WikiTree as a Stable Collaborative Tree

+21 votes
220 views
One thing I have noticed is that the profiles I manage on WikiTree receive far fewer bad changes (or even changes overall) from other users than the ones I watch/edit on the FamilySearch Family Tree. I think this has partially to do with the editorial controls (trusted lists, etc.) that WikiTree has instituted. Then there's the fact that contributing to WikiTree fulfills nobody's religious ordinance.

But I also think that there is a culture here that fosters respect for good work, and an admirable hesitance to recklessly add to or change a profile that demonstrates robust research.

This all grows my confidence that when I take the time and effort to provide what I believe are quality sources and citations on a profile, they won't be wasted.
in The Tree House by Ryan Ross G2G6 Mach 2 (20.9k points)
edited by Ryan Ross
Ryan, I think you are correct about the Culture of Responsible Contribution and Collaboration

smiley With the various genealogy sites cross-indexing each other, this must do wonders for the IT folk in Law enforcement who are building trees to track down alleged criminals 

I've been a member here for only a short time (about 1 month+) and appreciate your statements about wikitree, since I have always tried to ascertain what is the most logical conclusion we can come to about any "facts" found in the only historical records available to us (many of which have been indexed incorrectly due to misspellings of names and errors in dates, etc.). I believe the majority of the people here (especially those who remain active) feel the same way about history and are careful in what they state as actually being factual about a person. Doing genealogical work (or writing about history in general) is similar to forensic and legal work where family "hearsay," stories and memories often contain errors. I love when I can have multiple sources corroborating a specific fact.
One major difference between FS and WT is all the index-based legacy profiles floating around on FS's tree. They can show up as possible duplicates on anybody with the same name (without regard to places, dates, spouses, parents, or anything else), with bright red icons next to them, prompting people who are just starting out on FS to undertake merges and other activities that are likely to result in utter chaos.

Another difference is that FS tries to do research for you, in the form of Record Hints. A lot of people (newbies and more experienced folks alike) take those hints as gospel, resulting in a self-perpetuating cycle of misplaced hints leading to bad changes leading to bad hints leading to worse changes and worse hints.

(Other faults -- the unintuitive interface, and user misconceptions about "my tree" leading to hijacked profiles or worse -- are shared equally by FS and WT, but they're made worse on FS by its far larger user base.)

4 Answers

+7 votes
I find the same thing. Any problems WikiTree has from user contributions is far overshadowed by the problems most other online genealogy sites have.
by Thomas Fuller G2G6 Mach 6 (69.5k points)
+5 votes
I think it comes down to the difference between working on a private tree (with access to see what other's have done on theirs) to a shared tree.  

• I would add people to my private tree with sketchy connections because "what if?" where on a community tree I think first "what if not?"

• On the private tree I had little community interaction other than seeing what was modeled on other's trees.  On the community tree I have learned a lot more about best practices.
by Jonathan Wilson G2G6 (7.7k points)

Except FamilySearch is emphatically not a private tree site. It is exactly the same kind of single shared tree as WikiTree.

J Polotay, there's www.familysearch.org repository of various documents and then there's www.familytree.org where one will discover the family trees 

I don't know how long that distinction between the two will remain, because familysearch now encourages one to attach to the famiytree the documentation such as census, birth / death / marriage / divorce / tax rolls, Civil War pensions rolls and rosters, and such other duly authorized agents /agencies have issued

Susan, there's no such site as www.familytree.org. (The URL goes to a "Uniregistry Corp" placeholder page.)

FamilySearch is a large and complex website with many parts. One of them is Records Search (https://www.familysearch.org/search/), which is a search interface for FS's large database of indexed historical records and their even larger database of digitized images of historical records. Another part is FamilySearch Family Tree (https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name), which is a single, shared family tree just like WikiTree.

When an indexed historical record has been attached as a source on FS FT, the index entry shows a link to the profile. This is one of many ways FS tries to minimize duplicate profiles on its single shared tree. However, this in no way affects the use of FS's historical records collections and their indexes as sources on other sites or on offline family trees. If you don't want to contribute to their shared tree, just ignore the family tree icons/links.

+5 votes
Good points Ryan.  I'd like to also add two things that I found that prevent "fantasy" profiles and trees from re-spawning like they do at FS.

First, there is only one profile per person.  On FS, folks regulary create additional profiles and trees as they do on Ancestry.  The result is that there are many trees and many tree "owners" and it is a bit of a free-for-all.

The other thing is that on FS when someone makes a bad change to a record and you go and correct it and leave a note, nothing stops them from changing it back.  As a result, we see "edit wars" occur at FS that go on for months or years.  No concensus is ever reached, just the flip-flop of records and attachments.  At WikiTree if someone makes a bad connection you can correct it and share with the other person the sources you used.  You collaborate together and can even ask for  other opinions on G2G.  If you can't come to an arrangement or agreement, there is the problem with members page; you follow the steps and eventually, the issue will get resolved one way or another and one profile will remain.

Over the coming years and decades we will see more and more trees at FS and Ancestry and the mountain will grow.  In contrast, at WikiTree we have only one tree, one profile per person and as more and more people join, each profile gets more attention and will get better over time.
by SJ Baty G2G6 Pilot (766k points)
SJ, where do you see people creating "private" trees on FS? As I commented above, the site is exactly the same kind of single, shared tree as WikiTree.
J, perhaps in theory you only end up with one tree so long as the records stick with the person.  But when the 1800 census that represents a person is linked to one set of parents and the 1810 census is linked to another set of parents, FS assumes that the person in the two census records is a different person.  I have encounted before on FS two and three trees for the same person.  On WT, you initiate a merge.  On FS, I have disconnected parents, added the correct parents, only to come back a week later and find my changes reversed.

The biggest problem I find with Family Searches user introduced information is that it is a huge free-for-all.  If you get someone who is in love with their fantasy lineage, there is nothing you can do to introduce fact save for re-uploading your work every week.

Edit to add: I just tried adding new people as spouses and parents of people in the FS "tree" and it let me enter them, no source needed.  So if I go and add an ancestor, and call him George Washington, and give him the same birth date as the American Founding Father, we will have now two Washingtons.  I can then add parents or grandparents and they don't necessarily have to be the correct parents.

And this is what I see on FS, with great regularity, two or three parallel trees, all unsourced, all different, and all member generated.
SJ, you're supposed to merge duplicates on FS, not disconnect them.

The vast majority of duplicate profiles on FS are not, in fact, user-generated. They're legacy data from previous systems, which were based on the extraction/indexing projects of the time. These projects did not attempt to combine people or families; if a couple had eight children baptised, they were each in the database eight times, and until someone comes along and cleans up the family, there are eight profiles for them in FS FT. (Or more, if marriages were also indexed/extracted in their part of the world.)

And shaky-at-best connections with no real sources can be found in plenty on WikiTree; that's not unique to FS.
+4 votes
I agree with the assessment that it is easier to maintain correct sources, correct parents, correct children, etc. on WikiTree versus FamilySearch. I have long complained about absolutely no controls on edits on FamilySearch and no recourse. Unfortunately, I have ancestors that I entered there so I have clicked on the "watch" star so that I get notified if there is a change to anyone. On the flip side, I am glad I entered my direct line so that now I can maintain them.

I do not have those issues on WikiTree because of the cooperation among the members.
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (278k points)

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