WikiTree Challenge 2021

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Date: 1 Jan 2021 to 31 Dec 2021
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The WikiTree Challenge is our biggest community event ever. Each week, a team of WikiTree volunteers collaborates to make discoveries for a special guest star.


Guest Stars

Each week, a team of WikiTree volunteers focuses on the tree of a special guest star.

In 2021 we have focused on "genealogy stars" such as bestselling author AJ Jacobs, leading genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, and host of PBS TV's "Finding Your Roots," Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Our guests have been some of the world's leading genealogists and others who have made outstanding contributions in the field of genealogy. These guests were the most challenging. By working together in just one week, could our amateur genealogists make new discoveries for genealogy professionals? The answer: Yes! In our first 25 challenges we broke 500 brick walls for our guests! This is a truly incredible accomplishment.

In 2022 we are expanding the challenge to include guest stars who are not genealogists. If we can make discoveries for professional genealogists, what can we discover for non-genealogists? This promises to be fun for everyone.

Please note that although many active WikiTree members would make great guest stars, we focus on guests who do not already use WikiTree for their genealogy. If you have been invited to be a guest, please see Help:WikiTree Challenge Guests.

Working with the guest

Before the week they are featured, we ask the guest to share what they already know about their genealogy. The team captain works with them privately to create profiles of great-grandparents and creates images of their trees showing what is currently known about them. For challenge purposes (see the scoring section below) we consider this our "comparison tree."

During the week of their challenge, the guest star just waits! We suggest that they don't view or edit anything on WikiTree so they don't spoil the surprise of any discoveries. At the end of their week, we reveal our discoveries.

Team Collaboration and Competition

This is a collaborative and competitive challenge.

Participants work together on a team. Different teams participate in different weeks. Our challenge winners are the top-scoring teams and members for the month and year.

Team Captains

Each week's team is led by a team captain or co-captains.


The team captain role is very important in this challenge. Captains:

  • Coordinate with the guest star in advance to prepare the starting profiles of grandparents or great-grandparents.
  • Participate in the kick-off event to introduce the guest star and starting profiles.
  • Lead the collaboration during the week so that researchers are coordinating their work when they are investigating the same ancestors.
  • Monitor progress and provide gentle guidance if they notice participants getting off track, e.g. creating profiles without sources.
  • Verify the identification of mistakes and missing information and award point bounties for them.
  • Participate in the wrap-up event at the end of the week.

Like all genealogists on WikiTree, team captains are volunteers. Although they are not compensated, we can offer:

  • The sincere appreciation of our community.
  • A "Team Captain" badge.
  • A "WikiTree Challenge Team Captain" t-shirt or item of their choice.
  • Bragging rights if their team has the highest score in a month.
  • A real, physical trophy if their team has the highest score for the year.

The current team captain list:

  • Mindy Silva & Cheryl Hess
  • Joan Whitaker & Janet Wild
  • Emma MacBeath
  • Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz
  • Christine Daniels
  • Karen Lowe
  • Laura DeSpain
  • Maddy Hardman
  • Donna Baumann

Challenge Coordinator

The challenge is administered by Mindy Silva. Mindy coordinates with team captains, helps with registration, and represents the WikiTree Team in what is our most ambitious event ever.

If you have any questions or problems regarding the challenge, contact Mindy.

How to Participate

Challenges are running almost every week in 2021, from Wednesday to Wednesday. Each week, there is a G2G thread for announcements and discussions. Everyone is invited to participate, even if they haven't registered, but only those who register have their points counted.

Advance registration

Members who plan to participate are asked to register in advance. This enables us to coordinate teams and award points.

Registration opens in G2G during the first week of each month for the following month. To participate in any one of the December challenges, for example, you would register in November.

Participants who register for any week during a month will get the participation badge for the month.

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Register in G2G. Look for the message that says "The WikiTree Challenge: Will you join a [Month] team?" It is "pinned" to the top of the G2G question list.


(See all prior weeks' scores here.)

One point is awarded for creating a sourced WikiTree profile of an ancestor or nuclear relative of an ancestor of the guest star. This is the second column of the statistics table labeled "Created profiles."

In addition to the points for creating ancestor profiles, participants can earn special bonus points for the following. This is the third column labeled "Bounty points."

Point bounty #1: Mistaken ancestry on WikiTree

Ten extra points are awarded if you prove that a parent-child relationship anywhere in the guest star's ancestry on WikiTree is incorrect.

Ten points will be awarded for every mistaken ancestor of the guest star that is corrected. Note that uncertain or unproven parents should not be removed. They should be marked as "Uncertain." Only disproven parent-child relationships should be removed and counted.

Fixing other mistakes, adding sources, and improving profiles in other ways is encouraged but not counted. Also, mistakes that were added during or shortly before the challenge will not be counted.

Point bounty #2: Mistaken or missing ancestry on comparison tree

Ten extra points will be awarded if you find a mistaken parent-child relationship in the guest star's ancestry on the comparison tree or break a brick wall on the comparison tree.

Breaking a brick wall means adding a father or mother to WikiTree who is not on the comparison tree for an ancestor who is on the comparison tree. This bounty is only awarded for one generation. Therefore, a bounty can be 20 points if both a father and mother are found, but no additional bounties can be awarded on that family line. Additional ancestors are just one point each as described in the basic scoring section.

Mistakes that the participant themselves added to the comparison tree will not be counted.

How to collect a point bounty

To collect the special bonus points, first post what you have found in the G2G thread for the week's challenge. The team captain will then verify the information, award your points, and reply to say that it has been done, or ask for more information.

The team captain can choose to split the point bounty if members worked together. Decisions of the captain can be appealed to the challenge coordinator if there is any controversy.

Fine print on scoring

Scores are recalculated every hour. Automatically-awarded points for adding profiles are always included in the recalculations but manually-awarded point bounties may take longer (since they need to be verified and added manually).

Points are only awarded for profiles within 30 generations of the guest star (deeper ancestors are usually before the year 1000).

Points will be removed if they were awarded for an ancestor who is later disconnected. That is, if points were awarded for adding or correcting ancestors who are later shown to be unrelated to the guest star, those points will not be counted when scores are recalculated. This could result in dramatic changes to scores.

Similarly, points will be removed if they were awarded for an ancestor who is later merged into a profile that existed previously.

Unscored statistics

The true value of genealogy contributions is impossible to measure. Scores are for fun. They are not meant to be comprehensive summaries of participants' contributions. For this challenge in particular, the scores are very narrowly focused on certain types of contributions, as described above.

In order to show a wider range of contributions, everyone who has edited an ancestor or nuclear family member of an ancestor of the guest star during the challenge is listed on the table. These are the columns for "Profiles Edited" and "Total Edits." The former shows the number of unique profiles that were edited by the participant while the latter shows the total number of edits.

Awards and Prizes

In addition to participation badges:

  • Anyone who collects a point bounty gets a "Bounty Hunter" badge.
  • Every week's highest-scoring member gets a "Team MVP" badge. The team captain cannot be MVP.
  • Every month,
    • every member of the highest-scoring team gets a "WikiTree Challenge Winner" badge.
    • the highest-scoring member on the highest-scoring team is invited to select a "Let the Sources Decide" or "Enjoy Genealogy" t-shirt or other item.
  • At the end of the year, the team captain of the highest-scoring team overall will be sent a physical trophy inscribed with the names of the highest-scoring teams for each month and their MVPs.

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(See the whole 2021 schedule.)

Live Chats

Every Wednesday night we host a live video chat. This is the kick-off event for the challenge that is starting, and the wrap-up of the challenge that is ending.

Participation varies, but we invite both team captains and both guest stars for the challenges that are starting and ending.

On Saturdays we also usually host a mid-week check-in and we chat on Discord.

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Categories: Challenges