Location should be a required element on a new profile.

+9 votes
To me, a location is more helpful in a new profile than a source. If I have a location, with the dates, I can usually find a source.  But with the way to get around adding the source, so many profiles are now useless. Members are not going back to add a source.
asked in Policy and Style by Marj Adams G2G6 Mach 3 (34.7k points)
recategorized by Jillaine Smith
What do I do if I don't have a location? My ancestor's birth date might be carved into his tombstone. That may be the only source I have for his birth data.  No place.

6 Answers

+5 votes
I fully agree, even if it is just a country.
answered by Esmé van der Westhuizen G2G6 Mach 8 (81.4k points)
I meant to hit answer OOps.
+6 votes

I totally agree.  I have wondered about this before.  Any thing as Esmel says, even just a country.

What drives me nuts are the Profiles with no location and yet they have either an exact date of birth or death.  How can you know these and not have the foggiest idea of where these occurred?!?!?

If you honestly have no idea then it should be handled like an unknown LNAB and enter Unknown.  Simple. And if you do enter something you are not 100% sure about, click on Uncertain, that's why it's there.

We have a Something-A-Thon every week or month month where we ask members to go out and fix OTHER members Profiles.  We should have Profile Manager-A-Thon where members are asked to fix their OWN Profiles.

Just go to your Watch List sort by Privacy and then you can sort by Birth. Bingo, all of your Profiles show up in Birth Date Order and the Location, if filled in, is shown as well.  Very easy to tell if there is no Location associated with that Profile.

And while we're on it.  Since you sorted by Privacy Level....update those too.  Except for some very special cases, no one who is deceased should be set to Red Private. My mantra here is: "If you're dead, you can't be Red". ;)

And since we are a collaborative site, then in reality, except for immediate family and special cases like Project Protected Profiles, all Profiles should be Open.  We don't own the Profiles we add, we are just managers or caretakers as I like to put it. Help: Ownership and Control of Profiles

Ohh, I feel better now.  ;)

answered by L J Russell G2G6 Mach 8 (84.9k points)
Hmm. Perhaps a Self-Help-a-Thon. Most of the time when I've seen detailed dates but no location, they seem to track back to an Ancestry or other public tree with no sources but I have seen a few family Bibles that list dates but not places. The place in all of those is where they lived for the entire time.
Then if the only thing they entered when creating the Profile from a single source, isn't it about time they seek a few more?  A Personal Source-A-Thon if you will.

I'm just saying before you go out and doctor another member's Profile, physician heal thyself. ;)
I agree. This should be a priority for everyone. Perhaps in the weekly mailing we get it could have an upfront notice of how many Profiles on our Watchlist have no locations or no dates or make it into the Suggestions and report on number of suggestions.

I firmly believe in the GPS item of "sufficiently exhaustive research"

What LJ said! yes


You know Doug, the more I think of Self-Help-A-Thon as a name, the more I like it.  Every 6 months there should be such a Project.
+5 votes
Asking for another guess? Probably my country's Imperial past but I have a handful of profiles with solid sourcing to indicate someone lived, but no idea of where they were born. Sourced marriage in India, list of children with birth dates, possibly a date of death all on Indian Army Officers records. Was she born in India? Dunno yet. England, Scotland, can't tell. Burma's a possibility. I have one imponderable who might have been born in France but she's a hard case brick wall.
answered by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
In this case you would put in Unknown and explain your research in the Biography section.

That could be one of the tenants on entering Unknown in the Location Field, you should explain any ideas or research in the Biography.

And there always exceptions to a rule, just has to be on a case by case basis and not the blanket free for all we have now.
For most people, these are few and far between. The galling thing is when people provide an official birth or death source, so it’s obvious where the person was born or died, yet they fail to fill in the data at the top because they don’t know the specific town. Similarly they provide all the census records within a couple of years of life events, but can’t make an educated guess where someone died. The worst one is the FindAGrave citation - if they were buried in Richmond, surely they died in the county, province or even country where that Richmond is located! (There a Richmonds all over the world.]
+7 votes

There's even a category for profiles with no locations at all: [[Category:Unlocated Profiles]]. There are 550 profiles with that category added, but the last time I asked Aleš about it, he said that there are over a million profiles with no locations.

answered by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (191k points)
Good Grief!!!  I knew there were a lot, but that is just incomprehensible. At this moment this means 6% of all Profiles are like this.

Honestly, what good a Source in a Profile when it comes to Searching for like name in WikiTree when you're looking at a list of 200 Thomas Williams with no Locations and you have to click on all of them to look for that Source.  Talk about lessons in futility....

Personnally I don't think a Profile should be created without either a date of birth or death, estimates are OK, and no Locations, here again, estimates are OK or mark Location Unknown and explain why it is Unknown in the Bio.

One of the biggest problems is in years gone by, the loading of GEDCOM files seems to have been pretty open, unlike today's GEDCOMpare which makes you look before you leap.  Unfortunately, many who loaded these files years ago are not active on WikiTree now. And I don't know how many times I have seen where someone has added a Source that had the pertinent information, yet did not update the search fields. If you add a Source, check the fields, I do.
As to searching without a location, LJ, I concur completely. How frustrating!
This is especially true as the WikiTree Search Utility now includes Location as a Search parameter. No Location is a Null and is thus returned  as a possible Like Name.  The GEDCOMpare does not use Location so the point is moot there.

Our Slogan could be: "Nullify the Null!"  ;)
+2 votes

I'm going to disagree with you on this one, at least in part. 

In attaching a location, with the database's information structured as it currently is, we are making an assertion about not just knowledge of where a person lived, but specifically either

  1. The location of where that person was born, or
  2. The location of where that person died, or where applicable,
  3. The location of the person's marriage.

Those are the two or three things which could be checked, but these are often both unknowns for a given individual. That could be either because we have no sources that give an answer or because we have conflicting sources. So one might have a location that isn't directly associated with one of those events:

  • Where the person was baptized or otherwise initiated
  • Where the person worshiped or participated in a community group
  • Where the person graduated
  • Where they had a dwelling or property
  • Where they worked
  • Where they were buried or memorialized

Alas, none of those fits in a database field which can be automatically checked. Still, people can add those in the biography, which of course is very helpful. So estimates such as those provided by Greg and Aleš only tell a small part of the story. These estimates only get at those pieces of data which neatly fit inside of existing database fields. 

So I agree with you in part, that locations are very helpful. But it's something that not everyone realizes immediately. I've had some rather awkward conversations asking "Sure, you'd think that telling me your grandpa is 'Joe Murphy' is helpful, but there are thousands of other chaps named 'Joe Murphy', so could you tell me where and when he was born...?" So people who are new to genealogy need a bit of gentle guidance. What you suggest sounds more like a stick that a carrot, and that risks alienating people. 

So it would be a mistake to start getting rid of profiles due to a lack location data. Even without including those details, most profiles are adding information to the pot, in line with our mission "to increase the world's common store of knowledge".

answered by JN Murphy G2G6 Mach 5 (57.8k points)
edited by JN Murphy
I don't think anyone suggested getting rid of profiles.
Going out on a limb here: I would rather support a WikiTree which used sticks appropriately (aka rigorous standards).to produce a quality product \  than a WT which used carrots---and to what end? membership size?...
First, not everything requires the same standard. It's reasonable to expect a more rigorous approach for the ancestry of Queen Victoria or President Lincoln - prominent profiles - than for the less prominent branches of the human family tree.

Second, if we require what must be known, beyond a name, in order for a person to be included, we are either contaminating the database with guesses or we are excluding people. It's better to leave a space blank if one has no specific evidence in order not to bias subsequent work. If one requires a location, at any stage, then we are, in effect, excluding the creation of profiles for those persons.

While it may not affect you personally, it's important to consider situations and edge cases where an additional rule creates an unwarranted exclusion. This is a GLOBAL family tree, so we need to take pains to be sure that it is accessible to others who may have different availability of sources or information.
I jumped down a rabbit hole today, for no other reason than someone asked a question on G2G.  In the tunnel, I found....

When you execute a search for Henry Turner, you can't tell who most of them are without opening each profile.  On many of them, you still can't tell because they supply no context at all.  Imagine a hapless newbie trying to import a GEDCOM, faced with such a mess.  I spent the afternoon adding dates and places to Henry Turners, and improved a dozen or so Henrys and related people.   That is, doing the work the profile creators couldn't be bothered with.  Maybe all those Turners are just not important enough for standards to apply.

I could not disagree with you more.  Nothing is more incorrect than an empty data field.

I don't think I inferred that we should remove any Profiles due to the lack of certain fields being empty. Far from it. From this point on is what I meant. I would like to see this a standard from this point on.  Existing Profiles would have to be grandfathered in as I feel retroactive rules are counter productive too.

Using just a name to create a Profile is just that. A name. Is it a record of someone, no.  It is a name only.  As with all rules, there must be some leeway in certain cases such the one described by C. Mackinnon. No problem with that.

Now you bemoan that we will exclude folks from the Tree if we require a Location and they don't have one. Didn't say that either, I said we should incorporate the same we do with Unknown LNAB.  Do we exclude people who don't have a true LNAB as happens many times with a married woman where there are no records that include this fact, no. Put Unknown in that field and explain the reason  why there is no Location in the Bio.  But just a blank, is that....blank and non existent.

If we want a real Global Tree of real, verifiable people, there must be standards for entry to the Tree as well as standards on how they gain entry to the Tree.  Open site is not an invitation for a laissez-faire attitude on what is entered.  It means we collaborate and in collaboration, we set and abide by certain rules or guidelines.  I would rather exclude a name until they get better data than have someone grab a 100 year old phone book and start adding names from it. And sadly, I have seen some Profiles that look like that is what was done.  As far as I am concerned a well contrived guess is better than a blank.  That guess is a hint I can possibly use, the blank is not.

Showing or telling someone new how to do something is not alienating them. I believe that is called teaching.
One of my pod people has no birth place and no death place because neither are known.  I could guess he died in Australia, but that is only a guess.

Another of my pod people has a guess at birth place .. which could be totally up the tree .. and no death place.  I could guess at the death place the way I did at the birth (something I am totally not happy with having done), but it would still be a guess.  What if he came from across the water, from a different country?  Wouldn't that be as misleading as nothing at all?

(Not trying to be argumentative, or to play devil's advocate.  Really wanting to know.)

I always put as much information as I have on the profile .. and if I'm speculating about some things, I stick it under a "research notes" bold (not a === header, just bolded text).

Melanie, I'm in favor of requiring one location.  If you've already entered a reasonable estimate for birthplace, I don't think it's necessary to do the same for the death.  And it's OK to be wrong, on a best-effort, good-faith basis.  I would say a solid educated logical guess, marked 'uncertain,' is less misleading than an empty field.  It's a sincere attempt to lead others to the right profile.  I don't expect everyone to agree.  wink

If Joe Smith lived most of his life in Oz, but you can't prove he wasn't carried there as a child or wandered off as an adult, Australia is still your best and most reasonable estimate of his birth or death place (not necessarily both).  That's why we have the 'uncertain' button.  If it's on his profile, people looking for Joe Smith in Australia know that's a profile to look at.  People looking for Joe in Canada know they can skip that one.  But seekers of Joe have to open every single Joe Smith profile that has both locations blank.  Or just cross their fingers and create another Joe Smith. 


Again,the object is not to EXCLUDE someone from WIkiTree, the object is an attempt to clarify who someone is or was for other members who searching for a like name. And I am mostly speaking about Birth not death. Death can be harder to ascertain than birth as many folks have records that pertain to their early years, but due to Privacy Laws, their Death records may still be unobtainable.

In the scenario I presented, you would put Unknown in the Birth Location and then explain your difficulties in the Bio as to why there is no   Usin Herb's example, I would see Unknown and look at the Profile and see the person was in and around Australia.  If I was looking for someone in Untied States, I have an over 99% chance that your person is not mine. If left blank and with no Bio explanation, then I have to start going through there linked family to see if one of them has a Location recorded that would me make a decision. Which brings to one caveat about not trying to Exclude anyone. A name with no connections is a red herring and should be excluded.  If you can't make a reasonable guess from the Source used to create the Profile, then this one should be Excluded untill further documentation is found by the original researcher.

In collaborative efforts, the object is make it easier for the other persons in the joint effort to do what they need to do and help them in their needs.  Why does it behoove me to have to verify someone else's research when their sources and explanations should be there to assist me, not hinder me.

The cases brought up to why this is a draconian rule have so far involved mostly exceptions to the rule of data we can normally collect in our research.  If the no Location Profiles make up one million of our 19 million Profiles, roughly 6%, I would hazard a guess that the exception would make up about 12% of those.  This mean a drop from about one million to one hundred and twenty thousand.  Not bad and well worth the effort.

Again, I am speaking about Location for Birth, not Death.  Quite simply, I can infer a Location of their Birth from records I might find, but I would have to have extraordinary prescience to fill in their Death Location.  And given the scarcity of Death Records in many countries due to Privacy Law, that can be handled the same way, just put Unknown. and give an idea of that location in the Bio.

We're supposed to be genealogists dog gonnit.  What we enter here is for for those presently on this planet and for posterity.  We should be as concise as possible to enhance those reviewing our work, not create a conundrum for others to figure out.
+5 votes
I agree that we can not just get rid of non located profiles - but I sure wish more folks would put at least a real good guess and mark uncertain there or try and figure out what country it is - I try and put at least a state or country and put in where I know the family to have been if I have any clues so it can be used to make sure it is the right person - so many with same names get conflated because the location is left out
answered by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Mach 7 (78.4k points)

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