What is WT policy on creating and then immediately orphaning profiles?

+19 votes
Occasionally I run across a line of WikiTree profiles that are created then immediately orphaned.  Doesn't this create a problem -- intentionally creating profiles that one does not intend to manage?  In my opinion it puts a burden on others to adopt these profiles or have them floating around untended.  Does WikiTree have a policy on this...or should we?

Edit: In looking at the innumerable-created profiles by this one particular WikiTreer, it appears the family line is started with Find A Grave as the only source and they are throwing family lines on WikiTree.

(I am not posting a profile URL so as not to embarrass the person I have recently found doing this.)
in The Tree House by Edie Kohutek G2G6 Mach 7 (74.6k points)
edited by Edie Kohutek

Oh zing!  Just broke a data block because another WikiTreer created a profile for a lateral relative.  Because it is quite long, I posted it as an answer below: 11th great grandfather

I think there may be a G2G thread talking about this (or on a members profile??), as I distinctly recall reading about people creating profiles from graves somewhere here so maybe you can search for that topic. I wish I could remember it for you.

At the time I thought it curious (i.e. a lot of work!) but was under the impression that it was an accepted way of adding profiles.

IMO it is hard enough adding profiles for family and relations.

Just my 0.02  :)
This I believe is what I was talking about in my reply. I don't know if this is what you are referring to for certain. hth

Thanks for your reply, Emm. I was more concerned about the orphaning after creation of mass numbers. I always thought adoption was good and orphans were not good

. But after reading some of the comments below, I realized not everyone thinks that way.

7 Answers

+57 votes
Best answer
Good question Edie.

There is nothing wrong with creating profiles that you do not intend to manage.  In other words, creating a profile and then orphaning it is OK to do.  So long as you SOURCE the profile properly and (just my opinion), you should put as much info as possible into the profile - birth and death dates, locations, where they lived, appeared in census records, etc.

If profiles are ACCURATELY created, they can be of benefit to others who are looking to connect their line to other lines or connect to the tree if they are not yet connected.

Additionally, projects and interested WikiTreers regulary create the profiles of notable people, aristocrats, athletes, politicians, and their families as well with the intention of building the shared tree bigger and bigger.  The ultimate goal is that every person who has had a written record will be added to the tree.

Last month we had a "Connect-a-Thon" and somewhere near 60,000 profiles were created and I would hazard a guess that half or more of those will eventually be orphaned and will someday become the profiles of a new member's tree.

edit: typo
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
edited by SJ Baty
Well said, SJ. I regularly orphan profiles, having created, sourced and built a bio.  As I find I'm constantly running between 4,000 and 5,000 profiles that I manage I have no choice really.  Always hopeful that a family member or somebody interested will take the profile on.  To me, the key is remembering that managing is not owning.  I also regularly improve orphaned profiles without taking on their management.

... the key is remembering that managing is not owning.

Excellent point!

+36 votes
I don't believe there is a policy on this, as there are numerous reasons why this would be done. Often WikiTreers are acting on behalf of another member a project, or even a concerted team effort to accomplish a goal. The profiles created are (hopefully) valid, sourced, and ready to be handed off to another member to manage them should they like to do so. Sometimes, family members whose ancestors were recently created would prefer to take over these profiles - sometimes not.

I find that as Notables Leader that I create profiles for many families that are not my own, and my watch list gets very large if I don't release them now and then. And once they're orphaned, others can feel free to adopt or ignore, depending on what their watch list looks like and whether or not they have an interest in that family or even just an interest in the lineage of a particular Notable.

I will say that I much prefer profiles to be properly documented and sourced before they are orphaned, which is not always the case, but as long as they are clearly identified with enough characteristics for another researcher to follow them up, it's usually OK (although definitely preferred to be properly sourced at a minimum).

Just my thoughts - although I could be wrong and there might be a policy somewhere, or at least a guideline...
by Scott Fulkerson G2G6 Pilot (986k points)
Great answer Scott - looks like we were typing in tandem!
Many of these are insufficiently sourced with a single line, such as 1880 United States Census, but they generally have enough info to track them down and figure out who they are.
SJ - great minds think alike!!

Edie - Agreed. And it makes me sad when I come across one where it's improperly sourced or not even sourced at all, and I just feel the need to dig in and find at LEAST one solid source to help this profile out. Being orphaned is tough on a profile as it typically doesn't get as much attention, but being un-sourced makes it very challenging to be certain you have the right information for the right person and since you didn't start it, you end up making assumptions that in the end you hope are valid.
+26 votes

Because managers are strongly encouraged to have no more than 5000 names on their watch list I have no option but to orphan profiles immediately after creating them.  While I personally would be comfortable handling many more than 5000 that is against Wikitree policy so my only choice is to orphan them off.

As a second note - there is no reason that at profile needs a profile manger - and orphan is an unfortunate word chosen to describe them - it would have been much better to simply recognize that they are profiles without managers.
by Philip Smith G2G6 Pilot (274k points)
I heartily agree that the terminology is unfortunate.
+23 votes

If you have ever seen the banner on a watchlist with more than 5000 profiles, the WikiTree policy is clear.

Despite the terminology, there is no shame in "orphaning" Open profiles. :-) This invites others to share responsibility.

by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (664k points)
Thanks, Robin, for your input. I do try to keep my own Watchlist clean. I just didn't understand why someone would intentionally create hundreds of profiles and immediately abandon them. I guess that's considered growing the tree.

Edie, I currently try to connect Hans and Sophie Scholl, and in my attempt to do that, I created in the meanwhile nearly hundred profiles (currently still in vain, but I am stubborn, I will find a connection eventually). I don't have any connection to the Scholls except living in a street that is named after them (but those exist in nearly every town in Germany) and once I finally found that connection I will orphan all the profiles I made of that cluster. 

Another example when I orphan profiles fast is when I source unsourced profiles and find connections to children or parents that are not yet documented on Wikitree. I have no connection to those people, I am "only" a member of the Canadian project and this is my contribution. So why should I keep those profiles in my watchlist? I already got messages of people who thought because I created the profile I have to be related to the person. No, that is not the case. 

+24 votes
Very good answers from Scott and SJ.

As I see it the creation of profiles without proper sourcing and proper care for family relationships is a problem, whether the creator orphans the profiles or stays on as a manager - I mean, of course, when the profiles are left sitting insuficciently sourced and/or incorrectly connected.

For my own part, I regularly create profiles that I orphan, immediately or soonish. Basically, since my watchlist is slowly but surely nearing 5000 I try to stay PM only with those I am related to by blood and orphan the rest.

I actually see an opposite problem, exemplified with a cluster I am currently doing intermittent sourcing work on. These are profiles created way, way back (like 2010) by members who have since left WikiTree. Many of the women were created from a single source, with their married name as Last Name at Birth. Others have misspellings in their LNaB.

Then way back (like 2014) the profiles were adopted by members who presumably intended to work on the profiles, but mostly didn't. When these "adoptive managers" spend less time on WikiTree - which easily happens when five years pass - the presence of an absentee manager prevents some of the needed work. Or at least turns the sourced correction of a LNaB into a long-drawn procedure of nudging-and-waiting.

The orphaned ones are easy to just adopt-correct-orphan.

As for the type of case that made you ask the question, I would also see that as problematic - but from my point of view the orphaning per se is not the problem, it's the "speed creation".
by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (385k points)
Looking a little more closely at the creator of these particular profiles, this person manages fewer than 2,000 profiles with many, many suggestions. This person is currently creating what appears to be tens, if not hundreds, of orphaned profiles currently within days.  It appears that the person is working through Find A Grave and creating profiles from those records.  It just seems like a strange thing to do, very much opposite of my focus.  I tend to focus on finding family members -- of mine or others -- figuring out who they are and what happened to them, sourcing and connecting.  I seldom orphan, unless I fall down a rabbit hole and create profiles for a family line I am totally not interested in.  For example, if I find some family  line of GEDCOM-uploaded profiles that have no sources or old Ancestry sources.
Have you tried sending the person a private message?
No, I find that people with thousands of contributions don't take kindly to constructive criticism. They tend to ignore it, especially regarding the sufficiency of sources. Until WT has a clear policy that 1800 United States Census is not a sufficient citation for a source, it will be hard to get them to change. Usually this type of contributor is not involved with G2G.
I have made very similar observations, Edie.
I can't say I speed create the profiles I do create, but I also work on a couple of projects to create profiles for a certain cemetery, a particular disaster and/or a particular unit of the Civil War. While I do spend many hours looking for sources and adding them when I do find them, in some cases it's impossible to find any other than what you start with.  Do you think the men or women in these projects shouldn't have profiles created?
When I think of "speed creation" the examples I have in mind are more along the line of "lifting" whole branches off trees at other genealogy sites with nothing but the name of one of the tree owners as a source. It happens, you know.
No, as long as they have sufficient sourcing and are not duplicates of other profiles. If the WikiTreer is creating profiles for a specific project, I especially understand. I guess I just feel a responsibility for the profiles I create and I don't understand the wholesale creation and orphaning of profiles for no apparent purpose but to just create them.  But that's just me.
Rhonda, I went back and checked and the person whose profile-creation I noticed is not involved in any projects, but that person has several Club 1000 badges awarded to them. One might assume that it is for the purpose of sheer numbers that they are adding these profiles.  To each his own, I guess. I have way too many other goals (and projects) to be concerned about numbers-- except during a thon, of course!! :)
Edie, I saw something similar, though this person kept the profiles and there was no sourcing. If you feel the the profiles are damaging the tree, you could always go down the Problems with Members procedure. Perhaps a little mentor help is required.
I will try contacting the member first and encourage them to participate in g2g.

There is another member that I think is more of a problem because they make wholesale changes to profiles without communication and makes changes that go backwards, like removing my inline citations and  putting sources under the subheading "research". Now, that makes me hyperventilate. But he's been through the mentoring process, so ....
... so clearly he needs to go through the process again!

A while back there was a person (still involved in WikiTree), that wasn't orphaning as you originally posted, but I did find it odd that their first three months on WikiTree that they had the 1000 profile badge for all three months, so I did a little investigating. They were (and still are) basically going through books and adding everyone in them. First thing I did was use the relationship finder (which you can sometimes do with living people, depending on how their profile is set), finding this person to be a distant cousin, I contacted them about the lack of information (one source, no link) in the profiles. Being a member of the BioBuilder's team this set my nerves on edge (especially when sometimes the only reference was an unsourced database).

Initially they did not take to kindly to my approaching them about adding more information and links to the profiles. And we went back and forth for a bit (unpleasantly), mostly because he was deleting some things I had in profiles I manage (that I am related to), w/o explanation, and adding redundant resource information (again without a link, but it was already an inline citation. That turned out to be because I was leaving out something they thought was important and the links I was using were the front of the book (when I used the book as an inline citation). They felt making someone go from the front of the book to the page cited was too much work to make a person do.

So, after I got this close to filing a problems with members report, I thought about it for a bit and I thought...hmmm...why not show them some examples. The profiles they created were also my family members so I knew I knew what I was doing with them. I further researched them beyond what they had posted in the profile, and wrote a BioBuilder biography for each person, incorporated their preference into my citations (specifically person # and the exact link to the exact page). And waited. I watched. It took them a little bit, but now they put more information in the profiles they create and now include a link to the page. We still clash from time to time, as families will do, but we now trust each other.

Just a thought to think about.
I like that, T. Actually I have used that method of modeling myself when trying to get a newbie to learn how to source and create citations.
+8 votes

Edie, just now, a serendipitous encounter occured which gives a good example of how adding profiles of people you aren't related to can help others. I apologize up front as this is a bit long...

Today I adopted the profile of Aert Jacobsen (abt. 1570), my alleged: 

11th great grandfather

1. SJ is the son of [private father] DNA confirmed 
2. [Private] is the son of Carrol Dale Baty DNA confirmed 
3. Carrol is the son of Lola Ruth (Hitchler) Baty [confident] 
4. Lola is the daughter of George William Hitchler [confident] 
5. George is the son of Nancy (Miller) Hitchler [confident] 
6. Nancy is the daughter of Marjry (DeGraff) Miller [unknown confidence] 
7. Maria is the daughter of Abraham DeGroff [unknown confidence] 
8. Abraham is the son of Marretjen Van Wagenen [unknown confidence] 
9. Marretjen is the daughter of Evert Van Wagenen [unknown confidence] 
10. Evert is the son of Jacob Aertsen [unknown confidence] 
11. Jacob is the son of Aert (Jacobsen) Van Wagenen [unknown confidence] 
12. Aert is the son of Jacob Aertse Wagenaar [unknown confidence] 
13. Jacob Aertse is the son of Aert Jacobsen [unknown confidence] 
This makes Aert the 11th great grandfather of SJ.

I researched Aert for a few hours and found that the "source" used to create all the online trees is still under copyright but the book can be borrowed online.  I put my name on the list and moved on.  I started looking at the profiles between he and I and I saw that my 4x great-grandmother Marjry (DeGraff) Miller didn't have a bio so I started creating one.

I found an online bio for her son, John Miller Jr (III) (1833) and in it the bio says that John Miller (II) (1788) his father (Marjry's husband) was a veteran of the war of 1812.  This was news to me - just last month I wrote up his grandfather John Miller Senior's (I) (1758) bio and documented that he was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  I spent the better part of three weeks researching John Miller Senior and a lot of time writing his bio - I was tickled pink when Chris Whitten (WikiTree founder) left a "kudos" comment in the comments of his profile.

A veteran myself, I get a bit happy when I find veterans in my tree.  If you click on that link, you'll see what I mean.  If John Junior (II) (1788) is a War of 1812 Vet, I'd like to prove it, document it, and make a nice bio for him.

The original info of his war service in his bio comes from a family history, but I need a source document to prove it.

I spent at least 6 hours today looking and the best I could come up with is a pay card for a John Miller Jr. (he is listed in other documents as a "Jr.") for 1812 War service and it is indicated that he was from Saratoga County.  Indeed John was from Saratoga and of the other 30 or 40 New York "John Millers" I looked at, he was the only "John Miller" I found from Saratoga County - and that the card is for "John Miller Jr." is useful.  However, some cards had no county so while it is a good lead, it isn't conclusive.

by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
edited by SJ Baty

... continued:

I searched and searched and when I could find no more, I began looking for the unit rosters by searching for his Captian's name (Thomas Collimer) and his Colonel's name (David Rogers).  Under a search for Colonel David Rogers:


I saw that the first link was to a WikiTree profile for Michael Van Wagoner.  I immediately recognized the surname:  John Miller's wife Marjery DeGraff's family intermarried with the Van Wagonen/Wagoner family.  

I pulled up the profile and immediately, in the bio, I read:

He fought in the War of 1812, being enlisted on September 8, 1814 in New York in the Captain Thomas Collamer company of Detached Milition [Militia] in the Regiment of Infantry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel David Rogers. He served until December 11, 1814, and was paid a total of $16.77.[2]

I entered Marjery's WikiTree ID into Michael Van Wagoner's relationship finder and sure enough:

Michael and Maria are second cousins

Michael Van Wagoner and Maria (DeGraff) Miller are both descendants of Evert Van Wagenen.

1. Michael is the son of Michael Van Wagoner [unknown confidence] 
2. Michael is the son of Jacob Van Wagoner [unknown confidence] 
3. Jacob is the son of Evert Van Wagenen [unknown confidence] 
This makes Evert the great grandfather of Michael.

1. Maria is the daughter of Abraham DeGroff [unknown confidence] 
2. Abraham is the son of Marretjen Van Wagenen [unknown confidence] 
3. Marretjen is the daughter of Evert Van Wagenen [unknown confidence] 
This makes Evert the great grandfather of Maria.

So we learn that John's wife's second cousin is in his same militia unit.  Michael and John have probably known each other their whole lives.

I checked the profile manager of Michael Van Wagoner against my profile in the relationship finder and I was surprised to find that we weren't related. She isn't related to Michael either.  Through the connection finder I was able to see that she is a distant in-law.  She probably, on a lazy Sunday, put in lateral relatives - spouses of distant cousins, their kids, parents, siblings, etc.  When she gets close to a 5,000 profile management count, these will probably be the first profiles she orphans.

And because she created this profile, and took the time to document his war service, it gave me another validating piece of evidence towards proving that my 4th great-grandfather is a War of 1812 veteran.

I suppose that this is what I love about genealogy, looking for clues, trying so many locked doors, and then the satisfaction when one opens.  And because another WikiTreer took the time to create that profile, the last door was unlocked for me.

SJ -- I agree with you in loving clues and solving mysteries.  Researching and sourcing is my thing and I look at everything I can, be they family trees posted online, books listed on Google, records on Fold3, etc.  I'm not as big on writing bios.  I do try to put my research and citations in a bio and clean it up a bit, but I think I am more interested in connecting family members, as you did in your example, or in detangling family lines with cousins all having the same name but with different parentage.  That really makes me happy.   But I doubt Chris will ever give me kudos for a bio I write...they are strictly functional to preserve the research that has been done.  I spend a lot of time sourcing and connecting other people's family lines, some associated with family names, and others just 'cuz I ran across them in my research and my OCD kicks in.  I include adding family members until I tell myself, "Enough!"   But when I add people or work on their families, I tend to adopt the orphaned profiles because I become attached to them.  I make myself let go of the ones that seem to be totally unrelated to my interests, but it is hard.  

So, it's not the creation of hundreds of profiles of small, unrelated family groups that I have the problem with, but the orphaning or desertion of those profiles that are created.  In your example, the in-law was still the profile manager and you could figure out her connection with the family group.  She did not orphan the profile but maintained a connection to it.  If she had orphaned this distant relative-by-marriage, she would have demonstrated a lack of concern or connection with the profile.  Maybe that is a silly way to look at it, but I feel like I am connected to the people I research and I am concerned that their profiles not be mishandled or turned into someone they are not.  I have seen way too much of that -- people changing a profile into someone who they were not.  So that's what I was trying to understand...the orphaning of huge numbers of profiles immediately after creation and apparent lack of concern for them.

I hear you Edie and I get where you're coming from.  But even if the profile manager who created Michael Van Wagoner's profile wasn't related and she spun it off as soon as it was created, I still would have found my piece of the puzzle even if it was an orphaned profile.

Assuming of course that it had the bio text with the war service information.  So for me, that is the key.  Are there details?  Are there sources?  Is there a bio?  If so, try to hold your nose cheeky and hope that one day one of these orphaned profiles will be the key that opens your door yes.

+12 votes
Creating a profile then orphaning it is perfectly acceptable if it is properly sourced.  Just using FaG as a source however can be very problematic, FaG has become a family tree site in recent times, so isn't really much better than an Ancestry tree as a ''source''.  I have seen FaG profiles where the ''grave'' picture was actually the entrance to the modern cemetery, the profile in question being centuries old and no grave being findable.

I myself have a watchlist close to the 5K mark, and am slowly filling in bios and orphaning profiles I created for various projects.  Of course, I also am adding profiles that are in my own lineage, mostly through Trusted List addition requests.
by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (325k points)
I like your answer, Danielle.

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