What do we do about all the unsourced profiles on Wikitree?

+73 votes

In November 2014 we had more than 3500 unsourced profiles.  

Today we have +210 000 marked unsourced profile 

Part of the increase is due to the automated addition of the unsourced template on new unsourced profiles, but, much of it is also the discovery of older profiles that are unsourced.  We find these profiles during Merges, corrections of errors from DB_errrors project and as a part of the focused Pre-1500 and Pre-1700 projects.

The quality of the data on Wikitree is directly related to this "lack of sources".    If we look at the total number of profiles created, however, we are looking at about 2% of the profiles are unsourced.  Doesn't sound like a lot, but the growth is the concern.  

Any thoughts on how to "improve" our ability to assure that new profiles added have sources?

asked in Policy and Style by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (471k points)
retagged by Dorothy Barry

>> We need to require more sourcing

I think WikiTree needs to start speaking more about what is good genealogy... and how many sources should a good profile have.... see example below were we after just some hours easily got +30 sources.... I guess when this profile has excellent quality we will have 10-15 more sources and not just church books as we have today...

Today we makes a difference between nosource and one source and this one and only source could be to a unsourced Ancestry tree...

I did a small test with a newly added Swedish profile Elg-19#Sources that was created based on "unsourced" information from Ancestry

Elg-19#Sources now has +30 church book sources confirming her life and that just after 1 days research...

I think WikiTree need to differentiate profiles regarding quality and we dont need more profiles we need better researched profiles....

Question: Why not measure number of well research profiles and give inspiration to other people to do better research....

Amen, Magnus. And hoo has tee hee, funny cartoon!
And, the original question was asked 9 months ago....
Good luck trying to get a lot of sources for many a Canadian, especially if they were born after 1921.
Try that in Slovenia. For Slovenia I consider personal tree on GENI a good source. But it is different here in Slovenia, since we don't move a lot, so on one graveyard you can get 80% of family tree. Also family ties here are stronger than in US. I am seeing my cousins a few times a year, And next generation cousins (common Great-Grandparents) every few years and I know all of them.

@Aleš @Melissa
If you asked Cochoit-2 how easy it is to find Swedish sources I think he would have say that he was satisfied with finding one or two sources or a Ancestry Tree.... a week ago....

Now he has done the first stumbling steps looking in the Swedish church books and start to understand the structure see Space:Wetterskog_Dalarna_Sweden_Research_page and how easy it is. 

This I feel is the really advantage with WikiTree when starting working with local people and attracting people who would like working with a profile and learn more instead of always jump to the next profile after 3 sources....... 

Cochoit-2 is related to Catharina Elg-19 she is the fourth great grandmother of Joe

1. Joe is the son of [private mother] [unknown confidence] 
  2. [Private] is the daughter of Alcia Marjorie (Hanson) Eaton [unknown confidence] 
    3. Alcia is the daughter of Walter Edwin Hanson [unknown confidence] 
      4. Walter is the son of Anna Lovisa Wetterskog [unknown confidence] 
        5. Anna is the daughter of Maria Charlotta Jonsdotter [unknown confidence] 
          6. Maria is the daughter of Catharina Elg [unknown confidence] 
This makes Catharina the fourth great grandmother of Joe.

Eva has done even more cool research and connected him with her  
Eva and Joe are 10th cousins and ICW Larsson-2878 year 1616 in Moren, Västanfors, Västmanland, Sweden and using sources before the first church books was available....


@Robin  And we are still discussing it with no real solution in sight.
Wow.  I had no idea!  Maybe it should have a block on it like it does an inaccurate birth or death date that will not allow a save without a source?  In the olden days it would automatically add "personal information as remembered by .."  That by itself would embarrass me into finding a better source.  Maybe if the profile could not be saved without a source that would help?

@Jennifer I guess attract people doing good genealogy is the only way  forward and perhaps start measure quality to encourage people create profiles other people read an upvote...... 

Not everyone with a family tree will do good genealogy I think is something we have learned.... after being WikiTree Ranger for some weeks you realize people are people and do magic things and less magic plus WIkiTree is too difficult to use and produce something that is good looking and interesting to read for many people.......

I have found quite a few unsourced items when I am browsing wikitree on my tablet. I am in the middle of organizing profiles for a one name study into locations and while it would be nice to be able to find a source for them all, it just is harder to do on a tablet than on the computer. I will mark them as unsourced though so that I or another researcher can try to find something later on when I have access to the computer again.

37 Answers

+74 votes
Best answer

When I first started as a mentor, we used to inform our guests about the honor code and adding sources in our messages. A while back we were asked not to mention it in our introduction greeters message. However I personally feel that does a disservice to the new member because they sometimes get offended but mostly surprised when project leaders post a reminder to add sources.  And now with the errors reports and "data doctors", without sources its hard to correct errors that are coming about. 

I would recommend strongly if I could to Leaders that somehow we go back to giving a stronger introduction that gives more instruction as to what is required (in maybe our confirmation message) and that this isn't enough just to add the names of our relatives or ancestors but to give factual information in the form of a source to all profiles, and especially to the Pre-1700 and Pre-1500 profiles. 

A suggestion could be maybe a warning like they now give, when you don't add a birth date or gender indication, so a person can go back and find a source before adding that particular profile. Or maybe a limit to how many unsourced profiles they add before the warning is given or a block prehaps, to add that profile. Sorta like now, when we try to make database errors report corrections, say adding a gender to a profile that has been id'ed by the database and ....oh no, we can't make that correction until we find out if the mother is old enough or father wasn't born etc. It kinda stops you in your tracks and gives you an opportunity to go back and get a source.  

answered by Dorothy Barry G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
selected by Dale Byers
Eugene, not sure how you have come to equate quality control with exclusivity.  What drew you to WikiTree ?  I'm sure at least some part of your answer must be the commitment to including sources (primary whenever possible).  

The frustration with the impatience you feel other members have towards unsourced profiles - why is that worse than the frustration other members feel towards your impatience to add as many unsourced profiles as possible, rather than  take your time and add only as you have them sourced?  What's the rush?
Shea thanks very much
I personally am not an enthusiast for a warning on entering a new profile without sources or a limit on how many profiles you can enter without sources. Simply because I find it far easier to enter the essential facts first and then, as part of the process, add sources for those facts and extra information (sourced) in the bio section.

I have found this a far more efficient means of entering profiles than a gedcom import as the software does weird things with the sources in my gedcoms and I then have to go through each one to correct them (still many of those to do from before I learnt my lesson - on my ever lengthening to-do list).

As an idea, could there be a monthly (?) automated e-mail to each profile manager saying something like:

"You currently have NNN unsourced profiles that you manage. It would be really helpful to other users if you could add sources to these people"

I'm sure that some wordsmith better than me could craft appropriate wording equivalent to please extract your digit.
Derrick, if every person who added a profile, either thru a gedcom upload or by hand did that, then we wouldn't have this issue new.  Myself, whe nI add a profile, I add birth and death data, save, then edit to add my sources,

I've seen first hand on two extremely different sites where people don't want to get to understand how the site works and insists on using bulk listing methods, then when things are fubared can't fix that many and quit.

In that past couple of days, I have been going thru the Orphan File and either tagging as unsourced or sourcing the profiles. If tagging I try to look at other associated profiles to get an idea of location and adding a {{Unsourced|location}}

I would suggest that profiles not become published until they are sourced with VERIFIABLE open sources and not "ancestry.com"

My challenge to everyone on this thread... We can continue wondering  about this issue or we can get busy and do a service to the unsourced profiles.  In other words, FISH OR CUT BAIT!

And if you do go to the the Orphans file, start on page 3 as I have already gone thru pages 1 and 2.
Lynette, sorry to have to show my ignorance, but how do you find the "Orphans file"?

"I would suggest that profiles not become published until they are sourced with VERIFIABLE open sources and not "ancestry.com" "

I love and totally support this suggestion!  I think it may be the best solution suggested as it provides a remedy to the problem, yet doesn't involve deletion.


Derrick, On your toolbar .... FIND > Orphan Profiles  It will show your last name then you can look at other profiles or ... http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Special:Adoptions, I'm on page 3 now. I have gone thru pages 1 and 2  and well into page 3.

I would suggest not just tagging as {{unsourced}} But also adding Unsourced|Location}} ie {{Unsourced|Arkansas}} Some don't have anything thing to indicate a location until you get to a child. By adding a location, it help those working on the States projects or other Special Projects works.  And if you add a source, add a Location Category to the top of the profile. ie: [[Category:Quebec, Canada]] or [[Category:Dutch Creek Township, Yell County, Arkansas]] or [[Category:Clinton County, New York]]  [[Category:Poland]]   AND please try to correct misidentified profiles. I found one who had a WW1 draft source that didn't match the person in the profile, Same name, different state, different wife, different age.

Derrick, I do want to apologize. This thread has gotten too big to read properly. I get notices of a reply, and try to read and end up reading something months old. But think you for replying.

They must have had a problem loading the picture at first. Almost anything can do that. # 3 has the picture that should have been 2,.

Another angle can show a different view and avoid the dup. warning. That is a great picture. Name your other pictures so the name is different even with the same subject, but make the picture a little different too. Computers scan the image for a match and the slightest difference will tell it that it is not the same.

Example: You have two names say John Jones and the other is John J Jones. You can see the difference. Try John Jones and Jon Jones are not as easy to spot, especially in a sentence. Images are like that.

The newspaper has a kids section of picking like and difference in pictures. Play them sometime. The picture you got the duplicate on may have been just the same interference that messed up the first one and not you.

Hope that helps. Jon
What picture Jon, this post was about sourcing, no picture.... (reference Jon Czarowitz about a picture).
If I came to wikitree less than a year ago,,,brand new,,,,just jumped in full of enthusiasm and not much else re skills with the computer or knowledge of sourcing,,,,

,so when I realized how unsourced my profiles were,,,I left wikitree and went looking for sourced material that I could bring back here for the profiles I posted.   I tried to delete them,,,,

,anyway,,,so now I've found sources( for most not all),,,,next stop is to figure out how to transfer them,,,,,

it would actually be good for my 69 yr old brain to write it all down and then bring it back to wikitree,,,,but I won't be making any new profiles here until I've got a bit more expertise under my belt
+24 votes
Robin, Thank you for bringing this up again.  The actual number of profiles that have no sources is higher than the number you listed. There are hundreds on my watchlist alone that were uploaded in 2011 that I am working on. I think that the real problem is that most who start on WikiTree do not understand how important sources are and want to upload all of their work as fast as possible.  I do try and recommend that others do not upload GEDCOM files but short of banning them and having every entry checked by another more experienced WikiTree member, both bad ideas in my book, I do not see any way around this problem other than increasing the awareness of the Sourcers Project.
answered by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Also further to that topic, when I joined or more recently continued my work, I was advised on two seperate occasions not to go by the Gedcom way because files would be flooded. Once this is done or as one told me he is still catching up with all the biographies. So he strongly advised not to follow that path and just put them in individually.
What about teaching members and especially newbies how to source their profiles. What are the best and effective places to research for sources.There be a path to online books or titles to follow offline. A website that is helpful in this regard. I was one of these people earlier on. Then, I was helped a couple of times, secondly a website that is wonderful for me.Thanks to Robin Lee.

@Peter Curtis

There is a Category:Research_Assistance

+22 votes
As you say, it's just 2% of all profiles, so I expect that's extremely high compared to other genealogy sites.  Let's say we have about 20 thousand active Wikitreers.  We'd just need to each source 10 profiles to totally wipe out the marked unsourved profiles.  I just showed 5 out of some 750 people on my watch list and 4 of them were from the 1700s, so they may be hard to source (at least with real sources).  Perhaps we could have a special day for catching up with marked unsourced profiles.
answered by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (368k points)
I suspect people do not list partners , children or sources sometimes because they do not want their profile merged with matches.
+25 votes
Dear Robin,

   I try to work through USA profiles to add sources by reviewing a few states each month.   One thing that would help me is a list of NEW profiles that need sources.  The ones I have already examined and been unable to source take time away from sourcing the new ones.

  There must be a way to make a report of profiles added in the previous month that are lacking sources.  I think it would help.  -NGP
answered by Nanette Pezzutti G2G6 Mach 4 (47.5k points)
As we dont add sources using templates you can't see if a profile has sources or not....
Couldn't a search be done on   {{Unsourced  ?  That is how profiles are marked when they are known to be missing sources.  Is the unsourced marking done by hand?
Nanette, There is an Unsourced category that you could check but that will not help much. The problem is that there are more profiles that do not have any sources and do not have the category template on them than there are that have that template. Also some do have sources and have not been removed from the category yet. On my watchlist alone there are over 500 profiles that have been unsourced and untouched since 2011 at least and have never had the category template added. I do not add it because I would rather spend my time looking for sources and keep them off the list even though it would be faster to just add them to the category. I just feel that it is smarter to do the better, if slower, finding and add the sources.
Dale - maybe there is a better way for me to use my Watchlist?  Am I seeing all new profiles added in my lines?   I know my family is small, but I can only think of one or two new profiles I have seen added.   Do you have a suggestion for me there?
Nanette, Your watchlist will only show you profiles that you are on the trusted list for. As an example if I was working on a profile on your watchlist it would show on your Family Activity Feed but if I was to add a profile connected to a profile on your watchlist you would not see it unless I added you to the trusted list.
+30 votes
I am a relative newbie to WikiTree, but I've been actively working on the sourcerers project for the last few months.  I would estimate for every "unsourced" profile I work on, I find 3-4 that don't have that designation, but are indeed, unsourced.  So many of the profiles don't get caught because they have simple sources like Ancestry trees, gedcom uploads (which by their very nature strip sourcing), and my favorite "this person either witnessed these events or plans to enter sources later" -- which is almost always more than 2 years before.  I would really like a way to search for profiles that are unsourced besides just the ones that are marked as unsourced.  There are some standard wordings that wikitree uses -- could we search for a particular phrase?  Maybe this is already possible and I just don't know how to do it.

And like Dale -- I don't like the gedcom uploads but I understand that many people would never work on WikiTree if they had to create each person over (which is what I'm doing for my family).  Is it possible that all new gedcom uploads can be categorized when uploaded so we can find these and start clean-up & sourcing?
answered by Kathy Zipperer G2G6 Pilot (221k points)
Thanks for all the sourcing you've been doing Kathleen! You're catching up to me for the month of August :D
Thank you, Jayme.  I wouldn't think I'd be catching anyone, but I appreciate your comment.
Re: searching for a particular phrase, I have a lot of luck doing site-specific Google searches, since most of WikiTree is indexed on Google anyway.  For example:

"plans to add sources later" site:wikitree.com

brings up a lot of open profiles with that phrase, and you can use any of the other typical GEDCOM upload phrases.

Thing is - I'm not sure if you've come across this in your Sourcering adventures, but I know many of us have had profile managers get annoyed if we jump in and start doing cleanup before they have a chance to do it themselves.  So maybe it shouldn't be "new" GEDCOM uploads, that we categorise for sourcing, but ones that have been sitting around for awhile?  Just thinking aloud here.  :)
Thanks Vicky!  I had thought about Google searching for the phrases after I added my comment.

I haven't come across new gedcom uploads that I've sourced and angered people.  Thanks for the heads up.  There have been a couple of new profiles I've run into and didn't do anything because they'd just happened that week -- mostly in the names I'm following.  I'll definitely make a note to only source those gedcoms that have been gathering dust.
When I joined WikiTree, I saw it as an opportunity to check the research I had done, and have entered each profile individually, checking the sources involved. I  don't add anything that does not have a real source, and I don't think there should be a problem in reminding new arrivals that sources are important, and that should include gedcom profiles.
I know that Gedcom causes problems, but being 78 years old and having been researching for 30 years, I see no outlet. I want my work saved, although some is undersourced at best. I also work with a lady now in her 89's who has the same or more years of research.

Our problem is our years are limited to get the material on Wikitree or on line somewhere. Much of what we have is on paper. Yes it may have come from a cousin who was a direct member of the family listed, but no one else is closer to them.

The accepted sources has changed. We have to accept this. If the family hand-me-downs are now accepted them you may never know some of the data not in public listing. Finding a record of these things is not possible. As one person has stated it is still in the "closet". Things "that are not talked about in public" are not recorded in normal listings.

We cannot in out lifetime remaining get all we have onto computer in the "accepted method of today" especially when the method changes as days go by.

For us Gedcom is the best method to get it on line so good sourcing can follow. We both expect to wind up in a nursing home with no computer or on line access soon. We are now cleaning out what we have before some good natured friend or family member destroys the data.

We both have good sources to enter, but with present day Gedcom they don't get on the profiles. Even our worst source is better than the machine sourcing that is stuck on Gedcoms when they come in.

Marking all unsourced profiles as Unsourced is not going to stop as long as we ask our members to include all family members living or dead.

I have a big family, 5 children, 15 grandchildren and at last count 17 Great Grandchildren living save 1. This increases your Unsourced count. If I listed all my known cousins most still living and Aunts and Uncles, living, you would have a lot more.

There has to be a way to mark these Unsourced profiles as living so the Unsourced marker will not be counted.

@Jon Philmore Czarowitz 

Without knowing anything about your material but stories I feel is most important ==> from the last generations....

Question is what happen in 50 years when people find profile/names without understandable sources will they trust what they see? I guess not.....

@Magnus Salgo, I don't know why not. We rely on lots of first-hand accounts for historical facts: memoirs, letters, diaries, first-hand stories written and published. We would lose much of our understanding of history if we only accepted church records, censi (censuses), and government birth and death records. I know especially here in the States where so much of our history is written by and about pioneers who did not keep governmental records, we would have little if no knowledge of family history. Genealogy is not just facts and figures, but recollections of what life was like for those who came before us. For example, why do we rely on William Bradford's account of the Plymouth Colony? According to your standards, it should be discarded.
+30 votes
Most unsourced profiles I run across don't have the template.

I think we should require every gedcom imported person to have a source. I don't understand why there is a double standard with manually created profiles and gedcom created ones. If they don't have a source, they should be skipped.

Requiring the source field to be filled out when manually creating profiles would also help. Maybe using data validation to make sure that the source isn't something nonspecific and unhelpful like "family records", "ancestry", or "familysearch" would be good too.
answered by Jamie Nelson G2G6 Pilot (191k points)
Yes, the profiles that have the Unsourced template are only the tip of the iceberg.
Alsi, my personal frustration is the notation that the "source" is the personal knowledge of the PM who wrote it...even if this person is living four centuries apart, perhaps. but clairvoyance isn't one of my skills! I can't attest personally for a bio from 1500.
Dorothy, "personal knowledge" is an artifact of a previous era. A number of us fought to get that changed but there are still a gazillion profiles from before the change was made.
+27 votes
Number of unsourced profiles - all indications are that the large majority of profiles are unsourced.  So presumably more than 10 million.


Number of users - said to be more than 300,000.  But Eowyn was still doing the monthly badges manually, last I heard.  Less than 2,000 a month.

100 isn't that low a bar.  There will be a bigger number who make fewer contributions.  Let's say 20,000 total who are contributing.

That means the vast majority have gone away and aren't coming back.


How many gedcom-importers are really up for the amount of work involved in cleaning up and sourcing their gedcoms?  How many will make a start and get bored and drift away?  It's not as much fun as growing your tree.


You can't make people do more than they want to do.
answered by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (433k points)
Curious, so the BEST Answer is do nothing?
I was surprised by this also.  No chipping away at the problem, no suggestions?
So where does WikiTree want to be in 5 years' time, is it realistically achievable, and if so how?

Bottom line - is this a genealogy site or a cousin-bait site?

We have mountains of junk that is worthless genealogically but was acquired for cousin-bait reasons.  Not to mention the all-important advertising click-throughs.  WikiTree wants to be top of the Google results when people search for names  Too often it isn't.  Geni is much bigger.  Is WikiTree growing fast enough?

But actual genealogy is a slow grind.  Most of it hasn't been done yet.  If you want to collect good genealogy, the way to add value quickly is to extract it systematically from good secondary sources.  This is far more productive than trying to google up sources for existing semi-fictitious profiles.

What usually happens in that case is that the primary sources aren't accessible, the secondary sources are conflicting or of doubtful reliability or impossible to assess, and the profile ends up "sourced" but still semi-fictitious because nobody will remove anything they can't actually disprove.
I think you make some good points, RJ.  Part of determining the solution to this problem also lies in determining what our goals are here, and there does seem to be a choice between attracting as many people as possible vs maintaining an certain level of content quality.
If you were interested in quality, you wouldn't start by importing all the junk on the internet, creating a massive backlog that is totally beyond any possibility of clearing.

WikiTree is quality-bankrupt.  If it's interested in quality now, it needs to go into Chapter 11 to do a lot of writing off and restructuring.
RJ, I have to wonder why you are even here with your low opinion of WikiTree.
Well I kind of thought that a site like WikiTree needed to be all things to all people.

None of the other major user-contrib sites has any discernible interest in quality.  But they're up at the top of the league tables.

The quality sites are much lower down the popularity list.  But they don't have wage bills and development costs and they aren't advertising-funded.  Often they're funded out of one person's pocket.

Which market is WikiTree in?  If you want to be Genealogics, you don't set out to be Geni.

There's a market (almost entirely Ame***an but I'm not supposed to say so) which soaks up everything on the user-contrib sites.

In this market, quality can be positively harmful.  Disconnect the bogus parents, people will simply do more "research" and "discover" those parents on another site.

Disconnect too many bogus parents, people will simply stop bothering to come to your site.  The perceived better site is the one that's got more stuff to collect.

This is why we have Uncertain flags.

There's another (much smaller) market which avoids user-contrib sites like the plague.  And WikiTree is on their plague list, and has no plans which might change that.

At least on RootsWeb the good stuff is separated.  You cite Jim Weber, not just RootsWeb.  But there's no way of saying "I got this from the good bit of WikiTree".
RJ , I have found that the Cousin Bait aspect has helped me more than hurt because on more than one occasion I have been contacted by someone who had information that broke down a brick wall. The major quality problem was the very large GEDCOM uploads in 2010 thru  2012 or 2013 when this site was very new. Things have changed since then and there are a good number of us that are trying to fix the older profiles so that we don't throw out the good information with the bad. I do however think that your comments that people from only a few locations are capable of doing good genealogy, those are offensive and could be even racist, comments like that have no place on a site like this.
Yes there's good info mixed in with the bad.  But if you don't know which is which, it might as well all be bad.  You can't take anything from the fact that we've got it - you can only find out it's good by finding it somewhere else.  Maybe it did come from somebody's family bible - but without the bible, nobody will ever know, so what's the use?

Not all unsourced profiles are useless.  Sometimes there's good reason to think you'll find the person, as described, in the obvious place.

But in so many other cases it's obvious that they're just floaters in the internet swamp.  People created by mistake have gone into endless circulation but will never connect with reality.  Nor will they ever go away, if everybody hangs on to them on the off-chance of a source turning up.
On the other thing, I think it's more of a comment on the education system.  Too many term papers too young.
+22 votes
I personally stick my hand up as one of the guilty one's for having unsourced profiles. Yes I have every intention of correcting this, I however don't have the time presently to get on top if it
answered by Richard Shelley G2G6 Pilot (108k points)
edited by Richard Shelley
Proud of you for your honesty

I think you're probably one of many. I have plenty, myself, because of profiles I've adopted but haven't had time to source yet.

It's an ongoing process. ;-)
I'm right there with you, Richard. I've been interested in genealogy for a long time, and had lots of information, most of it acquired from generous people researching the same families back when Rootsweb wasn't assimilated by Ancestry *hawk*spit*. I was eager to get my GEDCOM information, much of it unsourced, onto Wikitree, and have only recently had the time to do much serious work with it. So I've been slogging through, profile by profile, with little practical formatting or programming knowledge and doing the best I can.  I'm learning all the while, but I'm sure I'm still making plenty of mistakes.

Which brings up the question, for an armchair genealogist such as myself, what *is* proper sourcing? I've been wallowing the hell out of Familysearch.org and Find A Grave and using them, if for no other reason than they corroborate or correct what I already had. I'm beyond excited when I hit an actual scan of a census form or a death certificate,  even though I know that handwritten ones are only as good as the individual that wrote it.  Hey, we work with what we have. I can't afford the time or money to go out and hit every courthouse in every county that my ancestors lived in, and some more recent family members are harder to source than those who lived 100 years ago, because more contemporary census, birth, and death certificates aren't as easy to come by as the old handwritten ones that have been uploaded.

So I look at it this way, I'm contributing what I can. Maybe I don't have the serious skills that someone else with more 'real' genealogical experience might have, but I'm trying. I do this because I love to know what kind of people were part of my family, I love the stories and I want to know the truth.
A source is just where you got your information from. It could be as simple as a link to a Rootsweb page.

Primary sources are preferred (things like scans of death certificates, marriage licenses, etc.), but any source is better than no source.

This page might help a little:

Thank you, Jamie! I've been operating under the assumption that any source is better than none, and I have a few instances of 'personal recollection' mostly by my dad, because his memory is the only source I have to tell me that my grandfather had a previous wife that he caught with someone else and advised them to be gone when he got back and he didn't want to see either of them again, or that my granny had a previous marriage to a mean man that resulted in a gunfight in which her father was killed (That one I have since found primary source material!). So I'll continue as  I have been and hope I keep learning as I go.

BTW, the link is a 404 Not Found.
I think the important thing to remember is that sources are important to make sure we're all talking about the same person -- I just helped a guest who thought he had found his 5th gr. grandfather here and was upset that the dates, parents and siblings were wrong.

I did a little research and discovered that there were two men with the same name born in the same year in the same state. So easy to confuse them!!

The family stories and legends are what make the profiles so interesting, though!! Love them! :-)
I have 'adopted' just one profile on WiKiTree and have spent much time and energy trying to locate anything that can be considered a 'source'. This person is indeed a distant cousin of mine, Acadian, who left Canada and lived in Louisiana. I have sources and confirmation (DNA) that her sister is one of my Great Grandmothers who married, raised a family and died in Canada. I even checked the Canadian Archives to see if my distant cousin had moved back to Canada; that possibility does not look probable, at least not yet. A brick wall for sure. Recently, I have found Probate documents filed by her son or grandson; but, this probate/will was filed at least 50 years after her death. I am not ruling out the possibility that these documents relate to my ancestor and hope to find more time soon to finalize my research. It is not easy to be sure to find sources/documents; but they are readily available in Country/state archives. Takes a good deal of digging and confirming. Good luck with fixing the 'unsourced' pages everyone.
I have realized early in my genealogical research here and on other sites that our ancestors were named for a few generations with the same name as their father/mother, grandparents, etc. The most tedious part of genealogy and sourcing, for me is this fact! and has occurred repeatedely in my Canadian/Acadian/French research!!
+37 votes
Wikitree is open to all, which is great, but it means we have the whole range of experience with genealogy, from beginners to very experienced, and some of those beginners might not even know what we mean by adding sources.

Maybe instead of automatically confirming guests, they have the ability to create 5 (or 10) profiles as a guest and they are only confirmed once those profiles reach a basic Wikitree standard?

We would of course have to spell out exactly what those minimum standards are, with lots of help in the way of instructions, videos etc ( which probably exist already), as well as access to mentors (or a Wikitree buddy) if they want.

I presume the system could do this? And it would be more work for some of our more experienced Wikitree members, but it could be a great benefit in the end.
answered by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (321k points)

I like this idea.  It's very much like Wikipedia's advice to practice and edit before creating new content.


I like the idea I would say

  1. Quality is much more important than Quantity
  2. Better 10 well researched profiles than 1000 unsourced
To get a feeling of WikiTree quality on the Notables profiles I did a report to easy compare 
  • WikiTree
  • Wikipedia 
  • FindAGrave
  • Genealogics
see G2G: Is Sourcing = Quality. Benchmark on Notables: WikiTree FindAGrave Genealogics
+19 votes
Been taking a break myself, but I have been working on sourcing for a while, even before I knew about the sourcerers project.  I tackled a lot of orphan profiles created by one man who has left Wikitree (for cause).  He used the same main source I do, so it's easy for me to source them.  But I am still finding them every once in a while.  Whole families sometimes, other times just a loose couple (yeah, he created tons of those, looks like a name project of his).  

So maybe the tech guys could rig a link between orphan profiles and unsourced tags?  Or between profile creators who are no longer active and unsourced tags?  I know in the changes page one can always go back to who created a profile, so the data is there somewhere.  Part of the problem on sourcing is finding the ones that don't have any sources.  I probably have a few left of my own, although I have tried to go back and add sources to everything I uploaded.  And yes, I did use gedcoms.

I do agree with Dorothy that people who come on should be made aware of this requirement.  Family records are an acceptable source so far, like a family bible with names and dates listed etc.  But people are encouraged to upload a copy of such.  And for more recent profiles, sometimes the only available data is oral family tradition, records are mostly locked away after a certain era due to privacy laws.
answered by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (187k points)
+29 votes
When you create a profile, the sources box is just a big white box (and not really that big, come to think of it).  Could we maybe put some text there like some sites, software, and apps do, along the lines of "Please add at least one source.  Example: UK birth registration Kingsbridge 5b 496, March quarter 1848."  This would be in grey text, which vanishes as soon as you type.  (Like FamilySearch do.)  Then make the "Create Profile" button  unavailable grey until something is entered.  Think of banking apps: until you have entered your password (or whatever), the login button won't do anything.
answered by Ros Haywood G2G6 Pilot (518k points)
edited by Ros Haywood
Great minds think a like.   I really was trying to figure out a way to "entice" people to leave "something" as a bread crumb for their trail of knowledge.

Though I will say, to Dorothy's point, most of the new folks who create a bunch of unsourced profiles, just did not understand what we were looking for.....maybe the balance of being "open to everyone" and "having credibility" is where we need to focus.
That's why I suggested the vanishing grey text example.  Because we may be saying to a new person "Please add a source", and they are thinking "huh? what's a source?".  This way they will have an idea of what we are looking for.
Wonderful suggestion!
+16 votes
I wonder if maybe the Sourcerers need to be given more focus.  Don't shoot the messenger - these are just thoughts.  There are Arborists with a Project, and Rangers, with a group, and Greeters, and Mentors - but Sourcerers just seems to be a clever name for people joining in a Challenge (dare I say 'game').  Yes, the Unsourced page seems to layer out into many geographical pages.  But current Sourcerers just focus on a Challenge - not on a Project.

Maybe (just thinking here) if people had to prove themselves like attaining the requirements for an Arborist, they would garner more of a focus, and belonging would be something to aim for.  There is no sense of camaraderie.  Anybody can join in the Sourcerers Challenge.  How would you feel about an Arborists Challenge, or a Greeters Challenge?  Answer: there would be no such thing - and why? Because Arborist and Greeter is more of a title with a specific job than a game.

*runs and ducks for cover*
answered by Ros Haywood G2G6 Pilot (518k points)
Had the sourcerers challenge not been open, I would never have joined.  I'm pretty new to WikiTree and it's been a great way for me to learn so much.  If I'd had to qualify for the other groups you mentioned, I wouldn't have been able to get off the ground floor.  Granted, I understood sourcing before coming to WikiTree, but I've learned a lot more about creating biographies with the data I find in the sources.  I've contacted profile managers (when there is one) to question dates, etc.  I've learned how to post, answer, and comment on questions.

There have been a couple of new people each month helping with the challenge.  Yes, it is set up like a game -- but most people that do it are committed to making WikiTree better.  Sometimes you just need to add a couple of sources to a profile and then the manager gets inspired.  If I do 100 profiles and inspire one person, then I've done my job well and contributed to the community.

As for focus:  I have been working through "unsourced profiles" by US state, on states that I have familiarity with names, places because of my own genealogical research. Several others have taken on a certain surname, or locality.  I think our focus as a group is WikiTree improvement.

I appreciate your comment and I'm sure there is room for improvement but I would hate to keep out a newbie if they felt they were up to the challenge.
Ros, I beg to differ.  lots of us target specific geographical areas.  Take a look at the sourcerers' challenge entries for a few months, and you'll see very many target specific areas of the world.  I know I do.  

Greeter is not something that lends itself well to this sort of challenge anyways.  Arborists have to do a lot of searching to find possible matches, so there again, doesn't lend itself well to this.  For sourcerers, the job is actually so massive that finding them when you are searching is really not that difficult.
Duck, Ros. I consider my role as a sourcerer an important commitment, not just a game. We've been discussing how many thousands??? of unsourced profiles there are and how we need to work to knock that back. I try to make sure I tackle some every month, as do many of us, so don't throw your stone OUR way! And btw, I concentrate on my family surnames.
I also do what Rick Pierpont recommends in his answer below: When I find a good source, I go through and add it to each family profile it pertains to, knocking out a bunch of unsourced profiles as I go.
+24 votes

There are a lot of great sources that can be added to WikiTree. Why not, instead of adding sources to your profiles, pick a favorite source (published book or periodical) and then look for matching WikiTree profiles from within that source. You can easily find 100s of profiles that all use the same source. Since you are only working with one source, they can be added with a simple cut-and-paste, making the process easy.

This usually only works on WikiTree profiles that are managed by other people, so you will be limited to adding sources to "Open" profiles.

This is not your typical family genealogical research, but learning about, and reading sources can be fun too. You also may find some very interesting profiles.

answered by Rick Pierpont G2G6 Mach 9 (95.5k points)
Excellent suggestion, Rick. I've done this occasionally, especially with books I've checked out from our local Genealogy Research Cent., but just randomly picking a few names, here and there. Will put more effort into it :)
Actually, I have just adopted this approach for a sub project of the Little One Name Study. I picked a repository that I have access too (FIndMyPast) and trust, as I know and have transcribed some of the underlying primary sources (with a pencil!). then find or create profiles to match the sources.

To keep the task reasonable, only doing one county, post 1500, pre-1700 events.

Perhaps we should try to find ways to link up the various primary source transcription projects, often initiated by local Famaily History Societies. Not sure how though.
This is one of the ways I'm helping WikiTree become better at the same time that I clean up the gedcom mess I've made. As I touch the sources that go with the profile I'm working on, I also do a search for every other name on that document and see if there are any matches.

My criteria for a potential match between my record and a profile involves not only the name but also dates, locations, family members, and the "FAN club" where available. If it's an orphan profile or the PM has been inactive for more than six months, I add the source myself. If the PM is active or the profile is not open for editing, I leave a message in the comments with the source and the reasons I thought it might fit the profile.

If it's not a match and the profile is orphaned, I may do the gedcom cleaneup, add the unsourced template, try to find a source, etc. It's a bit of a rabbit hole but, hey, what else am I going to do with my time?
Great suggestion Rick. This is, in essence, what the PGM project initially does-- using Anderson's series, we go through and look for wikitree profiles and improve them based on what's in the book. But that's just one starting point for the project.
+19 votes

WikiTree is a "wiki" (isn't it?), and if you look at how other wiki sites - especially the famous Wikipedia - handle content that's light on the citations, it usually goes like this:

  1. Here are our standards.
  2. Anything that doesn't meet those standards gets deleted after X amount of time.

I know the nuclear option isn't ideal, but it may be the only sure way to cut down on the thousands of unsourced profiles (especially the ones that are "locked down" so that others can't edit them).  We can even be extremely generous with the time period: say, two years.  And there can be a review first. 

OR, instead of just axing them outright, public profiles get automatically "opened" and pushed to the Sourcerers project.

answered by Vicky Majewski G2G6 Mach 6 (67.5k points)
WikiTree is a "wiki" (isn't it?), by Vicky Majewski.

I would hate to see them jut deleted, frequently there good profile they just need sources.  Yes I hate to go behind everyone adding sources, But I have found folks I as looking for and glad to see them poster already.

HOWEVER: "the ones that are "locked down" so that others can't edit them"  If the manager hasn't responded to request to open or at least process a trust request, in say 30 days Wiki should, 1)remove that person as the manager of the profiles in question, 2) Open th the appropiate level, 3) Notify the interested party that the profile is now open.   No one owns any profile here on Wiki, and there should be GOOD reasons for locking a profile, which should probably be advertised in the profile.  (Such as: This person continues to have false info placed on his profile, Please notify (manager) if you have additional data to apply. }

I agree WIkiTree need to do a reality check....

A good reason to delete profiles is that the profile is not following the WikiTree Honor Code - all WikiTree profiles should cite sources so that we understand if two profiles are the same... 

From the WikiTree Honor Code

  • We cite sources. Without sources we can't objectively resolve conflicting information.
But they do (or it does).  Say you have an unresponsive PM.  You send a Trusted List request, wait 7 days, post a public comment, wait 7 days, send a Private Message, wait 7 days, then boom! send in an Unresponsive Profile Manager form, and it usually takes up to a couple of weeks while they make sure the person is no longer interested or whatever.  Then they are removed as PM, and the profile is up for adoption.  This works for Open and Public profiles.

That's why I keep a record on my Navigation scratch pad to remind myself when I did this, when I did that, and which profiles it was relevant to.  Then I am able to pounce and adopt.  I'm sure it also helps Paul when he is trying to work out who has done what, where, why, when, etc.
Sorry, I wasn't really clear in my initial message... I do think there should be some sort of grace period before profiles are deleted.  Like, at least a year, or two years.  And there can be a project for getting good profiles sourced, while letting the junk ones expire.

I guess, at the end of the day, it's about being pragmatic.  I'm part of the Sourcerers project myself, but there's only so much we can do to stem the tidal wave of unsourced profiles being added to WikiTree *every single day*.  Contacting profile managers takes time, especially when they haven't been on WikiTree for years and years and can't be bothered logging back in to open something up (or give you access).  If a profile is locked down - for whatever reason; sometimes it's purely for control - so that nobody else can source it, then all the more reason to let it go.  IMHO.  :)
I have another (I think 'good') reason for locking down a profile.  I have several family members who are VERY sensitive about certain information being posted on the Web - and this means information about their parents as well.  We have to remember that there is still quite a stigma in some families about things like, say, birth outside wedlock.  And even in the last century, such things were actually criminal acts and you could be punished for them.  Families, eh?  Wouldn't be without 'em! (Gosh, that's profound LOL)

So I have to be very tactful about what I post.
A completely different topic, but yes, there are good reasons for being tactful. :)
fairly recent people who might have living descendants are recommended to be closed to other editing or even from view.  But some people abuse the function, I have had to get profiles opened up that needed merging, they were closed with the ''living'' category, despite being from the 1600s and 1700s.  With the dates showing, so there is no mistake on this.  Wikitree should have something that bars people from doing this after the fact.
Even with a specific wait period, I don't think deletion is the answer.  I do think the requirement for profiles being open should be less than 200 years, and that would help - we'd be able to get at a lot more of the unsourced profiles.  Also orphaning profiles for inactive members -- we need a better, at least partly-automated, process.
Why would anyone spend time putting hundreds of names on a site that might be deleted before some arbitrary time period? Such restrictions will make it an exclusive site and will drive people away.

@Eugene WikiTree is a Genealogy site and not interested in hundreds of names. Every profile should have sources....

From the WikiTree Honor Code

  • We cite sources. Without sources we can't objectively resolve conflicting information.
Hi Eugene,

The profiles that would be affected by this proposal would be the ones that are marked "Unsourced", and IME these are usually generated by abandoned GEDCOMs or users that try WikiTree for a few weeks and then leave.  Any 'arbitrary deadline' would be at least a year or two, to give those who care a chance to improve that profile.  No exclusivity about who can join the site or add their family tree.

Remember, anything deleted can be re-created.

I do not agree with either the premise that all {{Unsourced}} profiles are from abandoned GEDCOM's or that they should be "opened" and / or forcefully deleted. They exactly have that template in order to get sourced.

I have quite a few in my own direct lines and breaking the lines to the project we have to source first (validate every single 10000+ profile) would be creating havoc. I choose to serve the project of which 80% of my forebears have their roots in, first. It will otherwise not make sense validating my direct family. And this takes time.

Something else - who defines what a valid source is? I have seen profiles sourced with dated secondary sources or incompletely cited sources. Other sourced profiles get edited in a way that is contrary the scholarly method that WikiPedia validates their articles. Making them into fictional - messed up or unreadable.

Please people ... we have to look behind our own garden fences and see the bigger picture.

I agree - sourcing is a huge issue. There has been loads of G2G feeds on the various aspects of this, many solutions offered. In this feed the answers of Dorothy Barry and John Atkinson carries the most weight with me.

I'm anxious that sourcerers and arborists get too involved with especially project and post-project profiles and start meddling and adding to their standards - which is not always adequate to my or our project's standards (is there anyone that can honestly say that they have all their profiles going back say 12 generations fully and correctly sourced?).

I'm starting to have nightmares every night instead of dreaming good dreams about WikiTree ... Who has done what now again in obstructing research with well intentioned but counter-productive initiatives / ideas ....?

Philip... I don't think you understand my suggestion at all.

That's the kindest thing I can say.

No point in continuing this thread, really.  I made my suggestion, take it or leave it. Not going to lose any sleep.  I've got more important issues in my "real" life. *shrug*

See you all 'round the Tree!
Vicky and Doug,

I so totally agree!  It's so frustrating to find unsourced profiles (or sourced only with a lazy "[Surname] Family info") that have remained so for years and locked or with an unresponsive PM.
+12 votes

I don't see the point in sourcing people and events in last 50-70 years. As I enter my profile and my relatives, I or my parents or other relatives really know when they were born or died. Also records for this events are private and you can get them only for close family. I certainly will not bother my cousin to go get this papers and also pay for them, just to put them on wikitree. I believe my word is enough. That is the reason, I have a few unsourced profiles. In Slovenia we have very few historical documents available online, so any source  can be obtained only by person going into archives and listing the documents. I did enter cca 500 persons with almost no sources available except personal knowledge and some other people doing research for part of my family but I have no notes on that except resulting tree on some site. 

So sourcing last century is not really important. Of course if you have them they should be entered. For pre 1900 events, there are no living people, who witnessed the events, so gravestones, church records and other sources are important. 

 According to my statistics, 20th and 21st century makes over 3.000.000 profiles. So we should really deal just with older profiles.

I can scan biographies to validate sourcing in a few ways and make estimation of source quality depending on linked sites. and number of citations, so we would find most of unsourced profiles. But I wouldn't make that as a list that needs to be cleared like for other errors. I would only add those in online requests for errors, so you would see poorly sourced profiles that you created, you are related to,... 

I already checked Biographies for double == Sources == sections and we have 200000 such profiles. This is the result of no bio cleanup after merge.

My guess is that also 100000 profiles will be connected to Wikidata (http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Wikidata) and those profiles already have some valid sources there. Thus making importance of sourcing them less important. At the moment there are 25000 profiles mentioning Wikipedia in the bio. 4000 are already connected to wikidata and 1000 of them also have link to FindAGrave on Wikidata.


answered by Aleš Trtnik G2G6 Pilot (357k points)
edited by Aleš Trtnik
Personal recollection can be a valid source, provided you actually knew/know the person, or you've interviewed someone who knew the person.  I've listed "personal recollection" for my own parents, my aunts and uncles, first cousins, etc.  I've also listed interviews with older relatives as one (of many) sources for my great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, etc.  The main problem is listing "personal recollection" for people who died 200+ years ago.

I think the point in listing sources, no matter what time period, is to keep track of where the information is coming from and who said what.  You may not think it's important right now, but your research may be picked up by someone else after your lifetime; someone who perhaps didn't know the people you did.
But when I will be gone, also people I spoke with, will be gone. So what is the difference between My recollection and my aunt's It can only be of value to me so I know who told me what. Also documents (Birth certificates,..) of current events will become public in xx years and will be easier verified then today.
Surely 'personal knowledge' or 'interviewed by...' doesn't cut it.  After all, WikiTree's (and others') idea of a 'good' source is so that whoever comes after you can go and look at the source for themselves.  How can they go and look at the memories in your head (especially once you have died).  Unless you wrote it down, how can anybody review the interview you did with your grandfather?

I cannot afford to go and buy the vital statistics BMD certificates.  But I can list the reference numbers that someone in the future needs to buy them, such as "Kingsbridge Registration District, Volume 5b Page 53, March quarter 1901".  And to me, that is a 'good' source.
Personal Knowledge is not a "good" source but it is a source because it is where the information came from. It should only be used where you actually have that knowledge, for close family, and even then it would be better if you have some other documentation to back it up but it can be a valid source. It can also give others, after you are gone, a starting place so that they can find better information for sources.

The current big push to link with Wikidata or Wikipedia are of very little use in the long run because for most of us we will never link most of the profiles we create or manage on here to either.

In certain circumstances, such as what we're discussing here - private profiles of living people - yes, I think "personal knowledge of X" should be acceptable.  Because then we start getting into questions of privacy and being obliged to document living people possibly without their consent.

As far as interviews go, presumably if you're citing an interview then you've either recorded it or written it down somewhere, and you should include that information in your citation.  "As remembered by" is a bit more iffy.  Hopefully an interview isn't the only thing you've got, but sometimes that's where you start and you build from there.  All profiles are works-in-progress, right?

(just to clarify, I mean putting "as remembered by" on a profile of a person you actually knew, as opposed to simply linking to an Ancestry tree or so-and-so's GEDCOM...)

And I disagree with the uselessness of citing modern people.  Genealogical research isn't about me - well, not *just* about me :-) - it's also about the people coming after me. Future generations. Personal recollections have their place in the narrative; they turn names in a public record into living, breathing people.  How I would love to know what my great-great-grandparents were really like.  Everyone who knew them is gone now.  So I'd like to make sure those who take up my research (could be my children, grandchildren, or some distant relative I've never thought of) know as much as I can find out.

trying to source living people is not really feasible other than for the profile managers, since their data is pretty much invisible.  That's not the main problem right now, it's all the ancestors long gone with no real sources.  There are tons of those.
I agree, Vicki, that "personal knowledge" can have its place in our research in some circumstances. For example, my grandfather was illegitimate - which in 1887 was a huge, nasty deal for the family. His mother was 16 when she died 2 weeks after his birth. So he was raised by her parents, G. and P., as if he were their younger child - an impression that was further enhanced for the community when they actually did have a son 4 years later. It was all kept very quiet - so much so that when my father provided the information for the official death certificate, he listed G. and P. as granddad's parents. Illegitimacy was still kept a secret in the 1940s. Without the personal knowledge of the real situation that Dad and his brother told us, that fact might have remained hidden to this day.
Sorry Ros, I ain't tossing my Interviews with family members who passed along their stories. Getting some of them was worse then pulling hen's teeth, because family or not, I was an outsider, because I wasn't raised around them.
+12 votes
I too would say it's a GEDCOM issue.  With duplicate and merging also.  I know in the beginning if I found to many conflicting sources I didn't source a profile.  Now I try to state in the bio that there are conflicting thoughts and I add the conflicting sources.  But there are some where prevailing thought has to be used.  I know not documentation , but many ancestors from the late 1500s and early 1600s to where documents don't excite.  Now I add the prevailing thoughts of historians. As the best possible source.
answered by Trudy Roach G2G6 Pilot (169k points)
+15 votes

I must have something wrong, here.  There is NO "Sourcerers Project". Sourcerers are part of the Profile Improvement Project and just have a cute name to go with the monthly challenge. Anybody can join in, there is no quiz like for the pre-1700 and pre-1500.

Maybe there should be a "Sourcerers Project", with a proper set-up of its own, leaders, categories etc.  Since WT is placing such importance on sources (and rightly so), why doesn't it place more importance on having a separate, stand-alone Project that concentrates on sourcing, like Arborists concentrate on merges and so on?

I'll lead it, if you want!


answered by Ros Haywood G2G6 Pilot (518k points)
reshown by Aleš Trtnik
+15 votes
Too many of the profiles without sources are just names that people add to their tree from copying other people's trees on ancestry. At the push of a mouse click you can add hundreds of names and the source would be "ancestry tree." The problem would be less if every profile had to be keyed in directly rather than Gedcom uploads but that would deter those that have adequate sourcing that would carry in as part of the upload.
answered by Walter Steesy G2G6 (9.5k points)
+12 votes
On other projects any page or profile without a source or good source is marked for deletion, because sometime it cost to much credits or time to keep those profiles. On the other hand any fact without a source can not even be marked as 100% true. Sometime with source it is still vague.

From some members of my personal tree I can only say born between or after.
answered by Jeroen MW van Dijk G2G4 (4.6k points)
+15 votes
I like the idea of trying to automatically distinguish sources that are just pointing to someone's tree, possibly on Ancestry.com, or wherever, and those pointing to a real source, which may be a transcript or an image or an index.

The former, another tree, should not count as source. Neither should a 'source' of a Gedcom count.

Could someone with the appropriate computing skills comment whether this is practical? Of course it would immediately increase the number of unsourced profiles, but would give a realistic picture of the task.
answered by Chris Little G2G6 Mach 2 (21.3k points)

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