Do we allow a text section before the biography section on profiles?

+15 votes

The Section 2.5 of the Biographies help page lists a recommended order but only requires the biography, sources, and references sections. It goes on to say that any other elements or subsections should go below one of the recommended sections. My question is, can I write a Preface to a profile that comes before the biography? I believe a preface (or something like that) can be useful for notifying other Wikitreers of information related to that profile that is not biographical information or considered "research notes." Here is an example profile that is still being worked on:

I believe a preface is necessary here because of the widespread misinformation and confusion associated with this man that has permeated the internet family trees. While one can debate if the information in this preface constitutes research notes, I argue that these "notes" are necessarily read before the biography section to avoid confusion.

I appreciate any insight on this.

WikiTree profile: John Slatton
in WikiTree Help by Wes Miller G2G3 (3.1k points)
retagged by Steven Harris
I think you make a good argument for a Preface above the ==Biography== header.  The problem is, you won't be able to stop others from collaborating it to a position below the header.
I agree, unless the Biographies help page and Proper Order section are amended slightly.

On several profiles that have a lot of misinformation on other sites, I insert a NOTE as the first paragraph of the the biography section, indicating that the information may differ from some other sites but that what I have is all verifiable and supported by evidence and any changes or additions should also be backed up by sources.

Removed proposals tag since this is a question, and not a formal proposal to a new style rule, a clarification or a change to a policy or procedure.

10 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer

Hi Wes,

An example of the short paragraphs that go above the Biography heading can be found on the profile of Charles Darwin

For the kind of information you want to include, it is better to use the Uncertain Family template to add a research box to the top of the profile and a third level disputed origins section under the Research Notes section.

by Debi Hoag G2G6 Pilot (410k points)
selected by Stephanie Ward
+17 votes

Personally, I would put this Preface in the Biography section, under the ==Biography==, and would call it ===Preface===.  The Help page gives this tip:

If the narrative is particularly long, you can include a one or two paragraph summary. This should be above the Biography heading and should not have a subheader of its own.

by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
Thank you for the input. I'd like to hear from more, as it still feels like a preface concerning non-biographical information should come before the biography. But this suggestion seems reasonable in the mean time.
I have seen "disclaimer" type entries placed above the Biography header - and (copying what others have done - I am a good mimic!) I have placed "warnings" above the biography header (in an attempt to ward off incorrect merges/merge suggestions/proposals).
That's one way that I've been using this preface section, but profile cleaners keep removing it and citing Section 2.5 of the Biographies help page.
Such things don't truly belong in a (narrative) biography section.

Maybe you should propose a revision of the "help biography" guidelines.
This comment was my version of proposing this. The Profile Improvement Project communicates through G2G.
+6 votes

 ==Disputed Origins==  

there are lots of profiles like this that are confused or conflated or subject to mythological families.  It’s important to spell this out right up front.   An example is Cherokee-61.
by Kathie Forbes G2G6 Pilot (899k points)
I agree, but I'm afraid that doesn't solve the discrepancy with Section 2.5 of the Biographies page. So profile cleaners may still "fix" this by moving it under the Biography Section.
The Help page could definitely use some correcting.  In one place, it says that these sections should go under ==Biography==, but it also says you can put a summary of a couple of paragraphs in front of ==Biography==.
So there is a precedent for having text above the Bio section, but not necessarily having a preceding section. Thanks for bringing this up.

Yeah .. maybe lose the header and use bold instead?  (For now, anyway.)

+4 votes

The best way to protect a disputed profile is through "Project Protection". I've had people blundering in on some of "my" rather carefully researched profiles and adding stuff with a sourcing level of "found it on the interwebz" and obviously not reading what has already been written in the Biography section. I don't think that it would help to put the information in 24 point red letters; some people simply don't care.

by Leif Biberg Kristensen G2G6 Pilot (217k points)
I agree with that. But as a more general case, I am having this issue with profiles that aren't necessarily disputed, but that require some form of explanation. So unrelated, well-intentioned profile cleaners just rearrange the profile rather than include erroneous information.

Project protection does not prevent someone from editing a profile. It does this:

  1. Merge Protection: The WikiTree ID is protected. A PPP cannot be merged-away into another profile. Duplicate profiles must be merged into the PPP.
  2. Relationship Protection: Parents, children, and spouses of a PPP cannot be added or removed unless you are a Project LeaderProject Coordinator, or Profile Manager acting on behalf of the project.
  3. GEDCOM Protection: A PPP cannot be edited via GEDCOMpare unless you are a Project LeaderProject Coordinator, or Profile Manager acting on behalf of the project.
A biography edit is pretty easy to revert. It's more important in the long run to protect againt the addtion of false parents, spouses, and children.

Some 17th century profiles seem to act like magnets for all kinds of invented family connections. A great deal of the mythical connections around these people appear to have originated with LDS members in the Dark Ages before the Web. They're totally impossible to root out, as they've been copied all over the place thousands of times.
That's true. It was very easy to undo the edit. But this is a recurring problem, as having a profile that does not begin with a "Biography" section really strikes some users as problematically inconsistent with WikiTree's standards.

If you get the profile PP'ed, you can also follow the recommended biography order and put your "disputed content" in the Research Notes section, and nobody will complain. Problem solved smiley

Solved by Wikitree's current standards maybe. The purpose of this thread is to discuss a potential improvement/amendment to those standards. But thank you for the short-term advice. That is a good point.
@Keif:  re-read Natalie's excellent answer above. If Wes PPP'd his profile, all that would be locked is to do with merging, adding/removing relationships, and GEDCompare edits.  A person could still go onto the profile and make edits or move things around, although they are supposed to check with the PM first.
Ros, I know exactly what a PPP does. My point is that if he gets the profile PP'ed, it won't be necessary to violate the preferred progression of the biography. Then he can put the Research Notes at the end of the Bio where they belong.
I think Wes's point is - Research Notes are not what are wanted.  A statement above the Biography is.
+5 votes
How is what is listed in your Preface not Research Notes? It seems to me to be exactly the kind of information other researchers would need to know?
by Jonathan Crawford G2G6 Pilot (288k points)
There may be some overlap, but I believe there are also some distinguishing factors. For example, providing Wikitree-specific clarity (e.g., who a profile is meant to  represent) seems different than a direct discussion of evidence referenced in the biography. But more importantly, even if you want to call these research notes, it may be important to state this information before anything else. And including this as a biography sub-section feels wrong because the information isn't biographical in nature.
I agree it doesn't seem biographical, but "who is this person" is the point of the whole profile. Research Notes help to explain disputed info, like what you listed , and you could put other profiles that people confuse in the See Also section if you wanted to.

The PPP sounds like a good option too, to avoid changes to relationships.

Just doesn't seem necessary to deviate from the standard to me. But, carry on with your proposal.
+3 votes
Is a preface before Biography WikiTree-allowed?

Under changes, it looks like the 'preface' was added 11 August 2020.  That being a Tuesday EST, the data-doctors 'suggestion' list on Monday 17 Aug will give you your answer.

Please let us know.
by Living Britain G2G6 Mach 2 (29.2k points)
+12 votes

I have put the following on my 9th great grandmother's profile - *above* the ==Biography== heading:

Do not change the gender of this individual to male. 'Phillip' is a 17th century FEMALE name in southwest England (modern version Phillippa)

Just a couple of sentences, typed in bold. Because I was astounded at the number of kindly people who were changing her gender week after week.

by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
+12 votes
While the help index does give an indication of the proper order of the sections I have not read anything that precludes including some short text or other note above the bio section bar.  Indeed, many royals and politicians have succession boxes above the bio section bar and some profiles have portraits above the bio section as well.

In this case, I don't think that you need a == Section == to put this information at all.  I would just put it as a 'note' above the bio bar:

'''Note:''' This profile represents Captain John Slatton of Hawkins County, Tennessee, formerly of Greenville District, South Carolina. This man's date and location of birth are unknown. There is no provable father for Captain John, only family stories that he might be the son of a John.  Please do not alter the vitals for this profile without discussion with the profile managers.  See the research notes for details.

== Biography ==
Text of biography...

Leif's suggestion or PPP is sound if you can find a project that he would fit under.
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
I concur with SJ!
I also agree with SJ's approach, and this is similar to what I've done on some profiles... a bolded sentence or brief paragraph up front, with details in a Research Notes section.

In my opinion, too much detailed explanation at the front detracts from the person's actual biography, and can cause confusion. When I read a biography, I expect to read about who the person was, not who he was not. That belongs in Research Notes.

I do think a PPP could help. It would at least stop the addition of unsourced parents without collaboration. Perhaps the [[Project:US_Southern_Colonies|US Southern Colonies]] project would be a good fit.
+3 votes
I would suggest one line in bold either immediately before or immediately following the == Biography == that points the reader to a === Disputed Origins === subsection under == Research Notes ==. Most biographies begin with something about when and where the person was born and who the parents were. This is a logical place to point to the Research Notes, which is what your preface seems to contain.

Disputed Origins is shown as an example subsection under Research Notes on the Biography help page. Typically the inline citations under Research Notes contain things that are not sources for the person.

The suggestions report will not include reports things other than Categories or templates before the Biography heading; I have a one line bold Work in progress on several profiles
by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (616k points)
Kay, that may only be because Ales didn't think of that yet? As a member of the apps project, I feel I should point out that the more non-standard activity is allowed, the harder it is to properly handle all cases of profile data on wikitree using the api. I am not saying this particular instance will break apps, just pointing out the fact as it relates to standards.
+4 votes

I would put NO header on your text, preface is a term that can be misleading as such.  I have had similar issues with people whose parentage is unknown, I have taken to putting a WARNING: xyz is said to be.....  at the beginning of the bio, with colour on the word warning so it jumps up at a person who is wanting to do something unsourced to the profile.  The warning can be put either above the ==Biography== section entirely or just under the bio header.

by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (690k points)

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