Research Help for Ruth Rodman - Bad Merge, No Sources

+2 votes
Last year I created the profile for Ruth Rodman. She is VERY extended family and my source was a book on the genealogy of the Rodman family. Not a great source, but a starting place for the profile.

I haven't had a lot of time to dedicate to real sources for this family this far removed from my direct ancestors and like most of us and had hoped to find others that are directly related to contact me about picking up where I left off.

In the meantime, a couple of folks have updated the profile without providing actual sources. Then at the beginning of last month, a merge (in the wrong direction) was completed with another profile with no proof of the two profiles representing the same person and no contact with me what-so-ever.

The merge left the profile in bad shape and the involved parties did not clean it up, so I later went in and cleaned it up and added a comment about needing actual sources to prove the relationships added to this profile from the merge.

Then a couple of days ago, one of the parties that made the bad merge put a comment in the profile that I am having a hard time assuming best intentions about.

I have very little time to spend on genealogy even though it's my favorite hobby, so I treasure the time I do spend and honestly, this kind of thing is highly discouraging to me. It's been bothering me since the comment was added and I keep going back and forth between messaging the individual and sending them links to WikiTree's pages on communication, editing profiles and providing sources and just editing the profile again and adding notes, again, to make it clear that sources need to prove the relationships or more drastically, to remove myself from the profile and let the folks continue on their story (vs. sourcing) with no resposibility on me for the profile's condition.

I did spend a little time in Ancestry and Family Search yesterday to see if I could dig up some real sources either way, to be able to update the profile with sources and prove/disprove the disperate information and I couldn't find anything definitive. What is pervasive is the story that the profile editors are using, but those stories have no sources either.

So, I'm asking for help. Maybe a mentor for the editors? Maybe someone else can find a marriage certificate between the profile person and the spouse that shows maiden name and parents?

I love that WikiTree is so collaborative, but sadly not everyone has the best intentions nor the desire to prove their stories with facts.
WikiTree profile: Ruth Whitney
asked in Genealogy Help by Allison Mackler G2G6 Mach 3 (34.3k points)
edited by Allison Mackler
In a case like this, a Wikitree project may be able to help, primarily by providing project-protection to prevent bad merges. But the main need on that profile is for more research -- and documentation of the information within the profile text.

I agree Ellen!

When we only have circumstantial evidence, we have to be careful making assumptions about relationships and we should never stand firm in one assumption or another, we have to be open minded to all possibilities.

In addition, circumstantial evidence should never be used as the basis of a merge of two profiles. In these cases, it's best to create a merge proposal, document in comments why the proposer believes the two persons to be the same and continue to research until sufficient proof is available.

This requires communication between profile owners as well as communication from anyone finding the potential duplicates.

Premature merges cause errors in the WikiTree database that cannot be undone, so we never want to jump to conclusions, especially just based on someone's name.

In addition, when there is conflicting stories, cited, in this particular issue, from a book and DAR records, both of which are unproven, it is bad etiquette to delete someone's research and the citations. Even if those citations end up being incorrect, they are still relevant to the person in the profile and are useful for clearing up confusion in the future. WikiTree has an Honor Code and a number of guides around communication, editing profiles you don't manage and merging to encourage collaboration for a reason.

This is the downside to Wikis in general, as crowd-sourcing information can cause issues from minor issues, which can always be undone by restoring the profile, or irreparable damage to the database that can not be fixed, such as merging in the wrong direction (ignoring the warnings the merge tool gives you) and merging two profiles that are unproven to be the same person. 

1 Answer

+1 vote
I understand your concern...I am feeling the same way about the Find a Grave errors in the profiles I manage. I uploaded a GEDCOM when I first joined WikiTree some of my "sources" were family trees and like you say about the book you used  "a starting place for the profile". So now in some cases I have FAG as a source and ancestry trees as another source not agreeing...ah what to do. Here is my theory, it is a work in progress... add your comments to the biography and accept the possible validity of the editor. When you have time look for more solid sources to back up your suggestions. Really there are very few profiles that are totally complete...or should be considered complete, Genealogy is very much like criminal law...a person is charged with a crime... now prove or disprove it...with genealogy though "a reasonable doubt" should just be recorded for further research.
answered by Brett Rutherford G2G6 Pilot (119k points)
We do have to have a starting point, always, and some profiles it's easier to find legitimate sources right away. This one, we have to start with a story, unproven, and seek proof, where ever that leads us.

I have no problems with assumptions vs. facts. I do however have an issue with using assumptions as definitive proof of anything. Such as used in the last comment on this profile. No one should ever use someone's middle name as "proof" of a relationship. Not only is this invalid, but the language of the comment is disheartening and frustrating!

My "source," the book of Rodman genealogy is no better than the DAR source used by the editor. Both are unproven with no sources to back them up and neither should be considered definitive.

I guess like any Wiki the expectation is collaboration, and with this profile, I just do not know what the way forward is and would like help with the research and educating the editors on communication, etiquette, merging and sourcing.
well said
My comment was neither in bad taste nor was it mean spirited. I wanted furture researchers to "think" and not just follow along with the program, this makes "good" reseach. You are correct, neither the Rodman nor the Whitney accounts give "proof" and most likely "proof" is lost in history, I repeat,  you will have to come up with a family for our Ruth Rodman and a William Whiting to convince me. Also, it needs to be pointed out that given hand written records in the day, you surely can see where the name Whiting and Whitney could be mistaken easily.

I see you have signed the Honor Code ( The number one rule of the Honor Code is that we collaborate. In addition, the Honor Code asks of us that we care about accuracy, that we are courteous and that we cite sources.

Here is a great guide on Communication Before Editing:
Here is a great G2G post on this:

I assume that your intentions were to remove what you felt was a duplicate profile, however, there was and still is not, proof that the two Ruths that were merged are the same person.

Here is a guide on Merging:

When merging it is very important to make sure that the merge is in the correct direction and the merge tool warns if the merge is in the wrong direction. The reason the direction matters has to do with database integrity. When merges are in the wrong direction, it causes a problem with broken links and circular references.

Here is a guide on Redirects:
Here is a good explanation of problems with redirects in the guide on Project Protecting and Merging:

We are all encouraged to make the global family tree as accurate and as readable as possible and the only way to do that is by working together, which requires communication and collaboration. The Honor Code is there to help remind us that we should never discount another genealogists work, we should never delete their work, and that we should work together at all times.

My frustration with the recent changes on this profile are that:
1. A merge was performed between two profiles without proof that they were duplicates. There was clearly not enough information to support the merge.
2. A merge was performed in the wrong direction.
3. A merge was performed without any discussion or communication, especially considering #1
4. The editing of the profile after the merge left the profile in an invalid state, in particular, the <references/> tag was deleted from the Sources section
5. After I cleaned up the profile, readded the married last name provided in the book referenced that is available for anyone to read, readded the <references/> tag, fixed the new citiation to be a proper reference and included notes on the need for more research, the profile was edited again to remove my work with a comment in the profile: "I would suggest to future researchers of the subject Ruth Rodman that you check out her child John Rodman Whitney and his son John Rodman Whitney before you choose which genealogy to follow. Question should be do you have a Whiting carrying the Rodman name?" This comment is not useful, it makes assumptions without providing proof, and was worded in such as way as to squash my attempt to keep both lines of research open.

All of these changes are not in keeping with the Honor Code!

Just to be clear, I never stated in my request to get both you and the other editor some mentoring help, that your comment was in bad taste or mean spirited. I only stated that the recent changes were very frustrating and I was 'having a hard time assuming best intentions.

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