Help with many thousands of empty geographic location fields

+31 votes
238 views
We have so very many new (and old) members who do not enter geographic locations on profiles—none. I saw how bad the problem was yesterday pulling up all the records on a surname looking for a particular family group. I came across literally dozens of profiles with no geographic information for birth or death and a simple look upstream or downstream (as available) gave very clear indication of where birth or death location was likely located. WikiTree needs at least one of these location fields entered to aid all researchers, even if it must be marked uncertain. In my limited look at the issue, it appeared the problem was most prevalent with children of American colonial families through about 1850 where profiles of offspring are created but contain little if any information.

Is this something Data Doctors work on? Can they work on it? Please feel free to retag this post as needed so the proper eyes are reviewing the issue. Thanks.
in Genealogy Help by T Stanton G2G6 Pilot (156k points)

4 Answers

+17 votes
There was a lively discussion on the first of the year thread about new features that had quite a few very valid arguments why location should remain optional.

I agree that it's a problem, especially looking for matches. I noticed quite a few during the Connect-A-Thon.

We should have a Locate-A-Thon. (Or place a thon).
by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (327k points)
+8 votes
Many folks during that time period were moving around, you are suggesting that if the parents and the children of that person have known locations that are the same (grandkids in the same place as the grandparents), we should assume the profile in question has the same location for birth/death? Or some other method.

I have a great-aunt who might disprove that theory, as well as a number of other hypothetical possibilities (death via armed conflict that often has nothing to do with birth location, parents could have been living somewhere else for a time when they had children, then returned to their point of origin before expiring, etc.)

If they are sourced, the source should give us some indication of a location. Marriage certificates often list location of birth, birth certificates will of course, issuing authorities should be used, etc.
by Jonathan Crawford G2G6 Mach 1 (16k points)
You can always find an exception to probabilities but that should not negate the use of the probability. If Henry Fork emigrated to, marred in and died in Salem and had a dozen children with child number eight being Harriet who is documented born in Salem, then child number seven Harvey is very probably born Salem as are the others. Having those siblings show as born Salem, even if marked Uncertain which is always an option, would be a tremendous aid to all researchers.
In my experience, when finding an unsourced profile with no location, I looked to see where the parents died. Often that can be found easily, and I add that location to the profile as a starting place.

 When adding a profile, please at least put the county if that’s all you know.

You can always find an exception to probabilities but that should not negate the use of the probability. If Henry Fork emigrated to, marred in and died in Salem and had a dozen children with child number eight being Harriet who is documented born in Salem, then child number seven Harvey is very probably born Salem as are the others. Having those siblings show as born Salem, even if marked Uncertain which is always an option, would be a tremendous aid to all researchers.

commented by T Stanton

I have that exception.  Couple married in Glasgow (or what we might now call a suburb of Glasgow), and had a child there.  Child dies shortly after birth and the couple, again childless, moves from Lanarkshire to Ayrshire.  Couple has five children in Ayrshire, then has a 6th child in June of 1870.  6th child dies in December of 1870, in Ayrshire. Using your premise it would be easy to say she was born in Ayrshire, because that's where the parents were known to be living, her siblings were all born there (except the deceased eldest), and she died there.

Trouble with being an exception means - she wasn't born in Ayrshire, but elsewhere.  smiley    

I do think that, if we guesstimate years for births and deaths, we can guesstimate places, too, based on knowledge to that point.  BUT it should definitely be marked as uncertain, AND it should be explained (under a == Research Notes == header) how and why it is thought to be so.

.

BTW : my little girl - she was born in Argyll.

Melanie, how do we get users to adopt the practice, even if we are adding Research Notes to explain Uncertainties?

Well, T, we can't use a hammer, so we need to find a carrot. cheeky

.

(I have no ideas right now.  I try to always have something in at least one of the location fields - and sometimes it's the marriage field.)

Data_doctors, add guidelines for adding the uncertain location and turn us loose. Then add it to the New Member pages, policy pages, style guides, etc. as a recommendation.

Hi Jonathan, If a location is not known, an educated guess is usually possible.  The Honor Code says:

  1. We care about accuracy. We're always aiming to improve upon our worldwide family tree and fix mistakes.
  2. 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.
To me, this means we should do our best to give basic information about each profile. Usually we can, at a minimum, identify what continent a person was born or died on.  Leaving a location blank is not helpful and it easily can lead to duplicate profiles.  Just search for the name Smith and see how many there are with no location.  Please, give your best educated guess for location information and click the uncertain box as needed.
+16 votes
I fully agree. It is really hard to see if someone is from the USA (or predecessors), South Africa, or my own country if there is nothing. This consumes a lot of time sorting out possible duplicates.

For everyone leaving areas empty: please add a large enough unit if you are not sure and mark it uncertain.

(The other way around is true as well: Adding eg Middelburg to a profile is NOT helpful if you don't add the county, country, province, state or something similar.).
by Michel Vorenhout G2G6 Mach 9 (90.8k points)
+8 votes

There's a category for that: [[Category:Unlocated_Profiles]]. When I come across a profile with no locations, and I can't source any locations, I add that category so that others can try.

by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (368k points)
Do we have a bot that can go through and accomplish that task? Very glad to know about the category!

You can see the trend of birth location on wikitree here. https://wikitree.sdms.si/default.htm?report=stat1&dataID=25&Year=2

In the table are 19.3M profiles. All public and open ones. and 4.7M are without birth location.

We have cca 10000 profiles without location added each week. 

But the percentage of profiles with location improves each week. In 4 years we came from 32% of profiles without location to 24%.

Adding a category for it makes no sense, since there are too many. Making a suggestion is also a bit pointless, since there are so many.

But if someone wants to enter locations on all managed profiles, you can activate Profile Completeness suggestions, and you will have report of missing data. Activation is done/canceled by adding category https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:Suggestions_-_Include_Profile_Completeness to your profile and next week, you will get the suggestions. It will generate suggestions 450-470 including a 457 Profile completeness - Birth Location not set

Thanks. Is there a way to remove all of the Find-a-Grave parental suggestions that now appear? Given the whopper error rate at Find-a-Grave that's more irritation than helpful.

I guess setting false suggestion will hide them from reports. It would be good if you enter the reason for false suggestion. I noticed you already marked a few as false and have 6 more suggestions on your report.

I checked one example of your false suggestion and the suggestion isn't false.

https://wikitree.sdms.si/function/WTStatus/Status.htm?ErrID=592&UserID1=23624013&UserID2=19624680

If you check further, you will find out that Elisa

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Stanton-3616

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Stanton-4318

are duplicate profiles and should be merged.

Probably also the spouse Isaac Coppock is a duplicate, but there the data starts to differ.

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