Tree display enhancement for the next major update - Suggestion

+7 votes
This is purely a suggestion for a future update (does WIKI tree have the equivalent of Request For Comment discussions?).

Many of us have members in our managed trees about whom we have near 100% confidence in the accuracy of that person's entry. This may be because there is a near complete paper trail of Birth, Census, Marriage and Death tied in with possible personal, accurate anecdotal or other evidence such a DNA testing. There are others in the tree who have less supporting evidence - maybe a birth and single census entry. Out of this evidence it should be possible to estimate and assign a confidence value to that person. Some values derived from objective criteria such the paper trails and published works, and some derived from subjective assessment such as 'it just feels right - I haven't found the paperwork yet'.

This could be used to calculate a subjective confidence value (0-100%) assigned to that person.

When the tree is displayed that value could be used to colour code or grey scale a persons entry making it very easy to visualise where more research is required in a tree. It could also be used to temporarily remove an entry from the displayed tree or just simply set a value displayed in a box.

Any thoughts?
in WikiTree Tech by Steve Jones G2G1 (1.9k points)
Sometimes BDM is all there is.  Sometimes BD is all there is.  Such should not be downgraded in "confidence" simply because there are no census returns to be added, or because they did not marry and/or procreate.

I have many family members where all there is for them is a birth record, and a death record -- and some where there is only a birth record OR a death record -- but I am 100% positive of their existence.
It's impossible to come up with a formula that works for all times and places. As one example, census records are simply not available as a genealogical resource in Hungary: the data collection sheets are purposely destroyed after tabulation. This doesn't make me any less confident of my great-grandparents' correct identities and relationships.

2 Answers

+5 votes

Not an un-useful idea, but I think any confidence value you would come up with would be very subjective too, unless you defined all "possible" scenarios for documentation by the specific location and scenario for that person, and figured out a way to decide which applied to that person


  1. if they were in the US, then federal censuses would apply. But lifespan would determine how many of the censuses apply. 
  2. State they live it would determine if and when the state censuses applied, and would differ per state
  3. marriage licenses - 
    1. not everyone gets married
    2. not everyone only marries once
    3. not everyone who gets married in a religious ceremony has a civil marriage
  4. lifespan will determine reliability or availability of records. People in the United States in the mid-1800s have good records. Unless they lived in states that weren't states yet or something. People who lived in the British Colonies during the 1600s might not have the best records. (note that those could be people living in the same places)
  5. Published works: is this works published by the profile in question? Or inclusion in works published about them? because there are quality assessments that need to happen to determine whether they matter. Just because someone published a work spouting a mythological relationship does not make it more valuable
  6. I have a Research Worksheet Template I'm playing around with (Space:Crawford7109sandbox) but I know that lots of ancestors won't have things on there like Military records, patents for inventions, pet licenses, county auditor records, etc. They are only there because I know some do. I am working on making this easier to work with, and possibly creating an app that identifies all the worksheets you have created and giving an index of completion, which might be what you're thinking of. This will also be subjective, because although research might have been performed, there's no real way to say it's 100% complete, when records could suddenly be uncovered that were not available before.
In short, I see your point and it would be nice if it were possible to assign some sort of confidence value, but absence (or presence) of records in no way implies that the records *do* exist or *should* exist. Too many variables. 
by Jonathan Crawford G2G6 Pilot (203k points)
+3 votes

First I want to say that I totally agree with Jonathan's answer. I've been through the same ideas in my forays into genealogy database modelling, but have found that quantifying uncertainties, other than on a very rough scale, is simply too much work for too little benefit.

In my own research database I've got surety levels for the parent-child relationships, which in effect take the values Certain, Probable, Possible. I will only publish those that I've estimated as Certain. Quite a few of those actually lack direct evidence, but they at least have pretty strong circumstantial evidence.

I've got this profile of one of my g4-grandmothers, Marte Andersdatter, that I've been using as an example many times. I've never found a record which says that the Marte Andersdatter born at Veholt in 1736 is the same Marte Andersdatter who marries Abraham Jonsen in 1758. But it fits in all kinds of ways, and having worked with this parish for 23 years, I've never found any evidence that weakens or disproves it. But, as long as there's no direct evidence that proves it, it's still just a hypothesis. How do you put an actual number to that kind of uncertainty?

As Jonathan says, any day a hitherto unknown document might surface that either proves or disproves this relation. Then the probability goes to either 1 or 0. But until then, I won't assign any other probability value to it than "pretty convincing".

by Leif Biberg Kristensen G2G6 Pilot (153k points)
Thanks everyone for your comments.

I thought this parameter should be purely for the visualisation of the profile or tree - not intended to be an arbiter of accuracy of the tree's content. Maybe it could be a 'private' value that only the profile manager can make use of or see.

I know the availability and accuracy of data varies from country to country and individual to individual, it's just that sometimes it is useful to look at a tree (or any data) without the clutter of guesses, assumptions, known but not proven etc. Likewise, it is useful to visualise something based on 'if we assume this, what are the consequences'.

It should be at the discretion of the profile manager as to the value assigned - my suggestions were just possible criteria. It is a subjective value after all - trust the PM as to the weighting they put to the data available and their experience.

In my own tree, I have several instances of child to grandparent links that are 100% accurate (quite common in farming communities in the 1800s to move young children to their grand parents whilst the parents move around as contracted farm labourers), but I have no definite links to parents, only 2 or 3 possibles. It would be nice to add a parent with the highest confidence and see if the relationships work, but at the same time knowing that this is a low confidence addition by the visual information on the screen.

My background is audio and video editing. All professional editing packages allow you to mark media content as a 'good take' or not. It is then possible to search or display by that value - but at no time are you prevented from using low quality takes if you wish.

Sometimes a little fuzzy logic can help to see things more clearly.

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