Inferred birth years are helpful in understanding merges.

+1 vote
I have just started using Wikitree and I like its concept a lot!  

I have been doing some genealogy for many decades (long before computers) and I have used a code for each person consisting of their initials (at birth for married women) and year of birth.  When I do not know a year of birth I supply a reasonable guess.  If nothing else is known:  I guess that a woman was born 20 years before her known child.  I guess a person was born 20 years after his/her mother.  If I know a birthdate for a parent and a child I guess a birth date in between.    Of course I guessed birth year MUST be marked as uncertain or approximate.    (I was born when my father was 60 (and his other children at 56 and 58)  so one has to be careful about fathers.)      

I am right now trying to find whether my entries agree with previous entries.  If others guessed birth years when possible it would be much easier to reject a merge or further investigate a possible merge.
in Genealogy Help by Theodore Palmer G2G6 Mach 1 (12.4k points)
It may help when ever possible use dates used by others and preferably those that list sources or seem to be the primary source everyone uses. Otherwise as you suggest make up a date. Mark it uncertain and explain in Bio why you use this date. Careful others may start quoting you could compound the error.

John was born about ????.
:born about ????, (best guess, oldest sibling)
Good points all around. I see the value in guessing at dates, for the reasons Theodore suggests, but also see how guessed dates can be misinterpreted, as Mike and Tom point out.

I've tried to think if there's a way we can do this automatically and have imputed dates display in various contexts. The problem is that this would be very resource-intensive to do on the fly. For example, if you're doing a search and there is no birth or death date for a result, we could estimate the dates and display those. Technically, it wouldn't be that hard. But it would really slow down the search process.

A possibility might be to estimate dates and then store them with the record. The program would guess at a date and then after that it would be up to users to confirm it, improve it, delete it. I don't know how the details would work, though, and it's probably not something we could implement anytime soon.
Dear Chris and fellow users,

I do NOT think Wikitree itself should get into the business of guessing birth yeas.  Some users will not want estimated birth years and that should be their own choice.  After a life time of (infrequent) genealogical work, I often have quite a bit of background for making these guesses on my own family members. (As noted my original code for individuals forced me to do so in every case.  When I find an actual birth date, it is sometimes but rarely far from my estimate.)  I do want to emphasize that anyone entering estimated birth years MUST be careful to mark them as uncertain or estimates, but the software makes this easy.  Thanks for all comments.

1 Answer

+2 votes

I choose not to guess (publicly) on dates, just leave them blank. Yes, I calculate 20 years when estimating, sometimes on FamilySearch you can find the date that way, otherwise, a guessed date  may have a tendency to become accurate. 

by Tom Bredehoft G2G6 Pilot (197k points)

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