Profiles With Incomplete Sourcing

+37 votes

While taking part in the Sourcerers Challenge, I have had Profile Managers get snippy with me for adding sources to their profiles. Not many, but enough to make me cautious. So, for the past couple of months, I've restricted my sourcing efforts either to orphaned profiles, or else to profiles which haven't been edited in any way for at least a year.

But on the other hand, I, personally, would welcome new sources on any of the profiles that I manage. Or at least, as long as they're accurate. I've gone enough false trails that I'd want to investigate and see the data before taking somebody else's word that "No, it happened this way, not that way."

I've been chewing over this issue for some time, and thinking that it would be useful to have another category hierarchy for profiles which already have at least one source, but where the profile manager concerned would welcome more. So today, I finally got around to making one. I called it "Profiles With Incomplete Sourcing", and this is what I put on the top page:

This category (or, more precisely, the subcategories under it) is for profile managers to tag those profiles where they would welcome additional sources to those that they have already found and put up on the profiles that they manage. It's not quite the same as the Unsourced Profiles category, because profiles can be added to this category if they already have one or more sources, but the profile manager believes that there are (or might be) other records out there that they just haven't found yet.

If you are a profile manager, and you would welcome more sources on a profile, please add a "Profiles With Incomplete Sourcing - Country" tag to that profile. (And, if that country's "Profiles With Incomplete Sourcing - Country" category doesn't already exist, please tag that new category with the "Profiles With Incomplete Sourcing" tag so that it will show up on this category.)

If you are a Sourcerer, and you find a profile with the "Profiles With Incomplete Sourcing - Country" tag, feel free to add any sources you find which corroborate the data already on the profile. You already have permission to do that, as evidenced by the presence of the tag. If you find a source which appears to contradict the data already on the profile, please send the Profile Manager for that profile a private message, so you can work out between you whether the data on the profile needs to be corrected, or whether the source turns out to apply to somebody else with the same (or a similar) name.

Note: Please do not apply this tag to any profile unless you are a Profile Manager for that profile. The goal of this tag is to let Sourcerers know that they have a Profile Manager's permission to add tags to a profile without checking with them first. If you think that a profile needs more sources, you can ask the Profile Manager if they're willing to add the tag, but don't add it to profiles you don't manage.

So, if you come across a profile with this tag, feel free to add a source without asking permission, unless it contradicts what's already on the profile.


in The Tree House by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (712k points)
Dale re: those who make changes without sources.

I feel free to delete such changes with a polite message of reminder that on wikitree we provide sources for our assertions.

We're supposed to be here to collaboratively create and **improve** these profiles.... not to pile every last piece of commentary and theory people have on dead folks or to amass litter from family trees.

Almost always, it's really not that difficult to determine whether changes to a profile are improvements or not.

a) if there was any formatting and style present, did the changer follow that formatting style; or if there wasn't, did they at least leave it better or no worse than they found it?
b) is the information sourced?
c) is it consistent with the assertions and the rest of the evidence in the profile? or if not, is it sufficiently expository as to why it belongs in the profile?

This stuff isn't rocket science. It's fine if not everyone has the energy or wherewithal to handle these questions, but that doesn't mean that the rest of us need to tiptoe around asking permission to contribute to wikitree.

I would submit that an unsourced/erroneous profile is WAY worse than an absent profile. Less effort should be spent encouraging contributions (esp of the gedcom sort, which is the primary source of train wrecks) and more effort should be spent encouraging quality.

The repetition of unsourced assertions and misinformation in genealogy is the #1 killer. I think we all know that, right? So if this is about adding sources to profiles, how could there possibly be any question that it's in wikitree's best interest for this be the behavior that is encouraged, not relegated to those profiles where someone has hung a sign that says, "it's ok to improve this one".
Daphne, agree. More eloquently said than my attempt.

Daphne and Marj are quite correct that adding this category could give some people the mistaken impression that it's possible to "own" profiles on WikiTree and say "Keep Out!" to everybody else. That was not and is not my intent, but it is definitely a possible interpretation of the presence of a category like that. 

But my goal here isn't to encourage that kind of behaviour. Nor to correct it. I'm here to have fun, and take part in this huge shared project that we're all working on. I don't find it "fun" to police people who are violating the Honor Code. (I know there are people who seem to take great enjoyment in correcting other people who are "doing things wrong": certainly, I've encountered enough self-appointed whatever cops in my life that there doesn't seem to be any lack of volunteers to do that sort of thing.) For myself, if somebody gets upset with me playing in an area that they consider "theirs", I much prefer to go play in some other part of the playground where I'm not going to get yelled at. I don't see any point in wasting my time and emotional energy in straightening people out. (Because, well, just like there is no shortage of people who love to point out other people's shortcomings, there is no shortage of people with shortcomings.) That's why I took to sourcing orphaned profiles in the Sourcerers Challenge. There are tons of them, mostly unsourced, many unconnected, so it's a job that needs to be done, and nobody's going to get all huffy about me doing it. (Or if somebody does, then they shouldn't have orphaned the profile in the first place.)

So, for the benefit of those who, like me, don't thrive on conflict, I wanted to put up a sign to let them know that they're welcome to come play in the profiles that I manage, within certain limits. (And, yes, I get it that WikiTree is about collaboration, and people could write to me first if they have something they think should be added, but I'm also going on the assumption that, like me, people don't have infinite time to spend doing this kind of thing, and so I'm trying to save them a couple of steps.)


Greg I think many of us are in it for the fun. And many of us don't have much fun battling agains't the tide of low quality work. Far from taking pleasure in having to spend time and energy correcting the record, I find it takes time and energy to ask permission to correct it and then go through lots of niceties or otherwise have someone upset over it -- time I'd rather spend doing new work.

But that doesn't mean there aren't profiles and families about which I care to see the record set straight.

I don't know who it is that is thriving on conflict. I don't know that there would be much conflict if we all sourced our assertions. Hence the simple solution seems to be to just make it the default to take down unsubstantiated claims.... but doing so is considered impolite here.... and so we waste time and energy wringing our hands over how to fix the data when there are plenty of us who know what a source looks like.

There are a million places to document genealogy without providing sources or to have one's own take on their ancestors that doesn't stand up to scrutiny. I guess the honor code misled me into thinking this would totally different, but in reality it's only partially different, because in reality, unsubstantiated claims in the tree are tolerated, and people are the tone of the community grants people the right to feel put out when unsubstantiated or disproven assertions are put up for removal or sources are sought or added.

So I see this overt welcome sign for contributions on the door of some profiles as being a symptom of the bigger problem. I think conflict arises because there's a tone in the community that suggests that evidence isn't always the decider of what goes into profiles.

Daphne said, "Less effort should be spent encouraging contributions (esp of the gedcom sort, which is the primary source of train wrecks) and more effort should be spent encouraging quality."

I am all for encouraging quality, but I don't agree that it should be an either/or thing. (As in, "either we have a lot of junk profiles, or we have a few high quality profiles".) I think we should encourage both improving the quality of profiles and adding as many more to the site as we can. 

The pro-quality people have pretty much had things all their own way in the discussion, so here is my argument for being pro-quantity as well:

It took me forever to build out my tree until I got my first connection with the wider family tree. And I see a bunch of people in the forum who are clearly frustrated that they haven't been able to link up their own families yet. Plus, I see plenty of evidence (since I've been working on orphaned profiles) of people who entered what they knew, still couldn't make a connection to the wider family tree, got frustrated, and quit. 

So I got curious as to just what percentage of the people in our "target" date range (1 AD to 2003, excluding those under 13) are on WikiTree. Here's what I found out:

First, I needed an estimate of the people in the target range. I found a page on the Population Reference Bureau site called "How Many People Have Ever Lived On Earth?" From that, I extracted an estimate of 60,439,585,668 people who have been born since 1 AD. As of a few minutes ago, there were 11,200,619 profiles on WikiTree. That means that, currently, there are WikiTree profiles for approximately 0.02% (0.185319255%, as long as I didn't forget to carry a 2 or anything...) of the people in the target range. Or, to put it another way, there is one WikiTree profile for every 5,000+ people in the target range (5,396).

Now, granted, we don't see unconnected trees with thousands of people, but I assume that that is partly due to the fact that the vast majority of profiles date from the last 200 years, which happens to be where most newbies are going to be putting in information for parents, grandparents, and so on. But even so, the odds of finding a match already on WikiTree are pretty small, and I assume that most people, like me, have to get their tree up to a couple of hundred people before they can make a connection. No wonder they get frustrated.

There's another factor to consider, too:

Currently, there are piles of genealogy sites on the internet. That reflects both large numbers of people who are interested in the topic, and also large numbers of companies who figure that there is money to be made from that interest. 

The situation kind of reminds me of the situation with social networks a few years ago. When the internet is in the picture, markets tend to become "Winner takes (almost) all." Yes, there are other social networks besides Facebook out there, but most of them are tiny in comparison. I will cheerfully admit that Facebook isn't particularly good in terms of features or the way they treat their users, but at least for now, Facebook has one huge advantage: it's where people are. With social networking, people go where their friends are. Features are nice and everything, but the point of a social network is to connect with your friends, so the most amazing social network in terms of features is pointless if your friends aren't there.

I think the market for genealogy web sites is going to shake out the same way. The market is due for a consolidation down the road, as companies which assumed that there was pots of money to be made from this sort of thing run out of money because they don't attract enough users to make the kind of profits they need to keep their systems up. And the site which ends up on the top of the pile will be the site where people's ancestors are.

That's not to say that people don't care about the quality of the data. But given a choice between a site with really high quality data about people they've never heard of, and another site which actually has their own family on it, I think the huge majority is going to opt for the second site, even if it has errors in it. Errors can be fixed, and are being fixed all the time.

Personally, I would prefer that WikiTree end up being the site at the top of the heap. Most of the other sites I've used have been really annoying for one reason or another. I would love to see a situation where other sites realise that they have to become more like WikiTree if they're going to survive. But if WikiTree is going to be at the top of the heap, or anywhere near it, it needs to have a lot more profiles. And for that to happen, we have to stop viewing quantity as the enemy of quality.



Ok, so there's our fundamental disagreement, I think.  I don't think we need to fight over it, but it's there: I don't think there should be any emphasis placed on having the most profiles or being at the top of any heaps, and I don't really care what other genealogy sites do until such time as I give up on wikitree, if I ever do. I just wanted wikitree to be a place where people could agree to doing it the right way and would communally agree to quality over quantity. When I found wikitree and the honor code, it sounded ideal. Then I met gedcom imports and citations of long-disproven sources and the need to disprove the existence of people for whom there was no proof with which to begin, and I realized that it ain't utopia. It's ok. I will live. It's just not quite what I'd hoped. It's still better for my needs than any alternatives, for now.
I'm with you, Daphne. WikiTree ain't utopia, but it's the best available right now. It lets me map out as many ancestors as I am able, provide good sources for my information, and make everything available to family and anyone else interested for free. I don't like plenty about what goes on here, but I'm learning it's the price for what otherwise would be too good to be true. I'll continue to try to source every fact I post here with quality evidence. And I'm always open to correction by people who know better than I do. (And yes, it's happened plenty of times.)
Well, here has been my experiences on improperly sourced or undocumented profiles:

One had a son who could not possibly be the son of the mother involved. I know this from the extensive work my mother and her sister did on this family over the course of 30 years.  Now, they had the mother's birthdate right, but the son in question would have been born when the mother was 13 years of age. Not impossible, but rare. 2ndly, the son in question was born in the colonies, about 1750s. 3rdly, The mother didn't immigrate until 1768ish. So, how can a 13 year old girl who hadn't immigrated yet, have a child born in the colonies?  I provided the ship's passenger lists. All querries except for a merge request fell on deaf ears. So I removed the questionable child from the line up.

2nd issue with this same mother. They had her married to 3 different men. Problem, one husband died early, she married the 2nd, whom she was with at the time of her death. And the one they claimed as a husband was still living when she married her 2nd and was having children the 2nd husband. There was no evidence of the marriage of that particular husband, no record of divorce. Divorce would have been granted on the grounds of adultery or desertion. I also removed him as her husband. And yes, I descend from the mother of this profile, so i have a vested interest in seeing her honored correctly.

Another profile involved the daughter of an ancestral aunt. The person who created the profile had her in born in a county the family never lived in, going to Texas and marrying two men for which there is no record of her being in Texas at this time, or marrying these two men. And of course no sources for these assumptions.

I tracked this daughter. I posted when and where she was living in relationship to where her mother was living from the time we first picked them up on census, her residences in GA and AL, her two marriages, one in GA and one in AL, to when she and her mother died.  Her kids go to Texas, but she didn't. And if she did, she returned by the next census and no records of her being married in Texas, nothing to say she was there.  But that daughter never left her mother's side, even with her own handicapped son, till her mother died, and she died shortly thereafter. And I have the sources.

So if I ask for sourcing on questionable claims, and its not provided, and I have the sources that dispute that cliaim,  then I going to change the profile.

Just this past weekend, someone put a Death Index on a profile. Not a problem in itself, but there were at least 3 different people with the same name in the state. And the person that index belonged to was not the person of the profile.

I just fixed a profile at Family Trees, someone decided that the Jamima Hall wife of Thomas Bullard (who are also here at wikitree) wasn't the mother of his children, but was married to another man at the time Thomas' children were being born. The two Jamima's are nearly 10 years difference in ages. Bible records be damned.




And the PM never replied with a source to support his claims.

Yes, Lynette, I have seen places where people made similar kinds of mistakes as I have been trying to connected unconnected branches. (In each case, the damage was done before I came along, and sometimes, it was incorrect merges, which I had to undo by recreating the original profile with the original data, and leaving the old profile page where it had been merged into the wrong family and then had all the data changed to fit.)

So it's not like I have no sympathy at all for those people who get all protective about the profiles they manage, and I guess I can see how people would get snippy on the subject if it's happened to them often enough. Personally, I think it's wrong to get snippy with somebody who has had nothing to do with past damage, just because they come along making suggestions which may or may not be valid, but then again, I don't always live up to my own ideals, so it would be kind of unfair to dump on somebody else for doing what I do sometimes.

Me, I have the opposite problem: my family is really, really tenuously connected to the main tree, through long, twisting connections with lots of marriage connections. I'd like to find connections that are straight descent, rather than a distant cousin's marriage to somebody else who's related to somebody else again through marriage, but it seems that my direct ancestors were all too obscure for anybody to pay any attention to them, so all my leads run out once I get to people old enough not to have been included in any census. I'd love for somebody (anybody) to help me out with connections, which is why I thought up that tag as a way to say, "Hey, come over here and help with this family."

I hear you. My dads fam is my moms fam way back in time. The Scot/Iri faction, Canada and what was to become U.S. Tangled twining over centuries throughout the U.S. Canada, NZ, AU and beyond. All DNA tests with this ancestry I now approach as being 1/2 what is stated as the venues. Makes it a tad harder to track down the young orphan 2x great branch of our genetics in he time period.

9 Answers

+15 votes
Great idea!
by Natalie Trott G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
I agree!!
+15 votes

Good idea

I think it's more interesting to work with people who are interested in Genealogy than people who have just uploaded unsourced profiles....

I would suggest try to follow GPS and this step is step number 1

  1. GPS: Reasonably Exhaustive Search  = find the sources that will help you

If you don't know what GPS is see this introduction video 


by Living Sälgö G2G6 Pilot (305k points)
edited by Living Sälgö
+17 votes
Great idea, Greg. I haven't heard from any PM's about sources I've added, but adding more sources to a profile will strengthen the tree. And it might help someone source other profiles.
by Bob Keniston G2G6 Pilot (271k points)
Thanks, Bob. Since you're the übersourcerer, your opinion counts for a lot.

You're fortunate, Bob.  February seemed to be a bad month - maybe the weather?  I received snippy messages from 3 different profile managers.  One of them deleted the sources I added to a profile and wrote that she accepted only original sources for "her profiles", and the sources I added referred to microfilm copies.
In that case, Star, you should have pursued "problems with members".
+17 votes
You could always add the source in the comments section.
by Living McQueen G2G6 (8.3k points)
Michelle, instead of ???
As stated earlier, some people are leary due to others getting upset over changes to a profile, formatting wrong, etc. So if you have sources you can leave a comment with the link to the source for the PM to add it themselves.
Or learn people how to restore a profile If they think what's added is wrong....
Thats a drastic answer to just adding sources. As long as you arent deleting the sources already there, there should be no reason to restore a profile just because someone added a link.

Michelle: Question are all links good enough?

If people understand that you can restore then you are not so scared if someone add information to a profile that is wrong or you dont agree ....... 

  1. FindAgrave is that a evidence for a fact
  2. links with unsourced family trees
  3. Using templates is that ok
  4. Having links to maps ==> make the profile more complex to edit is that ok?

As long as we don't have Talk pages and add research plans to Wikitree profiles then we will have problems doing some good genealogy together.....

Yes tact.

+17 votes
My Issue is that I find a lot of people don't know how to use the source and footnote section properly.  I am seeing the reference above the sources on the the profiles I go to.  and during the sourceathon I found a profile, that had all the source's typed out, no links, no source area, no footnotes and they said do not add or remove just post int the comment section.  I am sorry, this is a shared website, a shared tree, it has a set template, you can choose the different options in the template, but the main template is the same.  We do not own a page.  We might manage it, together with others, but we are not allow to give dictation.   We source to help each other it is apart of this web page setup, if some one has issue they need to reread the wiki policy.
by Living Cassel G2G6 Mach 1 (12.3k points)
We learn as we go. On mine I have DNA results to testing, started before sources as sources should be lower page in writings. Haven't tried for footnotes yet-as I'd just like to get the basic sources & DNA data in. Sometimes it's a matter of not enough time or hands in the day. Sometimes we leave a note for what we are working on, ie: a note (1900 Fed Cens), a pointer for any that want to source-while we are transferring data from one program to another and building the profile. I couldn't demand one take any other course than what they must, while being unaware of their physical/real life situation. A really simple solution is to talk to the other person. Chances are if they left notes... they would be more than willing for some help. They have chosen this venue after all. Wikitree is the best for collaboration.
+16 votes
Greg, I appreciate your intent behind this category creation-- conveying a welcome  to collaboration. But a couple of things:

1. Did you engage the Categorization project before setting this up? My understanding is that --except for personal categories-- we are supposed to bring ideas for wiki-wide categories to that project before implementing. They've done a lot of work to bring a consistent set of practices and principles to category creation and naming and hierarchy. I would encourage you to pause in your efforts until the project can weigh in. And if the project has gone inactive, i would discuss category proposals here before implementing a new idea of this scope. In this case, you may be introducing a set of categories that are unnecessary.

2. I agree with others that this approach is both unnecessary and conveys a message we don't want to promote-- namely that profile managers own or control profiles--whether it's the profile manager objecting to the addition of sources or the profile manager giving permission to others to edit the profile. It also risks discouraging volunteers from adding sources to profiles that don't have this message on it. It seems clearly evident that complaining profile managers are in the minority re source addition. Those cases should be handled with existing policies as outlined in Problems with Members.

Again, i applaud the intent. But i think this isn't the best solution.

by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (933k points)
I didn't realize until now that this thread started back in April.

Posting this thread and tagging it the "categorization" was my attempt to engage with the rest of the Categorization Project (of which I am a member).
Yeah. I found it a little odd that the thread exploded all of a sudden, more than five months after I first posted it. But it could well be that the Source-A-Thon got people thinking about sourcing in general. Like people keep saying, timing is everything.
+16 votes

I'm sorry, feeling very dumb for askin this question right now... but isn't the first paragraph in the Wiki Genealogist Honor code that "We collaborate. When we share ancestors we work together on the same ancestor profiles."​

Don't everybody using wikitree have to sign that code??? 

I must have been lucky so far, I only got thank-yous for my added sources during the source-a-thon but on one profile I actually said that further changes need to be done in cooperation with profile manager.  Why? Because there was some inaccurate names for example on Surname at birth - Johnson instead of Johansdotter. I'm keeping an eye on that profile and if the manager don't contact me in a month or so I might ask in the forum how to handle it.

by Maggie Andersson G2G6 Pilot (154k points)
Yes, Maggie, in my experience, most people have been receptive to having new sources or other information added to a profile. And, yes, we do all have to sign the Honor Code and agree to collaborate. Most of the time, people do.

The people who have gotten snippy with me for adding something have been few and far between, but those few people have been nasty enough that I have had to log off WikiTree and go do something else, because I Don't WikiTree While Angry. I haven't bothered pursuing the resolution mechanism in those cases, because whether or not those particular profiles are sourced or not just doesn't matter that much to me. There are tons of unsourced profiles out there, and for some months now, I have pursued a strategy of only sourcing unmanaged profiles, just to avoid having my day ruined by some control freak.
+9 votes
It might be worthwhile to go back and review what you actually did when you "added a source to the profile," and the profile manager "got snippy."   

My experience is that people rarely get upset when I add something;  they're more likely to be upset when I re-arrange something, and they're most likely to be upset if I delete something.  Fortunately, with WikiTree's Changes feature, everything can be restored except a bad merge.    

I haven't seen what you're source-adding looks like, but I can't fathom how someone would be upset it you added *See also John Jones, Jones Family Records, Genealogical Publishing, Baltimore, 1914 under sources at the bottom.  If they show that Tim Jones was born in 1830, and they quote as the source, and you add <ref> Jones Family Records, p. 14 </ref> after the date wiihout deleting anything, I can't imagine how that would be offensive.  

As others have noted, if you look at Changes and they've been playing with the profile for the last three days then yes, they're in the midst of doing something and you should touch base with your added information.

But the general rule of WikiTree is that the profile managers are simply managers, not owners, and everyone has an obligation to improve every profile -- but collaboratively!
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (478k points)
+9 votes
I think that is adding insult to injury.  I do sourcing and have been doing so for some time.  If I'm going to add data to a profile, then it has to have a source attached to it, plain and simple, or else I don't add the data.  Period.  We've already got a zillion categories of things to work with, let's not add one that can be misleading.  If a person needs help on a profile, the correct action is normally to ask for it on G2G.
by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (699k points)

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