Front page of Wikitree.com as at 16 September 2022

Recently a user on a Reddit genealogy forum asked, Wikitree-what is it and should I use it?

He received some interesting answers.

One user replied:

WikiTree is a free global tree, where one profile is created per ancestor that users collaborate on. The most popular global trees are FamilySearch, Geni, and WikiTree.

Advantages of working on a global tree are:
. you have other people to share the work with and learn from
. all the best sources and info and are combined into one place
. gives the opportunity to see conflated information you probably wouldn’t notice outside a global tree (for example, two profiles have the same date of birth and parents but aren’t the same person, meaning further research is needed)
. view relationships to other people in the global tree
. other people are more likely to see your research vs. just having it in your own tree

While smaller than the other global trees, WikiTree focuses the most on accuracy and tries to enforce a standard of having at least one source per profile , and only using reliable sources for pre-1700 profiles. It is probably the most “serious” genealogy site of the three. It is not a records repository site like Ancestry or FamilySearch though.

Another user wrote:

I am a big fan of the Wiki collaborative editing concept, but I found the WikiTree UI clunky to use and got discouraged after a few days.

Another pointed out that:

Wikitree is not a records repository. It's aim is to be the most accurate "one world tree" there is, where users are supposed to collaborate on profiles of people, and list sources to support the facts.

While it sometimes falls short of 100% accuracy and profiles without enough good sources, I generally find it a good place to collaborate. There are a lot of experienced genealogists contributing, and it's a bit harder for a newbie to cause too much erroneous damage than it would be on the FamilySearch shared tree. It's also good in that you can write (or edit or contribute too) a biography for your ancestors - describe the facts, anecdotes if any, and research notes if there are complicated interpretations of sources.

I find it a useful place to share my research - I think of it more of a site to "give to" rather than one to "take from" -- my family members and distant cousins can make use of what I've found, and review sources to make sure that I (and others) didn't get any of it wrong. I like to think of genealogy as a perpetual work in progress, and we should all share what we know. It saves a lot of hours not having to blindly replicate some complicated research that someone else has already done.

It also has neat things like seeing how you are connected to famous people. I also like how users can enter DNA info on their profiles (not DNA data itself, but that they took a test and where), and that info is propogated in a useful way through their relations in the tree. It has lots of useful and fun apps for various purposes.

If you're interested in it, one warning -- it's a bit of a learning curve to learn the ins and outs, but there are good help pages and videos. Also it is time-consuming to create good profiles, so it is for the patient and careful type. You have to search to see if a profile exists or not to determine of you should create a new profile or edit an existing one, because one person should only have one profile. And the features won't be useful unless you build out your tree enough to connect in to the rest of the world.

Other people on the Reddit forum complained that the collaborative process sometime allowed incorrect information to be added.

Another user noted that “Adding sources is a lot of work and if you’re not familiar with wiki formatting it is slow.”

A user added a few pointers:

You’ve gotten a lot of good explanations on what wikitree is so here’s a few tips on using it.

1. It’s a great way to share your research with others. A cousin is curious and all you have to do is send a link. No long email with info. It’s all there in a free, easy to understand way.
2. Is that it’s a great way to keep your research online. Since they encourage putting in all your sources, you know have access to it all online and can work on your tree anywhere. Sure you can do that on other sites, but I personally find wikitree to be an easier way to do it. And it’s free.
3. Rootstech. [I think the author means Rootsearch found on the right of the data entry screen] It puts your info in the search boxes. Click the site you want to search and voila. No more jumping back and forth having to put in the info on each site you use.
4. The community is actually active and you can get help and actual support.
5. Join a project. Sometimes we burn out on our own trees. Those brick walls just get us. Maybe there’s a project you can join. A challenge that you can find. Some project generate a list of profile with errors so you can quickly help others.

Things you may not like 
1. It’s meant as a genetic tree, so adoptive parents/children may find that off putting.
2. It’s a lot of work putting in all the data.
3. As with all shared trees you have to trust the other users.

A review of Wikitree published at https://www.dnaweekly.com/reviews/wikitree/ was unfavourable. The reviewer found the interface clunky and unintuitive. She wanted to explore uploading a GEDCOM file, a file which contains genealogical information about individuals such as names, events, and relationships; the records are linked together by metadata. However, she found it best to start building her tree. It is apparent from her efforts that she is not an experienced genealogist, for she entered her maternal grandmother with her married name, not her maiden name. She could not

 “locate any birth, death, or marriage certificates for any of my family members, even though I’d found them on other sites. If you’re after historical records specifically, you’d be better with Ancestry. It has a huge bank of records with an easy-to-use searching tool.”

Of course—and some people miss the point—this is because WikiTree is not a records repository.

The reviewer misunderstood Wikitree and was disappointed.

A response on the Reddit forum about sourcing points to a useful browser extension:

Entering sources is really easy using the WikiTree Sourcer browser extension (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:WikiTree_Sourcer). It came out in October. Easily cite Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, ScotlandsPeople, Find A Grave, UK BMD, with more sites to be added in the future. It even automatically adds a free sharing link for Ancestry sources.

For sources from other sites, most of the WikiTree projects have pages dedicated to source citation templates you can copy and fill in, or source citation examples for specific sites.

I have been using this extension recently and I found it very effective for adding information to profiles. I recommend it. There is a YouTube video which explains how to use it, at WikiTree Sourcer Extension Intro and Overview.

I agree that the interface of WikiTree is clunky but it is effective. It takes a little while to get used to and some knowledge of genealogical conventions such as the use of maiden names for women is required. It is expected that sources are cited according to conventions but as the Help page says: “the important thing is citing the source, not how it’s done.” “Genealogy without sources is mythology!” (According to a 2011 post by Tamura Jones the source of this aphorism is possibly Mary L. Henke.)

Family Tree Magazine has an introduction to Wikitree at https://familytreemagazine.com/websites/wikitree-tutorial/ The presentation notes “This is a collaboration—it’s meant to be accurate. Mistakes will happen, but the group assumes the best intentions of others and pledges to be courteous as they hammer out their differences in research findings.”

In a post of 26 April 2019, the genealogist Kitty Cooper discusses why you should add your research to WikiTree. She starts her post “A heartbreaking moment for any family historian is when you discover that your late genealogist cousin’s wife has shredded all his papers. This actually happened in my family.”  Sadly, this has happened in my family too. However, with Wikitree I believe my research will be there as a resource for my descendants and my cousins to use now and indefinitely into the future, safe, I hope, from accidental or malicious damage.

To sum up: Wikitree is not a records repository but a global family tree with a profile for each person. Wikitree users collaborate in their research. Wikitree is a site to give to rather than take from. My family members and distant cousins can make use of what I’ve found and review sources to make sure that I didn’t get any of it wrong. I agree with the idea of “genealogy as a perpetual work in progress”, and that we should share what we know. Not having to replicate complicated research that someone else has already done can save a lot of time. The Wikitree interface is a little rough and ready, and it takes time to learn, but there are tools to help.

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