Roots projects and categories

+8 votes
I awoke today to see a note on the Russian Roots project page citing official category policy asking that we not invite people to tag their records with the Russian Roots category.  The particular trigger for this appears to be that the category would potentially have millions of records.  The policy instead encourages more narrowly focused subcategories be established and utilized so as to avoid having 1,000's of records in a category which ostensibly makes a category less useful.

As it is written, the policy is fairly clear, and I understand the logic of it.  

I don't think that policy is appropriate in the various ethnic/national Roots category use cases.   Many who may know the broad ethnic origins of an ancestor record may not yet know much more which would enable a narrower category.  I imagine the message to Russian Roots applies to the other ethno roots projects.  (There is certainly a potential for millions of German, Italian and other roots records if they use the same category pattern.  Some projects use templates and some of the templates also automatically add the broad level category.)

Either we need to establish a different policy or a different mechanism that meets the needs of the numerous ethnic roots projects.

If the trigger is potential # of records - this applies to all groups with any significant population.   

What is the best solution for ethnic Roots projects?
in Policy and Style by Michael Maranda G2G6 Mach 6 (66.9k points)
retagged by Maryann Hurt
Each "Roots" project has its own policy on inclusion.

Dutch Roots limits its scope to people who were born in the Netherlands. Of course those of us who descended from Netherlanders have a stake in their genealogy -- and Dutch Roots project members are generous in assisting with genealogy of Dutch-descended people who are in the scope of projects like New Netherland Settlers and Cape Colony.

Since the purpose of a project is to collaborate on and assist with a particular area of genealogy (and not to hand out little emblems to mark ethnic heritage), I think the Dutch Roots project policy makes a lot more sense than the policy of German Roots, which seems to encourage placement of the template on every profile of a person who had an ancestor from Germany.
Some of my Italian ancestors that never left Italy have had the Roots template added.  That doesn't make sense to me since the profiles are marked born and died in Italy.  Seems like it should just be a category for immigrants.
Ellen - my question is not about the inclusivity of any roots project.  We differ on the merit of such inclusivity.  My question is directed at categorization project policies.   I am not arguing here that there needs to be a uniform policy governing different Roots projects.  I would argue that the Categorization policies should fit the needs of the Roots (and other) projects.
Maybe it looks like "Roots" is a distinct project that has nationality-specific subprojects, but that's not the way these projects were set up. Projects like Dutch Roots, German Roots, Russian Roots, and Italian Roots are separate projects with their own policies on project scope, and the project categories and templates are intended to support the projects.
I think you miss my point -- I'd be happier in the scenario you describe, but that's not what's at issue. It's that Categorization as a project in itself has authority over how categories are to function and one of their principles is that of the "narrowest category" and when a category appears broad enough in scope that it could "potentially" cover many records, that potential can be cited to discourage the use of the category.  

My view is that category utility has to balance the wider needs of the community and the specific needs of various projects.  

Any project that pioneers a category will likely reach a point where it determines the upstream category needs relevant subcategories.  In such case then it shifts it's development and use of the categories organically.

In the early stages, something like Russian Roots or Ukrainian Roots categories will slowly accumulate records.  When it reaches the point of implementing subcategories, some of the records may not end up shifting to a sub category due to lack of information/documentation, and they would end up remaining in the upstream category indefinitely, and that seems a sensible solution rather than discouraging use of these broad categories simply by the fact that their potential application is large.

Ellen said "Projects like Dutch Roots, German Roots, Russian Roots, and Italian Roots are separate projects with their own policies on project scope, and the project categories and templates are intended to support the projects."  You would think that was how it should be, but apparently that is not the case. 

Michael and I were told not to use a "Russian Roots" category to designate those with Russian Ancestry.  We have the Russian Roots, Ukranian Roots, and Polish Roots projects, but we don't have project badges or templates yet.  How else are we supposed to designate profiles under the projects? Is it because we are not on "official" project status on the front page, and with a page that says "Project" in front instead of "Space?" We can't get a badge or template until we get "official status," but can't get "official" status until we get a Leader. We've been out there for months and no one wants to be our Leader, probably because they are too busy with other things.  So, we're stuck in limbo.  I hardly think using a simple category in the meantime is such a problem. But, again, that's just my opinion.

Summer and Michael,

Even without a Leader to lead, one of them, or me, can help you with a template. You don't have to be a top-level project to have one. That should help with notating that a profile is in the project. It still is better to categorize under the narrowest category, but templates don't have to categorize, so they can be placed on all appropriate profiles. Email me if you want a hand in getting a project template set up.

Otherwise, to give input on categories that are important to any project, that project should have at least one liaison to the the Categorization project, if not more, so that you can weigh in on important related decisions and bring up important discussions, like this one! :-)
Thank you Abby - I need to follow up on the categorization group - as it is relevant for my work in both Slavic/Ukrainian and Italian Roots.
Abby - regarding the template - I am wondering how we might handle it best?   

The idea is that Slavic Roots is an overarching container.  I don't know the intricacies of template development, but if we could use the template to signify Slavic Roots and then one or more optional sub-category roots, that would seem optimal.

There are two aspects to this - the wording and the technical dimension.  If what I am thinking isn't possible, the wording side of it is moot.

I imagine three cases:  

Slavic Roots with no further specification (insufficient data)

Slavic Roots with narrow specification - e.g. Polish or Ukrainian or Russian

Slavic Roots with multiple slavic heritages relevant to the record:  e.g. Polish AND Russian.

The umbrella aspect (Slavic) could be covered simply with the tag line and link to Slavic Roots project page at the bottom of the template, with optional (multiple) specifications in the body.

Let me know if this makes sense.
Email me what you and Summer have for wording ideas and such and I'll start hammering out some prototypes. If there are existing templates that you like, mention those, too. I think we can do what you're thinking, similar to what we worked on for US History (but with different wording and styling, of course). We'll see what we can do! I

2 Answers

+3 votes

Thanks for posting, Michael.  I agree.  We have lots of templates that auto populate a category - I don't see how that is any different at all, when that template can be posted to millions of profiles. And, you are 100% correct about uncertainty of location - I know I have ancestors from Germany; some I know the location, some I do not. German roots is the template to use to show German ancestry, so that's the one I use, not the location.  If this is incorrect, we need to address it with all projects, yes?

Case in point, this recent G2G post about the Puerto Rican Roots project with the line "We've added three new project members, and we're up to 1,772 profiles tagged to the category "Puerto Rican Roots". "   

So, if Russian Roots is not supposed to encourage use of the Russian Roots category, why are other projects encouraging the same?

by Summer Orman G2G6 Mach 8 (87.8k points)
edited by Summer Orman
+1 vote
The whole "Roots" thing reflects a very American point of view.

Americans seem to forget that Europe is actually still inhabited, and the residents don't necessarily think that their country exists mainly to supply Americans with ancestors.
by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (573k points)


Well, have a objective look at the project pages of the "Dutch Roots" project and tell me if that information is mainly for Americans or for Dutch people.

allow us to determine a meaningful solution. Huh? I don't allow? Solution for what?

I would think, but this is just me, that if someone has a problem with how projects are named, then they should probably take that up with someone in charge of naming projects. Maybe one of "the team" as well.  I don't think it is any longer appropriate to address it on this thread, as that was not the intention.  So, let's drop this for now, please.  Thank you!
I have been reviewing Dutch Roots pages in particular in considering this conversation.  I still don't read it in the same way you do.  You can charge me with bias, then.   I find the Dutch Roots project rather exemplary in it's leadership and the refinement of it's scope and layers of categorization.  I don't think it's aim is to narrowly serve a living population- those living Dutch or Americans-  but rather to serve the interests of all those interested in that genealogically specific scope.   

It has been commented that Dutch Roots' scope is considerably narrower than other Roots projects.  I think that is a misreading also.  The project nicely defines different layers and cutoff points for sub-projects, but it appears open to those who can trace their ancestral roots.

I really don't know why the term "roots" is regarded with such distaste by some.  If it doesn't appeal then take it with a wiki grain of salt.
Jan,  since you ask "meaningful solution for what" then it seems you never really read my original question, or perhaps didn't understand it.  If you don't understand the question I raised and simply want to challenge the idea of roots projects in general, I'd rather not have that conversation here.

If in rereading my original post and my subsequent comments you still don't understand the focus of my question, feel free to ask clarification on any part I have left unclear.   Or not.
I do not have a problem with project naming. Apparently my grasp of the English language is insufficient to get my point acroos. Was amazed at the long toes R.J. apparently stepped on with what I considered a largely satyrical comment.

Suppose I am a Dutch genealogist looking at the Dutch Roots project pages for the first time. Then I see a lot of do's and don'ts totally irrelevant or unneeded for me, but apparently significant for Americans. So this is what I consider bias.

And I was reacting to R.J.'s comment. That was the scope, not the original question on categories.
If the do's and don't don't apply to you, you may consider yourself fortunate rather than afflicted by the biases of another.  

The scope here is the original question.
I also up voted RJ because I felt it was satirical but had a grain of truth.(and I'm from the UK)

  Here is the blurb for the German Roots project, a top level project on the main project page.

Welcome to the German Roots Project! This project is for those who have family with German heritage, working together to trace the roots back to the original ancestors from Germany.

(is that going to convince people who never left Germany that this is the place for them? )

For comparison:  

"Project Sweden are for those who seek to work on and improve profiles with a connection to Sweden"

If subcategories are needed, then events such as emigration from that country  should surely  come beneath the umbrella of the top level country category (or under immigration in  the receiving country or countries)

 This in fact already  happens with the Irish Project, within which is an Irish Roots project. This has  further sub divisions  including  the 'Earl Grey’s Famine Orphan Scheme 1848-1850' which is a sub project of both  Ireland and Australia.

Subdividing like this also addresses the numbers problem as mentioned in the original post.

I am not talking about me, you should read better: ANY DUTCH GENEALOGIST. 

MY scope was R.J.'s comment. Stop correcting me on things I did not say.

By all means have fun trying to organize and build these user populated, so incomplete indexes called categories.

End of discussion as far as I am concerned.

Helen -- I don't know if it convinces people it isn't for them, though the descriptions may not be voiced in a way that gives that at first impression - still i can see many ways in which they might see obvious benefit from the group's existence with such a scope.   I'm interested in tracing kin that crossed many borders as well as kin that didn't cross any.  The groups are in some ways affinity groups likely to attract people with common interests and where they may share their experience or solve problems together.  

Jan, I don't expect the categories to function as complete and authoritative indexes.  We're on a wiki after all -- the entire site is user populated.

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