Unproven ancestors

+8 votes

I expanded my tree the other day and I was shocked at the amount of ancestors wrongfully connected pre-1500. When I look at the incorrect profiles, fathers and mothers noted as disputed but still linked as ancestors in the tree. This is extremely troubling because people looking for quick family links will assume the work done on the sight is gospel and could assume relations to the wrong people.  If this sight has any hopes of offering fact not fiction these connections need to be cut from the tree. Any disputes could be listed and detailed in the biography for researchers looking to accurate expand the line. Due to the plagues, church burnings, civil war, and not keeping records of surfs in pre-1500 England... 70% of the connections are proposed and unable to be proven.

I had to take the research on my tree and make manual entries in Ancestry.com to construct a true representation of my line. I have written to many leaders and have not heard back.  Unless the proper attention is paid, to connecting proven mothers and fathers pre-1500, this website is defeating its own mission statement. I am a British historian and very happy to help in any way. I have written to leaders of this category and not received word but I feel this is a larger issue for the whole if the intention is to build an accurate tree when DNA is absent.

Thank you for hearing me out.

Here is an example and i do not have enough time on the website to qualify for the badge to correct.  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Paston-18 [[paston-18]]

in WikiTree Help by Lissa Debrees G2G2 (2.6k points)
edited by Ellen Smith
Just a thought, pre 1500 biographies each represent 1 millionth (more or less) of our ancestry. While it's nice to  say "I'm descended from Charlemain" [no disrespect intended, just an example] the percentage of genetic material from that source is truely miniscule and cannot have any influence in our lives.

Myself, I make no attempt to trace my lines back more than a couple of hundred years, maybe  300, although WikiTree does take them farther.
I really think the problem is the whole concept of profile managers. It creates this situation where people feel they have to "protect" profiles, and most of the time they're just "protecting" a bunch of junk. PPP takes that to a whole other level. IMO, both the PPP and the profile manager system should be scrapped. The theory behind it supposes that the managers are going to be people who know what they're doing and are willing to look at new evidence, but let's face facts. It doesn't work.

7 Answers

+2 votes
Best answer
Yes, there is quite a bit of nonsense in pre-1500 profiles, especially those from early GEDCOM imports before Wikitree tightened the rules, and those of us encountering such profiles often have to make quite a lot of corrections. (A few months ago I spent a considerable amount of time correcting family lines for early medieval members of my family, and removing fictitious links to an illegitimate Plantagenet.)

But I think it would be unrealistic to suggest that family links should be included only where there is no dispute or room for doubt. Even for some monarchs and many leading aristocrats there are some question marks about parents and children, but there is still often enough evidence to give a probable set of family links, some certain, some a bit less certain. This is just the nature of the surviving evidence.

The surviving records themselves may be inaccurate. For instance there are fanciful fabricated deeds designed to bolster claims to land. The information in English Inquisitions is frequently based on people's recollections and statements at the time, which may not always be accurate or honest.

I think all genealogists and historians who do work on the medieval period accept the limitations of the evidence, and the consequent uncertainties. All we can do is seek to achieve the best we can with what is available, and be open to revising genealogies if new evidence comes along. The sort of proof one commonly finds for people of the last couple of centuries frequently just does not exist. Even the most authoritative genealogists - like Douglas Richardson - recognise that they may have come to some wrong conclusions and that their work will contain errors (as is explicitly acknowledged in the forewords to Richardson's books).

For post-1500 profiles too, evidence is not always 100% firm. As a simple example, only in the 1970s did a researcher disentangle two fairly prominent 16th-century members of the Nowell family whom almost all the experts had previously thought were one and the same person, but who were in fact contemporaneous cousins. And I have a large set of Ford ancestors who lived in the same part of Staffordshire in the 17th and 18th centuries and had a handful of first names, and for some of them it is hard to be absolutely certain which of them begat whom, and which of them burial records refer to.

The answer to all this is to give as much sourcing as possible; to use research notes etc to mention significant uncertainties; to make use of the Wikitree facility to attach a confidence level to a relationship; and, as I say, to be open to new evidence. Not to insist on a degree of certainty the pursuit of which is a chimera.
by Michael Cayley G2G6 Pilot (154k points)
selected by Kathy Rabenstein
+12 votes
I agree wholeheartedly, but it seems it is against policy for a reason I have not yet determined. Errors, nonsense and genuine misunderstandings can be posted on Wikitree in moments. Removing or changing them even with good sourcing is an uphill battle that can take weeks or even months.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (294k points)
When the true tree is established people will still go back and add the false information back into the tree.
I really don't see that happening much. People say that they have to have this whole system of protection because of it, but I've only had it happen to me once, and it wasn't too hard to deal with. If I compare the difficulties created by the protection system to the difficulties created by low quality edits to good profiles, it's not even close. Part of the problem, and don't take this the wrong way, is that a lot of people are very overconfident in the quality of their profiles, and they interpret any changes as being destructive, even if they're solid and well sourced. People just copy something off of some website, and they're like "OK, this is done, nobody mess with it".
+21 votes

Michele, early in WikiTree history, folks could upload Gedcoms with impunity, so there is a lot of garbage out there.

However, unless WT requires every profile to go through committee, it’s never going to be foolproof. People are human, and not everyone who signs the Honor Statement is going to necessarily adhere to it. There are many serious genealogist in our community, just as there are some who are just starting out. While I’ve been doing genealogy for many years, I am often amazed by the quality of research others present here. I am also appalled at some of the more poorly done research.  It that doesn’t make me want to drop out. I do merge requests and add sources to profiles among other things that I can do to help make things right.

So we do our best. I note that sometimes when I post a query about a medieval profile or group of related profiles, folks who have the know-how to fix things are often required to stop their own research to get the necessary sourcing and create better profiles and connections. 

I have many British lines, all pre-Revolutionary War, but I am more interested in the post war profiles I have. I have some 40,000+ people in my personal database, and these are the ones I focus on. 

I know it’s frustrating for you and many others to find errors in profiles and connections without proof. We just have to do the hard work to make the necessary changes with the ideal before us. That’s why we need you and people like you to make WikiTree he best it can be.

by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.5m points)
+9 votes
A member who does not yet have pre-1500 authorization can still make valuable contributions toward improving these profiles -- and alerting website visitors to errors in old unsourced Gedcom content -- by documenting your information in the message boxes on the profile pages. Include your sources.
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Mostly such entries just get ignored.
+6 votes
Data Doctors are instructed to add {{Unsourced}} to profiles such as this one whenever they come across one. Seeing that big black box on a profile is as good as breaking the connection to the tree, insofar as with it the profile has no credibility, while at the same time offering it a chance to be redeemed by a "sourcerer." Please add the template to any profile you happen across that has no primary or secondary sources. Ancestry family trees and the like can be placed below the <references /> header under '''See Also:'''

We ARE trying, but we need everyone's help.
by Stephanie Ward G2G6 Pilot (102k points)
+2 votes
Until Wikitree engages real medievalists and professional genealogists to clean up those pre-1500 profiles, nothing will improve. Wikitree is a JOKE on the soc.genealogy.medieval group. It's embarrassing to be associated with Wikitree when the subject of the pre-1500 profiles comes up (or the umpteen unsourced "Indian maidens/Cherokee princesses" on here).
by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (254k points)
LOL soc.genealogy.medieval
+5 votes
Joke or not, this site is trying to do the right thing, while trying to remain accessible to many levels of understanding and knowledge.  I find it admirable, even when it's frustrating.  We'll get better at ==Disputed== sections.  With the help of educated people, we'll eventually get what can be sourced correctly sourced correctly.  

Guess I'm a kind of Sancho Panza - I like him, I really like him  (even though he's nuts, tilting at windmills).
by Robin Anderson G2G6 Mach 4 (40.7k points)

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