Should this become the official WikiTree policy on creating profiles for recently deceased people? [closed]

+64 votes

A lot of discussion has been happening around the creation for profiles/categories for people who have recently died due to some catastrophe, be it a fire, earthquake, or now, Covid-19.   Many people feel it is very insensitive for a stranger to create a profile of a recently deceased person, include no bio or include only hearsay from a newspaper; and then orphan the profile.  Others believe this is somehow honoring the person.   

I lost several of my friends during the devastating fires in California, and have been shocked at the number of errors in the profiles created for these people, because the only source of information was “journalistic.”  I cannot imagine what it would be like for a family member to see the inaccurate information presented on our Worldwide Family Tree.

Perhaps it is time to change the rules?  I am proposing that we have a moratorium on the creation of a profile of a recently deceased person except by a family member or a personal friend. This rule would exclude “Notables” where there is an existing profile, or where any Project supports the creation of the profile.    Based on my personal experience, unless we are connecting the person to an existing profile on the tree, I would like the moratorium to be 7 years.

I understand that other sites, list names of people who died during these kinds of events, but those sites are not Family Tree sites.   I would like us to keep focused on our Mission of a Family Tree.

Please remember to "vote", either yes or no with an up vote.

closed with the note: Draft Policy created by the team
in Policy and Style by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (665k points)
closed by Robin Lee
Thank you, Robin, for raising this. I am one of those who get extremely disquieted about strangers creating profiles for recently deceased people who are not Notables. I know how I would feel if someone did this for one of my close family - I would be angry and upset. I know some WikiTree members may think this is a way of memorialising those who have just died, but we should recognise that many families will not want this while emotions are raw.

And then, as you say, there is the risk of including inaccurate information, which could upset families and close friends further.

To create a largely empty profile and then orphan it comes over to me as showing a degree of disrespect, however well-meaning the WikiTree member doing this may be. I know this is not what the member concerned will intend, but it gives me the impression that whoever has done this does not care about the person who has died, or the feelings of the family.

Covid-19 has brought all this very much to the fore.

I fully support your proposal.

Thank you for proposing this, Robin. I'm impressed by the amount of discussion it's already generated.

I am inclined to think, as some others have said here, that this is about courtesy. Some members are doing things that many others find hurtful or offensive. Courtesy is in our Honor Code. It's not optional.

Let me sketch up a more complete answer with a rough draft of how I might word the policy page.

Robin, do you feel Chris' draft help text addresses the concerns that led you to propose this change? If so, could you close this thread? It's become quite unwieldy and has gone off on a thousand tangents. If the suggested help page does not address your concerns could you say why?

Here's a new G2G post for discussion:

Hopefully we can wrap this up in a couple days.

Thank you!
This moment in my hometown, in Nova Scotia, is why I support this policy so much.
My heart breaks for you....
I am sure many WT members will, like me, be holding in their thoughts all those affected by today's awful events in Nova Scotia.
Thanks! I'm personally pretty okay. But so many people in the community I grew up in are hurting badly. One of the things I love most about Nova Scotia is how everyone's first instinct is to give people the space and the privacy they need to grieve. I'm really glad, today of all days, to know that the WikiTree community also sees how important it is.

Thanks, Robin, for bringing this whole issue forward months ago.
Nicely written Robin. I propose we bring this issue back in the light of day and OPEN.
Paula, as indicated, the policy has been put into place.   If a change to that policy is needed you can use the Developing new rules process.....the policy is what I was asking for and received.
Hi Robin,

I echo that this is a nicely written policy, although I had to hunt around to find out that it is policy; this was closed with the note that it was still a "draft". This needs to get more visibility, in particular, it's not linked from the Honor Code or from "Help:Privacy" or any of the obvious places; I really only find it under the Styles and Standards category. I think it should at least be mentioned and linked in the honor code and summarized and linked on Help:Privacy.

I also think there ought to be a way to get significant policy changes out to users. This was more or less done (if perhaps a bit belatedly) with the GDPR changes, and in any event the consequences of that became obvious. Perhaps there should be a 1-time clickthrough on login when there's policy changes that users need to be aware of?

This is a good and important common sense policy but I'm afraid that after a few months it's still not visible to exactly the folks that need to see it.

Can you start a new G2G that makes the recommendations you cite?   I agree that we need to make this more "visible".

27 Answers

+37 votes
Best answer

Thank you to Robin and all the others who are giving thoughtful input.

As some others have said, I think this is about courtesy. Some members are doing things that many others find hurtful or offensive. Courtesy is not optional on WikiTree. It's in our Honor Code.

If a member is doing something that we find offensive, we assume it's unintentional. That's also in our Honor Code.

If a member is informed that what they're doing is offensive, and they keep doing it, there is cause for escalation. Robin knows this better than anyone as one of our most experienced Mentors and Mediators. Mediating a conflict on this topic is difficult because there is no page that explains why this particular behavior would be considered offensive to many people.

I think we need a page akin to Research Before Editing. We wouldn't expect most members to read it until a question or conflict arises. Then, hopefully, it can be used to quickly resolve the conflict.

Here is a rough draft: Recently Deceased Strangers.

I'm sure it could be improved upon. What would you change?

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
selected by Eowyn Walker

Jillaine, as I read this sentence,

"If you are not confident that family members would be comfortable seeing the information on WikiTree do not create the profile or keep it private until more years have passed." 

it seems to me that any family member could come forward at any time, claim not to be "comfortable," and demand that information be removed.  No time period is specified, just "more years."  

I could say more, but I already have. 

Julie K, I still think you are focusing on a single sentence instead of the document and intent as a whole. Using your scenario - If a family member came forward and said they were not comfortable with the profile - the profile could marked as private in keeping with or Honor Code (see point V).

But I would have to interject to that scenario as well - how often does this actually occur? The entire document is asking members to simply "think before you create a profile". Are you honoring the person by adding them to WikiTree, or are you simply adding the profile just to add it?
Also I would like to add that (as has been stated previously) this is not made in an attempt to stop profiles being generated - it was made in an attempt to stop the create-and-run profiles that pop up that do not add any value to the tree.

If you are adding value by creating the profile - then this document has no bearing on what you do.
Steve, I know why the policy was created.  That is not the point.

Policies should be clear and specific.  They should stand on their own as coherent documents.  Their enforcement should not continually raise questions of interpretation.  When the policy is not explicitly limited to particular cases, it is susceptible to being cited for other reasons.

However, I'll be clear, as I have already.  I oppose any such policy.  I think that anything that limits the free exchange of information, beyond keeping living people private, is going in the wrong direction.  The more we limit information on WikiTree, the less relevant and useful we become.

Edit was minor wording change for clarity.

And re:

"it seems to me that any family member could come forward at any time, claim not to be "comfortable," and demand that information be removed.  No time period is specified, just "more years."  

This is consistent with item #V in our honor code. It is nothing new. And remember the whole page is about recently deceased individuals.

All that said, it would behoove Chris to define "recently deceased". That is the most vulnerable to misinterpretation.

Jillaine, I have read the Honor Code many times, and read it again before I responded to your first post of the morning (above).

Item V. refers to "our family members"  and says "if that's not enough for someone, we delete their personal information."  I take that to mean, for instance, if I posted my grandmother's obituary, and it listed living descendants, I would be expected to delete their names from the obituary if they asked me to, or likewise from a biography I had posted.

The new policy goes far beyond that.

I take that to mean, for instance, if I posted my grandmother's obituary, and it listed living descendants, I would be expected to delete their names from the obituary if they asked me to, or likewise from a biography I had posted.

If your grandmother's profile contains information on living people who are not members of WikiTree (whether in the obituary or general reference in the biography) her profile would need to be Unlisted according to the Privacy Policy (below), so I would be in agreement that you would be expected to delete their names if the profiles is anything but Unlisted:

"Profiles that contain information on living people who are not WikiTree members and therefore have not explicitly agreed to our Terms of Service and this Privacy Policy must use our "Unlisted" privacy setting."

So it would be me humble opinion that this new policy does not go above and beyond the Honor Code or the Privacy Policy, but helps to reinforce them both.

What you have cited above concerns information about living people.  There is no such provision in the new policy.  It merely says that any relative of a deceased person who is "uncomfortable" with a profile may demand it be suppressed.

Is someone's name (still findable in phone books) classified as "information" about them?

Melanie, typically phone directories have opt-out procedures associated with them. For example, when I signed up for my landline service back in the early 90's I was given the chance to opt-out of local phone book listings. I chose not to, so friends and family could easily look me up if and when needed. However, I can revoke that permission at any time by opting-out of their service.

WikiTree on the other hand uses the opt-in method - meaning they have to be a member here in order for us to share their information. In the absence of that, we as members agree to not list their information publicly (even if it can be found elsewhere online). This is reinforced by the Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, Honor Code, etc.

So yes, someone's name in a phone book would still be considered "information" about them and we agree not to share that information publicly.
+68 votes
Yes, I agree
by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (665k points)
Hi Bernard....can you give your reasoning behind "more than 7 years"
Yes I agree. Thanks Robin for proposing this policy change.
In principle I agree with 3 years for sure. I have a lot of problems with people trying to "honor" the dead in ways that those people or their families might find tacky, upsetting, or a violation of privacy. Whether a person is a victim of a crime or disease or disaster, I personally feel like it's gross to make their profile a shrine to that misfortune.

How to administer the policy might be tricky. Obviously(?) immediate family should be able to add family. And I also feel like it wouldn't be a great idea to prevent adding profiles that are (for instance) being added to a full sibling group at once. I frequently add all the siblings that appear in a 1921 census entry, for instance. I'm not sure how this policy would affect that.
I agree in general. Creating a profile and instantly abandon it is not honouring anybody as I see it.

7 years sound a bit long perhaps 5 years would be enough? And a family member should be able to create a profile even before that.

@Robin I read through this thread and wrote this short answer very late yesterday night. I'm aware my viewpoint on this issue is completely extreme and off any other I've read, either they are for or against your proposal.

If you really want to know what I think, here it is : Genealogy is about ancestors, i.e., people of whom nobody alive today has a living memory, and the only way now to remember them is to write down their bios and/or put them on a data base. For example, being born in the 1950's, I have pretty well known my paternal grandparents, born in the 1880's. They are still alive in my memory, so when I think of them I don't put them yet fully in the genealogy realm. Genealogy starts with my great-grandparents, born in the 1850's. I have put my grandparents in WikiTree in public but not open mode. My parents are in private mode, although they passed away way more than 7 years ago (1953 and 1990), and I will be reluctant to see any of their descendants let alone anyone else shift them to public while I am alive. Actually I put them in WikiTree at all so that my own profile can be connected to my ancestors. I know this sounds a bit like a contradiction, and yes it is.

So, yes, seven years is in my opinion generally a way too small amount of time.

I find this practice truly morbid and it just makes my skin crawl. We need to allow the families time to grieve before we go posting anything about their deaths.

I fear the day that we see this banner on the news feeds:

"WikiTree posts chilling death details of the recently departed in ... (name a place)"

I completely agree with the principle, but I also agree with those who think that 7 years may be too long.  I've seen 3 years mentioned more than once, and I do think that would be long enough for the "create a profile as soon as they die" types to lose interest.
To stop the 'bot' practice of (im-)purely adding a profile from an obit or news report does not warrant yet another rule, because it would affect so many other profile-creation projects that have a 'pure' motive.  I would propose that ANY profile being created who is less than 100 years old must have at least (I don't know, maybe) two other profiles to which it is connected, else the creation automatically becomes Unlisted and unable to be abandoned.  That would make members conduct research before adding a recently-deceased profile and thereby make the 'bot' affect unattractive.
Agree in principal, but would rather see a 3 year moratorium.   The exception for family is acceptable too, but providing exceptions for friends opens a can of worms.  

Might I suggest that there should also be some control over orphaning profiles and this practice could also have a moratorium of three years, except where there is another profile manager.  In other words, if one creates a profile, they must stick with it and manage it for three years.
I agree too.  Seven years seems fine for non-family profiles.
+25 votes
No , I do not agree
by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (665k points)
I'm not a fan of a 7 year ban either, but I agree with the sentiment of where this is going. However, I would think a short moratorium would be sufficient. The hard part is how do we enforce such a process, and how do we know when someone has gone too far?

There are numerous projects out there, from Notables and Notable-related projects (US President's project, Aristocrats, etc.) that cover large amounts of ground. We have unique projects like Cemeteries that would make it hard to identify if a profile was being created to keep up with new interments. It would be awkward to accuse someone of violating this type of policy and find out later that they were a 2nd cousin and they just created the profile in their grief, and neglected to connect it to the tree. I just see a lot of slippery slope issues with this approach. I don't see a problem with making this a general "guideline" instead of a policy, but I don't know that a policy of this nature could be actively enforced.
Notables are also human as are their relatives. I recently broke my own principals to create a profile of a 'notable' who was close kin to my husband.  He died young,  in an air crash. I did it so  in order that I could  both create a fitting, accurate and  well evidenced profile but  also  to make the profile private . Many years in the future, his wife, posthumous child and parents will be history. That is the time when they become important to family historians and genealogists.
I believe that the enforcement would be the same as with someone who created many pre-1700 profiles with "family tree" as the source.  You would email the person, explain the WikiTree guidelines and encourage them to follow the script.  If they did not, then the "problems with members" link would be followed.

What has come up in the past, and more recently with Covid, is that we have a few members who open the newspaper and see a list of Covid victims and they create a profile for each of them and then orphan them.

Just having guidelines that you shouldn't make profiles for recently-deceased people who are not related or known to you will probably eliminate 90% of these types of profiles.  For the reminder, an email will probably sort out the other 9%
At present, a profile cannot be created without a source.  And rightly so. Why not make the requirement either two of three sources before the profile is able to be saved?  Wouldn't that cut out the 'bot' or hearse-chasing folk whilst ensuring new profiles are better sourced?
Kenneth, You actually can create a profile without a source. You are not supposed to do that but it is possible even today. You do need at least an estimated date and location but even those do not require sources.
Yes, Dale. Any comment can be written into the box and it will think it's a source.  So, maybe requiring three sources would stop that.
Assuming this policy is passed, does that mean that people will stop talking about the number of profiles WikiTree has and instead run commentary on the total number connected?

What. Is. The. Mission. Of. WikiTree? Because of late, with all the proposals that are coming out, it looks like the goal posts are being pulled out and planted elsewhere

IS this about unlinked profiles? Which point in time? Pre-1500; Pre-1700 or Modern. Is there a region you're targeting? Or is this due to particular project scopes? I run a project who has focused towards a very set of people. however finding the connecting thread for these people given country of origin can be challenging and therefore are currently unlinked...
If one must have 3 sources to create a profile, then many families will be incomplete. There are a lot of people who died in infancy or who didn't marry that only have 2 sources maximum. People emigrated and their death hasn't been located yet.
Richard, the mission of WikiTree is unchanged: a one world tree where everone has one profile and all the profiles are connected.  I also don't see any propoesed changes to sourcing, unlinked profiles, pre-1500/1700.  Perhaps we are reading more into this question than was originally proposed, perhaps due to so many side conversations.

What I read in the draft solution is a reminder to Treers to show courtesy and respect when creating a profile for someone who is recently deceased and that sounds very reasonable to me.
SJ, the proposal was to make it a rule that you can not create new profiles for recently deceased persons (as in 7 years) unless you are family or close friend.  By family I believe everyone is reading that as immediate, or close (cousins, one generation in any direction).

It's not just about courtesy, which wasn't actually mentioned in the original proposal.

I think people are right to be concerned about how that kind of stoppage would affect all modern profiles.

It's not just about courtesy, which wasn't actually mentioned in the original proposal.

What was in the original rule change proposal is more or less irrelevant now because a new help page draft has been published..  Does the new help page solve the problem?  If it does not, we should offer suggestions to improve it so that it does.

the original rule change proposal

Clarification - it isn't a rule change.  It's about creating a new rule.

 Does the new help page solve the problem?  If it does not, we should offer suggestions to improve it so that it does.

Isn't that what all this discussion is about? Working it through and working out suggestions, ideas, counter-proposals.

I for one am certainly reading this (the proposal) as I read everything: What is said/written, what is implied/hinted at, and the unmentioned grey area/between the lines. Simply because it is vague, and it has vast implications from what has been said.
Chris Whitten's draft help page (see separate answer) appears to be a compromise. It is not the creation of a new rule but a means of responding to hit-and-run profile creators who create profiles of recently deceased individuals without much info at all.
+23 votes

"unless we are connecting the person to an existing profile on the tree"

Does that mean that there already exists a profile for that recently deceased person or that we are able to build the person's tree and connect her/him to the already existing great-grandparent?

7 years is too long in my opinion. I would agree (for non-Notables) on 2 years. For Notables in any field I think they should be possible to be done immediately after death. 

by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (574k points)

Yes, my proposal would allow the addition of that person if the person is connected to an existing lineage on WikiTree, such as grandparents, etc.   What I am trying to stop is the creation of a profile with no connections.
So you don't want us to create unlinked profiles. That is the term for profiles that don't have any other profile connected, be it spouse, parent or children.

Or - again a clarification question - do you want to prevent the creation of minimum 2 profiles that aren't connected to the Big Tree immediately? That is a bit unrealistic actually IMO.
It really has to do with what you see as the mission of WikiTree.   Is the mission is to add as many people/profiles as possible, or is the mission to build a family tree?

So you don't want us to create unlinked profiles. That is the term for profiles that don't have any other profile connected, be it spouse, parent or children.

This question isn't about not creating unlinked profiles; there would be no change to that policy.  This rule would prevent the creation of an unlinked profile for someone who just died unless the person creating the profile is a friend or family member.

Great clarification
+19 votes
Sometime ago I came across a profile whose only source was a badly copy/paste recent obituary. I clicked over to the PM and found that this sort of profile was its "stock and trade". There were even cut and paste bits of obit used to do children and grandchildren. I do not think these were ancestors since the PM had logged over 10,000. I found this really disrespectful.

I agree that there should be a standard time period before a profile could be added for a deceased person.* An exception, I would make is for a descendant, that is - if my parent or grandparent died and I wanted to add or amend their profile immediately I should be allowed to do that.

* I think 7 years is too long, omitting a fact as important as death until 7 years has past would make WikiTree look outdated and would result in many comments in G2G "Hey, donʻt you know that XXXX died 5 years ago?"
by Kristina Adams G2G6 Pilot (184k points)
Kristina, I don't know who did it or what his motivation was.  I do know that I often add profiles, mainly to my own Ancestry tree and occasionally to WikiTree, because they help in making DNA connections.
Julie, I have added obituary information also (from a collection kept by a great aunt) and it did help me build out my tree. I needed to do a lot of research and lots of dead ends but eventually found a link to the tree and to my ancestor.

This PM, I believe, was just trying to rack up profiles! Also, I suppose it might have been a public service motive to add people so their relatives can hook up with them sometime.
Kristina, I have done what you describe years ago, and I still manage many of them, and I work on them as I find time.

I quit after a short while, because I realized it becomes overwhelming, even for a local area. But it is in the spirit of genealogy.

Newspapers are a source, particularly Death Notices, which are compiled by people who knew the person well. Adding living family names goes a bit far, but we have forced Privacy on those now anyway.

But our mission is to record genealogy that connects every single person in the world to one tree. Using timely sources like Death Notices are a very efficient way to accomplish that mission.
+8 votes
I wonder if there could be a compromise, like FindAGrave has (at least they do in theory).  That is, if a close relative comes along, they can adopt the profile, or take it over from an existing profile manager, then make it private or whatever they choose.
by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (313k points)

Hi Julie.  The problem isn't that the relative can't adopt the profile.  Many (most) of these cases are someone who creates a profile and then orphans it.  If the relative later comes across the profile they can adopt it and change it as they please.

The issue is whether or not strangers should be making profiles for people who recently died who they do not know or who they are not related to.  This kind of thing happens already and I was personally shocked 3 months ago when I found my cousin had 5 or 6 pages that were generated by a bot for one of the many "memorial" type websites that create pages based on State and County death lists.  It had a huge "yuck" factor for me.  

Does WikiTree want so many relatives to come along and find that a profile was created for their loved one for no other reason than the profile creator wanted to hit their 1,000 badge or else scratch some pedantic itch?

Wikitree is better than that.  WikiTree is a genealogy website and we should focus on our genealogy and projects we care about.  Really, if we don't list some stranger who died last week, what is lost?  Nothing.  There are tens of millions of other profiles to be created - profiles that won't give a mourning family member a "yuck" moment.

Hi, SJ.  Several things to reply to here.

Yes, I do understand that the problem doesn't (always) involve a relative not being able to adopt a profile.

Are you saying that a bot generated a 5-6 page profile that somehow ended up on WikiTree?

Are you sure that people are really creating profiles just to hit their 1000 mark (or whatever)?  There are easier ways to rack up contributions.  And if the problem is people trying to rack up contributions, maybe the solution is to change the WikiTree rewards system.

Finally, I think there may be other reasons that people create these profiles.  I think Dennis Barton makes some good points about avoiding arbitrary rules.

Hello cousin Julie!:

Are you saying that a bot generated a 5-6 page profile that somehow ended up on WikiTree?

I said that days after the death of my cousin, pages had already appeared (at and, that were most likely created by a bot.

Are you sure that people are really creating profiles just to hit their 1000 mark (or whatever)? 

I said to hit a mark or to scratch a pedantic itch.  Folks have all sorts of motivations for creating and editing profiles.  Some people are morbid and they create profiles of people who died last week.  When someone does a Google search of their loved one who just died a few days ago, do we want them to find a WikiTree profile, with only a birth and death date, and an ad attached to it?  What does that say about WikiTree that we're building a collaborative single tree or your wife who died last week is another page for us to drive ad revenue?

i just Googled my mother, who died in 2018.  I found three listings.  WikiTree was first, and the profile was one I created.  The other two were FindAGrave and  I was a bit surprised, not having done that before, and I requested a transfer of the FAG memorial to me.

I think that because we live in the internet age, and in my case because I had published my mother's obituary in our local paper, that these things are going to happen, and if WikiTree does not participate, we might just be seen as a less useful source than others.

The last time I requested a FAG transfer, for a grandparent, I got no response.  At least WikiTree has an appeal process.
@Julie. As a Find A Grave contributor I am appalled that someone will not transfer the memorial of a grandparent BUT is the memorial manager active? They may not be. They may even be deceased themselves.

I don't have any problem with creating a FAG or WikiTree entry for a recently deceased person BUT I DO have a problem with these people, and there are many, who simple scrape other sites for the data. I take photos of all the graves I create memorials or WikiTree profiles for.

I don't believe that there should be a restriction in creating the memorial or profile. Maybe a compromise in the case of WikiTree rather than preventing the creating, is to extend the 'Unlisted' status to automatically include persons who have died in the last 5 years as well as those living.
David, I don't know the status of the profile manager.  I haven't taken the time to follow up.  As I mentioned elsewhere, my mother's transfer was immediate.

I don't know why my mother's memorial was created.  There is no grave.  She was cremated.  I am more concerned about the quality of the memorial than the motive for its creation.  There wasn't anything wrong with the job the person did, but I was able to add some information (and she's my mother; I just wanted to manage her memorial!).

As for the discussion of closing profiles of the recently deceased for five years, I strongly disagree.  But if you want to debate it, please move on to the currently open question:
+25 votes
While I do agree with the sentiments expressed in this thread, I'm not sure the problem calls for an official site policy statement.  That would seem to be opening the door to a much broader free-for-all set of judgmental policy proposals, and resulting debates as to what extent the moral and ethical value judgments of some members ought to be cast as official policy.  The people who post these profiles apparently don't consider them insensitive or disrespectful.

Just my gut reaction upon reading this, and it's probably not a popular answer, but I thought it should be said during the course of discussion.
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (385k points)
Dennis, I am sure that I would have echoed your sentiments if this question was asked at Christmas. But about 3 months ago, my cousin and closest genealogy collaborator died.  Only a few days after he died, I went online to find his obit and ran a Google search.  Much to my surprise several websites already had his "virtual memorial" up.  Clearly, these pages were written by bots and each had nothing about him save for his birth and death dates, and of course, a link to whichever ad the site was running.  These sites were generating pages of recently deceased people for no other reason than to drive ad traffic.

My immediate reaction was "yuck."  I felt like these websites were trying to profit off of my cousin's death.  My cousin who had died only days before.  I didn't get a nice feeling about those websites.  It felt quite slimy to me.

I don't want folks to feel slimy about WikiTree.

WikiTree also has ads on the public pages.  Is that the message that WikiTree wants to send to greiving family members: your pain = more Google traffic for us?

I believe that waiting a little while before creating a profile for a stranger is a tiny price to pay when compared to the shock a loved one may feel when they Google their recently-deceased loved one and find a WikiTree profile and an advertisement next to it.
SJ, I'm very sorry to hear about the death in your family, and then having that followed by another bad experience.  I think my reaction to the circumstances would have been the same as yours.  There isn't anything for me to say that would change your mind, but I do think we need to air out all the possible ramifications of having a policy about creating profiles of the recently deceased, and about the extent to which such a policy could be expected to solve the problem you experienced.

I do share your sentiments about creating and then immediately orphaning profiles of the recently deceased. I think it might be workable to prevent that -- software could at least the orphaning part, so that the name of the perpetrator would be readily displayed to anyone who is offended by the existence of a profile.  I'm not sure if that alone is enough to prevent WikiTree from being lumped in with other sites and perceived as another slimy, sleazy, profit-seeking site.  But I'm guessing that there's a pretty wide spectrum of such perceptions out there and no way to measure it objectively.

I'm retracting my provisional "Yes" vote, and aligning with Dennis instead. For a couple of reasons:

In general, while I can understand that at least some people are bothered by seeing profiles go up so quickly after a person's death, upon reflection, I can see that there is a temptation to jump right from "this bothers me" to "this should be banned", and once we start going down that road, WikiTree would soon start sprouting so many rules that people would find it even more intimidating trying to get started here than they already do.

In particular, I find that all the suggestions for exceptions (notables, immediate family members, people who can be connected to the main tree within a couple of days) are turning this suggestion from a matter of trying to protect the feelings of people who have recently lost family members to trying to target the activities of people who are doing things that are not against current WikiTree policy and whose motives aren't known by anybody but themselves. It seems to me that making rules that apply to everybody to try to stop certain people from doing things that certain other people find annoying is kind of overkill. (Personallie, eyed bee happier if peeple would stop makeing spalling and grammartickal misteaks in G2G posts, but that's never going to happen.) It would probably be more constructive, if somebody's behaviour annoys you, to send them a (nice!) private message asking why they're doing what they're doing. As I have said, it seems likely to me that the motives being imputed to those people are not actually why they're doing what they're doing.

For myself, I'm going to observe a moratorium on creating profiles for people who have been dead for less than three years, whether they're notable, family members, can be connected to the tree right away, carry DNA that somebody else is trying to track, or for any other reason. (Just because people fall into some exceptional category doesn't mean that their immediate family don't have any feelings.) But I don't intend to criticise anybody else for making different choices. It's all about not assuming ill-will on anybody's part.

(And that's going to mean sacrifices for me, because somebody I've been a huge fan of for years died the week before last, and now I'm going to have to wait three years to express my appreciation.)

Thanks Greg, and Dennis, and to others who have voiced their feelings and opinions on this matter and have remained very civil.  It is always very reassuring to me when we can have differences of opinions on emotionally charged subjects and can remain respectful of each other's opinions.

Dennis and Greg --

I'd like to echo SJ's sentiment: You make excellent points, and I appreciate your well-thought-out approach to presenting them.

I think what bothers people the most about this particular scenario is that a member creates a profile, adds only information about a person's death, and then orphans the profile without a biography or any other information that could highlight their life rather than defining them as a person who died from <whatever>.

I, personally, agree that taking a more personal approach to this issue is the appropriate way to handle it. A polite note to anyone doing something that you find troubling is almost always the best way to start. They may not realize that their actions are causing bad feelings for someone else, and hopefully upon realizing there are different viewpoints about what they're doing, they'll reconsider the impact.

Thanks Julie.  I fully agree that a personal note would be much more effective than a policy rule that many would likely never see.  Upon pondering all this, my guess is that people who search the web for very recently deceased friends or relatives are probably looking for info about funeral arrangements, where to send memorial contributions, or how to contact other living family members.  A shiny new WikiTree profile would most likely contain none of that, and therefore might be perceived as sleazy, with some questionable motive behind it.  I would certainly have no issue with adding a guideline to discourage that behavior, but would stop short of making it official policy.  Perhaps our software could have a pop-up notice that states such a guideline if somebody tries to post a new profile with a very recent date of death?  Just another random thought.
In an ideal world, the profile would be connected to a family branch, and if there are any living members attached to it, it should default to a Yellow privacy because of being attached to those living family members. Then, a person wouldn't be able to orphan it.

But, alas, we don't live in an ideal world, and individuals creating the profiles in question here aren't taking the time to discover additional family members.

In some ways, I understand. I create profiles for tangential lines of families when I'm researching someone, and I don't take the time to add everything that could be added, but I do make sure the profiles have enough information so that someone can come along later and pick up where I left off, and in this case, the profiles are connected to family.

... but I digress.
Dennis, elsewhere someone suggested that using a recent death date screen might not work well.

Just as I also (more or less) mentioned elsewhere, it never occurred to me that a close relative would use the internet to find out about funeral arrangements.  Whatever happened to just contacting the family?  I don't have a particularly close family (and I would never write this if I thought a single one of them would read it), but we were certainly in touch when my mother died, and for the sad days and weeks preceding her death.

I'm not the first (or probably millionth) person to write about our strangely alienated and disembodied, yet overly intimate, internet-based culture, but this whole discussion seems like another good illustration of it.
I'd also prefer the personal contact approach, but I think it depends on how close you are and perhaps your expectation that the immediate family may have its hands full without handling a bunch of semi-awkward calls.  Internet-based culture? -- I'd have to ask those who are sitting in the funeral home playing with their smart phones about that!
Yes, but if you're not close enough to be in contact with the family, what personal right do you have to get outraged by an on-line profile?
My only answer, again from monitoring this thread, is that people feel the practice of posting it too quickly seems insensitive, disrespectful, or sleazy.  You don't need any personal involvement or any specific right to feel that way if that's how you feel about it.
At the risk of becoming overly argumentative:  If WikiTree prohibited everything that some WikiTreers disapproved of, we would have a much smaller tree.
No argument here, I agree.  That was the point way back up there in my original answer to this thread.
Good point.
+22 votes
I support this proposal but would like to see the moratorium period shortened - S. J. Baty suggested 2 years to the Leaders group and I believe that is long enough to stop the "hearse chasing" aspect of strangers creating WikiTree profiles of recent-disasters/pandemic victims & then abandoning them that so many of us dislike.  Does this require a separate proposal or will you accept a shorter deadline, Robin ?
by Chet Snow G2G6 Mach 4 (47.4k points)
I will take a look at all the inputs and revise my recommendation to meet the sentiments of the majority.
Thanks, Robin!
In my original suggestion I did write 2 years but further along in the paragraph I had written that we should discuss or consider any appropriate time period whether it be 2, 5, or 10 years.  In my mind I had thought that 2 to 5 years seemed long enough.  I see that some folks have called for 3 years and I think that would be sufficient.  Probably, most of the cases of "create and dump" come soon after the tragedy or crisis so that even a 1 year moritorium would probably eliminate most of these churned profiles and as Greg Slade wrote, much of the emotional trauma he suffered after his father had died was diminished after 3 years.
I am certainly OK with 3 years if that is the consensus here.  In my opinion those who create these profiles of non-family members will loose interest even after 6 months but why not 3 years ?  Genealogy is not very "time-sensitive".  Notables are of course to be excepted.
I would be comfortable with 3 years.
+14 votes
Who is a family member? I was horrified to see my parents’ death information on another site posted by an extremely distant cousin, so distant I’m not sure of the connection. He doesn’t even live in the same country. I’m currently holding off making the profiles of my aunt and my husband’s aunt. I’m not close to their immediate family, and frankly, I feel it is disrespectful. I would have a 5 year limitation.
by Fiona McMichael G2G6 Pilot (155k points)
On another site I found a tree that included my parents and back a couple of generations. I was surprised because it was done by my brotherʻs first (of four) wife. A lot of source research had been done and she corrected one mistake that everyone makes about one grandfather when I pointed it out.  In this case it was nice to find her after 40 years and we had a fun email exchange. I also note that on the other site my parents show up on many trees of cousins of greater and lesser degrees. Our ONE tree is much easier and more realistic.
Kristina, this was another “one tree” site. I don’t have an issue with distant family members adding those who died some time ago. (I add unrelated people who died pre-2000 all the time. Unless I can find a birth - in NZ pre-1920 - I very rarely create a profile for someone non-family.) My concern is, in the instance of a recent death, who is classed as an appropriate family member? A son, daughter, sibling or parent? A sixth cousin twice removed? The personal friend definition is even more fraught. Whatever we do, as individuals at least, we need to ask ourselves how we would feel if we lost someone from our own family. I support the idea of a moratorium.

An aside - there are very old living people on this website marked as dead who are still alive. I found and adopted one such profile of a spouse of a family member. I periodically check he is still with us. I wonder if non-notable profiles which fall within the moratorium period - 2, 3, 5 or 7 years - should automatically be hidden, just as the profiles of living non-members are.
+22 votes
I vote NO, I do not agree.

Obituaries have long been common, but so few read newspapers these days (including me), and instead get their news via computers.

I see online memorials as the modern day obituaries and a way to honour the deceased by showing they are missed and that their life is remembered far & wide.

Without online memorials, I would never learn about the passing of many people and get a chance to grieve their loss contemporarly.
by N Gauthier G2G6 Pilot (121k points)
But SJ, those creating the new profiles got the information from somewhere.  It's already out there.
I see less of a problem with someone creating a profile for a recently-deceased stranger when the source is an obituary because these are usually written by family and/or friends and already have basic private information about the person.  In these cases we can be relatively sure that the family has offered life details about the person and it could be assumed that they wouldn't be offended for a profile creation.

But what about people that don't publish an obituary because they want to maintain family privacy?  Not everyone publishes an obituary.  In the case of my cousin, his obituary was published privately, within the family, and no public announcement was made.  Thi was specifically because the family wanted privacy.  Yet, several websites now carry his "memorial" that was neither asked for nor wanted.

We have several cases wherein WikiTree members have found a newspaper article or website that lists the victims of an accident, natural disaster, or mass shooting, and the member then creates profiles for everyone on the list.

Maybe a distinction or exception could be made for profiles sourced from an obituary rather than a state death list or media victim list.
I wasn't distinguishing between obituaries and other information.  If someone gets information from a newspaper article, that is still information that is already public.

I still think, as I suggested above, that the problem of offending family members with newly created profiles could be solved by allowing the family member to take over management of the profile.

There are some WikiTree members who want a lot of privacy and want to extend that to their parents and even grandparents.  They seem to be in the majority in most of these discussions, but there also appears to be a substantial minority that believes in more accessible information.  My own view is that freedom of information is important enough that WikiTree should not limit it except for living people.
SJ, actually yes, the opinion is here in the comments. Some consider it disrespectful to orphan any profile soon after creating it.
Leandra, in my case I clarified that it was creating profiles with little or no information and then orphaning them that I don't like.  It is disrespectful both to the person and to WikiTree.  I know some people think the more profiles the better, no matter what their condition.  Just one more controversial topic that we could argue about forever.
I agree that wikitree is not a "memorial" site, so I should have used the term profile instead. Perhaps it is the grieving relatives who are making the mistake of thinking that wikitree profiles are meant to be memorials ?

This only reinforces MY opinion that anyone has the "right" to create profiles about any deceased person, irregardless of any relative's opinion. Wikitree is a place where we can share anyone's genealogical info, whether we are related or not. Wikitree is not intended to be any ONE person's personal family tree to honour their own relatives ... that can be done on family tree sites like

Rather wikitree informs us that is a place to show how everyone on Earth belongs to one global family tree that connects us all to each other. I am an avid Wikitree connector, so I do a lot of work on unconnected branches to link us all up to each other ... and I try my best to create a full bio for everyone I link together.

I don't think it would be fair to place restrictions on wikitree members like me, who are not the ones making profiles with no bios and orphaning profiles. If you have to place restrictions on members, why not ONLY do so to the members who DO offend your guidelines ?
I couldn't agree more!
This offends one person, that offends another. If we place restrictions on everyone whose style offends somebody else, there will be no one left to build the tree.
Right.  And as I have tried to say before, no matter how unpopular, the information needs (or interests) of the many should outweigh the feelings of the few.  There is little privacy in the internet age, and if WikiTree goes against the tide, it will only find itself less relevant.

The proposal as written would not prevent you from creating the profiles you describe.

AND Chris W's draft help page (see separate answer) is an alternative to the original proposal and offers especially mentors and mediators a way to respond to hit-and-run profile creators who create an unconnected, largely empty profile of a recently deceased person.
+13 votes
I agree, but would reduce the moratorium to 2 or 3 years.
by Alex Stronach G2G6 Pilot (291k points)
+21 votes
In my opinion, others creating memorials should not be taken as a slight, but rather that the deceased's life had a positive affect on others.

For me this privacy question regarding the creation of recently deceased profiles brings up too much of relatives wanting to OWN the wikitree profiles. I got the impression that wikitree does not encourage ownership of profiles, but rather collaborative sharing of information.

If a relative is currently grieving they should be able to do so without worrying about what wikitree is doing. Just like relatives do not worry about newspaper obituaries that are informing the community ... so they can pay their respects in whatever way they choose.

When a relative is over their grieving process (however long that takes), they can then come to wikitree and note that their relative had such a wide effect on the community that someone cared enough to spend their time in respecting the passing of their family member, to create a bio & inform others about the tragic loss to the world.

The living relative can then edit the profile ask to be added to the trusted list to personalize it as they wish.
by N Gauthier G2G6 Pilot (121k points)
+30 votes

I think it would behoove us all to read through the Honor Code again. Specifically, points III and IV, which say, 

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

I am getting uncomfortable with the posts which ascribe base motives to the people who do things like create profiles for recently deceased people and then orphan them. None of us can read anybody else's minds, so any time anybody thinks they know why somebody else does anything, there's a high probability that they're wrong. (Hey, sometimes I'm not even sure why I do certain things, let alone why anybody else does anything.)

Specifically, I am very uncomfortable with the assertion that doing this is disrespectful. I have created profiles for a number of notables over the years, some shortly after their deaths, and some years or decades after the fact. I create the profile, and add whatever sources I can confirm myself. I used to hang onto that profile until I could give it at least three sources and connect it to the main tree, but I find so many people interesting and important, and take so long to connect a branch to the main tree (it has taken me up to a year and a half in more than one case) that my Watchlist would be way over the limit if I didn't orphan profiles after doing what I can. But note this: I don't make profiles for people I disrespect. I make profile for people I do respect. And I would assume that most people do the same. (After all, what would be the point of going to all the trouble of working up a profile for somebody you have no respect for, when Wikipedia has so many thousands of entries for really cool and interesting people?) I understand that at least some people find it hurtful to find a profile of a recently deceased family member on WikiTree. But please don't jump from your emotional reaction to assuming that bringing about that emotional reaction was the intent of the person who made the profile. 

I am also uncomfortable with the assertion that people who do this are simply trying to run up their contributions score. Speaking solely for myself (since nobody else is crazy enough to let me speak for them), I don't even know how many contributions I've made to WikiTree, and I don't care. It's not like I'm going to get a new computer (or anything else useful) if I reach a specific number. And it's not a very useful measure anyway: I might spend an hour or more tracking down a single source that I need to create a profile (like a birth date, a death date, a mother's Last Name At Birth, or whatever), and end up with a single contribution point. And then, I can realise that I've made a typo or split an infinitive or dangled a participle five seconds after I save, change a couple of characters, and get another contribution point. Where's the sense in that? I'm not saying that the points should be removed or anything. In my opinion, anything which motivates somebody to contribute even one fact to WikiTree is a good thing. But I have never intentionally run up my contribution score just to see the numbers go up. And I imagine that even people who do start out caring about their contribution numbers would eventually tire of that game, because there's no way to "win", and there's no prize. (In fact, I rather suspect that the only people who really care about contribution numbers are the people who complain that other people are artificially running up their contribution numbers. Why would it be bad for somebody else to be getting a higher score, unless you care about the score?)

by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (397k points)
edited by Greg Slade
THANK YOU, Greg! I would have thought these things were obvious and am so surprised that some people ascribe negative ulterior motives to profile creation.
Instead of ascribing negative ulterior motives to a BUNCH of wikitree members, and trying to restrict everyone's activities; if you believe those kind of things, why not institute a rule that nobody can orphan a profile of a recently deceased person for whatever time you like ? That kind of thing might add the restrictions you like, without affecting those members who have positive motives for participating on wikitree.

The original question strikes me as addressing the feelings of friends and family of recently deceased people, rather than the motives of those who create the profiles.

You mention courtesy, Greg. What about pausing to reflect how the people who personnally knew the deceased would think, what their feelings would be? I would call that courtesy. (Now I may be completely off: I have a language barrier, remember). Note that I don't assume that those people would be angry; for what I know, some might be pleased that their family member/friend made it to a profile. For some (many?) of them that might depend on the contents of the profile. Based on the feelings of many contributors to this post, who have been "in the shoes" of friends and family of recently deceased people, I'm tempted to conclude many would not like it, though.

This doesn't really apply to notables, as they would have tons of pages on the internet and elsewhere about their life and death anyway and their family are probably used to that. I've even seen Wikipedia list a death date for two people who are not even that "notable" (they are notable because Wikipedia thinks they are, apparently) and who are not even officially dead as yet. Note that in this case a WikiTree contributor listed these people as dead before WP did.

Thank you, Greg, for putting words to what I have been feeling. While I understand that many people here are repulsed to see the creation and immediate orphaning of profiles of recently deceased individuals, we do not know nor should we ascribe intentions to those people who choose to create such profiles. Nor should we assume that all people would be incensed if it happened to them.

I'm sitting here wondering how I'd feel if a stranger created a profile for a recently deceased family member of mine. I think my response would be curiosity. But i know I would not immediately assume ill intent or even disrespect on the stranger's part..

All that said, if enough people here want a reasonable moratorium on the creation/orphaning of recently deceased strangers, I could find my way to support it. But the final policy wording should exclude assumptions about intent.
Agreed that the wording is going to be important.   And it really goes to creating a profile that has very little information and no connection at all to the "tree".

Greg, you have 41,984 contributions and around 316,000 G2G points.  I've observed before that it is often the newer WikiTree members who are most concerned about their contribution points, not those who have already proven themselves as substantial contributors to WikiTree.

Because I'm one of those who complained about people churning out profiles to pile up points, I want to clarify:  It is not because I worry that other people will get more points than I have.  Honestly, like you, I personally don't care about points.  My concern is over the incentives that the WikiTree rewards system creates.  Ray Hawkes in his post below said it better than I did: "There are far too many profiles in WikiTree already that are incomplete and inaccurate and we don't need more."

However, I've come to accept that the WikiTree rewards system is going to stay as it is.  And there are too many in favor of increasing our total profiles, apparently no matter what their quality, for that to change either.

Having written that much, I'm now asking myself what's the point of this entire discussion?  Things will probably stay as they are, which is what usually happens on WikiTree.

Many of the incorrect and unsourced profiles here were uploaded in gedcoms years ago, and haven't been touched since by the now inactive PM. It seems highly unlikely that a high contribution number is their motivation. When I have asked active PMs to source their work, it turns out they have been given a family tree and don't want the compiler's efforts to go to waste.
Yes, Leandra, many, but not nearly all of the problem profiles are from old gedcoms.  Join the Rangers and you will see that happening every single day.  (Maybe the feeds are available to others; I don't know but would be interested to find out.)

Also, some of the PMs are not inactive at all, but nevertheless have neglected their initial gedcom uploads.  I am thinking of one person in particular with over 100,000 contributions who is still active, but maybe that is unique to my own ancestors.  I have no way of knowing.
Julie, I didn't say nearly all of the problem profiles are old and I do know that currently people are adding numerous unsourced profiles. We cannot know someone else's motivation here unless they tell us, and from what we can see, getting a high contribution number is unlikely to be the motivating factor for many of the contributors.
Leandra, I was initially responding to Greg's remarks about people adding profiles in order to score contribution points.  But what does it matter why they do it?  And how is that related to the current discussion?  To summarize my views:  1.  I am in favor of as much freely available information as possible.  2.  I know many profiles are added to WikiTree all the time with less than ideal documentation, and sometimes none.  I don't think that will change.

41,984 contributions

Woo-hoo! Only 8,016 more contributions and I'll hit an even 50,000! That, plus four easy payments of $99.95 each, should be enough to buy me a roll of toilet paper! 

Thank you, Greg. Very clearly said.
+25 votes is an extremely hard question to answer, given that other sources (newspapers, etc. have access to obits, etc If the information is available elsewhere, why not on wikitree.

It shows up on or, what have we gained by having a 7 year ban of the inforation on wikitree?
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+14 votes
If you're going to stop people creating profiles of the recently deceased, how about extending that to living people too? I've got living family members whose profiles are managed by someone who is not related, and the quality of that person's research is somewhat lacking. As a result of this person's actions, the previous generation is not open despite being deceased for 20+ years, and I am unable to write bios for these people. Trying to get added to the trusted list is like pulling teeth.
by Leandra Ford G2G6 Mach 7 (77.8k points)
I've never had a probem getting added to a trusted list.  Ever.  You just need to follow the procedure(s):

Ask to be added if the person refuses, follow the problem with members checklist.

If they ignore you completely, file an unresponsive profile manager report.  The PM will be contacted and asked to add you, if they ignore this request, the profile will be orphaned and you can then adopt it.

The whole process takes about 2 minutes.
Well you are fortunate, SJ. I have filed the unresponsive PM report, eventually got added to some trusted lists but now have to go that route again with the same people, and they are active. One other person went off at me for commenting on a profile and told me I should have contacted him directly - which I did a number of times. Every time he sends me an email he makes a false accusation. The process takes some of us considerably more than two minutes. Thank you for dismissing my experience because it doesn't match yours.

Sorry to hear about your difficult time with some other members Leandra.  I'd recommend to follow the problems with members page and find some resolution with them.  The problems with members flowchart always works.  It guides you how to make contact and find a resolution with them yourself or if that doesn't work or you are not comfortable with it, you can get intervention from an outside & unbiased 3rd party.

SJ, I think I recall that you've said before that you have no problem getting added to trusted lists when you ask to be.  But Leandra is not the only one who does not enjoy such success.  Most of the trusted list requests I make go unanswered.  And the whole process of filing complaints can take way more than two minutes.  Sometimes it is not worth it.  Also, I imagine every complaint filed also puts an administrative burden on WikiTree, which I hesitate to do.

There is a procedure to follow if you are not added to a trusted list.  The procedure works.  If you don't follow the procedure it isn't accurate to then say that the procedure doesn't work.  

Also, I imagine every complaint filed also puts an administrative burden on WikiTree, which I hesitate to do.

We should consider that taking a few minutes to address this issue now may help the existing PM to understand the rules and the next time the issue will be solved immediately.  I would ask you to consider that every complaint filed today lessens the administrative burden of Wikitree tomorrow.  

5 cents saved now grows to a dollar later.

+9 votes
I am not in favour of a rule as proposed but this is an important issue.
For me this goes to the heart of what WikiTree is for.
I do not see WikiTree as a memorial site like Findagrave or WikiTree is about genealogy so we should be objectively recording the facts of peoples' lives and their relationships to others with good sources. One source is not adequate.
WikiTree is also about collaboration and that means anyone who signs the honour code and creates profiles should be responsible and responsive. You should respect the sensitivity of others and respond to their questions and requests - which you cannot do if you orphan profiles immediately after creating them.
I try to avoid creating profiles of people who are recently deceased and probably have living family members. If I do create one it is because I am creating a child of a deceased person already in the tree and I am adding other biographical information not just their death.
I am not against orphaning profiles that are well researched and documented and connected to the main tree but I am against orphaning profiles that do not have a proper biography including sources for multiple life events. There are far to many profiles in WikiTree already that are incomplete and inaccurate and we don't need more.
Perhaps a solution to this issue is to change the process of orphaning profiles so that a profile cannot be orphaned without a separate approval from a qualified person (ideally in a project). Perhaps even make sure all orphaned profiles are owned by an appropriate project.
by Ray Hawkes G2G6 Mach 5 (50.3k points)
I strongly concur with the statement "Starting a profile is acknowledging a person's existence." I don't think it's disrespectful or a bad thing to create a profile, whether for the recently dead or the long dead, and then to orphan it, as long as whatever information is entered is accurate.  An incomplete profile, perhaps especially one without a PM, offers opportunities for others to contribute.  Ultimately, the goal is to have good profiles for everybody and connect everybody; that is the goal which inspires people to participate in the process, but it is not the process.

I get several newspapers and see lots of obituaries, so I would have plenty of opportunities to create profiles on WikiTree or FAG for people residing in the county where I live who have recently died. I've never actually done that, however, because I wanted to give family members an opportunity to contribute the profile if they were so inclined.   Realistically, in many cases, that's never going to happen, though.

In general, I think people coming to this site, should contribute what they can, without too many restrictions.  There are already too many locked or private profiles.  Anyway, it probably takes more work to create a profile on WikiTree, even a skeletal one, than it does to create a memorial on Find A Grave.  I'm in favor of valuing whatever correct information people want to contribute.

As a Sourcerer who regularly adds sources to 50+ profiles a month I can only echo Greg's remark about the correctness of Unsourced Profiles. Most of the profiles are correct, they only don't have a proof of what they are claiming. I personally mostly look for sources of profiles that have quite certain dates or places, the best with parents, spouse and more than one child connection (it happens that such profiles don't have sources), but then I can really often find at least one source to prove that this person is the child of those and the parent of these. 

Dale, thank you for the explanation.
Jelena, I see lots of profiles that really don't seem to be essentially correct and just lacking details.  There is another G2G discussion going on right now about one such case:

At least when people are adding profiles from recent obituaries, the person is likely to have existed, and we do have a reasonably accurate date of death!
Julie, for me such profiles like the one showcased in that discussion over there very probably at a point of time HAD accessible sources. Or this profile came in through a GEDCOM (I didn't check that) and the sources were accessible in the home-network of the user who uploaded it. But, as someone over there said, it is obviously for Ancestry users recognizable which sources were used to source that profile. And, as profiles are properly sourced when an index is quoted (which seems to be the case over there), the Unsourced-Template is inappropriate there.

You are always free to transcribe the source that is hidden behind the hashes and numbers to make it visible also for users who don't have an Ancestry-subscription.
Jelena, I did hunt down those sources, and reported that back on the thread.  It is a good suggestion to add that to the profile, which I will do, but in my judgment that source was unreliable, as was everything else I found about the profile and its corresponding Ancestry profiles.  As I said there, I doubt those profiles (James and his wife) are meaningful in their current form, and neither were any of the Ancestry profiles I looked at.  The Ancestry profiles appeared to be collections of foolishly accepted, unrelated, and inconsistent hints, and given its Ancestry sources, the WikiTree profile appeared to be based on Ancestry.

The example I provided might have been a special case.  What's one more James Jackson?  There are probably a million of them.  But it was just a handy example, not the only one I could dig up.
The problem of a zillion namesakes is a different one. Yes, sometimes we run into an unsourced Jane (McDonald) Miller and the profile doesn't give enough hints that we are able to say clearly: "The one in that source is the one I look for." When I do the Sourcerer's Challenge I leave that profile then alone and don't source it.

Jelena, Deb Durham posted about "Creating a Free-to-view Image Link from" about a year ago. I don't have an account, so I haven't been able to test the method for myself. But I gather that it does work. In my opinion, every Ancestry source should be converted to something like this, so that people can see what the source does (and doesn't) actually say.

Yes it does work. I have been using these instructions. Here's one I prepared earlier.

I think we're getting off topic here.
+21 votes
No, this proposal is just reactionary. People should just use common sense. We don't need another layer of obsessive control to intrude on how we record genealogy.

That said, I am okay with keeping the forced Private setting after death, for recently deceased people, maybe 3 years or 5 years, as a much better way to handle this.

There can also be a simple appeals process to check, such as, "this person is notable" or "this person is connected to me by xxx degreees" and so "I want the profile to be public" which can be handled by a G2G review, volunteer committee, or some such, to override the automatic Privacy setting. I presume that the technology is capable of that.
by Steven Mix G2G6 Mach 4 (41.2k points)
+11 votes

The question of how long before one can create such a profile is a bit moot.  When you look at the privacy levels of profiles, usually if a person has living children, no matter if they themselves are deceased, then the privacy level is high.  And it should be that way.

As far as the people who rush in to create profiles of recently deceased persons unrelated to them, my question to them is WHY?.  This pandemic is far from having run its course, the numbers being quoted as projections of death tolls are quite high.  Creating them for the sake of some contest or other is downright ghoulish.

So, is someone going to go around the globe finding obituaries of people who died from it and adding them arbitrarily to WikiTree?  How about their connection to anybody else?  Their ancestors?  Unconnected profiles are definitely not something we need more of.

The only exceptions I can think of to this is family members of the person entering them, and notables who already have a connected profile which was hidden in their lifetime.  And even then, I would wait for at least a year before opening them up for general view, out of simple respect for their families.  They may be notable, but they also had families.

by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (324k points)

So, is someone going to go around the globe finding obituaries of people who died from it and adding them arbitrarily to WikiTree?  

It is already happening and is partly the motivation for this change request.

gawds SJ, I don't understand such activity, we're a family tree, not Wikipedia nor a news agency.
it isn't like there is nothing to do on existing profiles either, there are gobs of profiles unsourced/unconnected/no bio...
I do not create profiles 'for the sake of some contest or other', however, I do create profiles so as to help build our one-world tree; and they may or may not be recently deceased. There is seldom a day goes by in which I have not created a dozen or more profiles, often many more.  But, the difference is that I am not interested in working on profiles in which I cannot attempt to connect to the tree.  There are times when I have added more than 100 profiles yet failed to make the connection.  One necessity in my view is that I can readily identify parents, and that is almost impossible if the deceased person was young.  And, yes, I orphan many soon afterwards.  I do not abandon the person, but orphan the profile.  I never owned the profile, simply created it.  However, I am not interested in what disease somebody had died of.  We all must die of something (sorry if that sounds callous, it is not intended to be so).  So, whose profiles do I add?  I have recently ensured that every Australian Victoria Cross recipient is on WikiTree, every Australian Army general, all 65 nurses who were aboard the Vyner Brooke in the Second World War, all those hundreds of New South Welshmen who went to the 1885 Sudan Campaign, convicts, explorers, influential Christians, authors, etc.  And try to connect them.  Somewhere, in there I spend a brief moment on my own extensive family.  Should there be a moratorium time after one's decease before being added to WikiTree?  No.  But if we're trying to honour the person, then seek to connect him or her.  And an obit or fag listing is but a secondary source at the very best.
+9 votes
I strongly agree with this suggestion and would also agree 3 years might be more appropriate. I do however have a "beef" with some members of Wikitree who constantly create profiles for people they have no connection to and then abandon the profiles by orphaning them. Indeed one member even thinks it is ok to create the profiles, not source them, orphan them and then mark them as unsourced!
by Mark Sutherland-Fisher G2G6 Mach 3 (30.3k points)
Only one?
+7 votes
I agree 100%, Robin.  It was very disturbing to see that it was fine to add the recent deaths with the reason that there was no WikiTree policy against doing so.  That said, the policy change is perfect.
by Sheryl Moore G2G6 Mach 8 (84.8k points)

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