Spouse not shown on Private with Public Tree

+25 votes
Just looking at the public comments on this profile makes me say it is time to change our policy on what is shown on a profile that is Private with a Public Family Tree.   As you can see in the public view, his siblings, parents, and children all show up....why not his wife?

Can this be changed?
WikiTree profile: George Bush
in Policy and Style by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (881k points)
I also want this changed.
Maybe the privacy level of Laura Bush is set on red?
@Vincent It doesn't show even if the spouse's privacy is open.
Oh I see.  If you click one of the children you can see the mother.  I guess that's because the profile is set on private with a public tree, you don't see the wife because she isn't part (only connected to) of "his" tree!
Many people may be offended to see that WikiTree's data display makes it look like the children were born out of wedlock.
If some is good at templates, it would be nice to have a template to put on profiles to explain that the spouse does not show.   I must get 1-2 emails a week on the Clinton, Obamas, Bushs Bidens etc....everyone thinks there is a mistake or worse yet, they think we don't know....
can anyone create a template? or does one need to have special privileges?
Privacy rules don't prevent us from naming the spouse in the biography -- and linking to the spouse's profile. Links to the spouses would be better than a template saying about the privacy rules, But only members of the Trusted List can edit these profiles, which severely limits who can add anything to the profile.

Dennis: Only Leaders can create or edit templates.

2 Answers

+10 votes

I have seen this a lot on profiles marked with Template:Notables

My guess is that you start create the father, then the children and then add a mother to the children and forget connect man and wife in a marriage.....

My hope is that we get new functions in the Database Error project that will check if George Bush has a wife in Wikidata and the flag this as an error if they are not married in WikiTree

  • Welch-9 = Laura unmarried also...
by Living Sälgö G2G6 Pilot (304k points)
Living people's spouses never show up, even if the spouse is an open profile.

For example, http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Ross-8880 is married to http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Raab-87. [private spouse] shows up on Arne's profile but he doesn't show up on Diana's.
These are not "errors" Laura is attached to George, it just does not show up because of our privacy settings.
Jamie and Robin are correct -- the privacy settings prevent the display of spouses for all profiles with any form of privacy. There isn't even an indication of the existence of a "private" spouse. I'd like to see spouse displayed for profiles with public family trees.
Speaking as one who has a public tree & private spouses, I'd like to keep it that way. How can the privacy be respected if WikiTree shows the spouse in the tree?
Liz, there are already additional options to hide spouses, but there are no options to show them when we want them to be shown
thanks for the clarification. it sounded like a blanket change to show a spouse regardless of the privacy settings for the spouse's profile was being advocated. (If that is what you're advocating, saying that I have the option to then hide my spouses... I don't agree with that either. I want to see them on my profile, I just don't want the world to see them & their info out of respect for their children.)
We don't want private spouses to show up, we just want the privacy to be consistent for all relationships.

See the two profiles I posted above. Ross-8880 is private with a public tree. Her private with a public tree sister shows up on her profile, but her open spouse does not, and there is no option to have him show up.
Ah. Thanks for being patient with me. Now I get it & I see the need. Cheers, Liz
It's mostly a problem with living notables, although last month someone was asking why their deceased husband wasn't showing on their public profile view.


Just another example (from this month's Connection Combat):


is married to


No spouse shows on Bryan-3290, private spouse shows on Tatum-516.

Names and relationships show on connection finder (41 & 42)


@Jamie thanks for the links I feel the logic inside WikiTree is the problem as living people show up on some pages see below 

  1. Bush-4 can't see Welch-9
  2. Welch-9 can't see Bush-4
  3. Bush-5 can see both Bush-4 and Welch-9 
  4. No Family group sheet Bush-5
  5. No Family Group sheet Welch-9
  6. Descendant view displays children to  Bush-4 and Welch-9 but not grandchildrens
  7. Yes Pedigree chart displays both parents
+7 votes
Hi Robin,

We've always interpreted "public family tree" to mean your parents are public, not other family members. Children and siblings are only visible if their family trees are also public, i.e. it's all based on parent-child relationships.

Making spouses part of the definition of "family tree" would make sense to some people. I can see the benefits. But this isn't how we've been doing it and changing it now would not be easy.

We take our privacy promises very seriously. We could not change the privacy setting on any private individual without the consent of the profile manager.

Since we could never get unanimous consent from all profile managers of profiles that are Private with a Public Family Tree, we'd have two choices:

1.) Delete all profiles where we didn't get consent.

2.) Keep profiles where we didn't get consent at their current settings. This would essentially mean creating yet another privacy level, in addition to the seven we already have.
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
I understand not changing it because it is difficult, but I don't understand the privacy explanation.

How would the privacy of any person be changed? Showing [private spouse] if the spouse is private or linking the public or open profile of a deceased spouse wouldn't change the privacy of a profile. http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Privacy says nothing about spouses not being part of a family tree.

If you go to the edit page of a profile with the private with public tree status, siblings, children, and spouses all have the red circle next to them. That makes it seem like the privacy settings for those three relationships are equal, but they aren't.

Why does the name of a private with public tree spouse show up in the connection finder but not on a profile page? See 41 and 42 http://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Special:Connection&action=connect&person1Name=Frank-1225&person2Name=Tyson-646 and http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Tatum-516

It is just very inconsistent, and not explained anywhere.

Edit: meant connection finder, not relationship finder
Maybe if Chris could delineate the various cases where he thinks a spouse would and would not show... we might discover a flaw in the algorithm's logic. Because of the current inconsistency, I think there might be a bug (ok, now it sounds like we need to delineate what we think are the inconsistencies :) )
More inconsistencies -

Open spouse of private with public tree profile shows up in parent's descendancy view, but nothing is shown on profile: http://www.wikitree.com/genealogy/Bryan-Descendants-3291

Private with public tree spouse of private with public tree profile shows up as [private spouse] in parent's descendency view, but nothing is shown on profile. http://www.wikitree.com/genealogy/Bush-Descendants-58

Connection finder shows spouse relationship, full name, and links to profiles of private with public tree people http://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Special:Connection&action=connect&person1Name=Bush-58&person2Name=Welch-8 but relationships don't show on profiles.
ha, yep... privacy is kinda out the window with that one even for those who don't want their spouses reveled - oops (although maybe they would still be private if the "do not show" checkbox is ticked -- we'll have to experiment).  :)

Chris, I think your privacy promises are a little bit broken here already :)

I'd really like to see my spouse as part of my family
Spouse is still shown when the "do not show" box is checked. http://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Special:Connection&action=connect&person1Name=Ross-8881&person2Name=Raab-86

I don't think that checkbox is for privacy though, more for people who don't want to see their divorced spouse on their profile.

Edit: On second thought, we might need to wait for the connection to update.
At a bare minimum, it ought to be possible to see that a person with a public tree has a connected spouse, so that people don't continue to think that the spouse hasn't been added or connected.
I got this in a private message today: "I would feel like WikiTree violated my privacy by changing the rules that had been in place when I joined & created the profiles .... Any change in that I would consider a change in privacy policy & would not be happy about it."

I wish it weren't true, but this is the bottom line: Some members would see revealing spouses on profiles now as a violation of their trust.

Therefore, my explanation above still stands. Putting spouses on profiles would probably require a new Privacy Level or lots of profile deletions.

Honestly, I wish this weren't true. I've been convinced that it would be better if we included spouses in the definition of "family tree". It would be more logical. It would help us be a better resource for information on notables/celebrities. It would help us perform better in search engines. It would be good for non-family collaborations. I wish this is how we had done it from the start.

Could we get away with changing it? Yes. I doubt we'd face legal consequences. As has been pointed out, our promises have been vague, poorly explained, and inconsistently applied.

Moreover, I can think of cases where other genealogy websites have pulled the rug out from under their members on privacy-related issues -- much bigger privacy issues than this -- without apparent consequences. But we don't want WikiTree to be like those other websites. It's a matter of integrity and trust. We need to try our best to uphold all implicit and explicit promises, especially concerning privacy.

So, I think we need to:

1.) Fix the privacy hole in the Connection Finder where a connection between two spouses who are Private with a Public Family Tree reveals their names. I'm not freaking out about this because I think it's a minor violation. The Connection Finder results are not indexed in Google and they're not easy to predict. They couldn't easily be used by someone who wants to discover non-public information about marriages.

2.) Make the treatment of spouses on descendant charts consistent with how spouses are treated on profiles.

3.) Create a help page explaining things and fix what it says on the edit page.

I'm sorry to say that I think #2 means removing spouse information from the descendant charts, not adding more to profiles.

At first I'd thought that we could put spouses of a Private with Public Family Tree person on their profile if the spouse is Public, like we've been doing on descendant charts. But this isn't right. The privacy level that matters is the one for the person profiled. The privacy level of a private person's spouse should be irrelevant.

I'd also thought that we could do what Ellen suggests about putting "private spouse" when we can't show the spouse. But this would be going beyond what we've done in the past. We would be revealing that there is a marriage. I know that we've been revealing it elsewhere, e.g. on descendant charts, but that doesn't make it OK for profiles.

I don't think putting "private spouse" would be logically consistent either. We'd have to put it for the public spouses. That is, in those cases where a Private with Public Family Tree person has a public spouse, we couldn't reveal the spouse but it's not because they're private, it's because we don't reveal spouses for private people.

And ... I'd also thought that maybe we could make exceptions where there are children with public family trees, where this rule seems especially absurd. That is, if spouses who are Private with a Public Family Tree have a child who is Private with Public Family Tree, why can't we reveal the marriage since we are revealing both parents on the child's profile? But revealing parents is not exactly the same as revealing a marriage between the parents.

I know this is complicated. I wish we had foreseen all the consequences and taken a simpler approach.

For what it's worth, spouses can be revealed in public biographies. Maybe it would even make sense to have a template that creates a feature box for it.

Also, I want to make clear, nothing about spousal privacy affects family trees. Fundamentally we are a family tree website.
Thanks for the well thought out and reasoned explanations. That helps a lot.

I still disagree, and personally would be willing to take the hit for a change, but I understand where you're coming from there (but then again, its not my site :) ). I'll be sad to see the holes plugged, I think its a step in the wrong direction. I had hoped that by seeing the existing holes, it would help make the case to go ahead and open it up.

Maybe at some point in time in the future, you'd be willing to revisit these policies (and maybe add the additional privacy level).

I understand a bit better where you are coming from. As long as the privacy is consistent everywhere I'm happy.

The current description on the privacy page says "Exactly like Private profiles except that the person's Family Tree is public. [...] The person's family members will still be private unless they have public family trees." That was the part that was confusing to me because the family tree view of public profiles shows spouses, and I consider spouses family members. I couldn't tell if the lack of spouses on profiles was intentional or a bug. Maybe instead of "family members" specify "parents, siblings, and children". Also add something like "Spouses will never be shown."

A thought I just had that might solve the privacy problem... could there be an opt-in checkbox to show the marriage? Like how there is a hide checkbox to hide the marriage? That way users like Dennis and notable profiles can have their spouses shown, and none of the other profiles will be changed unless the (manager only?  or anyone on trusted list?) wants it changed.

A large part of the concern here is that it is impossible for a living person's profile to be public. This means, for example, that WikiTree doesn't show that Queen Elizabeth II has a husband (i.e., Prince Philip).
I guess I need to put a disclaimer on every profile, then,   So I stop getting messages like the one on http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Blythe-6 received today.
It seems to me that WikiTree should make "Public" an option for living people. That would be particularly desirable for Notables whose profiles are based entirely on widely available public information. Who are we protecting by not telling people that QE II is married to Prince Philip and that Bill Clinton is married to Hillary?
Thank you, Dennis and Jamie. I think an additional privacy level or the usage of a checkbox for public spouses is a very likely possibility down the road. Adding it just has to be balanced with other priorities and a general need to keep our systems as simple as possible.

Robin, why not just list Hillary as the spouse at the top of the profile, rather than "Please note: Because of Wikitree's Privacy Policy, the spouse does not show on this profile"?

The community might also consider making links to Wikipedia more prominent when it's a celebrity profile. I think it's better for us to focus on the things that matter most for growing a 100% free and accurate global family tree.

Ellen, enabling living people to be public would be difficult. It would add a lot of complications to our systems and make it harder for us to protect the privacy of living people. See http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Living_People for why.

WikiTree took on a big burden, years ago, in the decision to enable living people to be included in the tree, unlike on other free and open tree sites. I can't even begin to tell you how much easier it would have been to leave living people out. Many things we do are two or three times more difficult, and changes need to be done significantly more carefully, than if we only hosted public information.

I don't regret this decision. I think that connecting living people is essential to making genealogy meaningful. We're not just growing an historical database, we're connecting ourselves to it.

I also don't regret the decision to keep the organization behind WikiTree very small, so that the tree can always be free.

However, these two decisions significantly limit what we can do. We have to focus and make changes carefully.
@ Chris,   I am going back to list the actual wives, but with over 50 profiles needing this citation for the US Presidents Project....I just added this phrase to help for now.
Jamie's suggestion of an opt-in checkbox if technically possible sounds like a great idea (and it sounds like it might have made the to-do list). Wouldn't that be the simplest solution? No need to change policy or add a privacy level. But if I misunderstood & that's not feasible,...

Maybe instead of plugging holes, work toward a change of policy in a year (the holes have existed this long, why not another year?).  Implement language about the policy change now so that people know when they enter spouses going forward that this time next year those spouses will be visible in xxx (sorry - I still don't quite understand when they are/when they aren't). Could a bot send a private message notifying PMs of all existing profiles with spouses that are currently not shown that they will be once the policy changes? That would give folks a year to figure out what changes they want to make, if any.

I also like the idea of a template for spouses. That might be helpful too for historically famous people with lots of spouses (and not-so-famous: people usually remarried by necessity when a spouse died pre-1700/pre-1500).

Would something like this work: www.wikitree.com/wiki/Template:Noland-165_Sandbox [update: I had no response about the template, so it's no longer in my sandbox.]

If it would, and it's ok to create, I could make it Template:Spouse


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