What protections exist against profile hijacking, unwanted mergers, etc.?

+14 votes

I am new to Wikitree and hopeful that I will be able to add as well as find valuable genealogical data.  However, as I have read reviews of Wikitree, I noticed concerns with people taking away control of profiles that others have entered as well as unwanted mergers of profiles.  There have also been suggestions that some people are manipulating the system to develop spurious documentation to obtain standing as SAR and DAR.  I have data on multiple family lines that go back into the early 1700's in this country, which I would like to add and share.  But, I am concerned that if I put my family data on Wikitree, they might be hijacked and falsified by scammers and such or by possibly well-meaning but ill-informed and overly aggressive persons.  What means of protection are available to prevent such problems?  How effective are they?  What vulnerabilities to abuse of data still exist?  

in The Tree House by Fred Cox G2G Crew (550 points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway
Hi Fred, nice to meet you.

I read carefully and tried to catch each thing said you have a concern about.

1. Nobody controls profiles, so there is not need to fear losing control.  Managers act as stewards and assist those interested in the profile.  Anyone can contribute and add to the profiles.

2. Unwanted merges - Merges happen when there are 2 profiles that represent the same person.  It has nothing to do with wanting or not wanting.  Once it has been determined that they are the same person, they should be merged.  We collaborate together on the details, depending on the sources.

3. Some people manipulating for Sar or Dar?  No.  It doesn't happen.  Both organizations have their own checking of your sources and not through WikiTree.  Plus, what do we care if they get Sar, Dar, or not?

4. Hijacked by spammers:  WikiTree has safeguards and people who monitor activity and guard the tree against evil doers.

5. Well meaning mistakes:  it could happen.  Could be you or I that make the mistake.  We fix them when we see them.  All changes are tracked and can be undone.

You are notified whenever changes are made to profiles on your WatchList.

My own personal opinion... You have nothing to fear at WikiTree.  It is completely free, absolutely awesome, and always improving.  Your opinion and voice matter here!

Have a super day :)
I would add to what Keith and Dave have said that you should just try adding some family by hand, checking for duplicates as you go. That way you can get a better feel for things. There ultimately is only one profile per person, so when duplicates are inadvertently created, merges must occur. People who have an interest in that ancestor discuss. Some older profiles are protected by projects, which you can join (or not) as you choose. If there seems to be an unresolvable conflict, there are processes in place to work things out. We are human and make mistakes, but more often than not, we are all pulling our oars in the same direction.
Thank you for the detailed answers.  You build my confidence.  Regarding SAR and DAR, I don't mind it if people find the data I provide useful for that purpose.  However, I can see how someone might try to modify data to tap into a lineage that would support their quest, as has been indicated in other fora.  Interestingly, as I've been searching data on here since asking the question, I've found a likely conflict between the data I have for a person versus something someone else imported from Ancestry.  I suppose if I build back to that point, there should be someone on here that can provide guidance on how to resolve conflicting data.  What do you do when you have two clearly different persons with the same name claiming the same parents?
Fred, if you have sources that demonstrate a correction, you can start by posting a note to that effect on the profile. You can private message the profile managers (curators, really) with your evidence. You can discover if they are currently active by checking contributions they've made. You may also choose to post your info as a new question here.
Fred, as a former registar for my DAR chapter, I can tell you that when a woman submits her application for membership she also has to provide copies of the documents with the source of where the document is located that she is citing as proof for her lineage in her application. The people who review these documents do a good job of checking the sources. It will not do anyone any good to make up a source as they will have to provide a copy of the actual document.
Thank you, sister Carolyn.  I wanted to make the same point.  WikiTree would not be considered a document for a DAR application.  Documentation would include sources such as birth, marriage and death certificates; census data, pictures of gravestones, but not copies of pages from WikiTree or Ancestry or MyHertitage or any other on-line genealogy collection.  Even yDNA data is only being accepted as additional evidence by the DAR.  

Concerning conflicts, these are usually managed through the most reliable and strongest sources.  Generally, we all want the most accurate data possible, but we all can make mistakes.  We need to be willing to consider that this may be one of those times and collaborate to make the best profile possible.

Please know that except for extraordinary circumstances, your donations of time, information and improvements are a gift to the WikiTree community and can not be removed.  This is because you will not be the only one working on your family twig on the WikiTree.  I may add sources or details that might be missing, so you won't be able to remove a profile once you create it.  We hope you will enjoy contributing to the one worldwide WikiTree and have fun!  Just remember, one leaf per person on the WikiTree.
I've been with Wikitree about a year. sometimes I adopt abandoned profiles of unmanaged folks with similar names to my ancestors. After sourcing them, hopefully correctly, a relative emerges on Wiitree and I give he profiles to their true family. This work helps the entire tree, by adding sources to profiles from a gedcom download, to connecting people to their families. Someday I'll find the right Braun of Lampke family records.

There are really nice folks here at ancestry, it really is a community.


3 Answers

+8 votes
Well you can always report problems to the leaders here and they should give you advice on what to do.  But as long as you maintain yourself as the Profile manager you can always back off unwanted changes to a profile and you have to approve any mergers which are proposed, so as long as you respond to requests in the negative, you should not have to deal with unwanted merges.  You can also get active in any applicable project which includes your ancestors and make sure nothing untoward is going on.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (410k points)
Thanks, Dave.  That helps.
Hi Dave,  I am not sure what you mean by back off unwanted changes or respond to requests in the negative for unwanted merges.  

An unwanted change would be a good time to collaborate and decide which sources are the strongest, most accurate and most reliable and then let the changes reflect the information in those best sources.  

An unwanted merge rejection has to have a very good reason and that reason needs to be explained in the comment box at the time of rejection for future reference. If the two profiles are for the same person, they must be merged, so pretty much the only reason to reject a merge is if they are two different people.  I just want to be clear that merges are not optional if they are two profiles for the same person.  

But mostly, Fred, we want everyone to enjoy the experience, so when problems arise, we have processes in place to handle disagreements, etc.  I am sure you will find many new cousin connections on the WikiTree.  We hope you start adding your ancestors soon.
+4 votes
Well, since nobody is going to ask the stupid question, I will:

What's a SAR? What's a DAR?

(In my mental lexicon, "SAR" stands for "Search And Rescue", but that is clearly not the intended meaning here.)

by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (529k points)
Lineage Society's - Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution. To join you need to prove your lineage to a patriot ancestor who contributed to the American Revolution.
SAR = Sons of the American Revolution

DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution

Membership open to those who can establish that their ancestor fought in the Revolution or provided assistance such as food, supplies, etc.
Ah. Thank you. So I guess the equivalent for up here would be a society where you had to prove that you had an ancestor who was a United Empire Loyalist.

+5 votes
Hi Fred,

Welcome to WikiTree!  The honor code that you signed is what we use to make sure everyone understands that we are one world tree and will all collaborate in a polite and respectful way.  There are many ways to resolve conflicts with the help of leaders and mentors.  

Since we are one world wide tree, we only have one profile for each person so all duplicates have to be merged.  Then the profile is treated like all others where information requires sources and any incorrect information is removed through collaboration.  

What if someone merges two people who were not the same? Well, then we have to separate out the two profiles and fix that. There are a few of us that have a lot of experience in that, but it happens a lot less frequently thanks to new software improvements.

What protects your work? Round the clock Rangers watch all contributions and will notify admin if something is going wrong.

We have a team of leaders and project coordinators, as well as as well as many talented project members that watch for incorrect genealogy. One way we do this is by requiring sources. So for example, the question about SAR and DAR, the 1776 project that Kitty leads works hard on those profiles.  The whole purpose of our site is accuracy.  We have our new data errors project that works constantly.

WikiTree is different than many other sites and it can take some getting used to. Most answers are in the help index but mentors are available for assistance as well.

The short answer is that there are many software features and volunteer projects that watch over our tree.  In the event you have a problem, contact a mentor, leader or admin.
by Paula J G2G6 Pilot (257k points)
I must comment about the one profile for each person on Wikitree. I love this requirement. I have so many duplicates on My Heritage that I have stopped using it. Very time consuming and tiresome as I have so many cousins there.

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