How to make your country significant on WikiTree

+19 votes

For some time now, I've been pondering the idea of putting up a Free-Space profile with a title like "How to make your country significant on WikiTree", or words to that effect.

One of the questions which comes up frequently on G2G is some variation on "Why isn't there a WikiTree profile for [insert famous or important person's name here]?" The tone of the question often seems to imply that there is some prejudice on WikiTree against that person, and possibly everybody else who came from that country, worked in that occupation, or whatever.

I don't think I've ever actually done it, but I'm always tempted to reply, "Because you haven't made one." 

There's probably some way to reword that statement so it doesn't sound snarky, but I guess I'm not a very nice person, because I've never thought of one. I'm not aiming for snarky. What I'm trying to do is remind people that WikiTree is a collaborative effort. There is no board or committee somewhere deciding, "Well, we're not going to cover those people. We don't want their kind on WikiTree." Right on the home page for WikiTree, it says that what we're trying to do is "to grow an accurate single family tree." As in, one single family tree, for the whole world. So nobody is excluded. Not by country, or skin colour, or religion, or political views, or even whether they like Brussels sprouts.

But, quite aside from the point that "nobody is deliberately being excluded", there's another point that I'm trying to make. That is that this is a volunteer effort. The leaders on WikiTree aren't here to add profiles on request. It is our task, as WikiTree volunteers, to add profiles, source them, add categories, add family members, and eventually connect everybody into one big tree. The task is simply too big for the leadership team (which, when you think about it, is tiny in comparison to the number of WikiTreers) to act as free genealogists, adding profiles by request. (And if you just suddenly got a mental image of a DJ at a radio station getting a phone call asking, "Yes, I'd like to see profiles for Beethoven, Mozart, and John Lennon, please.", then you think like me, which is a really scary thought.)

The problem, when it comes to getting profiles added, is that it's everybody's job, and when something is everybody's job, it becomes nobody's job, because everybody assumes that somebody else is going to do it. 

So my point with the "Because you haven't made one" isn't to pick on anybody, but to say, "You know about this person, you know why they're important, and you care enough to want to see a profile for them on WikiTree, so add one."

Granted, I can see how at least some people think that the profile should be extra-special because it's for an important person, and they may not feel qualified to create an extra-special profile. To that, I have two responses:

  1. Everybody matters. You, me, my father, and your Aunt Gertrude. At least for me, the goal isn't just to have a profile for everybody born since 1 AD (or at least hose who are deceased), but for each profile to be as top-quality as possible, because everybody matters. Now, granted, a lot more people may care about somebody who was famous than about my father, but he was the best father I ever had, and I want the world to know how special he was.
  2. There are people (Data Doctors, Sourcerers, Connectors, members of dozens of Projects, and general dabblers, do-gooders, and dilettantes like me) who would be happy to come along and improve the profile once you start it, but they can't improve a profile that's not there.
in The Tree House by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (434k points)
edited by Greg Slade

Actually, if I were doing a profile for him, I'd spell his name جبران خليل جبران, and then add the English spelling he used on his books in fields like "Preferred Name" and "Current Last Name", and then put the other variations that people have used in the "Other Last Names" field.

But, since I can't read Arabic, I wouldn't even attempt to build a profile for him. Latin scripts, I can handle. Same with Greek. I can even sort of sound out Cyrillic on the basis of Greek. I could even, at a pinch, haul out some old textbooks and have a try at Hebrew. Most other alphabets are (ahem) Greek to me. wink

@ Greg .. not while I'm mired in my Scottish family!  (I only have profiles for four out of the nine children.)

I'm also a tad CDO about such things and would feel it wasn't a "real" profile if it didn't include references regards birth, marriage, death, at the least.  (I was "called out" on such for a notable: because *I* couldn't source the parents I didn't create profiles and hedged around them in the bio (because Wikipedia is often only as good as the last edit).  If I can't find a source, I generally don't do.  It has taken me longer on some family profiles than others because "my Mother's notes" may be good enough for me (I was with her when we researched together, so I know where the info came from), but it's not a source anyone else can access so I've been delving into online BDM sites to verify.)

Most other alphabets are (ahem) Greek to me. wink


Ok, so you'd chicken out on that one, too!  Nice to know I'm not the only one.  :) 

Well, yeah. I have never claimed to know everything about every country. So while I want to encourage Fantasians to make Fantasia as well-represented as possible on WikiTree, and am willing to offer tips on how to do it, I really have to leave that job to people who can read and write Fantasian, and have access to Fantasian sources, like BMD records and census results.

When you first start adding notables from your country, connecting them to one another or to the main tree may seem like a hopeless task, but there are ways to make it easier:

  • There is a site called Ethnicity of Celebs which lists a bunch of celebrities, and then lists the name of their parents, grandparents, and sometimes great-grandparents. It mostly (but not exclusively) covers entertainers, and it doesn't usually include dates or other critical information, but at least the names give you clues when searching for sources. (Some profiles do give pointers to the sites where the names came from, which can be helpful.)
  • If you have a Geni account, you can try searching for a notable, and if they have a Geni profile, you can click on the "How are you related?" button to find a path from that person to you. (Unfortunately, since Geni's tree isn't very rigorously sourced, you may soon find that the path it lists isn't actually valid.)
  • Also pay attention to the Wikipedia entry for that notable, in as many languages as you can access. Quite frequently, the entry in one language will contain information that the entry in another language lacks. You may also find that there is another notable with a Wikipedia entry only a step or two away from the notable you're working on. (It's amazing how much intermarriage there is between notables, children of notables, and grandchildren of notables.)
Perfectly well said! Im proud to say that I have added a huge amount of profiles, pages, categories and contributions for Western Australia. Which was pretty bare when I started on wikitree. I feel good about it too. I complain a little about it but only in the hopes I can find others eager to help out.

We need more people contributing! Im glad you wrote this post. :)
Go Eagles!
Exactly! Great choice, I am not a fan of Dockers lol


(My daughter was WA born.  Only lived there for a few weeks before we moved back to Q.)

I would like to thank everybody who has taken part in this discussion, and let you know that I finally got my act together and put up a draft page called, "How to increase a country's presence on WikiTree."

Please take a look at it and make suggestions. Maybe once it's up to snuff, it can be linked as a sub-page of the Global Community Outreach Project page.

(I also decided to use it as a place to keep track of the progress of the various "Quest for Great-Grandparents" threads.)

4 Answers

+10 votes

"Because you haven't made one." 

You could say, "Perhaps you would consider starting the profile. Then if you think it needs more work, you could then ask the community in G2G to show it some love."

Or, "That would be great if you would create that profile. I'm sure others would help you if you get stuck."

by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (524k points)
+9 votes

Greg, I think you answered your own question. I have just tweaked the ending.

 "You know about this person, you know why they're important, and you care enough to want to see a profile for them on WIkiTree, we would love for you to go ahead and source and create a profile.“

by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+8 votes
While obviously a lot of thought still needs to go into how to strike the right tone - I say go for it. Make a draft, pt it up for review and together with the WikiTree community you'll likely create something helpful.
by Thomas Fuller G2G6 Mach 8 (80.4k points)
+5 votes
Thank you Greg for a great thread!

I'd like to make a suggestion, after reading the comments and thinking about it.  (Melanie, with my apologies, I may use your name at times, not picking on you, rather you are a perfect example of many of us.  You saw a need, someone that ought to have a profile but doesn't, but feel inadequate to do it right, *and* are too busy anyway.  I completely sympathize, have often felt the same, and probably many others have too.  And we all have so much unfinished work that we know we're better qualified to do.)

I suspect that for each missing profile we find, and think should be there, there are probably several other people who have thought the same thing.  So let's use an example, call him 'Famous Jamis', and at various times, Mel, Joe, and Sue discover that shockingly, Famous does not have a profile.  They each feel inadequate and too busy to create a good profile for him.  BUT - Mel knows facts A, B, and C; Joe knows facts A, C, and D; and Sue knows facts A, C, and E.  None of them know enough to do a good profile, and even put together it wouldn't be very good, but we don't want to lose ANY of those facts.  Only Mel had fact B, Joe knew about D, and Sue had E.  Together, it's a better start, and the more facts we have, the more accessible to others, possibly with more 'jumping off' points.  Mel may know about a Wikipedia page, and it's not clear (especially if this is someone from a different country) that others from another country would know about that Wikipedia page.

My suggestion would be to think about this differently, not to think "don't make profiles if we can't do them right", but think "start the profile", and mark it accordingly in the bio as a 'starter', a 'placeholder', an initial effort to get the ball rolling.  Then Mel can add what she has, tick all the 'Uncertain' boxes, mark it 'Unsourced' if appropriate, orphan it, and note in the bio that it's just a starter, for others to complete.  Joe then adds fact D, and Sue then adds fact E.  But Sue sees that Wikipedia link, starts digging in its references, and adds facts F through K.  Wikipedia pages can be good 'jumping off' points for finding further research.  And finally George comes along, knowing a lot about Famous Jamis, and adopts him and makes the profile a good one.

What would really help is for the starting persons to also add all the access points possible, such as categories (country, Notable, etc), stickers, projects, succession boxes, etc - in order to raise its visibility as far and wide as possible, to increase the chances the right person(s) will find and adopt it.
by Rob Jacobson G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
edited by Rob Jacobson

Some good points, Rob, but I'd rather offer what little I know here on G2G and begin the collaboration here first.  That way *I* avoid possible plagiarism, because if all I know is from Wikipedia, that's not good enough in my mind.

IF I have a starting point of an Australian birth date prior to this day 1919 (NSW) and whatever the equivalent is in the other states), or an Australian death date (before whatever the privacy cutoff is), then I can at least try to look it up online.  BUT I cannot do the same in the USA because I am clueless and I don't have access to pay to view (my ONE exception to this has been Scotland's People, because family).  I can do basic online research into post 1836 BDM using freeBMD (UK). 

I tried to find Werner Klemperer the other day.  Didn't.  Didn't find his even more famous father, Otto, either.  Maybe they have profiles here and I'm too inept to find them .. or maybe they don't have profiles here and I'm way too ill-prepared to even begin a profile that would need US AND German research (outside Wikipedia).

Didn't find Joe Flynn, either.  (Would need to know how to research Ohio and California, at the least.)

So I didn't mention them here in G2G because I didn't want yet another "you make the profile" given to me.  I WANT to be able to create sourced profiles.  That's what I signed up for.  That's why I take so long to do some of the profiles for my family; because (as I've already said) I am trying to translate "what I know" and "what my mother's notes, supplemented by notes from her cousins (plural), say" into something that is verified by a source that others can access.  (Some of the items in the papers my Mum left to me are more than 100 years old.  It's not easy reading some of that tiny, crabbed script.)

So, TLDR: I won't be jumping in any time soon to create profiles for notables.  I probably won't even mention them again, unless I'm jumping on someone else's bandwagon.

Cheers.  :)

Thank you for that, Rob. I very much agree with your thinking.

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