEDCOM EQUIPPED.”

Can anybody guess what the icon in the background of the badge is? Hint: If you’re too young to remember pre-Internet computing, don’t even try.

The badge is automatically awarded when you upload a new GEDCOM. If you’ve uploaded a file in the past and you want the badge, you could upload it again and try GEDMatches. Just don’t import your file after you review GEDMatches.

In my last blog post I mentioned that we added the “Browse Matches” tool for browsing existing Pending Merges, Unmerged Matches, and Rejected Matches either site-wide or in your Watchlist. Now we’ve added the ability to limit it by surname.

This will be great for Ed Burke and his merry band of Arborists, and for anyone else who wants to work on improving the tree in a certain area.

By the way, a lot of the changes coming down the pike in 2013 will be about surname-related collaboration. I think that enabling members to connect and collaborate on specific family names is very important for the future of our shared tree project.

Onward and upward,

Chris Whitten

P.S. We’re starting to get prepared for the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, coming up March 21-23. Lianne and I will be working a table there. Are you going? Post a comment if you are, and definitely plan to introduce yourself.


Hi WikiTreers,

I’d like to start using this blog to post some community news updates. Many of us communicate with each other one-on-one and on G2G and various social networks — such a cacophony of communication media these days! — but we don’t have anything like a newsletter.

As experienced WikiTreers know, there’s always lots going on behind the scenes. Our small team is constantly working with community members to figure out what they need in order to make our shared mission to grow a worldwide family tree a success.


GEDMatches is the big news around here.

We released it for beta testing right before Christmas. Brian and I scurried around for a few weeks. First we had to squash some bugs. Then the system got overloaded last weekend and we had to expand capacity. But we’re at a good point now and ready to take things to the next level.

As I’ve said to some of you, I see GEDMatches as one of the single most important improvements we’ve ever made at WikiTree.

From the perspective of Wiki Genealogists, the main benefit of GEDMatches is that it will dramatically reduce the number of new duplicates that need to be merged.

But it won’t just decrease the level of junk that gets added to WikiTree. The flip side is that it will increase the amount of quality content that gets added.

Genealogists don’t need to be afraid to upload a GEDCOM anymore. They can register as a guest member, upload their file, and within about 10 minutes get a GEDMatches report that tells them if any of their ancestors are already on WikiTree. If they’re not the sharing type or they’re just too busy to participate, there’s no obligation to go further. They can let their guest membership and GEDCOM upload expire.

Whether or not the genealogist ends up becoming a member of our community, it’s great for us. From GEDMatches they can send private messages to their cousins using WikiTree or post comments on the matched profiles, adding whatever little bits they’re willing to share. Every piece of info helps solves our puzzles.

Do you have any ideas for getting the word out about GEDMatches? How do we let genealogists know it’s available?

If you have ideas or things to share, come post in this G2G discussion.

Greeters Needed

GEDMatches is going to generate lots of new guest members, and many of them will volunteer to become Wiki Genealogists.

We need more Greeters! Greeters monitor the Guest Activity Feed, welcome new members, and confirm volunteers so that they can start contributing.

One disadvantage of greeting: Your thank-you feed will get ridiculously crowded. For example, see Mike Gabbard‘s and Erin Breen‘s. Erin has over 1,500 thank-yous!

If you’d like to become a Greeter e-mail me or post in G2G.


BrowseMatches” went live late last week.

If you’re a serious WikiTreer you’re going to love this. Many of you specifically asked for it. A couple practically demanded it. 😉

BrowseMatches enables you to:

  • Browse pending merges, i.e. merges that were proposed but haven’t been completed.
  • Browse Unmerged Matches to see if they’re ready to be merged.
  • Browse Rejected Matches to make sure they’re correct.

Part of the impetus for getting this done was Ed Burke and his rapidly growing group of awesome “Arborists.” Their self-appointed mission: improve the overall health of our tree by encouraging and facilitating merges.

Unfortunately, the feature that would make it most useful for Arborists isn’t ready. If you’re just looking at matches in your Watchlist you can limit by surname, but you can’t do this site-wide. For example, you can see all the Smiths on your Watchlist with pending merges, but not all the Smiths on WikiTree with pending merges. We’ll work on adding that for Arborists who want to clean up one surname at a time.

You can find BrowseMatches on your pull-down menu under “Find > Pending Merges”.

Three New Supervisors

Last but not least, we added three new Supervisors this week: Vic Watt, Liz Shifflett, and Jillaine Smith.

All three are super-smart and well-deserving of this level of trust and responsibility.

Onward and upward,

Chris Whitten


Or… Please Don’t Make Me Type All Those Names & Dates Again!!

[Editor’s NoteWikiTree team member Tami Glatz discusses the GEDCOM file format, its history and how it can be used with WikiTree.]

You’ve spent decades, years, or perhaps only a few days entering family information into a genealogy computer program of some sort. Perhaps you are using Personal Ancestral File (PAF), or you’re trying out a trial version of RootsMagic, or Legacy Family Tree. Maybe you’re using the latest version of Family Tree Maker.  But what if you want to try a different program, send your family tree data to a relative, or share your information on WikiTree.com‘s worldwide family tree?

Most genealogy programs are fairly unique in how you enter, display, sort and share your information. And, as you probably know, you can usually only open a file within the program that it was created.  You need to have the Family Tree Maker program on your computer in order to open a Family Tree Maker (.ftm) file, etc.   The same is true for most any of the genealogy computer programs.  And yet the thought of re-typing all those names and dates might stop you from even considering sharing!

It isn’t a problem if everyone you want to share with is using the same program. But as you start finding and communicating with new cousins in distant parts of the world, the likelihood that they are using the same genealogical computer program you are gets very slim. How can you share those thousands of names, dates and notes that you’ve painstakingly entered into your computer by hand, without having to repeat that very tedious process?

The answer is GEDCOM! GEDCOM stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunication. It was developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the purpose of making genealogical information shareable and portable between different genealogical computer programs. The very first version was released in 1984. The current version is GEDCOM 5.5, and in an effort to keep up with ever-changing technologies, FamilySearch is working with others on the next generation of GEDCOM formats, called GEDCOM X.

How do I make a GEDCOM?

There are instructions for importing and exporting GEDCOMS in the WikiTree Help section, under Gedcom . Or you might want to read the “Help” section or instructions for your particular computer program, but in most programs, you can find the GEDCOM option when you try to “Export” all or parts of your file.

What does a GEDCOM look like?

A raw GEDCOM file actually looks fairly simple, and is almost understandable if you try to “read” it.  It will be a plain text file containing your genealogical information – names, dates, stories, notes, sources, etc. Embedded in the file will be the meta data, or simply put, the magical bits of information that connect the bits of information to each individual, and each individual to others in family relationships.

In the blue box is a sample of a GEDCOM file.  Just looking at it, you might be able to see some of the different parts that make it up. The header (HEAD) shows where the file came from. In this instance, it’s from my Legacy Family Tree program.  Nine lines down tells the date I exported the file from my program, and where it is stored on my computer. Since I declined to include my own information, you’ll see a couple lines further down that it says Submitter Not Provided. That would be where my name and address might normally appear.  Below that begins the data I chose to export from my file, starting with the first individual (INDI), Deborah Forward.

Where did my pictures go?

References to photo and media files can be attached within a GEDCOM, but the file containing those pictures and media must be accessible to the new genealogy program. Simply put, if you have all of your pictures and media linked to your GEDCOM in a folder on your computer, and you send a GEDCOM to your Cousin Bob, unless he has that same folder already on his computer, and is able to follow his program’s directions for making sure the links continue to work, Cousin Bob won’t be able to access the pictures.

Do I use all or just part of my file to make a GEDCOM?

To avoid overload, both to our system, and to your email from info & collaboration requests, we prefer that GEDCOM uploads be no more than 2,000 or so individuals. If your genealogy computer program is already bursting with 50,000 people, that’s great. You just can’t upload them all at once to WikiTree.  And chances are really good with a file that size that many of your ancestors are already on WikiTree. Be sure to read the GEDCOM FAQs at WikiTree.com to understand file limitations.

Pruning Your Family Tree

Creating branches without a hatchet

You can create your GEDCOMs however you like. Some folks create GEDCOMs based on maternal or paternal lines. Some folks will upload a generation or two across both sides of their family at a time. You can choose whatever will work for you to upload the branches of your family tree.

The most important thing to remember is that newly uploaded GEDCOMs will NOT replace previous files, but rather add to them, creating duplicates where branches intersect.  Try to keep the number of duplicates to a minimum, to avoid having to spend too much time merging those duplicates once your new GEDCOM upload is processed. Remember, the goal is to have one profile page for every individual on our worldwide family tree and to eliminate duplication.

 Your family, my family, OUR family.  One worldwide, collaborative family tree. WikiTree!

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