The WikiTree Arborist

+16 votes
I'm curious if anyone else would like to see a role or a badge created for someone we consider a WikiTree Arborist.  I had brought this up on the presidential project.  These are people concerned with the overall health of the WikiTree.  The arborist would look at potential merges and duplicates.  I find that I get better results when proposing merges if I put a little note in and I think users would be more comfortable seeing a proposed merge from someone that isn't the profile owner if it appeared a bit more official.  Example: As a WikiTree Arborist could you please complete the following merge?  Then under the help file it would explain the arborist role.

I find that sometimes people are a bit offended by suggested merges and when they know it's part of a project or something somewhat official they feel better about it then just some guy telling them they need to merge.

I'm always trying to find ways to get people to respond more quickly to merge requests and this is just another of my crazy ideas.
WikiTree profile: Ed Burke
in Policy and Style by Ed Burke G2G6 Mach 2 (23.5k points)
What a cool idea, Ed!  You rock!

You are so full of good ideas--and none of them are crazy. smiley

Excellent idea!
You rock Ed!


I feel like a WikiTree arborist already!

As always with your suggestions, this is one I would LOVE to help with, but the EuroAristo group is still in infancy (even after almost a year!!!!!!!!!! Can anyone believe its been almost a year?) and there is so much to do. With this crazy time stealer called Peyton (my 4 month old) I cant commit to much else besides tinkering with EuroAristo but this is AWESOME OF YOU!

Way to go!
Great idea - have noticed you have sent emails to me with that distinction.  i approve those merges faster than others
I feel like I'm already doing this, but without the extra "cachet" of being an Arborist.  Would love to have that title!
Excellent, I'm sure badges will be forthcoming but this topic is one all of WikiTree should be concerned with.  Having numerous duplicates makes our jobs so much harder and it challenges our credibility.  Keep up the good work please.  Ed

Here is the message I'm currently using when requesting merges.  Any feedback?

To improve the health of the WikiTree please consider this merge request carefully.  Removing duplicates is a requirement of WikiTree. You may assist by completing this merge and any others that are related.  Be sure to check parents, children and spouses.

This merge has been suggested by a WikiTree Arborist.  If you'd like to learn more please see

Good plan with well thought out approach.
Love this idea!  Thank you for the merges you are doing.  I have been trying to catch as many duplications as I can to merge them but a lot of people don't have enough documentation in their records to be able to merge them legitamately.

I'm looking forward to GEDMatches.


3 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer
Awesome idea, Ed! It's terrific how much you do for WikiTree.

As an Arborist, how would you go about finding the potential duplicates? Any specific recommended procedure?

Tami often goes through new GEDCOM imports looking for potential matches. But once we have GEDMatches in place, that won't be necessary.

MatchBot is doing this too, but it only finds the most obvious matches.

When we have the tool to display all Pending Merges and Unmerged Matches, that would give Arborists something concrete and easy to monitor.

There may be other Arborist aides we could develop.

If you want, start a category for organizing and/or a page for instructions.
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
selected by Thorr Odinson
I like where this is going.  I appreciate the changes to the Arborist page.  I see WikiTree really making progress in this area which will allow us to attract more users.
Are we talking about creating new categories or 'grafting' categories into open profiles for locatons, military service, Royalty, etc?
It's pretty clear that that slick tools aren't really there yet.  While those improve I believe there are a lot of things we can do to help smooth out categories.  Sometimes it might be just communicating in G2G.  For instance next week is University week.  This is how you add your alma mater to a profile.  Or fraternities or whatever.  Over time you build up a knowledge base.  From an arborist perspective checking for basic locations of birth would be a big step.


It should get easier over time.
In response to the specific question about categorizers I think this is clearly something that should be included in the arborist function.  Although the special projects teams will always have specific categories i.e. US Presidents Categories span the entire tree and really are a way that we can find new relations separate from standard genealogy forms.  The health of the wikitree depends on merging and proper categorization.  In my opinion.  There is another element here we should consider when is a free space page more appropriate than a category.  Again something an arborist might look at.
I'd hesitate to designate categories as the domain of any group. They really are something everyone should be doing, right? While the Categorization Project exists to discuss standards, and try to get more people using categories, every WikiTreer should ideally be adding categories to their own profiles, and even creating new categories as needed.
At 4.2 million profiles contributed by 57K+ people, we need all the help we can get. That represents a lot of categories by many who probably never come to the G2G pages and don't have a clue about categories. My wish is that as soon as someone fills in a county and state (or a city and state), that profile automatically gets added to the location category. May never happen, but I can still wish. :o)
Debby, I'd like to see automatic birth and death location indexes as well. The reason we don't already do it is that we don't "normalize" locations. They are free text fields. Hence, you get a dozen variations on the input. Once we're able to normalize the data we'll do indexes. But even once this is done, there is still a role for place categorization. This should be more discretionary. The place of birth for a person isn't necessarily a significant place for them, and significant places for them aren't necessarily where they were born, married or died.
Normalizing locations would be nice, but I've also been on the down side of that. Try putting in Pendleton District, South Carolina as a birth place in a normalized location field and it is rejected as no such place. Well, yes, there was such a place in the early 1800's and that's where my ancestor was born. Later Pendleton was divided into three counties, but I don't know within which boundary my ancestor lived.

If the location field is normalized, will it match the location categories on WikiTree or will it match a master list produced by an entity other than WikiTree?

Sorry, Ed. I got us off topic.
Thanks for appreciating that Debby. Normalizing locations has disadvantages and they could be significant if it's not done right. That's why I've hesitated to rush into it.

Using the existing list of location categories would be a great idea. We could combine it with a list we get elsewhere. Then when you enter a location it would search for possible matches. You either select one or create a new one. If you do create a new one it gets added to the list. It would be like "tagging" on blogs, images, etc.

There would be a lot of work for members to do in merging tags. Someone creates "Pendleton, SC" and someone else creates "Pendleton, South Carolina, USA" or whatever. Someone at some point is going to have to say those are the same thing and merge them.

I think Dallan Quass of WeRelate might be working on an open source system we could connect with this.

Sorry this got a little technical, and got even more off the topic of WikiTree Arborists. :-)
To get us back on topic [ :o) ], if locations become normalized so they are automatically added to location categories, that's one job arborists won't have to worry about so their time will be freed up to merge location tags.

Arborists lose one responsibility and gain another when/if normalization occurs.
+3 votes
Hi Ed,

I think this is a great idea! It seems to address the problem well. 20% of the people will do 80% of the work. It's frustrating if the workers' hands are tied.

by Sandi Wiggins G2G6 Mach 6 (67.8k points)
+1 vote
Great idea, and i LOVE the name! Let me know how I can help.

by Tami Mize G2G6 Mach 4 (41.1k points)
A week has gone by and I would say that we have started to make good progress.  What is so interesting is that the vast majority of these duplicate profiles are GEDCOM uploads that haven't been modified since creation.  We do occasionally get some complaints from protective profile owners that don't really appreciate it when another newer profile is merged.  They've worked hard on their ancestors information and their feeling seems to be we'd be better off deleting than combining.  If you receive a message requesting a merge from an arborist please take the time to review the request.  If they aren't the same people then reject it.  If they are the same people the merge needs to happen.
Good insights from one who has been doing the work and a nice perspective on the respect to be shown other contributors.  Thanks.

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