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Profile Criteria

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Quality Markers for WikiTree Profiles


In a WikiTree of the future all profiles are classified by Quality.

Those Quality markers/grades are:

  • Gold (3 star)
  • Silver (2 star)
  • Basic (1 star)
  • Starter
  • Unsourced

There are also additional markers (Research Note Boxes) for:

  • Uncertain Existence
  • Disproven Existence

The purpose of the markers is:

  1. to encourage members to achieve a higher marker/grade for the profiles they develop and hence improve the quality of WikiTree
  2. to provide a structured system for assessing quality and thereby a tool for monitoring quality which could then inform quality improvement initiatives

The concept is an incentive based approach to improve quality as opposed to a 'rules' based approach.

The choice of a quality marker system based on stars is a tried and trusted system understood by everyone. (There has already been use of a 'five star' concept for profiles but that was based on number of views/hits rather than the quality of the profiles).

Three of the markers: Unsourced; Uncertain Existence; and Disproven Existence; are already in current use.

Possible mechanism

When a member creates a profile, if no source is added then an 'Unsourced' marker is added automatically (as it does at the moment).

If a source has been added then the profile is automatically marked as a 'Starter' profile.

The next time a member edits a 'Starter' profile there could be a pop up inviting the member to consider upgrading the profile from 'Starter' to '1 Star', i.e. WikiTree is inviting the member to take a journey towards improving the quality of the profile. The system will highlight the criteria for '1 Star' and the member can then review and, if appropriate, self certify. Alternatively, the system will remain perfectly silent, there is no pop up, and the Quality marker banner on the profile is used to bring to the attention of members the possibility of achieving a higher standard.

As a member further develops a profile then the profile can be upgraded to '2 Star' or '3 Star'.

'2 Star' could, perhaps, also be self certified. However, perhaps '3 Star' may involve an independent check.

In order for the process to be effective the quality criteria will need to be relatively straightforward, generic, and succinct. Complexity and over rigorous interpretation would most likely result in failure. Perfection would certainly be the enemy of good in this instance.

Engagement with the process would be encouraged but voluntary. If a member is not interested in developing their profiles from 'starter' then so be it, although other members may choose to develop the profiles further if they are open access profiles.

The Quality Markers would be in a form such that they could not be deleted from the profile, and one of the seven possible options must be selected. Any change in the marker would be recorded in the change log of the profile.

Possible Problems

Could the process be abused - absolutely. Would occasional abuse be a significant problem? Probably not - any abuse would presumably be limited to a few and no worse than any other aspect of WikiTree.

Could it be another source of dispute between members? Yes.

Could the process cope with the differing requirements of different projects. Yes. While the principles will be the same across WikiTree, any additional project-specific requirements (and/or variance from the standard principles) would apply to profiles that are project badged.

Draft Criteria for assessing the Quality of Profiles

Gold (3 Star) Standard

A profile that meets the criteria for 'Gold' is considered to be a high quality profile and the genealogy is highly likely to be reliable.

Data Fields

All data fields have been completed in accordance with the appropriate WikiTree guidelines Style Guide, in accordance with any relevant project-specific requirements, and with evidence for the data identified and sourced in the Biography.

Name fields to be in accordance with the relevant regional/project guidelines. Location data fields to include where possible locality, area, country and/or region.

certain/uncertain/confidence buttons

The 'certain/uncertain/confidence' buttons are to be used, where possible, and used appropriately, for:

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Birth, Death, Marriage - date and location fields

All other 'certain/uncertain/confidence' buttons are optional, but if used have been used appropriately.


The minimum requirements for structure of Biography are simply as per those in the Style Guide: Biography

Other headings are optional, but if used they should meet WikiTree guidelines.

Stickers/Labels etc are optional but should be relevant.

Biographical Content:

  • At least one parent identified
  • Evidence for Birth/Baptism or a reasonable approximation of a year of birth
  • All known marriages listed
  • All known children listed
  • Evidence for Death/Burial or a reasonable approximation of a year of death

The evidence for the key data and other biographical content in the Biography are to be sourced (while accepting that records/sources may not exist for some key data).

There should be no major omissions (while accepting that a specific date of birth or death or marriage may be unknown, a profile with no evidence for the parents and hence no parents listed would not achieve Gold Standard. It may not be a reflection of the researcher but on the availability of information.)

Writing is reasonably clear, spelling satisfactory.

Research Notes

  • A == Research Notes == Section is optional. However, where there are conflicts in the evidence these have been discussed and the conclusions appear reasonable.

Sources and Citations

  • Good use of primary sources
  • No absolute reliance for any key data on sources of moderate or poor quality
  • No use at all of internet family trees as sources
  • In-line citations used throughout
  • All citations shall be sufficiently detailed for the sources to be readily identifiable
  • Source links are helpful but optional
  • A ‘Source List’ [i.e. a separate list to those listed under 'References'] is optional
  • A ‘See also’ section is optional


  • Optional, but if used should be relevant


  • Optional, but all attached images to be relevant, sourced, and with no copyright issues

Checking Tools

  • There should be no current Suggestions that indicate an issue with Quality
  • Any 'Suggestions' marked false have been reasonably marked as false
  • There should be no ‘BioCheck’ findings that indicate an issue with Quality

Silver (2 Star) Standard

A profile that meets the criteria for 'Silver' is considered to be a good quality profile and the genealogy recorded is probably reliable but it is understood there may be limitations in the evidence available.

The criteria are the same as 'Gold' but with the following relaxations:

  • It is acceptable that there may be a significant omission such as names of parents are unknown, as long as some other key data are available
  • There may be limited primary sources and hence more reliance on secondary sources and/or sources of moderate quality
  • In-line citations are preferred but are optional

Basic (1 Star) Standard

Criteria for 'Basic' are:

  • There is clear evidence that the person existed
  • Their name (or at least part of their name) is known (e.g. a female whose last name at birth is unknown but who is known by their first name and/or the last name of her husband)
  • The country and/or region where the person lived at least for some period in their life is known
  • At least two sources [or should it be just one?] of good quality (not internet family trees) with the citations sufficiently detailed for the sources to be readily identifiable
  • It meets the minimum requirements for structure of Biography as per Biography
  • If the year of birth is unknown then it should be estimated. See Estimated Dates
  • If the year of death is unknown then a year of death need not be estimated


Achieves the minimum sourcing requirement for a WikiTree profile for the period 1700 to present day i.e. "A source is the identification of where you obtained information" (Sources), but has a poor quality source or sources.


Profiles which contain no source and which are essentially a placeholder / draft / stub.

Uncertain Existence

Profiles for which some research has been carried out but whose existence is in doubt and hence marked Uncertain Existence.

Disproven Existence

Profiles which have been researched but designated Disproven Existence.

General Notes

While a profile that meets the criteria of 'Gold' is considered to be a high quality profile and the genealogy is highly likely to be reliable, it does not mean that the genealogy is VERIFIED.

It is not the intention that an assessor (should there be an independent assessor) would check all the sources one by one. Only a sample of sources would be looked at (and then only if it is possible to do so).
NB Verification of a genealogical line whereby all the primary sources are collated and checked; where wider research has been carried out to ensure that the correct records have been identified; and all independently assessed; is a different level altogether and would be similar to, for example, submitting a lineage to the College of Arms in London[1] or its equivalents elsewhere in the world.

A gold standard profile may not necessarily be 'genealogically defined'.

A gold standard profile is not necessarily set in stone, it will continue to be a work in progress. If new evidence becomes available then the genealogy may change. There is no such thing as a 'finished' profile.

What is of particular importance for a Gold Standard profile is the quality of the genealogy. It would be a great shame for the assessment of profiles to be affected by trivial issues of style such as should a citation use ‘Page’ [number] or p or p. etc.

It is likely that there will be as many different opinions about what the quality criteria should be as there are WikiTree genealogists. In determining the criteria the two key questions to consider are:

  • Is the criterion fundamental to the quality of the genealogy
  • Is it a 'mandatory' WikiTree requirement

There should still be plenty of scope for personal style preferences to be employed.

Regarding sourcing, the WikiTree Style Guide states ...

"On WikiTree the preferred style is the Evidence Explained format, based on the Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS)." Sources

The problem with this statement is that it points to something which one has to purchase (or borrow from a Library) in order to see the detail. For an online tree aimed at a wide audience it is not particularly helpful. For the purpose of these criteria it is assumed that the WikiTree preferred style is .................. as summarised in Sources, which has been based on the Evidence Explained format.

Trial of Concept

It would be a major risk to launch a Quality Marker system without an appropriate trial to assess effectiveness.

In the trial it may not be feasible to incorporate the Quality Markers as per the fully developed system as it may not make sense to spend time on any software development until after the concept has been proven. It may be necessary to operate the trial using templates as an interim measure e.g. Unsourced, or perhaps categories, with a view that at some point in the future the templates or categories could be automatically updated to the new marker system.

The success of the trial can be monitored through simple monthly statistics as follows:

  • Total number of profiles with a Quality Marker
  • Number of profiles marked Gold (3 star)
  • Number of profiles marked Silver (2 star)
  • Number of profiles marked Basic (1 star)
  • Number of profiles marked Starter
  • Number of profiles marked Unsourced
  • Number of profiles marked Uncertain Existence
  • Number of profiles marked Disproven Existence


  1. College of Arms London.

See also:


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