Help:Protecting Our Shared Tree

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What will happen to your research after you are gone?

If it's on WikiTree, it will be available for descendants and future historians.

What will happen when this website is gone?

Our shared tree will live on.

The future is unknowable. No website will last forever. But we believe that the free and open information we are growing together here on WikiTree will always be available to people who care about where they came from. We work to ensure that it will.

"I was 14 when I began mail correspondence with a woman I now think of as an ancient keeper of Bahamian family history. Then suddenly she stopped replying to my letters. I believe her life's work died with her. This is one of the reasons I love WikiTree. What I and fellow Bahamian genealogists add here will endure." Peter Roberts
member since 2013


We All Care About Our Tree

One of the primary reasons you're using WikiTree is because you don't want your family's history to be lost.

You are not alone. Thousands of people care about protecting and preserving the genealogy on WikiTree — our shared tree — including:

  • Every member of the WikiTree Team. We all use WikiTree for our own family history. Ensuring that this genealogy does not disappear is personal for us. Therefore, we go way beyond the precautions of normal websites. We think about the long-term — we think about what will happen when this website is gone, and even when the Internet as we know it is gone.
  • Members with advanced technical skills. A number of other websites and independent developers take advantage of our "data dumps" of the entire public tree. They are specifically authorized to redistribute the data if is no longer operating and there is no successor organization.
  • Professional and full-time genealogists with high-level contacts at virtually every major genealogy business and organization. This helps us stay in touch with trends in genealogy and how WikiTree fits into them. And it helps ensure that whatever happens to this website, whatever the future holds for genealogy, the valuable information stored here will be a part of it. (The WikiTree Pledge means that a successor organization could not put WikiTree behind a pay wall. It must stay free.)

Details on Precautions

Here is more information on specific precautions that we take.

Server back-ups

WikiTree is hosted on a "cloud" provider with multiple physical locations (Amazon Web Services, the world's largest hosting company). This means that a server crash or hardware problem is not catastrophic. It might not even be disruptive.

Furthermore, there are daily back-ups. These back-ups make it unlikely that we would ever lose data that was entered more than 24 hours ago.

In the unlikely event that they would be needed, we also save:

  • one back-up for each day of the past week,
  • one back-up for each week of the past month, and
  • one back-up for each month of the past year.

Disaster planning

The WikiTree Team is small but it includes members in multiple US states, Europe, and Australia.

Every key function of a team member is backed-up by another team member.

Functionally speaking, the most essential team member is Chris Whitten, the founder and president. There is a written plan in place for what would happen if Chris died, disappeared, or was otherwise suddenly incapacitated.

Five months of read-only hosting, fully prepaid

WikiTree's income and expenses are carefully balanced. We are entirely free to everyone and have pledged to remain that way forever. We can do this because costs are kept extraordinarily low for a website of our size. Almost everything is done by volunteers.

Advertising comfortably covers all our hosting and operating expenses — without being intrusive or even visible to most contributing members — and there is no reason to think that this will change.

However, in the unlikely event that the business behind WikiTree suddenly went bankrupt and there was no successor organization that could keep the tree free and open, or for whatever other reason the hosting bills went unpaid and the tree was threatened, we have a contingency hosting agreement in place that's already been paid for.

This hosting agreement is for one purpose only: it would maintain WikiTree as a read-only website if it were ever necessary.

In this read-only state, members would be able to access information and images, including private information when logged-in, but would not be able to edit or change anything. All functions for adding and editing information and all non-essential functions and processes would be disabled, with two specific exceptions:

  1. Downloading GEDCOMs.
  2. Access to the last updates of the Database Dumps.

Having it be read-only in this emergency situation significantly extends the amount of time that WikiTree can be hosted on a limited budget. According to our contingency agreement, the full website including GEDCOM downloads would be available for at least three months, and the database dumps would be accessible for at least two additional months.

The read-only state also helps preserve the integrity of the content in case the WikiTree Team, Project Leaders, Rangers, etc. are not available to protect against vandalism, spam, and conflicts between members.

This five month period would give stakeholders the opportunity to find a new home for our shared tree. At a minimum, individuals would have the opportunity to find new homes for their own family trees.

To emphasize: this hosting has already been paid for, even though it will probably never be used.

Protecting Your Private Information

The free and open information on non-living people on WikiTree is the most protected. It is available to everyone on the Internet and included in our Database Dumps.

Private information and information on living people is at greater risk. It needs to be protected by those who have access to it.

Here are some precautions you can take.

Adjust privacy levels and Trusted Lists

Are any family member profiles more private than they need to be? Use the Bulk Privacy Level Changes tool to confirm and adjust the settings.

For profiles of living people and others that need to be private, make sure you are not the only family member on the Trusted List.

Download GEDCOMs and save copies of photos

If you have not done so recently download a GEDCOM from WikiTree now. You can download more than just your tree. You can download a GEDCOM of ancestors or descendants starting from any public person, or any private person if you're on the Trusted List.

The GEDCOM(s) you download may not be useful to you now, but would be if the protections above somehow failed. Literally hundreds of websites and software systems can import a GEDCOM and reconstruct a tree.

A GEDCOM is just a text file. One advantage of this is that even if the system you're importing into cannot import everything you can recover information using a common text editor. One disadvantage of this is that GEDCOMs cannot include photos or other non-text files. A WikiTree-exported GEDCOM will only contain links to images.

It is highly recommended that you keep copies of all the images and PDF files that are important to you.

Add an "Advance Directive" to your profile

Some members put an "Advance Directive" on their own profile. It's like a will for your private information on WikiTree. It may help others understand and apply your wishes.

If there is no advance directive, and there are no other family members on Trusted Lists, private profiles will need to be deleted by WikiTree when you are gone.

This page was last modified 13:11, 6 June 2023. This page has been accessed 121,592 times.