How do we handle over 200-year-old orphan files?

+5 votes
For those of you who have experience in merging files from the 1600's:

A Wikitreer (Chris) uploaded a file from that turns out to be a tangled up mess. What makes matters worse is the last names are mostly Williams, with common given names such as John, Sarah, William, Ann repeated over and over. We've been working together to try to straighten it out. The file listed a woman as having 26 children. We've searched for documentation and so far have formed two separate families and a whole lot of orphans. These children encompass several generations along with many birth places and death places not matching each other. My husband is descended from one of these lines which is how I got involved in this. I'm keeping a list of all these orphans on a free-space page I designed to help me keep track of my merge projects. During this process, Chris has discovered these are not part of her Williams' ancestry, so fortunately, the records have no deep roots attached except for my husband's family.

Several of the orphans probably go together in yet a third family group.


What do we do with the orphans?
Just leave them dangling in the hope that some day someone will join Wikitree and discover he/she's descended from some of these orphans so  the development of the line will be continued? (Which means we can go back to work on our own family which we'd prefer to do.)
Keep researching until we put the other family/families in the correct family unit/units?

What do we do with all of the source material that is totally inaccurate?
Delete it so it won't confuse other WikiTree/ members who can actually get on and review the material? The deleted material can be retrieved if needed, from what I've read so would it be okay to delete it?
Or should we leave it for others to stumble over since much of the information in the sources probably goes with profiles we've culled out of the two main families?

Can we delete the 26 children listed within the biography on Whitley-395's profile page or should we leave them there as a reference to chaos? You can tell my opinion of what to do with the list, but I need the expertise of others to do this the WikiTree way.
in Policy and Style by Debby Black G2G6 Mach 8 (82.9k points)
edited by Debby Black
Just for clarification, I didn't mean should I delete the children (profiles). I wasn't clear. I meant, is it alright to delete the list of the 26 children because they don't all belong to that one woman. I've got all 26 profiles attached either to the two separate Williams families or to the orphan group so if I delete the list of 26 children, all their profiles will still be intact.

2 Answers

+1 vote
Have you tried contacting by telephone? I had a specialized question to ask them while I was doing a guest research so I called them.  They were very helpful and even pulled up the record that I had a question about (there was a word that was illegible). They spent a good deal of time with me. Also I understand that if you post comments in the space next to the record that you think is inaccurate, that they make a note of it online for others to see.

I'd say Don't delete. Hope this helps.

Thanks for your response, Lois.

I'm not a member of I figured Wikitreers who are might be interested in going on Ancestry to look up the source material. Otherwise there doesn't really seem to be any reason to keep the sources because they are incorrect and could lead to confusion on Wikitree later on. I'm a cautious person, though, so haven't deleted anything...or at least, very little.
+1 vote
I would say don't delete the profiles.

As for Ancestry sources, if you know they're incorrect or don't apply to that person, I say delete them. They aren't serving any purpose. In my opinion, bad sources like Ancestry member trees just cause less-cautious genealogists to think that there are good sources. When you clear out the junk, it's easier to see where sources are needed. That's the approach I take on profiles I manage.
by Liander Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (444k points)
Debby, great question.

I agree with Lianne, except that I think there is a reason to leave a mention of something you know is incorrect. If you know an member tree has incorrect information, you're doing the next researcher a service by leaving the reference *and* saying why it's incorrect. Knowing something is disproved is valuable.

I think it's always about explanation. If you're willing to take the time to add an explanation, you're helping other researchers.

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