Wikitree contradictions.

+13 votes
We were actively encouraged to adopt orphan profiles, and even awarded badges for doing so. Then criticized for having too many un-sourced profiles. One reason why these profiles were orphaned is because they had proved difficult to find sources. Most of us have other things that demand our time and attention, so we can only do research in our spare time. For example, I have a farm to run. So then we have to contend with 'Data Doctors' and 'source-a-thons', where profiles we are working on are removed, often without our consent. My point is that either Wiki wants us to research these profiles without sources, or they don't, in which case they might not waste our valuable time.
in Policy and Style by Tim Perry G2G6 Mach 3 (33.4k points)
retagged by Robin Lee
What I want to know is who is criticizing you? What form is this criticism? The act of adding sources or changing data (with sources) certainly should not be construed as criticism - it is assistance. If I were being criticized I would report it since it is a violation of our Honor Code.
I print and file every message for future reference, so I know exactly who they were.

They also know who they are.

I have no need to give names.

6 Answers

+19 votes
Best answer
Profiles are orphaned by the people who created them, either because they don't want to manage them, or because they closed their account, or they didn't respond to other members trying to work with them and the account was closed due to their inactivity. In many cases they would have looked up the people whose profiles they created. They just didn't write down the source at the time.

Even away from Wikitree, good genealogy practice is to add sources to your work. Sooner or later there will be a query, or you will discover something new that prompts you to go back to a previous source, or you wish you wrote more down at the time, but you can't remember where you found some information. It takes time to hunt around again for it. The most efficient way to research is to source as you go.

You also don't need to adopt profiles in order to source them, and if you weren't the one who created the profile without a source, why would you take any criticism personally if you adopted them with the intention of improving the profile?

I'm not sure what you mean by Data Doctors and Source-a-thons removing your profiles. Profiles cannot be deleted. During Source-a-thons, people add sources. They may write a simple bio or a sentence to accompany the source. There should be no reason to delete a biography that is in development. Data Doctors fix problems, correct typos, correct dates and places, or delete gedcom junk. They should not be deleting a biography. If anyone makes a change that you don't like, you can go to the change log and with the click of a button, change it back to how it was previously.
by Living Ford G2G6 Pilot (148k points)
selected by Carolyn Martin
That being the case, how do you account for several profiles being removed from my family tree ? Perhaps I can restore them, but why should I have to ?

I have spent a considerable time and expense purchasing microfiche of early parish records from regional Records Centers, as well as searching Heralds Visitations, and reading through many Wills and Probate, gaining data concurrent to the subjects in question. However, it seems that often nobody bothers to look them up, if it is not written by a modern author, some 500 years after the event, then it is assumed to be incorrect. When dates and places are changed, who checks that they are correct ?

I find myself having to keep my own records, safe from well intentioned others, to protect my work.
Which profiles have been removed? What do you mean by "removed from your family tree"? This is a single tree shared by everyone.

It is Wikitree policy that pre-1700 profiles must be sourced. If someone is editing those profiles, they must justify the change with a source. Do you have an example where such a profile was changed without adding a source?
Tim, are you familiar with your suggestions list? It's under the My Wikitree menu item at upper right, then go down to Suggestions on the pop up menu. You manage a number of profiles for people born > 500 years ago that are flagged with errors, several of which are because parents died before children were born. Are any of these the profiles that are being edited? If a parent died before a child was born, but there is evidence that the child belongs to that parent and their birth/baptism is correct, then that would suggest that the parent's death date is wrong. If no source can be found, then the death date would likely be deleted.
I have details of individuals dating to before 1500, the pile of Wills that I am currently reading, for example, start in 1439. Fine, but I cannot add any of those sources. I am prevented from doing so.

Faced with the option of asking someone else to add them, or keeping that data to myself, I just update my personal records. Obviously a person was alive when they wrote their Will, but probably did not expect to survive much longer.

As to your question relating to the death dates, if the Parish Registers show a child born, then clearly their mother at least was alive, unless she died giving birth. The only confusion that can arise is when an entry of baptism is made as a birth date, some people were not christened until shortly before they themselves were due to marry.
So when you say profiles have been removed from your tree, does that mean they still exist but you just can't edit them? You won't be able to edit them because you're not pre-1500 certified.
You can attempt to obtain pre-1500 certification.
Tim, when you say, you're prevented from adding the sources are you referring to the requirement to request a pre 1500 certification, like described at ?
Leandra and Florian - I had pre 1500 approval, it was taken away.

I concluded that if it was so easily removed, it was probably of little value.

There was no point in requesting another, only to have someone take it again, I would not give them the satisfaction.

It is still possible to contribute to pre-1500 profiles without a pre-1500 badge. See:
Interesting, Jilliane, but it is notable that one is still subject to the whim of the clique. Do they bother to investigate the sources quoted ?

Sources not suitable - Yet they permit gedcoms, (as mentioned by M. Ross), and I have seen 'Find My Past' and 'Ancestry' given as sources. How reliable are they ? or is it that they have paid to be included.

Exactly where is the emphasis ?

1. Original, contemporary, or near contemporary, data, like early Parish Records, Heralds Visitations, Parish Chests, Sexton's notes, Wills and Probate.

Or is it -

2. The writings of modern authors, writing some 500 years after the event, like Richardson et al.


We do have high standards for l Pre-1500 profile. There's no whimsical clique. There are standards:


Yes, there IS careful consideration of sources for these profiles.  Online trees and simply citing "" etc is definitely not acceptable. If there are still profiles around with online trees and old gedcom garbage, the relevant project hasn't gotten around to it yet or someone has made a pre-1500 profile by breaking the rules.

Because the sourcing standards are so high, the group of people working on pre-1500 profiles is necessarily small. There's a lot of work still to be done.

When #1 is available, absolutely.  

There isn't a mysterious clique of those of us with pre 1500 certification. I  value my 'certification' and  try to use and also give details of  reliable primary  evidence. I very rarely deal with profiles covered by recent secondary sources such as Richardson Where I have (in this  one case Anderson) there has been no resistance by the  project leaders to well sourced alternative information.
You've got a pile of  wills and images of parish records etc. That's great, the very stuff of genealogy.  Transcribe them, and put them on the profiles or if long, link to freespace transcripts.  Analyse them,  interrogate them. I wonder why Richard, dying in London and said to be have been   born in Wales made bequests to Exeter churches. There's plenty of scope post 1500. Providing more detail and well referenced sources  for these later profiles  would stand you in good stead,  if you ever decided to reapply for pre 1500 'qualification'.
To be honest, I think it is not controversial to say that Wikitree could aim to be less opaque. Transparency is not really a famous strong point of Wikitree.
Tim, for most of the middle ages none of the types of sources in your category 1 existed, and the records which did exist are hard to use. Wills did start to be made before the end of the Middle Ages, but mostly in Latin of course.

More to the point the Medieval records hardly ever agree with each when looked quickly. This kind of makes sense when you consider a lot of the records which exist, exist because of things like taxation avoidance and inheritance disputes.

For this reason even the best medieval genealogists do cross reference with modern experts on the various problems of interpretation in those records. All too often a single record gets "cherry picked", and modern commentators who've done the homework are ignored, leading to complex errors which are difficult to patch up.

If you post cases as conversations here on G2G with tags like "medieval" and "pre 1500" you should hopefully get some collegial atmosphere.
Andrew, as I have said before, I have early Wills, for example, Thomas Pery, of Plymouth, dated 18th December 1438, Probate 20th February 1439. Many Parishes kept Registers before they became into common use. It is true to say most are in Latin, and perhaps there is a case for researchers to learn Latin and English, their meaning and usage, or find help from someone who does.

You say we should cross reference with 'modern experts', but where do they source their information if not from those same early records ? If they can examine them, then so could we, and avoid the risk of speculation, supposition, and interpretation. That would require doing a little more homework, for the sake of verity, but any serious genealogist would do so.

The alternative is to do no research, but copy ad lib all that 'modern experts' say. That might be easier, but not necessarily correct, and if so, is it worth the bother ?
I think you are creating an exaggerated false dichotomy between working with primary sources and secondary sources, and this is making your remarks less useful. Obviously you need to be able to understand and use both to some extent, at least, in order to work on medieval profiles. But there will be valid examples of people using only one primary or secondary source in order to resolve something or other.

I think the only way forward is to post case by case examples.
+9 votes
I don't know about the profiles that were removed, but in general, the advice I can give is:

Take your time.  Add at least 1 source to your profiles, but don't worry if that is all you can add at this time.  Many of the profiles I created, I come back to years later to improve.  It is not expected to be fast food. Yes, I do get criticized for not creating "full" profiles from the start, but I think that is just our society these days, everyone wants stuff done instantly.
by Anonymous Nagel G2G6 Mach 3 (32.7k points)

Conflicting viewpoints, and unfortunately I ascribe to both of them:

  1. "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" ~John Wooden
  2. "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly" ~ G.K.Chesterton (indicating that if it's important, a half-complete job is better than not doing it at all)
Viewpoint #2 - Perhaps some of us are placing more importance on a task than it really warrants. For example, when one has a personal suggestion list of hundreds of profiles, why continue to add more profiles before those suggestions are addressed? Our dead ancestors aren't going anywhere. The majority of the data on this site comes from online sources. If I can find it, then so can someone else in the future.
There are people working on this site who have made > 100k contributions and they don't source anything. They've already looked up the record once. Someone else needs to look it up again in order to add a source. I've seen it argued where some consider the site is better off with person #1's work than without it. Imagine if instead of redoing person #1's work, person #2 invested the same amount of time by transcribing records and adding new sourced profiles to WT instead. Each profile would be of greater quality and sooner, and there would be more profiles added for the time invested, since some sources aren't quick to find. It is more efficient and of greater benefit to all of us to source the profile at the time of creation, and when adding more facts.
Honestly, I am more leaning towards viewpoint #2. If I have a source, I create a profile. A profile with one source is better than no profile at all. When the profile is created, it can be improved by more sources, but the main thing is that the profile is created in the first place.
If there is a profile for a person where there is little information available, collaboration may be useful to learning more. Of course such profiles will likely only have one source. It is better for that profile to exist than not exist at all.
However, adopting that philosophy across the board is not good research technique. It increases the possibility of errors and of overlooking useful information. I'm cleaning up a gedcom at the moment that contains many conflated families. Several of those profiles contain 3 or 4 sources. A little more time spent reviewing all available sources, instead of being in a rush to add another person to the tree, would have prevented what will easily become > 1000 hours spent cleaning it up. Conflated families are of no use to anyone.
If people don't like others editing their managed profiles, the best way to minimise that happening is to complete the profile. Add all the sources that can be found and write a biography containing correct spelling and grammar. Add images. Address the suggestions associated with the profile. If the person is not notable, there's a very good chance no one else will edit it when the PM has been thorough, apart from something minor like correcting a typo or adding a category.
Option 1 does not work on a wiki. The basic mechanism is that any edit which improves the profile ... improves the profile. Most editors have neither the time nor source material to make perfect profiles only. That way of working would simply stop Wikitree from working.

Furthermore it is kind of ignoring the reality we have. Wikitree is already enormous and it certainly was not put together in a perfectionist way, so there are disasters all over it which often need complicated work to resolve them, and this can rarely be done in a short session. For this practical reason Wikitree has to be about small marginal improvements.

I suppose there is a third point to make: please do not add masses of sources based on any of these types of ideas. If you have one good source, it might be enough to move ahead. Many sources in genealogy are poor, and adding 50 of them to a profile does not add up to one good source. Be critical of the sources, rather than aiming to add as many as possible?
+10 votes

There are many reasons for unsourced profiles: as of last week, I now have about 200 profiles that are completely unsourced except for a gedcom, I know they don't show up on an unsourced profile list because a 9 year old gedcom is ' a source'. In reality they are unsourced. 

I asked to adopt them because the creator- a distant relative has not been on WikiTree since the gedcoms were uploaded in 2011. Some people are serious family historians and others just want a place to put the information they have. Or they don't realise that sources should be added, and perhaps don't have any idea how to find sources. We do benefit from that information even if it is not presented and sourced in a perfect fashion. 

Sourcing takes time and I expect it will take quite a while to add the needed sources. Even though I already have most of the required sources I still need to add them to the profiles. If I was criticized for not getting it done in a pre-determined amount of time, I would be annoyed. These profiles have not been edited since 2011 so whatever I do is an improvement. 

We all have commitments and responsibilities that take large amounts of time. We do what we can, when we can. In my not so humble opinion adopting large numbers of unsourced profiles and then not having the time to do the research is probably not wise. 

by M Ross G2G6 Pilot (438k points)
"Sourcing takes time [...] we do what we can, when we can"

This. I have a relative who published a genealogy of 700+ family members back in the 40s, and those people still arent all on here. From what i can see, she must have found sources when she gathered the info, but it wasnt included in the published materials. If in my lifetime i can find sources for all of those people, then I will consider it a vast improvement, because now my other family members will know if it is correct or not.

Plus, she needs a profile. We owe her a LOT for what she did. I cant fathom the time and effort it took to gather the information.

So, 80 years later, I am honoring her work by sourcing it (from actual original sources, not the derivative) and putting it on wikitree where it can live for a long long time.

Being an adoptee.  I adopt many profiles on Wiki Tree that are in my distant family as they come up.  Like you say M. Ross, with every intent on improving them and sourcing them.  they were probably orphaned for any number of reasons.   Many were gedcom uploads.... and sometimes I wonder if they are even a  real ancestor ? Think sometimes orphaned because they were "hard" to source, and I find that out only after adopting them !  I attempt to do a pretty good job of improving and sourcing most every one.   Or at least adding some "Research Notes" section to show that I have tried.   I wouldn't expect anyone to fault anyone on Wikitree for working to improve any profile.... even if that can take some time.  We all have other lives after all.smiley

+11 votes

I'm guessing you're taking the "Unsourced Profile" maintenance box as a criticism. It isn't meant to be that. The box is added to unsourced profiles to get the attention of other members who are willing to help look for sources. We're a wiki, after all.

As for profiles being removed from your family tree. If you added connections to parents or children without also adding sources to prove the connection, the other profile managers had every right to remove the connection. The honor code says "We cite sources. Without sources we can't objectively resolve conflicting information."

Hope this helps.


by Stephanie Ward G2G6 Pilot (102k points)
I have no objection to others helping, but the first move should be to contact the profile manager and discuss the matter.

If profile managers remove connections without having documentary proof that they are incorrect, then surely they too are in breach of the honour code.

To clarify - I purchase many early Parish Registers from regional Records Offices. Note, not third party transcripts, but photofiche of the original. I also have a large number of Wills and Probate, dating back as far as the early 1400s.

My complaint arose when my pre1500 approval was taken away, I was then sent a demand that I add sources to a list of profiles. Half of these profiles were indeed pre 1500, so having lost my approval I could not add them anyway. A person was put forward as a mentor, so I gave them all the sources, expecting them to be added, but they were not. I asked why, and the reply was, quote, "I'm not here to help you".

I can understand why people find this confusing, because it is hardly a good example of 'collaboration'.

I don't doubt that a great many of us have unsourced profiles, they are a 'work in progress', and I also note that the honour code does not specify how many of these profiles we may have.
Until the problem is sorted out, you can post proposals for edits on pre-1500 profiles here, and/or using the comments on the profiles.
+5 votes
i feel your frustration Tim.

One thing I've noticed is the contradicting push for accuracy. For one individual I manage, he died when his ship sunk, so for the sake of accuracy, coordinates of that location were listed in his service record which I put in his death place field and yet other users have tried to change that location to "at sea" which is vague and doesn't tell you anything.
by Richard Shelley G2G6 Pilot (223k points)
Richard, the problem in your example is what information the data fields can support without resulting in a data base error. "At sea" is an entry that will not result in a data base error, while location coordinates will. "At sea" is the proper data base entry, while the specifics belong in the biography--where there is room for that story.
If at sea, then the program could be modified to look for coordinates following in ( )


a new coordinate data field could be created for birth, marriage and death locations.

I am well aware of what databases can support. 

The difference is that you want a physical location, whereas the records only show a nautical geographic location. To say "At Sea" is the "recommended" entry for that field is ridiculous. Because the question then is which sea is referred to? So, no. At Sea is not the proper entry.

The advantage of coordinates being given means that someone can then determine what the accurate location would be. And as I said, for the sake of accuracy.

Well, this is a wiki. Things get changed by people like you who are not satisfied with the way a thing is done and come up with a solution to make it better. Like the folks who made this proposal See Good luck.

+6 votes
I believe that the fundamental problem here is the fact that the poster had his pre-1500 badge removed and is now resentful.

We don't know why this was done. The pre-1500 team undoubtedly had a reason.

Apparently there was mentoring at some point, which failed to resolve the issue.

This situation tells us that WikiTree may need a more accessible arbitration process for such disputes.
by Lois Tilton G2G6 Pilot (152k points)
Wouldn't he have been told why his pre-1500 certification was removed?
I don't know the details of that process.  There may well have been a good reason, but members, for good reason, would not be privy to it.

We can not uncritically take the word of one party to a dispute.

What we can see is that a member has a grievance and does not believe his grievance has been addressed. And now we can see that someone is attempting to quash his grievance instead of seeing it addressed.

Perhaps WikiTree's methods of addressing member grievances need to be revised.

Pre-1500 badges are not removed willy-nilly.  When a problem is spotted, the member is contacted and asked to make corrections.  If they don't correct, they are usually asked a second and even a third time.  I've seen some members doing real damage to pre-1500 profiles before their badges were pulled.

The person whose pre-1500 badge is pulled is told why.  It is no secret to them.  If they refuse to acknowledge the reason why it was taken, then there may be an underlying communication issue that may have been part of the reason that they lost the badge in the first place.

Any time a pre-1500 badge is pulled, that is a private matter with that member.  It is not possible to have "a more accessible arbitration process for such disputes" without infringing on that person's privacy.

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