Could we change "first hand knowledge" in profile page creation?

+10 votes

Related to:


Could the profile page creation code please be changed from

[[User-ID|Username]], first-hand knowledge


Research of Entered by [[User-ID/Username]]

Typically in genealogical research, "first hand knowledge" means that a person has direct, experiential knowledge of said event. For example, I have first-hand knowledge of the date I was married. I do not have first-hand knowledge of the marriage of my 17th century ancestors. However, research I've conducted on my 17th century ancestors resulted in my finding their marriage record.


in Policy and Style by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (828k points)
recategorized by Jillaine Smith
Yes, please! Of the 6,500+ profiles I have created (one by one), approx. 200 might be as a result of "first hand knowledge" - leaving 6,300 to be individually edited.
This should probably be reviewed with an eye to the possible addition of an Acknowledgements section, as well - it might more properly belong there, if we add that section, and then the source could be left blank by default.
Just want to flag this as a possible solution (Stephen's suggestion); if we have acknowledgements, do we even need "first hand knowledge"?

2 Answers

+1 vote

The auto-created biography is meant to be something to get you started. It's meant to show how biographies, citations, links, and sources work.

The idea was that the profile-creator would edit this immediately after creating the profile. Admittedly, it fails here. Most people don't edit it, at least not right away.

I thought saying "first hand knowledge" made sense because it was the only source we could auto-create that would be valid some of the time. (Note that if you enter a source at the time you create the profile, that source will appear instead of "first-hand knowledge.")
Saying "research of" isn't a good source. And it's assumed. You're the one shown in the history of changes.

We could change it to something like this:

* First-hand knowledge of Joe Schmoe. <!-- Please change this if Joe Schmoe did not directly witness the events of X's life. Say why we believe these facts to be true, even if it's a second-hand source. -->

Or we could say:

* No sources. <!-- Please add a source here. Joe Schmoe created this profile without citing any sources. Why do you or Joe believe the facts of X's life to be those stated here? -->

I still like the idea of saying "first-hand knowledge" in the default because sometimes it's true. Sometimes it's the only source that's needed. This is most often true for the non-genealogists using WikiTree, the family members who are just creating a couple profiles. For example, if your cousin adds a profile for their new child.

Yes, "first-hand knowledge" is often the wrong source. But it's most often wrong for wiki genealogists who understand sourcing, and most often right for family members who don't.

If we say "no sources" it's never wrong. Maybe that's better. Other input?

By the way, Stephen, I love the idea of doing the Aknowledgements section in the default. We should definitely add that.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)

Okay... additional feedback. Let's step back a minute. This line is added when someone manually creates a new profile page. To be literal, then, (and to be consistent with what the GEDCOM upload page creation does), how about:

This profile was created by [[User-ID/Username]]. 

And then some sort of encouragement to add details and sources. Something like:

"If you have sourced information to add to this profile, please (IF >200 YEARS THEN) [[link:edit]] it." (ELSE) ask [[User-ID/Username]] to add you to the Trusted List."

Hi Jillaine,

This would be better in some ways, but it would be worse in one way: It doesn't show an example of a good source.

In my mind, "First-hand knowledge of X" is a good, valid source. It's most commonly a good, valid source for information added by non-genealogists who shouldn't be expected to know how to add a good, valid source.

Removing this and just suggesting that sources be added is in some ways less helpful, and in some ways more helpful. I think it's a toss-up.

I don't feel strongly either way, so if others have input please pipe in. Thanks!
One more time, then I'll shut up on this topic: "first-hand knowledge" means something very specific in any field of research. It is most commonly used to mean "I was there; I witnessed it."

If my professional colleagues found a page I created here that said "first-hand knowledge of Jillaine Smith" and it was a profile for someone born before 1959, I would be laughed out of the field. So perhaps you can understand why I'm uh... passionate (desperate?) about this topic.

I understand that we need to speak to non-genealogists here as well. But using this phrase that is commonly used to mean something else entirely promotes bad practice for anyone.

As for others piping in, how are the going to know this topic exists?

(I *do* feel strongly either way, can you tell?)



OK, Jillaine. :-)

Check out the new wording, e.g. on Knip-55 it says:

It says: "No sources. The events of Wiecher's life were either witnessed by Martha Woldhuis-Nieman or Martha plans to add sources here later."

Since this links to maybe you could help improve that page?


God bless you.  Looked at the sources page.  Actually it looks really good. Very friendly tone. Very helpful advice.   Nice work.  


Thank you Chris.  I like your solution.  Encourages Martha to add sources without making her feel bad.
Is this change in process?   I think for some of us that are newer to wikitree, maybe a reminder that "first hand knowledge" does not necessarily mean what we think.   For example, I do have history on my grandparents and Ggrandparents that IS first hand knowledge.   I guess I do not know how to tell the difference.
Robin, if you actually witnessed said event, then you have first-hand knowledge of it. Otherwise you don't.

It sounds like you have history on your grandparents and great-grandparents that was first-hand knowledge of someone else, in which case, you could say: "First hand knowledge of [name]" as communicated to... or recorded on...
+6 votes

I want to bring this back up because a recent post about copying information from Find-A-Grave adds another reason not to use "first hand knowledge of..." which continues to be used on the creation of new profiles. (I thought we'd changed it along the lines Chris said elsewhere in this thread, but I think something reverted it back...)

In any case, please see:

Why am I finding my exact words on my Find A Grave Memorials on your site?

While some in that thread are arguing about the right to copy facts (vs. narrative) placed by others on other web sites, there is a pretty good chance that the person being accused of copying from Find-A-Grave may indeed have used that site as his source. For example, see:

Minnie Stevens

Note that the information in the death field has some specific information about where Minnie was buried. And note that the auto-created source for this manually created profile reads:

 First-hand information as remembered by Randy Huskey, Thursday, January 1, 2015.

And there is a Find a Grave memorial with this same exact information.

So there is at least a possibility that Randy got his information from this findagrave page. 

The point is (for this thread HERE), the default Source says "first-hand information as remembered by..." 

In addition to the reasons I wrote above about why this is so wrong, another reason it's wrong is for those cases when the wikitree contributor did copy the information from somewhere else. When a researcher from findagrave comes to wikitree and sees entries like this, she has a reasonable reason to be confused if not downright angry that wikitree is claiming that Randy had first-hand knowledge of/remembered this information. And it's not Randy who made that claim-- it's wikitree, through its auto-generated source text when a profile is created.

So now, not only does wikitree make Randy look bad (although in this particular example, he MIGHT have remembered or had first-hand knowledge of this woman's 1958 burial), but it makes wikitree look bad for having generated a statement that a) is likely wrong and b) makes a potential new member really angry at wikitree.

As I've argued elsewhere, "remembered/first hand knowledge" is rarely accurate when creating profiles (unless people are only creating profiles of living or recently deceased people that they directly know/knew). In all other cases, it's inaccurate and wrong, and as the findagrave concern is pointing out, it can also generate strong criticism of wikitree and its members.

Please change the auto-generated source text to something like:

As entered by .... on [date].

If the person added no sources at the time the profile was created, include:

This profile has no sources; please add information about where you obtained this information.

Thank you.



by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (828k points)
Thank you, Jillaine.  I absolutely agree.
Another $0.02 worth:  I have never liked the "first hand knowledge" language either, and a presumptuous statement such as "Martha plans to add sources later" isn't much better.  And I'm not sure it's even necessary to point out that there aren't any sources, since anyone who looks at the profile can see that.  What's wrong with just your simple, straightforward, factual statement "As entered by ... on ...?"
I agree with Jillaine. While "first-hand knowledge" is occasionally valid, all too often it appears in profiles for people who died 300 years ago, making it obvious that it's not true -- and making WikiTree look silly. Jillaine's suggestions for replacements are excellent ones.
Hi, Jillaine.  As you know I fully agree with you on this matter.  However, you are linking to the wrong profile.  As DMac has expressed a desire not to publicise the profiles until Robert has had a chance to look at things, I won't add the correct link, but yours stands as an example.

Has anyone tried to contact Randy about this?

Margaret, yes, at least two people have tried to contact Randy.
i didn't realise when I began that Wikitree was citing me as having 1st hand knowledge.  now when i create a new profile, I delte that.  Cos i have had puzzled people asking me how my knowledge re one of their long dead great great etc granparents could possibly be first hand!

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