Did you see that all profiles of people who were born 150 years ago or who died 100 years ago must now be Open?

+101 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

We've been discussing changing our privacy rules for a long time.

We've now made a decision and are starting the process of implementing an important change.

The new rule: Profiles of people who were born over 150 years ago or who died over 100 years ago must be Open.

As of today, that applies to profiles of people born before 14 April 1867 or who died before 14 April 1917.

Until now the rule was that profiles of people born over 200 years ago must be Open. We aren't changing any other privacy rules. See https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Privacy

Here are some notes on how we will be implementing the change.

Right now help pages and explanations are being updated, and we're changing profiles' Privacy pages and the bulk Privacy Changes tool so that they can't be used to change the privacy level of a 150+ profile to anything but Open. (The tools won't require changing any profile's privacy level. This is just to prevent changing them from Open to something else.)

Next we will update the code that sets the default privacy level for new profiles.

Soon we will make it so that any time a 150/100+ profile is edited it will be changed to Open if it isn't already. The member will see an alert stating this.

A little later we will change all existing 150/100+ profiles that are currently Public to Open. This won't require special communication with Profile Managers because it's a policy change, not a privacy change. No information that is currently private will become public.

The hardest part will be addressing existing 150/100+ profiles that are currently Private. We will wait before addressing these so that Profile Managers have plenty of time to do it themselves.

The team can't just Open these profiles because there's a chance that there is something private in a biography, memory, or photo. This might seem unlikely, but it's not. For example, a 75+ year old living person could easily appear as a child in a photo of a great-grandparent who was 75+ at the time, and not want this photo public.

If there's a chance that private information would be exposed by making a profile Open, the team will attempt to work with the Profile Manager to delete it before the privacy level is changed. In some cases, we'll end up having to completely delete photos and profiles, despite the damage that deletion does and the risk of losing somebody's valuable family history.

If you have any questions about the implementation, please ask them here.

If you don't like the new rule, you're welcome to post your concerns. However, please read the previous discussions first. It's likely that others had similar concerns and that they were discussed and considered. We have not made this decision lightly or quickly, and we don't expect to be reopening it any time soon. No rule will perfectly fit all situations or please everyone. 

Onward and upward,


in The Tree House by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
that is good for many reason, I could go on and on, but it is not needed. but I do want to say this, one area where wiki is start to catch up with other sites.
I was no that concerned about his until someone with an ancestry account went in and edited everyone in my tree changing my years of research on original census records (available thru Gov of Canada data collections) with the terribly erroneous transcripts at Ancestry and changed the url links to inaccessible ancestry data.  Not only that but they changed the biographies I had taken time to write adding their own comments about religion etc.  I am so upset I will be removing all of my records from wikitree and finding a more suitable location where collaboration comes with respect.
I understand how you feel. It is very frustrating when that happens, especially when it is a "data doctor" that knows nothing about that person.  I have stopped doing at length biographies for that reason and only attach url links to free websites. What I have found so helpful even with the minimum of information I am entering, is the contacts I have received. I was then able to then collaborate with them through personal e-mail. I have received invaluable information and copies of pictures and documents I might otherwise not have had access to.

Something to think about

someone with an ancestry account went in and edited everyone in my tree changing my years of research on original census records (available thru Gov of Canada data collections) with the terribly erroneous transcripts at Ancestry and changed the url links to inaccessible ancestry data.  Not only that but they changed the biographies I had taken time to write adding their own comments about religion etc.  I am so upset I will be removing all of my records from wikitree and finding a more suitable location where collaboration comes with resp.ect.


If you have a problem with another member, you can request a Mentor (something I would advise).

If someone has made bad changes to profiles, you can change it back.  Please don't "pack up and leave" because of one or two people.  First see if things can be worked out.  The majority of Wikitreers are "good folks".

Opening up profiles may be ''wonderful news'' to those who like to play with profiles created by others, but it is not such good news for those of us who create and manage many profiles. Since so many of the profiles that i have created and manage have been opened, instead of leaving information or links in the Comments section, people take it upon themselves to rewrite or reformat the biography, which i always take time to write properly, to change correct information to incorrect information, and to add ''sources'' and links at various places in the profile where they donot belong. As a result i spend much time montoring the profiles, correcting them, trying to place the newly added information (if useful) in the proper place, and in extreme cases undoing the whole set of changes by going back to how the profile looked before the changes. Sometimes i just keep the formatting changes out of tiredness, but errors and misplaced comments and sources i always adjust. Cleaning up needless messes is time wasted. Before totally rewriting or reformatting an already correctly-written biography permission should be asked of the manager. New information should be placed in the comment section, unless the person doing it actually knows how to format sources and where to place them!

G Dalton, I took a hard look at your ancestry profiles to see what had happened, and I really believe you have overreacted.  Whereas you said someone "edited everyone in my tree", almost all of the profiles you manage have never been touched by anyone but you.  I found a few with small corrections (fixing refs and missing headings), but it was awhile before I found any damage.  What troubles me though is the damaged ones were damaged by you, intentionally, not at all consistent with the Honor Code.  Profiles that you manage you are responsible for, to protect from damage.  You have been changing names to single letters, removing your photos, removing or replacing relationships, and in at least one case deleting the bio.

I found the one record that had Ancestry info added, but while there are Ancestry derived sources, there are no Ancestry links.  His links worked and were very readable versions of yours.  You replaced them with your pictures of the Canadian originals, which is fine, both would be better though as his are much more readable.  But more importantly, he did NOT replace your sources, as that record had NO sources before he added some.  Check the Change list for yourself to see.  And as to comments about religion, this record appeared to have the only religion-related terms - he had added extracted info from a source including the comment about the family being "all Catholic Irish Canadians" hardly a comment about religion.  Two of the sources mention they are from both Ancestry and the Mormon Church (its long name which includes the words Jesus Christ) but that's the name of an organization not a comment about religion.

The few changes I saw by others all looked very helpful, very collaborative, nothing at all wrong.  Please stop damaging profiles.  As you know, they are not yours, they belong to all of us, especially the other descendants of those profiles.


The highlighted names are not profiles of mine.  I have been very busy updating profiles mainly those related to the Mayflower.  I have updated some of the original profiles that I did, which were done before I understood how to properly set up a profile.  I just learned how to delete a photo and only removed one from a profile.

I admit in some cases of the Nickerson's where within the same generation there may be four of five men named George so I have opted to add the middle so it reads i.e. George Whitman Nickerson to prevent confusion.  I am not putting up one Initial names.  I am working hard to make my profiles read with more clarity and have as many sources as I can locate.

I apologize for causing such an up roar...I am simply trying to perfect my genealogy skills.


Thanks for the pat on the back! That individual was not my mentor.. I have a wonderful mentor.  I have only been doing this for three years and it takes at least that long to begin to figure out what you are really doing!

I would never pack it up and leave!  My skin it very thick...and I can take a lot!  It is nice to meet you Paul.

Taylor, you have nothing to apologize for, as I was responding to someone else, someone who was deliberately damaging profiles (listed above).  I can't find what you may have posted here, so I don't know why you thought I was reprimanding you - I certainly wasn't!  I'm really sorry if you were upset by this.

I'm sure you're doing a great job, and like me, learning every day how to do it better!  We all have to start somewhere, then later we go back and improve our first efforts.

Sometimes I struggle with trying to change the profile to open.  I know how to do it, but sometimes it just doesn't seem to want to take the change.


13 Answers

+33 votes
I don't think this will affect any profile I'm the manager of, and I'm not even sure if it will affect an profile I'm interested in having open, but I like the change and the protections being put in place to make sure nobody's privacy is being violated.  I hope this won't be a game changer for any of our currently active genealogists.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (423k points)
I set Alexander Milton Ross to "open". The rest of my green locks are recently deceased.
I had my grandfather's profile set as open and it has automatically been changed to open with no option for any other privacy setting. He died in 1953 clearly not 100 year's. I am very unhappy with what WikiTree has done.  How do I change the privacy level back to public. This is a game changer for me.
First you need to log in. Then, on his profile, click on the privacy tab, arrow down to the green lock, click on the little circle to the left of the lock. Then go down to SAVE and click.
I did that and it is not giving me the option to change the privacy setting.
It's a game changer for me! And I know I am far from alone.
+33 votes

"any time a 150/100+ profile is edited it will be changed to Open if it isn't already. "

This by itself is worth the price of admission. 

Many thanks for both the change in policy and this software tweak. 

by Tom Bredehoft G2G6 Pilot (203k points)
+26 votes
This is wonderful news! Thank you so much!
by J Kline G2G6 Mach 3 (38.2k points)
+24 votes
I just opened a bunch of profiles that were green on my watchlist that fit this criteria.  Hopefully it will be helpful to someone.  I will be looking specifically for more Merritt profiles to be opened.
by Kristin Merritt G2G6 Mach 2 (25.3k points)
+14 votes
Could we have a database error that show's us which of our profiles are green locked or higher but meet this criteria so that is easier to work out which ones need to be reviewed?
by Paula Dea G2G6 Mach 8 (86.4k points)
You can sort your watchlist by privacy level. That's any efficient way to see what you are looking for.

Click on the lock icon on the upper right to sort the list by privacy. It will show Open profiles on top. Then a little arrow (actually, it's just a triangle) will appear next to the lock icon. Click on that to put the most private profiles on top.
Error is already prepared and will be published next week after CAT. There is cca 25K private profiles, that need to be opened and 640K public profiles to open. Public will not be an error, since we will probably open them in a batch.
+8 votes
I am very disappointed with the decision to Open profiles before 1868. I have many early profiles I have worked very had on and wrote long biographies for. I am hoping that they will not be edited in any careless manner. I am hoping no one will try to merge Ancestry dot com gedcoms with them. I would rather be contacted by anyone who wants to edit my detailed biographies so we can collaborate. I have no idea if any of them should be Project Protected even tho i am involved in many projects and name studies. And what good are their trusted lists now?
by Living Troy G2G6 Pilot (167k points)
Sharon, if you monitor your 'Family Activity Feed' you will be able to see if anyone has made a change to any of the biographies for people on your watchlist, and will be able to contact anyone else who has worked on them so you can discuss what should or shouldn't be in their biography.
Kay, Just in the last 2 days I have encountered several changes made to Open profiles where the other member removed things that are recommended by the Style Guide. There are a lot of new members who want to jump in and do things quickly and have not taken the time to learn how things are done here so this change will be making a lot of extra work for all of us. Yes there are a lot of members who do good work, but removing headers and other recommended biography items takes no research but earns the same contribution points ans a well researched source does.

>> but earns the same contribution points and a well researched source does.

contribution points just tell that you saved often ;-) it says nothing about genealogy. 

2000 unsourced important profiles is 2000 point ==> higher number maybe is more less research done per point...

Today I travelled +1200 km so that I could together with Bildtse-2 during 4 hours locate the house of Ericsson_Bildt-1 at Kvistofta nr4 ==> 1 contribution point

Above the picture we had of the house that was found at location 
55.958583, 12.832209



Dale you started to speak about contribution points when the subject was about protecting the quality of profiles..... 

With your logic if Wikitree stop measuring number of edits that would make the overall quality better because people chasing high contribution numbers will get less motivated to edit and maybe those people do less good edits....

The said thing is that maybe you have a point.... 

My point has always been if you would like to get quality inside WIkiTree start measure quality and instead of number of saves...


I too am very disappointed in this decision. My experience in the past with the open profiles that i manage has not been positive. Many carelessly add and delete information, without understanding how WikiTree editing is done. The result: a once orderly, accurate profile is turned into a mangled, defective, unreadable profile. Dates of birth and death are somehow switched, names deleted, truncated or meaningless sources are added - and in the wrong place! Also, some persons do not like biographies, and go about deleting them in open profiles, preferring a list of dates instead. So this newest change to WikiTree is not welcome to me. It will make it very hard - if not impossible - to follow and correct the mutiliations done to the profiles that we manage. To spare myself this grief, I am considering no longer creating profiles of persons who died over 100 years ago. :(
I agree with quality instead of the number of saves. I have had problem with a contributor copying an entire "genealogy book" into my line without checking for sources.  What a mess!

>> I agree with quality instead of the number of saves.

See quality-scale suggestion and Space:Quality_Scale

+20 votes
Thanks for making this change. What is the proposal for the large number of undated profiles which are locked by non responsive managers that would fall into this category?
by Fiona McMichael G2G6 Pilot (202k points)
On an individual profile I would expect that we'll be able to do an Open Profile Request in the same way that we previously could with undated profiles of people born 200 years ago.

I don't think you could write a bulk script that would open *all* of them, but I wonder if there's a way to do something like "open all public ancestors of people born in 1878 and earlier even if they're undated, because those people were almost certainly born before 1868".
That is a problem! The "unresponsive manager" process works, but it's slow and cumbersome, completed one profile at a time. Sounds like those will be handled in due course by the various phases of implementation. I see this as a move to help with that problem.

From what I've seen, many of the problem profiles you describe came in via GEDCOM, which set the privacy level by default. Many of those profiles are not even looked at again after being uploaded, much less cleaned up. One of their shared traits is that when there's a middle name, it's entered with the given name, and generates up an error message. I wouldn't be surprised if some/many of those GEDCOM uploaders didn't stick around long enough to learn about what privacy levels are, how to set them.

I applaud this change, which will reduce the size of this problem.
+5 votes

I don't understand this statement:

"A little later we will change all existing 150/100+ profiles that are currently Public to Open. This won't require special communication with Profile Managers because it's a policy change, not a privacy change. No information that is currently private will become public."

How can an open profile still be private?

by Emma MacBeath G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
All Public (Green) profiles have all of their information available to be viewed by any visitor. There is nothing viewable on a Public profile that is hidden from an Open profile.

The only difference is that one must be the profile manager or on the trusted list in order to edit a Public profile.

"No information that is currently private will become public" 

 because I know there is no private information on a public profile.  It may have just been the way it was worded that threw me.

+11 votes
by Eunice Pender G2G6 (8.6k points)
+7 votes
Is there a way to protect the change log covering the timespan before the profile was opened? Otherwise not only can anyone still see what was on it before, but the edited-out sensitive parts will be easy to find, neatly collected just before the profile was opened.
by Dirk Laurie G2G6 Mach 3 (37.7k points)
Yes. That's why I always prefer the following editing references "who, what, where, when, why [how]" in the basic body of the bio. It is not feasible to always use the changes tab. Not all changes are also shown by the changes tab (such as disconnection of children).
It's not just the changes tab. You can click on "edited the biography" and see exactly what was there before.
+7 votes

For the most part the new policy is OK. However, public records are not always accurate and well-meaning people can change correct and accurate data to the inaccurate public records. To protect the data which applies to many profiles put it in a free-space page and then reference it on the profiles where applicable.

I've started making public free-space pages which refer to many profiles and using it as a source in those profiles. It protects my work and interested people can be added to the trusted list. Another plus is that details that apply to many profiles are listed only once in WikiTree and "teaser" portions with links to free-space page are posted on individual profiles. Here's an example: Frank (Gren) Grant. (Linked to free space page)  Family of Adam Gren Come to USA

by Pat Credit G2G6 Pilot (174k points)
edited by Pat Credit
That's a good idea!


Includes the Free spage page in the profiles


If you just would like include different parts then you can use 

  • <includeonly> text </includeonly>
    • text will just be shown on pages that includes this Free space page 
  • <noinclude> text </noinclude>
    • text will just be seen when you access the page directly


creates a link 


I normally add at the bottom of a Free space page an URL to see who use the page inside the tag <noinclude>

e.g. Special:Whatlinkshere/Space:Family_of_Adam_Gren_Come_to_USA 


I normally add: Special:Whatlinkshere...  to most of my free-space pages ... just missed that one!

I'll have to give your other suggestion some thought!

The bad thing with this include stuff is it makes writing a page more difficult the good thing its excellent for genealogy

Most things in genealogy are shared stuff and should be written once and used many

  • Documenting a house
    • applies to all people in the house
  • Documenting how emigration between Sweden and Australia in 1880
    • applies to all people doing this emigration
  • Documenting a village
    • applies to all people in the villiage
  • Documenting a grave 
    • applies to all people in the grave
  • Documenting a thing like the Starvation in Sweden 1866
    • applies to most 1 million Swedish people emigrating 
  • Good sources about a regemente 
    • applies to all people part of that regemente
You can link but its easier for the reader to have everything on one page. And a Wiki is an excellent tool to do this... 
Also, the transclusion option is not supported or recommended. Just so you know. :-)

@Julie Transclusions for genealogy: I read that it's super easy to use for changes and got inspired ;-) see G2G 

The main reason I find transclusion useful, though, is that it's super easy to make a change in one place and have it automatically propagate to the pages using it.

I couldn't agree more, but since it's not recommended, I no longer use it. ;-)
Julie, Thanks for the heads up. I won't have to spend any time trying to learn a new trick!

Julie if I look in your family tree I see that "recommendations from conservatives" has not stopped your family like emigrating to North America so follow your family traditions and do what is best for doing good genealogy ;-)

"alarming both conservative Swedes: who saw emigration as a challenge to national solidarity, and liberals, who feared the disappearance of the labor force necessary for economic development. " 

+23 votes
I have a couple of observations and a suggestion:

This decision took over a month of input on multiple threads.it did not come out of nowhere and many people expressed opinions on both sides.  I think the staff looked at all of the opinions and tried to do something that benefits the majority of the users.   

WikiTree is based on the concept of collaboration  When you lock a profile just to protect it the way you want it that stops collaboration and is not what the privacy levels were meant to be used for.  That was made clear in several postings from Chris and other members of his staff.

 If you have a specific profile with sensitive data why not contact the staff and ask for some kind of special protection for that profile.  There are some protections in place now for project protected profiles and for pre-1700 and pre-1500 profiles.  

We are talking about basically 50 years of change here not the world.  It makes sense to follow the wishes of the majority which in all of the prior threads and this one were solidly in favor of making a change.  The issues with inappropriately locked profiles go back years in the G2G threads.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (789k points)
+8 votes

I have found many wonderful people with whom to collaborate on Wikitree and even the one that got heated resolved itself with time. I am happy to see this change, as I've had some ancestors whose profiles were just GEDcoms dropped and left with no other sources; I wanted to add to them but was prevented because they were locked far after the required years. Sending a request to the PMs got no response whatsoever, even posting onto the actual profile didn't help. I started a folder just for the correspondence I've sent to PMs so I could follow up. 

The main thing to help those who are in a dither about this change is to look at your watchlist. The feed is sent once a week, but that doesn't preclude you from looking at it every day if you're so concerned.

Re. appropriate sources: I was told by one member that "Ancestry" and "My Heritage" were perfectly acceptable sources even if they weren't primary sources. WHAT???? I have also discovered that there are many bad entries on Familysearch that make their way here. Yesterday, I had to correct an entire generation (on FS) that was skipped because the name of father and son were the same. That is not how I'd choose to spend my genealogy time! However, that is the reason I often use Ancestry information, spelled out, and with the appropriate links. If, for instance it's a particular census where the name is spelled differently, even if you put that in, you will not find it on FS. There are also some "sketchy" sources on Ancestry -something I didn't  know until I started working here and someone told me. 

Bottom line is, I am grateful for the change and here's an Idea: If you are terribly concerned like Albertus or some of the others who commented above, Put a LARGE bold notice before the biography -maybe make it an official category? That  states PLEASE contact the profile manager before adding or making any changes to this profile.

It's not that difficult, and I am very grateful that I've found new family members, and become close to some whose names were all I knew previously. Not to mention the wonderful things I've learned from others and the friendliness I've had communicating and collaborating with them. I am grateful for Wikitree, and I thank all of you who make this a great place to create and collaborate.

by Lisa Linn G2G6 Mach 8 (87.4k points)

Nice post, Lisa, I agree with all of it, and I especially like your Idea.

I've run across quite a few collections of sources, and I've found they ALL have good info, and they ALL have bad info, so you have to check and try to verify everything.  You can't say a source is from A so it's good, or it's from B so it's bad.  You can find good info in the worst places sometimes, although you will always want corroborating info for it.  Sometimes questionable info is all you have (comment accordingly), you use it until you find better.

About allowing others to modify your precious work - it's a public wiki and this debate has been going on since the beginning of wikis.  Almost always, there are multiple people monitoring for bad changes, and it almost always works out in the end for the best.  You do have to be able to relinquish control, and let your children go free into the world, hoping the essential quality of your work will be preserved, even if a mixed crowd tries to 'improve' it.  And sometimes we have to recognize it's just our ego involved, thinking nobody could improve what we did.  Almost always, the best result comes from multiple talents and sources, working together.

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