Monday, December 30, 2013

A badge for doing what I love

At WikiTree, an orphan is a person profile which no longer has a manager to respond to requests. 'Adopting' an orphan profile is good for everyone - our community tree remains healthy and interactive. The profile does not have to be one from your own ancestry, and frequently it is not. Here is an image of my newest badge:

I wanted to expand on my own ancestral lines, so I went hunting for orphans with surnames from my tree. I found a family group to adopt, and in the process, my family tree suddenly blossomed on one branch, all the way back to the 1200's.

Goldibear kept saying, 'you need to go to bed' and I kept replying, 'just one more file'. I mean, if you were picking up dollar bills someone left lying the road, would you be ready to quit just because the clock said 'bedtime'? Only this is better than dollar bills. These are Medieval ancestors, and at least one is associated with a castle, Castle Rising. According to their home page, Castle Rising is "one of the most famous twelfth century castles in England". Below is a picture of Castle Rising, seen through the gatehouse entrance, from Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, picture by Dennis Smith.

Friday, December 27, 2013


My latest badge at WikiTree says 'GEDCOM Equipped. It means I have uploaded my family tree to WikiTree - in this case, my Finnish grandfather's ancestors. To quote from the WikiTree GEDCOM page: "GEDCOM, which stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunication, is a file format for transferring family tree information."

Randy Seaver, who writes a blog at Genea-Musings, has a wonderful layout of the whole GEDCOM upload process, complete with screen shots and links. Thank you Randy, for making my upload easy! Randy's post on Christmas Eve was very amusing, and I have added his blog to the list on the right of your screen.

It was not difficult at all, partly because no one from my Finnish grandfather's tree was in the WikiTree yet, so the only match was my grandfather, who I entered 'by hand' when I joined. This will be more challenging when I upload ancestors who go back to Colonial America, or back to European nobility. Those family lines are very nearly completed at WikiTree, and I will probably end up filling in any I have that aren't there already one ancestor at a time. Which is better than creating a lot of duplicates.

Well, it's back to bed for me, as I wish to get over these shingles, and instead of going away, they popped back up. So I do a little genealogy, have a meal, take a nap, repeat. Shingles are not uncommon, and usually only last up to four weeks. They can be very serious if they do not go away, as they can cause damage to organs. So Goldibear is nagging me to sleep, rest, take my medicine. He loves me:)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What is a False Dichotomy?

Well, first, What is a Dichotomy?

Di-chot-o-my: division into two non-overlapping, contradictory things {1}

So a false dichotomy would be seeing two things as separate and opposite when they are in fact, not.

WikiTree (you knew it was related somehow, right?) is not in opposition to having complete control of my own data, formatted just the way I want it. The two concepts - a community world tree shared by interested people, and a personal tree controlled by only me, are not mutually exclusive and are in fact, complementary and exist together quite nicely.

I can keep my own family tree on my own computer, and keep it coordinated with what I see of my ancestors on WikiTree. In the one case I reap all the benefits of many people working on my - and their - ancestors; in the other case I can add any theories, notes, or embellishments to my own tree that I want to have.

Thanks to Lianne for giving me the idea for this short blog.

{1} Merriam-Webster dictionary online

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

To Wiki or Not to Wiki - That is the Question

This morning I read a post on the WikiTree forum - a new member decided WikiTree did not meet his needs, so he was saying goodby. Each month a few people who try WikiTree quickly decide it is not for them. Usually it is the same reason: they discover they want absolute control over their own tree.

This led me to ask the Great Genealogy Question of the Internet Age:

To Wiki or Not To Wiki?

In most decisions there is a gain/loss balance to consider: if I do X, what do I gain and what might I lose?

Here is my gain/loss analysis on joining WikiTree:

GAIN - I can freely express my strong opinions on 'how things ought to be'
LOSS - the consensus on any given issue might not agree with my opinion

GAIN - technology supporting WikiTree is constantly improving and making it easier to accommodate our diversity
LOSS - priorities in what improvements should be made first may not always coincide with my own priorities

GAIN - in the future all locations will be mapped modern and old names
LOSS - I'm not in control on how locations will be named, formatted or presented, the community as a whole decides

GAIN- refinements added to the tree multiply with membership growth
LOSS - time lost orienting new members, fixing mistakes by newbies like me

GAIN - challenges of differing opinions sharpen my knowledge and broaden my experience.
LOSS - frustration when the majority does not share my own preferences

GAIN- access to ancestors I would not have found on my own, many 'lost link' ancestors I have found on WikiTree.
LOSS - what if I do not agree on who is is my ancestor? [see note]

GAIN- participating in groups focused on my special interests where other people contribute to my special ancestors
LOSS - my energy and time diverted to people not in my direct ancestor lines

GAIN - learning from generous people sharing their wealth of experience
LOSS - time invested in a learning curve for the Wiki way of doing things

GAIN - building a unique tree for future generations where people can see their heritage, meet cousins
LOSS - what if I don't like the cousins I meet (what if they don't like me?)

GAIN - everyone contributes their valuable data, everyone reaps the rewards of others contributions
LOSS - my data is no longer solely mine - it becomes mutually owned by the community [see note]

It is true that a wiki format is not for everyone; we all give up a certain amount of personal control, in return for what we all have decided is a greater benefit to ourselves and to the community - a tree that grows over time, in scope and in accuracy, from thousands of contributors adding their unique discoveries.

In light of my gain/loss analysis, I believe that the benefits inherent in WikiTree far outweigh the loss of total control over "my" tree.  It is a delusion to think that because I discovered and documented certain of my ancestors, that they are all unique solely to myself. It is a fallacy that I have sole control over how that data is presented - the same data is available publicly and will be used by the thousands of cousins who are also descended from the same people. 'Control' quickly becomes a trap where every mistake I make is affirmed in the echo chamber of only one opinion - mine. I much prefer to have errors discovered and corrected.

Most genealogy websites harbor thousands of family trees which repeat the same individual names and data, often with the same errors, created by thousands of users.

WikiTree is the opposite, thousands of contributors growing a single, connected tree of our mutual ancestors, with short individual branches down to our unique families.

NOTE: strong exception to the 'mutually owned' tree - my own profile and my immediate ancestors remain private
NOTE: these conflicts are worked out by citing sources, and the strongest sources win

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

WikiTree - The Total Experience (don't miss it)

I just passed my second month anniversary at WikiTree, and if someone had told me how much I would learn, how much I would do, two months ago - I just would not have believed it. So here are some highlights of my unbelievable first two months in the friendliest community genealogy site ever:

1,000 contributions! I just passed that milestone. It means I have added to the content of WikiTree a thousand times: some have been bios that took hours to write and document; some have been a quick update of a single fact. With thousands of community members doing the same thing each day, WikiTree grows more beautiful all the time.

Another badge:

As you can see, I made at least 100 contributions in November. This is such a nice way of reminding us that every thing we do is important and adds worth to the community. Displaying the badges on our profiles shows others that we are active members of the community and participating in reaching our mutual goals.

I have been working on merges the past couple weeks. It requires prolonged focus and attention to details. The result which I did not foresee but welcome, is that my perception of individual lifespans and family relationships is more acute. Like any activity that is repeated, a deepened awareness of the nuances of the subject develops quickly and naturally. Also the technical aspect of the work becomes easier with practice. It helps that WikiTree has recently developed software tools that make merging duplicate profiles nearly foolproof.

As a member of the Profile of the Week group, I have read fifty-eight profiles in the past eight weeks. They demonstrate an amazing variety of humanity. Pioneering women in New Zealand; aristocracy in Scotland; transported convicts in Australia; bigamist in America; war heroes on every continent; the long-lived, the tragic, the resolute and the plodding - our mutual ancestors are remarkable and they have one thing in common - they left descendants to carry on for another generation.

The Profiles of the Week also demonstrate the research skills and creative presentations of their descendants in the profiles which are nominated. We see outline formats, narrative style, profiles with source document images attached, timeline format, those with old photographs that speak of different times and places. We read of family mysteries and of the losses and triumphs of every life.

It is such a privilege to be a voting member of the Profile of the Week group, and it is only one of many ways to participate in the WikiTree community. If people don't have time to enjoy a special interest group, they can just upload their GEDCOMs and work on their own path through the ever-growing tree at WikiTree. It helps to thoroughly understand the way WikiTree functions, what our goals are - it isn't complicated. It is written in our Honor Code and spelled out in the G2G forum.

The longer I'm at WikiTree, the more I use the G2G forum. My particular interests include the Puritan Great Migration, 1776 - the American Revolution, using sources and citations, merging profiles. I entered those in my personal tags list and get a report of any forum activity on those subjects. Today I found WikiTree members sharing valuable tips on sources and on citations.  What I  learn in the G2G forum challenges me to ramp up my standards for the work I do, because I can see possibilities that would not occur to me on my own. Learning does not take place in a vacuum, but in an exchange of experience and ideas. Following are links to try for yourself - see if you agree with me that there is value added in being part of a lively genealogy community.

Citing Sources - WikiTree develops templates for citations

Free Access to Scholarly Articles