Can you use WikiTree Categories to categorize your ancestors?

+25 votes

Lindsay Coleman asked me this by e-mail. I think it's a great question and deserves some public discussion.

She asked if you can use the categories feature to collect and organize groups of your ancestors, for your own use.

For reference, here are a couple public usages of categories:

To put a person in a category you just put something like [[Category:Italians in Sweden]] inside the text of their profile page (i.e. the biography space).

Lindsay's question is whether categories can be used more privately, e.g. instead of [[Category:US_Army_Veterans]] could she create something like  [[Category:Lindsay_Coleman's_Veteran_Ancestors]].

I think this is a great idea and I'd love to explore this further.

We probably wouldn't want to encourage total anarchy. Categories are meant to be public, so even if a category would only be of interest to you or your family, we should try to use the same categorization systems. For example, if Lindsay uses [[Category:Lindsay_Coleman's_Veteran_Ancestors]] maybe I could use [[Category:Chris_Whitten's_Veteran_Ancestors]] and they could roll up into [[Category:Coleman_Veteran_Ancestors]] and [[Category:Whitten_Veteran_Ancestors]] and they could both roll up into [[Category:Veteran_Ancestors]].

Does that make sense? Using categories is a little confusing but they're potentially really powerful. Some of the ways that WikiTreers are using free-space profiles could be replaced with categories.

If it's not clear: The advantages of categories are that they're dynamic, i.e. you don't have to manage an independent list, people automatically appear on the list when they're added to the category, and they can all exist on the same categorization system with sub-categories and connections between them.

in Policy and Style by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway
A thought, When I visit one of the major category pages ie. [[Category:Mayflower Passengers]] my ancestors would be highlighted, bold, or marked with asterisk. (programing nightmare or impossibility) .
Easier to set up a family history page with our own links to individuals of note. Again an automated/programed page would be a nightmare.
What I'm doing, at least for now, is assigning my surname categories with my WikiID followed by the surname. That way no one else should be using the category.  It wouldn't make sense for them to use it.  

To manage my tree I'm only listing two primary lines, my mother's and my father's and then "branching" the other surnames outward but linking them back to their primary tree.  Sample below.

==Surname Index==

The Muenchow Family Tree is a branch of the Kersten Family Tree.  Muenchow family members are identified on the Kersten Family Surname Index.

To see the Kersten Family Surname Index click [ here]

Everything is fine for now but I'm not sure what will happen when I have to start merging.  Thoughts anyone?

I assume you know you can limit surname index pages to your family? Just go to and click "Show only the KERSTEN profiles on your Watchlist."

I think that's linked directly from your Watchlist too, for easy reference.

What are you getting from your category-based Kersten Surname Index that you're not getting from the combination of Surname Index pages and your Watchlist?

Is it that you're aiming to categorize all your ancestors into two groups, your mother's side and father's side?

If that's the case, then the crowding that Michael mentions becomes a factor. It's not with the first few generations. They're your ancestors and a few others'. But once you get into your great-great grandparents and beyond, there could be thousands of people who would want to put category tags on the same profiles.

Maybe I'm missing the point you're getting at here? I don't understand your comment about merges, so I must be missing something.
My goal is to provide a user friendly, preferably one click, page listing the surnames associated with a lineage.  The problem is that I have info for multiple branches resulting in a LOT of pages if I assign each surname a page.  By using categories the surname is at least on one page and auto filled.  Of course, I'm still creating a ton of categories so I was going to try and link everyone back to my primary by just having two categories.  Sounds like this might not be a good approach?

Thought?  Would it be possible to issue a category tag for all the public profiles that would be posted on the profile page?  Similar to a profile page being assigned a Wiki ID.  Then require everyone who wants to link to the page use the issued category tag.  Way too big of a task because we have too many public pages?  Not possible because we have multiple profiles of the same person that need to be merged?
Therese, I'm afraid I'm even more confused. Could you restate what you're trying to do, and go really slowly? As if you're talking to a child. :-)

When you say "listing the surnames associated with a lineage" do you mean you want a list of your family names? That could be done automatically if it's something that other people want. Then we could have it link to surname index pages limited to your Watchlist. That would be the right way to do this, if it's what you're talking about. Categories would be a clunky, manual workaround for something that should be done automatically.

Categories are a free-form way to group profiles together. If it's a group based on a database field like surname, birthdate, birthplace, etc., it can and should be done automatically.
I'm sure I'm making this way more complicated than it needs to be! Let me chew on it a bit, get my thoughts organized, play a little, and get back with you. Thanks!!!!
I really like the idea of categories. I definitely like the idea of dividing up war veterans by war, or certain groups of my ancestors like the French Huguenots. Would it be too crazy to divide Civil War vets by Union and Confederate?
Heather,  The Civil War vets have been divided by Union and Confederate.
Ah, don't know why I didn't notice that when I looked in there. Thanks!
It's easy to miss!  I'm still trying to figure out "who, what, where" with the categories.  I finally gave up trying to find them and now just go to "Help" and then erase the www back to "Category" change it to "Categories" and hit enter.  Then I scroll to the bottom of the page and select "Special Categories" to get the full list.  It seems to be easier for me to see them in alpha order and all in one place.  Several appear as subcategories within many categories.  Kinda confusing until you get the hang of it.

5 Answers

+8 votes
AWESOME!! I think Ill start making Stough-48s Vets now! Dont want to nab a formal name so another Lindsay Coleman doesnt come kick my butt :p


If someone else wants Stough-48... TOO BAD!
by Lindsay Tyrie G2G6 Mach 1 (19.7k points)

Lindsay, keep me in the loop and/or post here as this progresses.

This does make a certain amount of sense as a category hierarchy:
Stough-48 Veterans
Stough Veterans
I entered the category linking information in the free text box.  The link showed-up above my badges and works; however, the link is not visible in my text box.  I'd like people to have a link from the text box instead of having to direct them to select the page from the categories above.  Could be confusing.  Any way to solve this one?
Definitely. Chris is probably able to give you an easier version of it but I always link to WikiTree like any other site by doing[website WHAT YOU WANT DISPLAYED] example [ Wal-Mart] and you can type before and after it so you could do... To go to Wal-Mart click [ here].  Hope that makes sense!

Categories being more OBVIOUS would be something for Chris' infinite to do list... which I would vote to add it to the list ;)
I've tried adding the link to other areas of the text box, the link I used is  [[Category: Title]]  The link works but there isn't a green "Title" in the body of the text so that someone could see it and click on it to follow the link.  I tried [[Category:  Title|Title]] still no luck.  Suggestions?
I literally put this:

This person was in the American Revolutionary War. To see other Vets of the American Revolutionary War click [ here].

on this profile:

See if that is what you mean
YESSSSS!!!!  Thank you!
Looks like Lindsay got this worked out. Thanks, Lindsay! Like she said, I do think we can and should make the regular category links more distinct. That's on the to-do list.
You can also put [[:Category:American Revolution Veterans]]. Yay wiki mark-up! :) That links to the category, but does not add the page to the category.
+6 votes

Richard Warren's profile has Category link

Categories: Mayflower Passengers | Mayflower Families.

Instead of putting everyones personal link on Richard Warren's profile page.

How about on the Mayflower families category page, a link to or subcatagory for "Descendants of Mayflower Families". Wikitree members could then use this Catagory link on their profile page. This would be a page similar the the WikiTree Honor code Signatories page. And what if there was a little badge for Mayflower Descendants, War of 1812 Descendants, Sons/daughters of the American Revolution, etc.

This could be used for all of these types of catagories.

I recently contacted the Mayflower Society for permission of such logos and images to be used on the Mayflower Pilgrim's pages and for confirmed descendants. Might be able to design our own logos / images for all the different Societies. I do not like the idea of having to pay for each and every one of them. A WikiTree Descendants Society is fine with me. Besides no room on my hat for all these pins, badges and stars, virtual is better.

Might consider some sort of requirement for posting in this catagory, source and citation minimums.

Some sort of link, picture, comment etc. for posting on our ancestors pages up to the ancestor of note.

See pictures at:

I personally like the color Mayflower vs there black and white pin, and would not have to ask their permission. (Denied)

by Living Lechner G2G6 Mach 6 (68.9k points)
edited by Living Lechner
Hey Michael,

Can you post this in the Google Group for the Mayflower Ancestors User Group?

Actually, how come I don't see you in the list of members there?

We could keep the discussion on this or another G2G thread, but definitely keep them looped-in.

My main concern was to whether this was possible and would solve the problem of all the individual category postings on each famous ancestor.
I really do like the idea of how the Badge system works. I would hope something like this would allow for our own Wikitree Badge/Society Pins.
Mayflower Descendants, Revolutionary War Descendats, etc.
Having some sort of minimum sourcing requirement might improve the profile pages also.
Yes need to join the Mayflower group.
To clarify, if possible. I was suggesting something like the Honor Code signing page. Just click on the image and presto on your home profile page a little picture/badge "Mayflower Descendant". (This could be sub catagory under mayflower catagory.) Perhaps a link on this image would take you to your ancestor of note. This leaves options for all the other ancestors of note and replaces some of the other means of connecting ourselves to these ancestors. Links on these pictures may still have a programing difficulty.  If links are a problem, it would still be nice to see these connections posted.

As to sources and citations. Perhaps just a line to encourage sourcing and documentation before they click and become a Mayflower Descendant.
Hi Michael,

I think we're basically on the same page, with a few differences.

I want to do badges, but I want to connect them with membership in the ancestor user groups. If you're in the Mayflower Ancestors User Group, you'll have a badge that says it. The design of the badge could probably be a lot like what you're envisioning. We'll talk about the design more separately.

The reason I want to keep it connected with the user group is because if you have a Mayflower ancestor, and you're an active WikiTree user, you should be in the user group. It's a way to encourage and facilitate collaboration.

There could eventually be an interface like what we have with the Honor Code page. But some of that fancier stuff you're talking about would have to come much later. And like I say, I want to keep it all connected with the user groups.

No problem, After I put a damper on the original question, I thought I should at least try and come up with a suggestion. I do like the badges and you are probably right. Just thought the badge idea (programing) would have solved the other discussion. (How to connect to ancestors of note)
Sorry for the delay, took 10 hours to receive email notice since you entered the comment.
Hi Michael,

I appreciate where you were going with this.

There are a number of different things we're after here. For showing that you're a Mayflower descendant, I think it makes sense to use badges for the Mayflower Ancestor User Group *and* I think your idea for a [[Category:Mayflower Descendants]] could make sense. The latter could be more vetted, or however you want to do it, and it could include people who aren't active participants in the group.

All this would serve to show that you're a Mayflower descendant. But it wouldn't list your Mayflower ancestors. That's what Lindsay had originally talked about above. Whether she could categorize her Mayflower ancestors, or military veterans ancestors, or whatever. This would mean categorizing their profiles, i.e. putting a category tag on all their profiles, instead of one tag (or badge) on her profile. And this is what you pointed out would get messy and eventually unsustainable.

Update ... I just read a post from Lindsay in the Mayflower ancestors user group. She had an idea for her problem and I think it's the exact right one.

She wrote: "What my point was for the G2G thread you included was that I wanted a useful way to pull up my veteran ancestors, immigrants, etc but dont know how to do that. Maybe a work around could be pulling up categories by MY ANCESTORS only ...".

This could, theoretically, work just like a surname index page. You
can see everyone with the surname, or you limit the display to just
the people in your Watchlist. So, you can go to the Stough index and
see all the Stoughs, or just see the Stoughs in your family.

As Lindsay says, this could work for categories. If categories are
used comprehensively, you could, for example, go to the Mayflower
Passengers category and see everyone who's a Mayflower passenger, or just see the Mayflower passengers in your family.

This might be able to roll up through the category hierarchy too, e.g.
so all veterans could appear together, even though some are Civil War veterans, World War 1 veterans, etc. But that would be tricky.
I still think this is a far better idea than the original "everyone tag your ancestor's" by category. I hope this question and answer doesnt lead people to go personal link every single page...
+5 votes
What if there was a mechanism to create some sort of query link in a profile? Maybe something like [[Query:Ancestor of Arsenault-64 and Category:Veteran]] that would create a link to a dynamicly created page showing only my ancestors which are in the Veteran category. Alternatively, the results could be included inline in the profile.

Does this make sense? If so, is it implementable within reason?
by Roland Arsenault G2G6 Mach 5 (59.4k points)
+5 votes

YES!  You ''can'' use WT categories for grouping together your ancestors!

Some possible groupings (categories)... your matrilineage.  the Welsh branch.  allergic to cats.  listed on a hospital's plaque of benefactors.  had blue eyes.  were together aboard the SS Fortuna on its voyage to Tahiti.  elected to the Board of Directors of XYZ Corp.  participated in the Selma march.  Sudanese immigrants whose patents revolutionized wosticity.

I'm using categories to show me (at a glance) which of the Abel family came to America on the SS ''Samuel M Fox''... and which ones came in a second "wave".  I had originally assumed that they all emigrated together.  Nope.  As I group them by voyage, a possible reason for two waves is becoming evident.

So... I'm finding that WT categories are quite useful.  A bit hairy to get the hang of it, but kewl.

by Living Straehle G2G6 Mach 1 (15.6k points)
I would worry about what I call "category clutter"  which takes away from the usefulness of the rest of the profile.  My gut sense is that up to 10 categories on a profile is about right;  after that, (1) you tune out and don't read any of the categories and (2) you become irritated that it's all in the way of getting down to the narrative that you want to read.

So what ship/voyage the person immigrated on is crucial genealogy information and should definitely be there, along with an easy way -- through categories -- of finding out who else was on the voyage.  Cluttering up Charlemagne's profile with Category: Jack Day's Ancestors and Category: Susan Jones' Ancestors, etc, etc, etc, has very very little to say for it and a very big lot of things against it.

It's not much more work to do a personal free space profile attached to your own profile, and add links on it to all your ancestors, and there fore your own use you can add notes on research you'd like to do, puzzles that need to be solved, etc.  That's as good as looking at the profile names on a category list, and the links you put in will take you directly to their profiles, but it doesn't mix your personal business with a product we really want to be well done to display to our WikiTree friends and the rest of the world.

Dont agree about cluttering its a matter of design of the user interface 

The problem is that we need to start using categories to add context to WikiTree profiles....

In a Wikipedia article about Boston you have (page info)

  • 188 templates
  • 12 categories 
  • 22 hidden categories

and enormous amount of links in the Navigational boxes  at the bottom (navigational boxes is often a better way to add context compared to use categories)

Sure it's complex and genealogy is complex if you try to understand something more than birth dates and death place...  Categories and Navigational boxes are excellent tools in a wiki..

Agree on the design.  If the categories weren't right up at the top, the issue of clutter would be smaller.  I think on Wikipedia I've seen lists of categories in small print at the bottom where they don't interfere with the information I'm actually trying to read in the narrative.
+4 votes

I use personal categories to help organize my research such as Family Brick Walls, profiles that need improvement, more research, etc.

Because it would certainly get out of hand if everyone had a personal category for notables or historical profiles.

Regarding the comment about attaching to a specific Church. The church should be set up and categorized by location. There may be other people not related who could use the category in the future.

Also see this category:
by Elizabeth Hyatt G2G6 Mach 1 (11.7k points)
edited by Elizabeth Hyatt

Related questions

+16 votes
3 answers
+19 votes
1 answer
+14 votes
3 answers
479 views asked Dec 18, 2015 in The Tree House by Living Sälgö G2G6 Pilot (302k points)
+19 votes
2 answers
+16 votes
3 answers
+36 votes
1 answer
+37 votes
1 answer
+27 votes
1 answer
306 views asked Feb 27, 2015 in The Tree House by Mags Gaulden G2G6 Pilot (650k points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright