Why do people add profiles, then immediately remove themself as profile manager? [closed]

+10 votes
Lately, I have been getting a lot of notices on my activity feed saying someone has added a profile of a father, wife, child, etc to one of the profiles I manage. When I check out the added profile, I see that the person who just created it removed their name as profile manager, leaving an orphaned profile. Very uncool. When I check out who is doing this, it ALWAYS turns out to be someone who has a bunch of badges for being a great “WikiTreer”. Maybe they are shooting for the Orphan Creator badge or something. My feeling is, if you do not want to take ownership of the profile, then do not make it.
closed with the note: Question answered. Good discussion. Time to move on.
in Policy and Style by M. Fitzgerald G2G6 (7.0k points)
closed by M. Fitzgerald
I’ve been on WT for less than 2 years.  I had the same impression as Marc when I joined that leaving profiles orphaned wasn’t a good thing.  It seemed that there was a goal to not have any orphaned profiles on WT.  Adoption challenges, etc.  I don’t know if the term “orphan” influences that impression.

I do have some profiles that I don’t have a vested interest in, especially when things like two brothers of one family marry two sisters of another family, so I create the parents to show that they were siblings.  I can’t remember how many are in my Watchlist, but perhaps I should go back and orphan those profiles.
Ros, thanks for pointing out the Help page for orphaned profiles. THere's something else on it that conveys that orphans are not desirable: an orphaned profile is "a profile that needs someone to care for it."

Frankly, I think that help page needs an additional section: When to orphan a profile...

When someone makes a profile from a source and doesn’t make a profile for all of the family members (ex. kids, parents etc. ) that are listed in that source the Integrators (a challenge held every month and week) will make the profile for them. (See link https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:Vermont%2C_Needs_Profiles_Created)

They will then leave it for either you or another related person to come along and adopt it. This way we know that all of the info from that one source has been used. 

That’s also a good reason to always ck the orphaned families to see if there are any for the branch that you make.  That way you won’t have any doubles etc. 

It also gives you a head start on a profile. Even if it’s find a grave it will give you a starting point with dates and places. 

@Jillaine - It seems as though you can look at it from the other direction: other WikiTreers (even Leaders) have said that orphaned profiles are in need of love, care, and attention.  So maybe the reduction required is so that we can say as a group "all our profiles are loved and cared for".

Whether a profile has a manager or not is functionally irrelevant (to the profile & to genealogy). (IMHO), the only points of real relevance are: does the profile have some source(s) that prove(s) that this person and that the familial connections made have a basis in fact.

Adopting a profile does not equate to caring or giving it love.....adding sources + correcting errors + adding to their familial connections show more of that than simply having your name listed as PM.

As Jillaine notes, Wikitree help pages and the language used there and on G2G should possibly be reconfigured to avoid the issue of this and other folks who read the language as it is uncool to orphan or to have Open/Un-PM'd  profiles (see the related posts below this one).

The statement cited by Ros above, saying that "an orphaned profile is the same as an unattended grave" feels a lot like shaming those of us who dare to let go of a profile. Combined with the limit of 5,000 on the Watchlist, it appears like the WikiTree leadership doesn't want us to add too many profiles.

I've currently got 7,511 profiles in my own database with a WikiTree id, although I've only got 3,370 profiles on my Watchlist.

Maybe it's time to wrap it up here.

There should be no shame attached to "setting free" a profile you have improved as best you can.

There should be no shame in "setting free" a profile where you are unable to add any improvements.  (Sometimes it takes different eyes to find just that one little thing.)

If my own earlier words on this matter caused anyone to feel uncomfortable, I apologise.
Made me chuckle just a bit as I pictured raising my kids till they were adults, and when they finally left the nest...

Guess my profiles are kind of similar...
And I will say, from the other end of the spectrum, I do occasionally troll through the orphans seeking some of my family names and even if I'm a very distant cousin, I can't help myself but adopt a few and give them some improvements. Guess it's just in my nature to want to adopt orphans too.
Yes, I am bad about looking for orphan family too. ( I and my siblings were all adopted out young, and I found my birth family in 2012).   On profiles that are orphaned,   I do think of it as a head start on a family profile instead of having to start from scratch, so I like to collect ophans!  I think a bunch may of recently been made during the connect a thon challenge.  That was a good way to connect new profiles in the tree and earn points during the challenge by creating new profiles.  Many folks did extended family new profiles and then left them for those more closely related to pick up.... it all works out :)  No shame or suckers on either side of this issue.  The more profiles out there created the better we all are (as long as they are real ancestors-people), and the more orphans to look for the less work to add a profile to your tree !

9 Answers

+32 votes
Best answer
There's actually nothing wrong with creating profiles and then leaving them as orphans.

This is a collaborative site. Meaning no one owns anything. Its a shared, one world tree. We work together and help each other.

If the profiles are your relatives, then you can adopt them -- or leave them for anyone else to edit. (but one doesn't actually have to manage a profile in order to edit it)
by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (545k points)
selected by Joelle Colville-Hanson
Unfortunately, the help page about orphans says nothing about this. It should.
+32 votes
There might be several reasons. One I know is connectors that try to connect profiles to the tree. They are creating the profiles mainly to create the connections, not so much to keep the profiles in their guard. (Sometime hundreds a day...)

Another is the fact that there is this limit of 5000 (if I remember it well) profiles you can manage. I often create profiles to complete families (mainly of unsourced profiles) of which I really would want to the interested party, thus the original creator of the unsourced profile, to take care of the family. Then I tend to remove myself.

I understand you feel that might seem uncool, but it is in fact a way of saying: "This profile is open for others to look after".

(And I think the person that put the downvote here should explain their opinion/viewpoint rather then only downvote the question, even if the wording is not to your liking).
by Michel Vorenhout G2G6 Pilot (279k points)
i gave them a vote
I did not down vote, but think the post would be more to the point and more within WikiTree's principle of courtesy if there was no assumption that contributors create profiles with the objective of racking up points and badges. This is hardly assuming good intentions.

I have to orphan a lot of profiles, because my watchlist is too large. I generally make sure I've done what I could for them (sources and bio) before doing so. Sometimes I do it just because I assume the manager of profiles in the same family will be interested in managing the new profile, too.
I'm also orphaning profiles all the time to limit my watchlist. The ones I orphan are mostly profiles within my One Place Study, when I've attached and sourced all known parents, siblings, spouses, and children.

I'm still keeping an eye on everybody, though.

One could ask the opposite question: why do open profiles need a manager at all?

I can think of some answers wink but perhaps that is a new discussion?

Sorry for sounding critical here. No offense intended.  But I think that creating "hundreds" of profiles with no sources, then making them orphans is not a good thing to be doing.  I recognize that it is well-intentioned.  But with no source and nobody to contact about the profile its value is minimal.  I get that your goal is to save what you learned so that others might have a good starting point on future research, are not really up to creating complete profiles and doing the research necessary.  Believe me, I have been there, usually it involves making profiles of the parents, but not wanting to do profiles of their 12 children.  If I am feeling energetic, I will list the names and approximate dates of birth, if I know them.  If not, I at least try to mention the number of children they had. If there are links to censuses in the profile, it is pretty easy for someone to pick up the trail.  Same goes for parents, maybe I am not feeling like branching off on the parents of a spouse, but I know something about them.  I will include the names of the parents in the biography.
Marc, are you talking about orphaning profiles, or creating unsourced profiles? These are two different things. The first is what everybody responds to (at least me).

For me the latter is not done and I'm sorry if I was not clear enough, but for sure I totally agree with you that that is really bad practice.
+18 votes
I have created a number of profiles that I thought were related, but then found out it was a different line. I orphan them so that someone with closer connections can pick them up.

On the reverse I have found family members that PMs lock up and won’t share. Such a pain.

At least if they orphans you can pick them up!
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Yeah I have a cousin like that, Marion :)  I don't know if it was intentional as she was big on GEMCOM uploads.... but I am going to have to see about getting a few of those back over 150 years opened as she is no longer active on our site.  I asked repeatedly to be added to the trusted list of a few of our mutual greats without a response too, just to add sources where she had none.  Wish she had done some orphaning before she was out.
+15 votes
I often create a whole trail of profiles in pursuit of a connection, and primarily when trying to connect a Notable. I'm sure others do something similar when pursuing a connection due to any project team they are working on. However, when I achieve the connection, I do my best to go back and remove myself as Profile Manager as generally I've got to keep moving to the next one on the list and I won't be back that way again for a very long time. In those cases, it's much better to open them up as I have no immediate family connection and I can only hope that an interested party will see the orphans in the future and pick them up.

Plus my Watchlist is WAY over 5000, so I'm always looking for a way to cut back so that I can stay within that magic number. I do keep profiles that are "non-open" privacy, as I know what a pain it is to get access to an orphaned one of those, and I'll find owners for controversial figures if necessary, but most profiles I can open up and orphan fairly quickly. I also try to ensure they have at least some kind of biography, sources, and are at least decently researched before I bail on them. So hopefully the next person in line has a reasonable chance of picking up where I left off.
by Scott Fulkerson G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
I do the same for the English Authors topic, or for any Challenges that the England Project is running.  (Although my Watchlist isn't so huge!)
+16 votes
I don't see a problem with it unless the profile is created with a link to a source (usually findagrave), no biography at all, and no other profiles attached. To me, this screams, "I don't care about the tree that much."
by Natalie Trott G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+11 votes

I myself will create and orphan the "in-law" files of a spouse of a blood relative, so that my watch list is limited to my relative and their spouse ... 

Managing profiles is one matter, and managing one's "whole" watch list is another matter -- I'd really like to keep my watch list less than 5,000  and it is currently this moment at 2,532. 

The "5,000" is if I understood due to the sluggishness of loading it more than anything else but that also might be "urban myth" ... but it's what I read in G2G ... I suppose it depends more on the age and model of one's computer ??

by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (622k points)
I just checked the various help pages about Trusted Lists and found no reference to the 5,000 limit, but I do know I've seen it mentioned over and over in G2G.

Susan, it's not about large watchlists slowing down YOUR computer; it supposedly slows down the main computer on which WT resides.

laugh Oh!! Well, that clarifies that point. Here I've had the horrors about having 5000+ watchlist and having to wait 5 minutes for it to load  

How does this relate to the oft repeated admonition about gedcom profile quantity? The advice is often toward suggesting the enthusiast limit the quantity loaded and suggesting (quite often) that the limit be no more than 5,000

According to this post by Chris Whitten, the size of your Watchlist doesn't affect anyone but you. The system as a whole is not hurt if you've got 10,000 profiles on your Watchlist, but you may experience adverse effects in performance as the Watchlist is called from many places.

So, is 5,000 the ADVISED limit due to .... the loading time on (1) your own device or (2) WikiTree's system? 

BUT we can have 20,000 or 10,000 and nothing horrid will happen except the pages (of the Watch List) will load slowly? 

Linda thanks for finding that. I looked at three different help pages about watchlists and did not find that one. 

Susan, I think there's also the question of how many profiles can any one person effectively manage?

Jillaine, think the "effective management" of a PM is for the individual PM to decide


On your last 2 comments....5000 is the RECOMMENDED upper limit. (One of the reasons I no longer wiki is that I got tired of people here that are evidently unable to distinguish between grey terms like recommended, suggested, preferred etc... and somehow interpret those words into hard black & white words/laws like MUSTs and ONLYs.)

I have 5G internet service and a moderate computer. My 10K watchlist never caused me or wikitree any problems.

It did , however, require significant effort and attention.......

As for my own little secluded corner of the One Big Tree, I don't see a lot of interaction with other WikiTreers. I haven't seen a single request for joining the Trusted List for any of my profiles since I joined in March 2018. I'm on good terms with a handful of other PMs who had entered profiles from "my" area before I joined, and who now have seen massive extension of their families. I've fleshed out and sourced those profiles according to my standards.

On the bad side, I've seen a couple of green members adding relationships from the Internet mythology which don't stand up to real evidence. I've had to have two profiles project protected due to old LDS myths from the Dark Ages before the Internet. But this is where WikiTree shines above Geni, FamilySearch and all the others.

All in all, tt can be months between each time I get involved in some interaction wrt "my" profiles. I can live with that, even if my Watchlist might grow drastically. And perhaps Chris W. stands by his 2015 post which says this:

"The technical problems are heavily dependent on the user's system. If they're on a very old computer and a dial-up or satellite connection, the problems will appear well before 5,000. On someone else's system they might not be noticeable until 10,000 or 15,000."

Personally I've got a 300+ Mbps Internet connection and a Linux workstation running on a 4 GHz i7 Quad core with 32 GB RAM and way too much disk space. I think I can handle more than 5,000 profiles, whichever way you see it.

laugh Oh, Nick you have lotsa muscle power, with all that tech at your fingertips

crying I am a 97-lb weakling with a bitty older model Chrome Notebook loaned to me, maybe a  8 inch or 9 inch screen -- there are PM who use an Ipad or iPod or whatever named device (something to fit the size of their hand) to do their genealogy.  I don't do "tech" beyond my weak Chrome Notebook 

smileyRecommend is the word used on the page referred to. There is no official limit laid down by C. Whitten about the size of anyone's w atch list.  Recommend is another word for an advisory comment 

smiley "Effective management" size of a watch list is at the decision of the PM.  The Help: pages are crammed with info about how to be an effective profile manager. 

laugh It is not wrong to create and source adequately a profile and then orphan it or them, family for instance -- yesterday & today I profiled 7 of 9 children for Nathaniel Carter -- an 8th one was a dec'd infant so I did not profile it, but it is listed on each of the parents' profiles; the 9th one I had profiled some time ago because she married a Spivey cousin of mine. And then I orphaned all EXCEPT the Carter woman who'd married the Spivey cousin.  

Chis and Ales will just have to augment or increase the system capacity if they expect to house the forthcoming profiles ... we are getting a small flood of newbies and a number of oldies are reviewing their lists and they are revising and adding more profiles ... the Tree is expanding  

+10 votes
Considering there is a limit to how many profiles you can have on your Watchlist at some point you have to orphan some or quit making profiles.
by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Pilot (140k points)

Joelle, I down voted this because your statement on a hard limit is false and your assumption that "you have to orphan some or quit making profiles' is also therefore false.

Shrug. Feel free to down vote any and all of my posts. I think the whole up vote and down vote is silly and am bemused by how seriously some regard it.

But it is news to me that the whole 5000 profile limit turns out to be a WikiTree Urban Legend. Still. There’s no shame in orphaning profiles.

That was absolutely nothing personal...you'll note on most Examples that I'm generally in agreement with you and used the up vote and a comment to show and explain why I was on the same page.

I view the up/down votes as pretty silly also---but it is what is here and the leadership can remove that function whenever they want. I merely wanted any wikitree'rs to understand clearly that the above was misinformation (100% NOT a personal slight of any kind-Sorry if you took it that wayblush)

I'm curious as to how you interpreted my comment that clearly said you were free to downvote any of my comments as my saying I was offended.  I'm also curious as to why you thought a downvote (which you say you also believe is silly) is more effective as simply saying that I was incorrect   Which is also does not offend me in any way.
+11 votes


AS the others have noted, there's no negative connotation to 'orphaning' a profile and perhaps the terminology should be altered to something more positive like 'setting a profile free' laugh

There are numerous reasons for doing it and most of them come from a positive attitude from people with good intentions.

On the side topics of Urban Myths and of Watchlist Limitations that have been discussed on this post---PLEASE NOTE: the 5000 limit is a SUGGESTION for expected better functionality. You will not have any 'punishments' for exceeding that number. I maintained near 10,000 in my watchlist for years with NO negative effect whatsoever.

Back to the 'Orphan' topic......since I am no longer very active here, it was with the intention of setting those 10,000 profiles free for easy access to anyone else interested that I orphaned all but a couple of hundred of profiles.

by Nick Andreola G2G6 Mach 8 (80.5k points)
And as I pointed out above, I find no Trusted List help page that mentions any limit.
A few inches up, and Linda has linked a Help page about this.

Besides any loading/technical issues that a large watchlist MAY cause (I never experienced any) the only real advisory about the size of your watchlist should be related to the amount of time you have available to actually watch your list!

I reviewed all changes on my list almost every day and tried to respond to merges/TL requests etc... on the same day issued or by the next day at least. I'd recommend NOT keeping a large list if you do not want to commit to actively & regularly being engaged with each of those profiles.

EDIT after Ros' post was read and Linda's link was viewedblush

"We recommend smaller Watchlists if you want to be less active on WikiTree. The smaller your Watchlist, the less collaboration you will need to be involved in. Of course, not all profiles require the same level of collaboration. If you only have modern, private family members on your Watchlist you will only need to work with close family members."

+6 votes
There is one negative effect of orphaning, which is that nobody will get "Suggestions" if there are errors in the profile.

I'm frequently editing profiles that I've already orphaned. As I'm using named inline references all the time, it's very easy to slip whenever a source is changed or a paragraph is moved. And then I won't ever get notified about it.

The 5.000 limit on the Watchlist is really starting to hurt. It feels like I'm at one of those sites that let you enter a small number of profiles for free. Now, where's the premium subscription plan?
by Leif Biberg Kristensen G2G6 Pilot (184k points)

Leif, 5,ooo limit is advisory, not a rule -- you can exceed 5,000 - it would seem any number of PM do so ... the "limit" was meant to protect the processing power of the WT computer 

It's pretty strong advice, though. As far as I can see, the Watchlist size for ordinary members should be limited to 5,000 while Leaders and Arborists get 10,000. I have no idea if Leaders and Arborists are allocated larger memory caches or whatever. I may eventually exceed the 5,000 limit, but I'll try to be very careful about it. Nonetheless, I find such limitations very annoying. It reminds me of the Nineties, when we had low performance hardware and faced limitations all over the place.

And if you read the answer by Chris Whitten that I linked to above, under your answer, he states explicitely that "Other WikiTree users won't be significantly affected in technical ways if your Watchlist is too large." There is no hurt on the general system, only the system performance as perceived by you will start to degrade.

It is very possible that newer server hardware has made the 5,000 limit more or less obsolete, but as long as nothing is being said about it from the powers that be, it's what we have to relate to.

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