When Is It OK to Add Controversial Info to Profile?

+5 votes

I set up a profile in the Jackins Name Study. I just looked at it again and found that a quote had been added, with a source. (I did orphan the profile after I set it up.)   There is no indication that this quote applies in any way to the profile:

''In Nevada and Utah, a California businessman, [[Connor-1910|Colonel Patrick Connor]], commanded a militia of a thousand California volunteers that spent the war years massacring hundreds of unarmed Shoshone, Bannock, and Ute people in their encampments.''

I understand that Wikitree is inclusive and should accurately reflect history, but the language of this quote is clearly incendiary, and, even if it had a source to show that it applies to this person, I don't think it is appropriate, so I removed it.

Any thoughts?

WikiTree profile: Charles Jackins
in Policy and Style by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (336k points)

4 Answers

+9 votes
Best answer

The man was part of a unit led by https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Connor-1910 . According to the book referenced  written by 


the unit was involved in the massacre of these people. I think that if I were editing  it, I would contextualise it: CJ was a member of the 3rd.... led by Patrick Connor. According to Dunbar-Ortez they were involved in the massacre...

If the facts of the claim are disputed (  I'm viewing this as outsider from the UK) then  add a rebuttal. I don't think we should sanitise family history. 

by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (397k points)
selected by SJ Baty
Should include a source, either way. And ideally, the phrase about any massacring should be quoted directly from the source, so it's not interpretation on the part of the editor here.
I agree, there was a source which is why I could find it and check out the author's credentials.
Helen, I have identified that he was in 3rd California Infantry, Company I and added that info along with a source. I have not been able to confirm that Company I was involved in the particular incident, so I have not specifically said that he was involved. I did add links to the Bear River Massacre and to history of the unit. I think that includes the info without sanitizing or ignoring it. (I noticed that the same person added exactly the same info as "Flowers" on his Find A Grave memorial.)
That's well done. The relevant, specific information is there, the link provides more, and it relates to the subject of the profile, not the extraneous figure O'Connor.
I agree with Lois, well done.

What we also have to remember is that during war, most servicemen and in latter times  women didn't make decisions or  have the privilege of  opting out.
+6 votes
Is it possible that this quotation was meant to apply to some other person? Less because of the language, but because of irrelevancy, I think you were right to remove it.
by Lois Tilton G2G6 Pilot (152k points)

Yes I agree what his Colonel did has nothing to do with him. That would be like posting something my boss did in my biography. If they are talking about the Bear River Massacre company k took part in that Charles Jackson was in company I. Yes add battles that company I took part in if you want but don't list the whole 3rd Regiment California Volunteer Infantry as battles he was in.

+9 votes

It appears the quote is relevant, as the profile in question clearly is marked as a member of the 3rd Regiment California Volunteer Infantry, the unit the gentleman referenced in the quote commanded that unit.  

by Christina Mckeithan G2G6 Mach 1 (12.5k points)
I will admit that I didn't find the relevance very clear from the quotation as given. If it is restored, it should be made more explicit.
+4 votes
If source material can back up "incendiary" language then I think it should stay.
by Bart Triesch G2G6 Pilot (256k points)
I think there are ways to present the facts, without the use  of "incendiary" language, which is, by its nature, passing judgement/allowing biases to show, rather than strictly reporting what was.
If the incident is commonly referred to as "Massacre" in the literature and history I don't see how calling it that is incendiary. Would it be incendiary if N.N. was a member of a Waffen-SS unit involved in mass executions of Jews in Poland and somebody writes him up as having participated in genocide?
If that comment was addressed to me - I was responding to an apparently non-specific statement that could be applied to almost any situation, not just the one from the question.   In the case of the question, as others have found, there is no direct proof the person of the profile was a participant in that particular incident, even if the regiment to which his company belonged was.  That isn't to say he wasn't involved in any massacres at all, just that proof of involvement needs to be given

In a more specific case such as "a member of a Waffen-SS unit involved in mass executions of Jews in Poland" being written up as having participated in genocide - I would have no problem with that being the language used, presuming there was evidence to back up the statement.

I have no problem - in general - with stating red is red,  not orange, providing there is proof to back it up.  My great-grand-grandfather was an adulterer, fathering a child with a woman not his wife, while his wife was under the same roof.   His brother fathered two children "without benefit of clergy" (not adultery, as neither were married), before eventually marrying the mother of his children.  More than one other of my great-grands had children before they married. My father was a serial adulterer.  

I have no problem stating these as facts, because they were.  On the other hand, if there were family members likely to be hurt by words (which there are), I would soften the language used, while still stating the facts.

There is no benefit in using intentionally incendiary language - words used deliberately in a way to elicit a particular response (revulsion, hatred) - when the facts can be written in a way that nothing is lost, but the reader gets to make up their own mind what response they will have.
The offending passage did not accuse the person of having participated in a massacre, it did, however, contextualize the fact that membership in this regiment was rather prominently provided.

Our hypothetical SS man may not have been shown to personally participate in mass executions by his unit, never-the-less, if his membership in this unit has been displayed on the profile it would only be fair to mention what his unit was engaged in.

The activities over the years of certain US army units against Native Americans have been amply documented and repeatedly called massacres in numerous books and history texts, I therefore fail to see why the use of the word massacre would be incendiary.

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