What do you think of the new Uncertain policy pages? [closed]

+23 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

Check these out:

These are heavily edited since the last round of heated debates and hopefully represent a happy compromise.

The most important recent change: You can remove uncertain information added by someone else if it's unlikely. It doesn't have to be disproven. But there is a lot of text on dealing with other members sensitively on this sort of thing (the Disagreements about Certainty page), and there's a special exception made for temporary speculative connections made during ongoing research or experimentation, e.g. to take advantage of WikiTree's rapidly evolving DNA features.

If you have a problem with anything in the new policy, please write a draft of your own. Explain how you would phrase the policy, and redraft anything on Disagreements about Certainty if it would be affected.
closed with the note: Policy now adopted.
in Policy and Style by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
closed by Chris Whitten
Reading again now.  Thanks for all the time, effort and thought you've put into this Chris, you're a wonderful WikiTreer-in-Chief and your dedication to this site should be commended :)
I'm going to close this discussion now and call the policy "official."

Of course, nothing is ever permanently closed. It may make sense to reconsider the policy after we have had some time to try it out.

12 Answers

+10 votes

Thanks for all the time you've spent on trying to establish a clear policy and language about it. I haven't had time to review all of it yet, but my first concern is about the sources section:

On http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Uncertain, I suggest you delete the entire section on "What are examples of sources that provide uncertain information?"

I don't see how it adds to the policy; in fact, it detracts from it while at the same time includes some inaccurate information. For example, neither books that cite original records, history books, newspaper articles and certainly not proof summaries are original records.

In addition, whether a source is original or derivative does not determine the "certainty" of information contained in that source. For example, a death certificate is an original record. But the information on it may be uncertain. The informant-- often a spouse or an offspring or other relation (or friend)-- may not provide accurate information-- about the deceased's birth, names of parents, -- ie., anything that the informant did not have direct experience of.

I'd try to suggest alternative text, but it's not clear to me what you're trying to accomplish by including this section on the page. 


by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (775k points)

Interesting article by Mr. Jones, and I for one do look at mutiple types of sources, to assess how things fall into patterns on any given ancestor.

The problem here is not WikiTree trying to implement source snobbery, although I think you have mistaken Jillaine's position on this whole thing. In fact, Jillaine wants to exclusively apply her *trusted* source, Anderson, to block the attachment of parents who are not deemed proven, reliable, likely, by Anderson. Period.

The new policy and the new Uncertain tool for parents says that such parents should not necessarily be detached, because the attachment in place might provide a DNA lead.

So the intended policy compromise is to have the speculative parents attached, and to mark them as Uncertain. I actually side more with Jillaine, in that I do not want Joe's family Internet tree to be the basis for attaching a whole bunch of questionable parents.

I want a higher standard source like Anderson to be the basis for such attachments. But I am willing to accept some of the fishy attachments, as long as I can have the Uncertain indicator on the parents, and if I can have a more-or-less clearly defined breakdown of higher standard sources, versus those that are not, so that I will not have to argue it (and lose the argument) on every single questionable profile that gets propagated from Joe's family Internet tree.

Two separate issues:

(1) from its inception two or more years ago, the Wikitree Puritan Great Migration project has followed the findings of Robert Charles Anderson's Great Migration series. It's been built in from the beginning. The new certainty indicators and draft policy put the PGM practice of following Anderson in conflict with wikitree-wide policy. This is one reason for my inability to reach full agreement with the new indicators and related policy  

(2) my concern over the language describing certain and uncertain sources is wholly separate from (1) above.  I'd have those concerns whether or not there were certainty indicators and whether or not there was a PGM project.
It seems that one of the things we are trying to do here is to give people basic education about history, genealogy, facts, and research.  Some of us have been doing these things for 50 years and have picked up enough that we can do fairly sophisticated nuancing when we see a source.  Others are just starting out and are inclined to believe that if they saw it on Ancestry, it must be true.  The problem with a policy is that if we are trying to write out two or three pages that will give a newcomer to the field an understanding similar to what others have spent a lifetime acquiring, the effort is doomed!

So when I read the policy with its list of original and derived sources, I'm picturing this as Genealogy 101.  It can't be the 50 year destination, but if it weans people off of a naive belief in Ancestry.com's user generated unsourced material, that's a step forward!  

One way to resolve the apparent conflicts with Puritan Great Migration, EuroAristo or Magna Carta would be for the policy to state it is a 101 level, and for pre-1700 material go to the projects for the 201 level policies.  

In the end, though, even people who have been at it for 50 years are going to need to collaborate, which is what WikiTree is all about.  I've de-linked a bunch of bogus parents and documented why and notified project managers and rarely encountered an actual dispute.

Jack, my understanding of the new policy is that you are no longer free to do that del-linking of what you deem to be bogus parents.

When should information be marked as Uncertain?

"See Disagreements about Certainty before removing uncertain information added by another active Wiki Genealogist."

However, the person who just propagates shaky derivative source trees is not likely to mark their propagated parents as Uncertain. And I am not really allowed to mark the parents Uncertain myself, since I am not the manager. I have to discuss it with them, but I am also supposed to resist the temptation to tell them to mark the parents Uncertain.

So this is my dilemma here. As long as they include Joe's family Internet tree as a derivative source, I may not remove the shaky parents, and I may not even mark the parents Uncertain without the profile manager's cooperation.

The same policy section says,

"Does this mean anyone can add lots of junk genealogy to WikiTree and we can't stop them? No. There are many interconnected WikiTree policies that help prevent this, including:

  • No member should be creating or editing profiles based on derivative sources without also searching for original sources. See Research Before Editing."

So it seems that I cannot take matters into my own hands, to simply fix the tree, or to take action myself to make it clear that the tree is speculative by marking the parents Uncertain. I have to leave it in the hands of the profile manager.

At best, if I see the manager doing a lot of this sort of thing, based on the above guideline, I can report them. Which is a very unsavory thing to have to do, and an unreliable solution, becasue there are politics.

I would rather simply work on the profiles, fix the poor connections, and mark Uncertain to try to limit the propagation.

So I am just not very clear where to go with all of this. Line of least resistance will be to just walk away from branches that are poorly propagated from derivative stuff.

I just wanted to add some background around the lists of sources that I contributed and have been attributed to me above. I also wanted to mention other contributions I made to the uncertain page that have now been removed.

Those sources were taken from a quick pass of what types of sources are considered acceptable by most genealogy groups (think Mayflower, DAR, etc.) and what would be considered unacceptable. This seemed to be what Chris was asking for.

I had nothing to do with the language describing the first group as "examples of derivative sources." The 'acceptable' list also has derivative sources, so I agree this language makes no sense.

I think Jillaine's comments about oversimplifying and Adrienne's supporting article are spot on. (I also prefer the article's language, calling them preferred and disdained, but that is another conversation)

What has been removed from my edits to the uncertain page is the language after uncertain sources that pointed out that what we are now calling uncertain on this page, has already been called insufficient (twice) and unreliable on the pre-1700 quiz. I attempted to point out that the further back you go these uncertain sources become more and more disdained.

I also added a large warning note at the top of the page highlighting that many of these sources that we are now calling uncertain have been deemed insufficient in the pre-1700 quiz and this contradiction should be resolved.

All of my language about uncertain contradicting pre-1700 has since been removed.
Steven, I think I read the "disagreements about certainty" section differently than you.  I read it basically as, "Jack Day's whim is not automatically better than Original Poster's whim."  And I wouldn't think of just going about chopping off peoples' parents.  But the whole concept of wiki is that (1) collaborators have a right to improve anything and (2) we keep track of changes so we can fix mistakes.  

So I chop off parents but based on research.  The last time I did it, I documented the parent's list of children from a reputable source and noted on the parent's profile that sometimes one found xxx listed as a child but there is no documentation for this.  I made sure the narrative of both parent and child had an explanation including link to each other so someone could follow it if they wished.  I placed a sourced explanation on the profile of xxx stating that the best authorities considered this person parentage unknown.  I then placed a note on the profile which all the profile managers would receive indicating what I had done, and why, and that if parentage could be documented it would be super easy to reattach the parents.  And then I cut the link!  I don't think that's inconsistent with the policy, and it's certainly called for by the projects dealing with pre-1700 people within which I was working!

Yes Jack, understood. That is all very reasonable, and fair, and is the way we used to do things.

But the major concern about the intent of the new policy is that it is keep doing all of what you have been doing, as outlined above, but to also keep the parents attached,

See Jillaines point 1) above about the original standard for parental attachment in PGM, which that project now deems to be in jeapordy because of the new policy intent.

And as I read it furher, there is an additional restriction that only the profile manager should mark the Uncertain status, if parents remain attached at the manager's discretion, and we must resist the tempation to tell the manager to mark them Uncertain.

So if Jillaine's concern 1) above is no longer the case, then it should be more explicit. Currently the published wording seems to be conservative about stating that implied intent.

But it has been commented that the intent of the policy is to have reasonable hypothetical  profile attachments, for the benefit of current and future DNA matching technology, which would not be possible if the attahcments are not kept in place.

The hypothetical is covered by the provision that you can link up a bunch of people for a week or two just to see what happens, and then you will take them apart.  I don't have a problem with that, especially if someone does the collaborative thing and posts a note on the profile that this is going on.
Steve, I don't see anything in the new policy that keeps me from doing the scenario that I outlined.  If it does, then I need to be stripped of my badges and expelled from the group.

Okay, Jack, maybe you have something else in mind in what you are doing, than what is greatly concerning to the PGM project, about the intent.

I did quality my comment that the published wording so far is conservative about that intent. These pages are drafts. The current Uncertain page is the third draft version that I have seen in the past week or so.

So there is a bit of mismatch about the intent, as it was stated in the earlier introduction about the new status indicator, and what is explicitly stated in the Uncertain pages so far.

And the attachment of hypothetical parents that I meant is not to be for a week, rather it is for years into the future as new developments in DNA technology come about in what WikiTree is working on to integrate tools for it. The speculative parents wouldl need to remain attached for that tool to be feasible. That is how it was presented. These would be hypothetical, not disproven parents.

Chris just answered in another response here: 

Briefly, we developed this to do specific things:

1.) Show on trees when parent-child connections are uncertain. Members have requested this for years.

2.) Show on trees when parent-child connections have been confirmed with DNA.

That DNA confirmation will take years, as more people take DNA tests, which presumably grow more effective, and more tools are developed by WikiTree engineers to best correlate the data to the tree. But that means that parents need to be attached, through future years of testing.

One compromise solution may be to use something like the UnverifiedParents template, which can store links to the hypothetical parents. They they could be periodlcially re-attached for testing.

Better yet would be for WikiTree to develop a good alternate parents field, as Geni has now done, to excellent effect. Adoptive or foster parents are now possible in the same tree as biological parents. There is a simple switch in the tree view, to navigate between them.

WikiTree could possibly build such a thing, but with a hypothetical parents field. Said the non-engineer with the big ideas :)

+11 votes
I am totally with Eowyn.  You are a great WikiTreer-in-Chief, Chris.
I think I preferred the direct simplicity of the former "disputed parentage" directions, but these are good too. (So I guess I sort of agree with Jillaine that it is pretty long.)
This version mentions many details missing from the original, in particular, "We definitely do not want people to see unproven information on WikiTree and think it is proven. This is why we created the Uncertain database indicators and why we explain the evidence for and against a conclusion in the narrative. This enables us to collaborate on confirming or disproving uncertain information without misleading anyone. Genealogy collaboration requires different standards than genealogy publishing."  Nice detail, that.  Good job with a sensitive subject, Chris.  Thank you.  
by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (553k points)
Thanks, Kitty. I appreciate the kind words. :-)
+7 votes

Chris, nice job on these now. I have a technical issue, and a statement that shoud be added:

1) Once I mark a profile Uncertain, I am stuck with it. Somebody could mess with a bunch of my profiles that I am fairly sure about, but that I do not have original sources posted. I don't want them Uncertain, but I don't have an original source yet, to justify changing it to Certain.

So is there any way to fix the system to allow the status indicator to be opened up again, as it was originally?


2) There are numerous orphaned profiles that were creted or imported with no source at all, let alone data. We need a specific guidance statement on this Uncertain page to address that. So, perhaps:


If you adopt an orphaned branch of profiles which have no source at all, you should feel free to mark the parents on each as Uncertain, even if you do not intend to search for either derivative or original sources, or even if you choose to later orphan the profiles. You did not start the profile, so you should not feel hesitant to do this. And the Uncertain status will serve as a guide to other members that sources are missing, and so profile validation and imporvement are needed. The original creator of the data is no longer there, so you have nobdody with whom to discuss the matter. However, always be considerate about the data that does exist on any orphaned profile, because the original creator  may still be on the Trusted List. A family member may have entered the data it in good faith, and profiles get orphaned for many reasons which do not imply any bad intent on their part.

by Steven Mix G2G6 Mach 4 (41.4k points)
Steven, why do we need a guide that something is unsourced?  The heart of the page is the narrative.  If there are no sources there, it is unsourced.  Without the narrative and the sources to back up the material in the data field, one has to assume the every single thing in the data field is imaginary!  

I would actually favor having the site programmed to automatically mark every single profile as "uncertain" until a human being comes along, confirms the sources, and marks it as confident!  That would take the heat off of any individual pondering whether they should mark someone else's work as "uncertain."  

I'll compliment the programmers on an enhancement I just encountered -- I created a new profile yesterday for an individual not previously on WikiTree and as soon as I created it, the opening frame came with an automatic categorization as unsourced!  That did prompt me to get my sourced information added immediately.  [But I was sad that the program still used the phrase "passed away" rather than "died!"  It's like, please, the person died 300 years ago and I never knew them.  I'm a big boy.  I can handle the fact that they died!]

Jack, that Unsourced popup sounds great, I will look for that.

What I was suggesting in my point 2) above seems to be already covered here, in the section on the other page. I should read more thorougly before posting. But, maybe a quick note on the Uncertain page is sitll needed, with a link to the section on the Disagreements page would help in trying to hunt down these specific guidelines:

Should you mark information added by others as Uncertain?

"Finally, note that if there are no sources for a profile, not even derivative ones, you're welcome to mark information as Uncertain and/or ask the Profile Manager to add sources. Even this, of course, should be done politely and sensitively."

So, if no source at all on an orphaned profile, I can feel free to mark parents Uncertain, even if I am not planning to hunt down sources, or to keep the profile.

Oh, Jack, I understand your queston now, "why do we need a guide that something is unsourced?"

A beautiful thing about the new Uncertain status indicator on parents is that it will now display as such in the tree view. So a person can easily click into any tree view, and see instantly if any profiles are marked Uncertain, and so in need of specific source work.

Thanks, Steven.
Regarding #1, one thing that a lot of people seem to be missing is that the middle status for parent is not Certain (or Sourced or Documented or Proven). It's Confident.
Confident is an intentionally weak word because this is an almost meaningless status. It isn't meant to imply anything except that it's somewhere between Uncertain and Confirmed with DNA. See http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Confident

Thanks Chris, my bad. Confident, not Certain.

But, my issue 1) still seems to be an issue, because:

"Never select Confident without citing sources."

So if somebody messes with my profiles before I am ready, and marks them Uncertain, then I am stuck with that status, unless I am ready to dig up a source rigtht away..

I would like to instead be able to simply uncheck the box again, as I think is the way it works on a locked status, for example.

I really only want to check Confident if it means that I have really dug up a good source, and am ready to move on to something else.

If it can be engineered the way I think the PPP lock is, then I would be quite happy. I just dislike not having the option to return to an earlier profile state. But there are other examples of default states that cannot be restored, so I can live with it if I must.

+6 votes
One thing that's missing -- right up front -- is a brief explanation of the purpose of the certainty status indicators. Why were they introduced? What problem are they trying to solve? This might have been in an earlier draft.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (775k points)
This was discussed in earlier conversations. For example, in http://www.wikitree.com/g2g/87566/what-think-about-adding-certainty-status-for-relationships last year you asked "What's the problem you're trying to solve?  It's difficult for me to judge a proposed solution when it's not clear to me what it's a solution TO."

Briefly, we developed this to do specific things:

1.) Show on trees when parent-child connections are uncertain. Members have requested this for years.

2.) Show on trees when parent-child connections have been confirmed with DNA.

Do I then understand that older-than-200 [or some other number of]-years-old profiles would never have their parental relations be marked with "confirmed with DNA"? (I thought I read elsewhere that such confirmations could not go back that far.)

And then for uncertain, the help pages would then make it clear under what conditions "uncertain" could be selected?

Maybe it's as simple as

Use uncertain under these conditions:

  • one
  • two
  • three

Never use uncertain under these conditions:

  • one
  • two 
  • three


Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA can be used for much, much more than 200 years. Even the X-chromosome results in the autosomal tests can be used for longer periods that the autosomal. It's very difficult to confirm with the autosomal tests.

As for simple one, two, three instructions, of course we strive for simplicity, but I don't think anything in this area can be that simple. It's a policy to address complex genealogical collaboration problems like the one you were having.

I'm closing this discussion. We need to give the policy a try.
+9 votes
Thank you!!! These new explanations have me feeling much, much better about this feature. I think all of my concerns have been satisfied. You rock.
by Lianne Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (423k points)
+5 votes
Lost me at "may be speculative, but it should not be a guess".  Could somebody clarify?

The earlier statements about low bar / high bar seem more useful in practice.  Do they still apply?
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (567k points)

RJ, an example of speculative might be a census record from a small town, which could provide very likely speculation that two men of the same surname living in households next door to each other and of roughly the same age are probably brothers. I have made speculative attachments on many such leads.

A guess would be an ancestor with no known parents, but with five possible men of the same surname from same town who *could* be his father.  So pick one, and make the attachment. A guess.

Or an ancestor with the first name not listed, but only with the letter J. A guess would be that his name is John.

It's a relative difference, but if you understand low bar / high bar, you should be able to apply that same logic to guess / speculation, I would think.

Well I took high-bar to mean probable, i.e. when I get my time machine, I'll be surprised if the true facts are not as expected.

But we were told that low-bar was the applicable standard, i.e. we should be using Uncertain to show connections that fall well short of that mark.  As in some of John's green-lighted examples.

This is the zone where I'm struggling to see what qualifies as a speculation and what is disqualified as just a guess.

Especially because the word speculation seems to be capable of applying to  scenarios that are purely hypothetical.
+5 votes

Hello all & please forgive my late response (the time difference doesn't help but I see John seems to have bypassed that aspect).

You guys surely are devoted - to explore these matters in such depth - but I wonder if we aren't letting 'semantics' confound the issues at hand.

Without referring to the reams of rules (for lack of a better phrase, at this time) I recall that many members have declared their support for 'any information-source is better than no information-source', preferably suitably qualified. If that approach is to be accepted, across the board or even in certain  cases, it will, I believe, tend to weaken the current strength of the WikiTree from a genealogical point of view.

To come back to the point; what concerns us most? Having information or sources that the majority agree is:

1. Certain !


2. Uncertain ?

If we first answer the, to my mind, more critical issue as to information, one could then more easily move on to determining if the source of that information is something with which the majority will agree as certain - v - uncertain.  It's then rather a 'no-brainer', in my opinion - you have the information (yes, in some cases a guess, particularly for dates) you have the source.

Now comes the 'nitti-gritti' & the wheel turns yet again on this seemingly circular discussion - what is an acceptable source ?

We're not planning legal documents - although it would be nice to have sources, more than just hearsay, for which there could be additional support. As to the 'acceptable' form such 'sources' could/should take well, how long is a piece of string ?

It is at this point I feel we need to differentiate between 'original' and 'primary' when qualifying sources ( before even discussing the plethora of 'non-original' and 'secondary' varieties - which many, rightly or wrongly, would consider to be one and the same).

If WikiTree has a "definitions" project this sure woud be a good place to step in !

by Phil Grace G2G6 Mach 1 (13.1k points)
+3 votes
"What are examples of sources that provide uncertain information ....Transcriptions of documents (wills, etc.) found online that are not published."

What does "not published" mean? If I have a copy of an original document obtained from the official document keeper, what is the best way for me to provide access to it online so that others can cite it as reliable information if a transcription (with citation) isn't sufficient?
by Ellen Curnes G2G6 Mach 6 (69.4k points)

I use the information contained in the document and cite as follows:


Familienregister, Standesamt Wei├čenstein, Bd.III Bl.157, certified copy in the possession of Helmut Jungschaffer

You have the issuing authority and relevant registration numbers, so everybody truely interested can get a hold of a copy after the legal privacy protection period is over. Of course, there is also always the option of scanning the document and uploading it as an image.

+4 votes

Hi Chris,  (beg everyone's pardon for such a late response, but couldn't resist.  This is important, and thank you for asking the question, Chris)

The pages are certainly better, but I have some concerns/questions.  Ideas to consider: (maybe they already have been considered and rejected for some reason ... and I just don't know about it ... a distinct possibility)

1) Possibly separate the instructions for relationships from the instructions for the other data fields?  

Relationships are different. What makes sense for guessed birth dates, may not for creating new profiles. In the interest of clarity and simplicity ...

We are asking people to only add profiles if they have a source to include.  On the page about "Disagreements," "Should you enter information on WikiTree without sources?  No.  You should always cite your sources. Your sources may be derivative and the information may be uncertain, but you should always say where it came from. This is in our Honor Code."  Yet, in "Disagreements on Uncertainty," "if there are no sources for a profile, not even derivative ones, you're welcome to mark information as Uncertain and/or ask the Profile Manager to add sources."

In another section in "Disagreements," " Should you enter information on WikiTree if it's uncertain?  It's up to you.  There are benefits to adding uncertain information -"

These seem contradictory, but I think it will be much simpler and more consistent, if we discuss creating new profiles or connecting marriages separately from guessing birth dates.

2) Change the names for the indicators, just for relationships.

On the "Uncertain" page, "Uncertain is approximately equal to unproven and can be used to mean undocumented." Also on the "Uncertain" page, "When database fields are empty, we highlight that the data needs to be entered."

On the page "Uncertain," instructions are included for "using uncertain information as working hypotheses," also "cousin bait," "matching" and to "Clarify it's uncertain, not just unknown." This does not necessarily mean no documentation.

So ... I gather that the uncertain indicator can be used for both undocumented and documented, but still uncertain, or shown to be uncertain.  There are a lot of ways to say it, and maybe we should consider separating those two (just for relationships).

When there is no documentation, it is unclear whether the indicator should be uncertain or left blank?  Maybe we could use the blank for undocumented, and use the "uncertain" renamed as "shown uncertain" or something like it (trying to think of something short and descriptive) for documented, but still uncertain.

Proposed new names and meanings:

Confirmed is simple, "Documented" or "Evidenced." 

Uncertain could be "Shown to be Uncertain" or "Evidence shows Uncertainty" or "Documented Uncertainty."  

Blank box could just mean "Undocumented."

This would also fit with no opportunity to return to blank, once something is checked.  Once the relationship (or creation of the profile itself) was documented, there would be no need to go back to undocumented.

Chris, I didn't follow your instructions to "write it up" because these would be fundamental changes.  However, if there is any interest, I will write something.

by Cynthia B G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
edited by Cynthia B
Cynthia, I will look at the rest of your proposals later but I really agree with separating uncertain dates from uncertain relationships. When we don't have a birth record, we might estimate a DOB based on sources that contain reliable information, such as baptism/christening records, known participation in historical events, or legal documents where the person had to be at least 21. The DOB might forever remain uncertain, but it has nothing to do with the reliability of the records. Though there could still be discussion/collaboration about the interpretation of those records.
Agree with both Cynthia and John about uncertain dates and uncertain relationships.

For policy reasons (profiles must have 1 date, rangers and arborists love a birth date as it helps in finding profiles), we have added thousands or millions of birth estimates.

This type of uncertain esimate for dates is very, very far from adding a connection that attaches potentially hundreds of new family members.

I second and third the motion to separate Uncertain data status from status about parent-child relationships.

I propose Hypothetical for the parent status indicatior. That word is consistent with the stated intent that the attachment is for achieving eventual DNA confirmation.

+4 votes
Happened across how another genie wiki is handling this issue. Fascinating!

by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (775k points)

This is fascinating. 

At my first pass, I would greatly prefer this system to what is proposed with our latest uncertain draft. In the case of William Sabin, three potential sets of parents are given as 'speculative,' yet none show in his family tree. 

That type of solution would allow collaboration around potential parents without attaching those parents entire family trees. 

Their solution is much closer to practicing good genealogy. 

+3 votes

I am glad to see the language around disputes that so many genealogists had ethical reasons for disliking has been removed. It was disappointing to me how many times this had to be pointed out before it was handled. I don't think we have outlined a good dispute process, but removing the unethical language/process is a positive start.

I can appreciate the viewpoint that 'uncertain' may be a step in the righ direction if we are comparing this rule to what is already in our tree. Folks have suggested to me that more than half the tree has no sources at all. To add a connection with even a poor source like an uncited tree from the web and to call it uncertain, with a glass half full view, could be seen as better than adding the connection with no source at all. With this perspective, uncertain could be seen as a step in the right direction. 

On the other hand, if you compare uncertain to something very simple like "practice good genealogy," you quickly realize we're talking about oversimplifying genealogy and adding incredible amounts of unreliable connections. Thousands. Millions of connections over time? Looked at from this perspective, encouraging connections based on uncertain sources, largely across the board, seems miles away from decent genealogy.

From this perspective, these folks don't have a glass half empty view. They simply aren't comfortable being asked to contribute to something that they see as miles away from decent genealogy. And our communication breaks down. This seems to have already happened in this process and is a problem.  

Having spent a lot of time digging through this tree from the 17th century back to 1215, I think I also have some perspective on how adding all these uncertain connections could work out.  

In my own tree, when I connected to my New England ancestors on WikiTree, I was 'blessed' with 26 new connections that lead me all the way back to Charlemagne. Charlemagne!!! This was pretty incredible. I had researched almost all of those 26 and had hit brick walls. Suddenly, the brick walls were gone and I now had connections to royalty, Magna Carta barons, crusaders, William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, etc., etc. Time to bust out the purple robes, based on how much blue blood I must have!

Of course, they are bogus connections. We actually began the Questionables project to research my own, to help others clean up these 'blessings,' and to help improve the overall quality of our tree. Every bogus connection we remove, after all, doesn't just remove that connection but everyone else further back in the tree. Between my colonial immigrants and Charlemagne is over 25 generations.  

We were also able to start to gather some data. In well researched projects like PGM and Mayflower, for example, we found connections to royal and Magna Carta families at a rate 25 to 30 times higher than the research suggests. And, with some research, we've been able to conclude that 95%+ of these royal connections are bogus. Outside of PGM, the multiple is much higher than 25 to 30 times, with suggestions that it may be hundreds or even thousands to 1.  

These are pretty shocking numbers. PGM has the best research available for colonial immigrants and we still get it wrong 25 to 30 times more than we should?  

Think about that for a second... I'm not talking about finding all bogus connections to parents in PGM, I'm just talking about the ones that lead to royalty and we know they're 25 to 30 times the rate they should be and over 95% are bogus. And we have hundreds of them in PGM alone and we're not even halfway through the alphabet.

Where the rate jumps higher than 25 to 1, in the rest of our tree, think about the impact this has on folks trying to manage EuraAristo. They basically spend their time as medieval arborists. Everyone who has worked on the Magna Carta project with me can testify to the amount of time they have spent untangling and removing bogus connections.    

When we suggest connecting 18th, 17th, 16th century parents based on these uncertain sources, to me it not only goes against decent genealogy, but also our own data that already shows how innacurate our tree is currently. 

So... I am not in the glass half full group. In fact, I think asking for edits to this uncertain page is a problem for many genealogists. (My own favorite edits were already removed)

Put another way and borrowing a phrase from a friend, asking a genealogist to help improve this page is like asking to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I'd suggest we start by evaluating our rule making process and get input from different interested parties at the outset. 

I would suggest a complete re-do. 

by PM Eyestone G2G6 Mach 3 (33.9k points)

PM wrote:

"And we have hundreds of them in PGM alone and we're not even halfway through the alphabet."

Actually, we're only halfway through the Great Migration Begins alphabet. We havent even touched (in a concerted way) the rest of the volumes...

I think the main issues have been covered elsewhere.

However, I want to ask about use of the terms "ethical" and "unethical." Who acted unethically and exactly how so? If you have qualms about explaining this publicly you should go to http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Problems_with_Members and proceed with a Mentor Intervention Request if necessary. We don't want to unethical behavior on WikiTree.
PM, Your last three lines sound like mutiny and I completely disagree with the concept. This is a wonderful website and I like pretty much everything the sysops have put in place. It is not perfect but I like it as it is. Re the problems with the Pre-1700 profiles, I already suggested that the Project Protected Profiles be made public instead of open so that only Trusted listed people can edit those profiles. This suggestion was pretty much ignored, but I still think it would be helpful and probably easily implemented.

Kitty, I'm not sure what 'concept' of Peter's you're disagreeing with.  And I don't see where he mentioned anything bad about Wikitree.  If we didn't all think that Wikitree has been a wonderful website, we wouldn't have spent thousands of hours contributing to it.  As to liking it as it is, I would ask you to take over leadership of the European Aristocrats Project for awhile and tell me how much you still like it as it is.  I'm not being disrespectful here.  I'm just being completely honest.  Most people have no idea of the never ending problems we have within EuroAristo due to the current state of affairs.  Yes, I'm a medieval arborist.  Is that what I signed up for?  Definitely not.  I've got a dozen years of extensive medieval research that I could share with the tree, but I don't have time for that.  If we could change the earlier profiles to keep anyone and everyone from messing with them, it would be a HUGE help.  I've asked for that previously, and you say that you have as well.  Past leaders of EuroAristo have resigned over this.

I have also asked to have some sort of double set of policies with the new uncertain policy, and Chris had said it was something he might consider.  I haven't heard anything else about that.  I would like the pre-1500 profiles to not be part of the 'uncertain is o.k. so long as you list a source -- any source' policy.  While I admit I don't care for the uncertain parents being added to any profiles, I do understand the DNA aspect of that.  And with Kitty's massive involvement/interest in DNA, I understand (one of the reasons) why she likes Wikitree.  I like Wikitree as well for the DNA aspect.  But for the average Dick and Jane involved with Wikitree, our autosomal DNA tests aren't going to prove a connection back to Charlemagne.  As such, we don't need to, and shouldn't,  be attaching speculative parents to these older profiles.

Darlene - Co-Leader, European Aristocrats Project

I'm sorry, Darlene.  I wasn't clear.  I took exception in particular, to the statement, "I'd suggest we start by evaluating our rule making process and get input from different interested parties at the outset. 

I would suggest a complete re-do."  

Perhaps I misunderstood PM's intent.  I thought he was saying:

  • The rule making process needs to be fixed.
  • Let's get someone outside of the current discussion (or maybe outside of WikiTree) to input.
  • Let's completely re-do the rule making process, the uncertain notations, or perhaps the entire website.

I was probably reading too much into it, but I disagree with all of those interpretations.  I understand that the pre-1700 profiles are a huge amount of work, and I appreciate the hours and hours donated by the folks who work to keep them in order.

So, my suggestion was that Project Protected Profiles be made Public instead of Open.  I don't think this would impinge on anyone's work here on the WikiTree.  The only catch is for those protected profiles, a contributor would have to be on the Trusted List to edit them.  This would add the "Protection" to the project protected profiles.

It might be nice if we could make all Pre-1500 profiles public instead of open to relieve some of the aggravation for those who manage the ancient profiles.  I wouldn't mind, but mine is just one little opinion in a great big heap of opinons.  smiley

Edit to include link to Public PPP topic: http://www.wikitree.com/g2g/142657/project-protected-profiles-have-public-privacy-instead-open

Kitty, what response have you received from Chris W about your request?

Hi Kitty, thanks for clarifying.  I didn't interpret Peter's comments that way...

Thanks also for the link to the G2G post.  I never saw that post.  I can assure you I would've piped in on it!  Obviously I sometimes miss important G2G posts when I don't go down through all of them...  Don't you just hate it when family matters intrude upon our Wikitree time and these things slip past us?!  wink

laugh Families do interfer with your family history research. sometimes.  Oh, and I think the topic just died a quiet death.  Please revive it if you think it would be helpful.  

Chris and Eowyn just commented to the public PPP topic.
+3 votes
Hello all: As this matter is still being discussed and don't know if it's acceptable to answer a question with a related question, but am I correct in assuming that decisions on defining 'uncertain' have already been made ?

If that is the case then is it the Policy Pages or the Policy which is currently being offered for review &/or comment with a hope that a collaborative concensus will be reached before the pages are 'passed into law' ?

Comments on what constitute 'original' sources seem to be in conflict . Comments have also been made on 'derivative' sources and even reference therein to 'secondary' sources - but there does not appear to be any mention of 'primary' sources. If such an absence of mention of 'primary' sources is correct, is it intentional or accidental ? Have 'primary' sources been defined or have there been examples thereof given or discussed ?

If the aim of these discussions and related Q & A is to formulate policy prior to the implementation thereof how much time can/should be allocated to such a process and, based on the extensive contributions to date from but a handful of members - out of hundreds, thousands? active WikiTreers -  is this a matter for 'collaboration' or an 'executive' decision ?
by Phil Grace G2G6 Mach 1 (13.1k points)
edited by Phil Grace

Hi Phil, Thank you for joining us.

I prefer primary sources, secondary and tertiary re-sources, but I think I am way in the minority on that. The $60 Evidence Explained book has changed our traditional methods of source reporting.

I use the following format for sources in the bio section for the common, simple profiles:

== Biography ==

== Sources ==

[http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=XXXXX Find-A-Grave Virtual Cemetery memorial #XXXXX] in Cemetery Name and Location

=== Photographed Primary Sources ===

=== Acknowledgments ===

Thank you to [[Cooper-1|Kitty Smith]] for contributions to this profile.

Hi Phil. I'm closing this discussion now.

Ultimately, these policies are "executive" decisions. We want the community to reach a consensus on important changes but that's not always possible or practical.

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