The Star-Herald

A single tree

Do you remember Ancestry’s One World Tree? It was designed to produce a family tree that connected everyone in the world genealogically. It failed due to multiple duplicates, serious errors including mistaken identities, inaccurate sources, and at the end users could only “read” entries with no method to correct mistakes. 

My good friend Kathy Normandin spoke to the Wassebec Genealogical Society in May about Wiki Tree. The goals of Wiki Tree are similar to One World Tree; that is, to create a single family tree. Joining Wiki Tree is totally free thanks to the dedicated volunteers who use their genealogical and technical skills to keep the site operating. Wiki Tree also pledges that your data will be saved forever in whatever format is in use in the future. I usually avoid placing data online but I have great faith in my friend and her abilities so I decided to give this a try and let you know how I made out.

I signed up, logged in, and quickly found some errors for some submitted trees of family members. The nice thing about Wiki Tree is that you have to submit your sources for information you enter about people. The errors I encountered listed sources such as “Ancestry Public Member Trees” which means there were probably no sources in the original trees. The errors were glaring, wrong first names, birth dates, or places. But I hasten to mention this isn’t typical of most entries on Wiki Tree. 

On the site you have options for privacy settings that allow you to control access. You have the right to name who can see your material and who can change it. But the site is designed for collaboration with other researchers and this is a great way to locate new cousins and information you may not have known existed. 

My own experience with Wiki Tree has been good so far. I entered my parents, both deceased, and their parents, uploaded photos, and put in the bare bones of their biographies. I also listed sources for my entries. I have personal knowledge for all I’ve entered to date but I also have the certificates to back up my entries and I listed those. I know what I entered is true but someone else won’t know me or whether I’m a careful researcher or not. Someone who questions a date or fact can go to the relevant official source and confirm it. I’d be thrilled to know I might save someone from going down the rabbit hole of researching the wrong individual or family tree just because the names are similar.

There’s an Honor Code which you may wish to sign. Its basic premise is familiar to all genealogists: be honest in your entries and sources and recognize there will always be honest errors. I signed because I agree with the code and have tried to follow it in my research over the years.

If Wiki Tree sounds intriguing to you go to www.wikitree.com and explore the site. 

Nancy Battick is a Dover-Foxcroft native who has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft.  Nancy holds an MA in History from UM and lives in DF with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist.  You can contact Nancy at nbattick@roadrunner.com.

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