This may be a dumb question, but why do we trust Wikipedia so much?

+10 votes
It has occurred to me lately that there seems to be a high level of trust in the information there when it is all user input and I have always been taught that it is a good place to start but to verify all the things as it can be really wrong - is this no longer the case?  I mean I am old and so things change when I am busy elsewhere so maybe the reliability has improved a lot - anyone else have issues with that?
in The Tree House by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Pilot (172k points)
I trust wikipedia about as much as I trust IGI, or Nosorigins, they are good places to begin research to get HINTS, that's about it, they still need to be fully researched to find actual records that confirm infos are correct.  but if its all one can find to start with listing as a "researcher notes- temp source" is what i will do, if having trouble finding actual records. at least this lets others know some of the places that have been looked at

6 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer
Personally, I wouldn't trust it further than I can throw it.  Go to the source or reference section on any Wiki page and see what's been used.  Then check the same page in at least one or two other languages.  You'll be surprised to find that in many cases, what's true on a wiki page in English, can be completely different (in terms of genealogical notes, significant variations!) on the same page for the same person in a different language.  Treat such pages with *extreme* suspicion.  If they correspond well between languages, then there may be some veracity to it, but I would still never cite it, preferring to look up the cited sources instead, and then unravelling until I can get as close to the original sources or research as possible.
by Matt Engdahl G2G6 Mach 1 (15.0k points)
selected by Navarro Mariott
+11 votes
This is just me, but I only trust Wikipedia when there are ample sources to support the facts. Since anyone can edit there (as here), it's always best to double-check. I completely agree with you (but maybe I'm just old, too! lol!)
by E Childs G2G6 Pilot (135k points)
OK good it is not just me!  Thanks so much - maybe I thought I was losing my mind - had gone back to college and we did some research papers and it was a no no there so it just struck me as odd that it seems to be ok here
+11 votes
Wikipedia is so much better than it was but you have to look at it carefully. It's a handy starting point or holding position when you're doing something else but I hate it when my work is compared to it. If I don't know when someone was born I put about and know I'll go back and look at it again. Wikipedia gives a date. Suggestion. What's worse a data doctor could change it and then no one will have looked for a source.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (346k points)
+10 votes
I don't trust all the data here but so much is actually well documented. For my own family, I don't fully trust others work and will check the sources. For any genealogy site, the old Russian proverb that Ronald Regan made well known in English applies -- "trust but verify."  At least with WT you can usually verify but if you can't, you can update the data unlike on Ancestry and other sites.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (557k points)
+9 votes
I think the school rule that my kids lived with in the 90s and 2000s about not being allowed to use Wikipedia as a source was, in part, based on (now out-of-date) skepticism about its reliability compared to other sources. No one source is 100% (or maybe even 95%) reliable. Wikipedia is pretty good.

But, to the extent the rule still exists, I think it is also about trying to get students to dig down and use multiple, more direct, sources (eg, use the materials cited in a Wikipedia article). Heck, I remember back in my day, my teachers didn't want me to use Encyclopedia Britannica as a source -- they wanted me to go to the library and research a number of more direct sources. Kind of like the Wikitree preference for primary sources over secondary sources.
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (321k points)
edited by Chase Ashley
+3 votes
I would never count Wikipedia as a source on a profile, but I do add Wikipedia (and Wikidata) to the profiles of notables, under a "See Also:" header below the actual sources.

For categories, like changes in counties, I do use Wikipedia as a source. And when I find that Wikipedia is incorrect, I edit the Wikipedia entry to correct it.
by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (714k points)
I tried to edit stuff a couple times but it would not take because my memory was the source and I did not publish the story about the events
I also tried to correct Wikipedia on a star in a movie but it wouldn't let me.

I admit that editing Wikipedia is more challenging than working in WikiTree. I even had a guy undo one of my edits (without checking the facts) because he thought it looked like I was vandalising that entry. But I persisted, and so my fingerprints are all over certain entries. (Probably the one that I have edited the most is the one on Fort Erie.)

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