I have to tell you – this was just so doggone much fun!
I was a guest of the WikiTree Challenge, a community sourcing and discovery event. The WikiTree volunteer researchers were just amazing.
I already had a tree on WikiTree, which is a combination of my “own” tree and the same ancestors that other people share on WikiTree. WikiTree is a “one big tree” genealogy site. If you take a look at my tree, then scroll down, you’ll see three categories of Research, Tools, and Contacts available to everyone
This screenshot is just an example – there are lots more features and tools available.
And before you say it out loud, yes, I know about the errors and misinformation on “one big tree sites” and how FRUSTRATING it is to find erroneous information and either have no ability to fix it, or it’s almost impossible.
I’ve found WikiTree to be different.
Eight Reasons Why I Like WikiTree
Let me explain for a brief minute how WikiTree works and why I like it.
- WikiTree is entirely free, all-volunteer, and encourages cooperation and collaboration between and among genealogists.
- You can upload your GEDCOM file and connect your ancestors, or you can simply enter yourself and your ancestors until you connect with an ancestor that already exists in WikiTree. In my case, that would have been my grandparents. WikiTree has many profiles of ancestors, so that process shouldn’t take long unless you have a family from an under-represented region of the world.
- WikiTree has volunteer moderators who are experienced and assist if issues arise. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you think something is in error for your ancestor. You leave a comment on that ancestor’s profile card, but the profile manager doesn’t respond. You’d like to have the questionable data evaluated, so you have the option to ask for assistance from one of the moderators.
- WikiTree has a GtoG (Genealogist to Genealogist) Forum where you can ask, or answer questions.
- You can post questions, comments and in many cases, edit the profiles to provide additional information.
- The research comments remain in the thread of the ancestor, including links to other resources.
- Descendants can post their Y and mitochondrial DNA information if they descent appropriately to be relevant to that ancestor – along with autosomal information so you can see if you match.
- WikiTree is free and doesn’t replace any other resource. In other words, you still need to test your DNA elsewhere, and you need those data and document subscriptions for research resources. You record the findings and documents from all the sites in one location in WikiTree for each ancestor.
WikiTree is Fun
As we genealogists all know, there are trees and various sources of data in many, many individual places, much of it online. However, there’s still a huge amount that isn’t online, hidden in musty courthouse basements, and/or resides in researchers’ file folders.
WikiTree is a central location where all of those various resources and hints can be sifted through and gathered together – and it’s available for everyone free and without a subscription. I think of it as my wiki genealogy repository. Otherwise, my ancestor’s data is scattered in many locations – and held in many trees online – none of which I can influence except my own. I can and do contribute on WikiTree.
Unlike some subscription services, researchers can have an ongoing dialogue about, let’s say, whether Abraham Estes’s wife, Barbara’s birth surname was Brock – or not.
Her surname has (erroneously) been reported as Brock since the 1980s when a NOVEL was written using Abraham and Barbara as characters and ascribed Brock as her surname. Literally, almost every tree on the subscription sites shows Barbara’s surname as Brock, but there is not one single shred of evidence that it was. Even the author later said he was sorry he had done that and had no idea people would latch on to that as gospel. After all, it was a novel. But they did.
You can take a look at Barbara’s profile here and the comments and documentation as well. In essence, WikiTree is your opportunity, aside from your own tree wherever you place it, to be sure there is at least one public location where your ancestor’s information is provided and compiled correctly – and that the discussion of why is preserved.
When I’m researching, I appreciate that I can see the back and forth dialogue. WikiTree assures that exchanges remain respectful.
My Challenge Week
My WikiTree challenge week ran from 10-13 to 10-20. In advance, I reviewed my ancestors and commented where I thought there were questions or issues. Yes, I was hoping for help, especially with certain particularly thorny ancestors.
It was all I could do to behave and not peek during the week. I can’t even express how excited I was.
I didn’t have any specific expectations, in part because I’ve been a genealogist for so long. But of course, I was hoping for some brick wall breakthroughs!
Finally, the big reveal day arrived!
You can watch the reveal here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwhxZmQ34VI
You can also see a summary of the highlights, here.
Given that challenges are a community event, WikiTree has made it fun by awarding points to researchers for various things. Scoring is explained here.
In addition to the WikiTree community, my blog followers who weren’t able to get on the WikiTree team at the last minute contributed as well by sending me hints and info. Thank you so very much. I love you folks!
Mindy Silva, the Challenge coordinator, began by creating a fan chart that showed where I had brick walls available to fall.
In fact, several of these walls did fall, leading to additional generations being added to that line as well.
I was gobsmacked.
I’m extremely grateful for the many Dutch records and how well they are preserved. This facilitated moving back several generations on two lines, here and here. Additionally, it was also discovered that one Piers de Jong changed his name in 1811. As if Dutch records and surnames aren’t difficult enough!
For Dorothy Edmiston, we have more information, but I still need to be convinced. My sticking point is that our only data source is a will in 1749 that refers to a Dorothy Edmiston as a daughter – but we know that our Dorothy was married to Thomas McSpadden in the mid-1730s. This is not a criticism, but in fact leads me to my next point.
It’s All Hints
I’ve heard it and even said it. One big trees are frustrating because there can be so much misinformation. The same is true for individual shared trees, too, of course, and they multiply like ants. In most cases, you can’t do anything about it, but you actually can at WikiTree.
Treat everything as a hint.
That’s my rule of thumb: It’s all hints!
Try to prove or disprove everything. You may well find that the proof is actually in the profile, or in the links to other resources. Remember to share your actual findings in the person’s profile so someone else doesn’t have to replow the field you just plowed.
Post your comments. Read the threads. There’s gold there. Even if you disprove something, it’s wonderful to know why it arose in the first place. In one case, someone finally found the original source of a family story and why a specific piece of information was given.
But There’s More
Sometimes I think we focus too much on breakthroughs and not enough of documenting what’s available. I try to do this in my 52 ancestor stories, but adding the resources in WikiTree and making sure they are accurate is important too.
More than 3100 edits of my ancestors’ profiles were completed during the challenge week.
In addition to everything else, lots, and I mean a LOT of cleanup and housekeeping took place.
For example, look how nice this profile page for my great-grandmother, Ellenore (Nora) Kirsch (Lore) looks now thanks to Cheryl Hess Smith’s hard work. I am so very glad to see the information from the articles I’ve written about my ancestors being integrated into these profiles. They asked and I gave permission for information from any of my articles to be used.
Trust me, Nora’s profile looked nothing like this before.
Are We Related?
Who are these people who spent so much time on my ancestors’ profiles? Am I related to them? Is that why they expended the effort? I expected the answer to be yes.
Just for fun, I decided to see if I am related to each person who worked on the challenge.
It’s easy to tell if or how you are related to someone on WikiTree.
Go to their profile, then under their profile information, select “Relationship to Me.”
If you don’t see these options, the profile owner may have opted to keep this type of information private.
If you want to see how you are related to me, click here for my profile. If we are related, tell me how and through which ancestor, along with your profile ID in the comments. Who knows, the WikiTree Challenge volunteers may have been working on your ancestor too!
For each of the team members who worked on my branches this week, I checked to see if and how we are related. The results are shown below, with birth surnames shown in parenthesis.
As I viewed the profile for each person, I was dumbstruck at the number of cumulative contributions by these volunteers. Are you ready for this – these 35 people have contributed well over 1.5 million times – and growing every single day.
Relationship to Me
Let me explain how this works.
Jayme Arrington was the MVP this week, meaning she made the highest number of contributions that received points. Thank you, Jayme.
Jayme and I are 12th cousins once removed and I’ve provided the relationship link so you can take a look if you wish. Yes, each step needs to be proven for both people.
- Jayme Arrington – MVP – 12C1
Jayne is an amazing contributor! We are related through our Connecticut Puritan line that extends back to England.
- Dieter Lewerenz – no relationship
Top bounty hunter – congratulations!
- Cheryl Hess Smith – 11C1R
Look at that – 91 thousand. Wow. Just wow.
- Margreet Beers
Margreet is Dutch and I bet you can guess who did some of that work on my Dutch lines!
- Greg Lavoie – 9C through Abraham Dugas
We share Acadian ancestors. There’s an old saying that if you are related to one Acadian, you are related to all Acadians!
- Donna (Tucker) Baumann – 10C1R – through Katherine Duxford
Donna and I share Puritan ancestors.
- Kathy Rabenstein – not related
Kathy made 151 edits to my ancestors and added 22 of their relatives. I would have gone down some rabbit hole never to be seen again!
- Ann Browning – not related
Ann created a new ancestor for me. I’m grateful to be among her contributions.
- Rosalie Martin Neve – 12C
Our Bowling line is from Lancashire. It’s fun to find connections. Given that she’s a WikiTreer, I’d bet she has seen my Bowling articles that include Charnock Richard, where our ancestors lived.
- Chris M. Ferraiolo – 7C2R
Chris and I are related through my difficult Hill line which intersects with the Drew and Downes line. Look at this.
Chris and I share 70 common ancestors on multiple unrelated lines. (Hint – he has Acadian ancestry too)
Isn’t this WikiTree feature cool!
- Kathy J. Nava (Urbach) – 19c2R
If these lineages are correct for both of us, we connect in the royal lineages of England. I’m not convinced my side of this lineage is accurate, but I need to research my Rice line more anyway and this provides motivation.
- Maddy Hardman
OK, I’m just blown away by the sheer number of Maddy’s contributions. She must help other people all day and night. Does she ever sleep?
- Paul J. Gierszewski – no relationship
Paul created 9 relatives and made 83 edits. Paul, along with several other WikiTree volunteers works on Source-A-Thon‘s too, where the goals is to – you guessed it – add sources to unsourced information on trees.
- Lucy A. Selvaggio-Diaz – 15C1R
Lucy edited 16 profiles and added several relatives.
- Jennifer Robins – 10C1R through Katherine Duxford
Ah, look, this means that Donna, Jennifer, and me are all three related through the same ancestor.
- Karen J. Lowe – 10C through Mercy Prence
Our common ancestor, Mercy Prence was the granddaughter of Elder William Brewster, the Pilgrim minister.
I can’t even imagine 185K contributions. My cousin is AWESOME!
- Melanie McComb (Doherty) – no relationship
Melanie created two ancestors for me!
- S. Johnston (Ellingson) – 15C
Ok, I really do have to get busy researching my Rice line to see if I can figure out if Thomas Rice is the son of Edward Rice and Mary Elizabeth Claiborne Harris. Group 4 of the Rice DNA Project is the line of my Thomas – more research is definately needed.
- Laura A. DeSpain, Challenge team captain – 11C1R
Another Puritan lineage connecting through the Hill, Hall, Richardson lines out of Connecticut.
Thanks, Laura for being my team captain!
- Elaine Weatherall – 17C2R
- Michelle R. Enke – no relation
Michelle added two relatives and made several edits.
- Mindy Silva, hostess of the WikiTree Challenge events – 11C1R
I think that one of my ancestral links, Jotham Brown’s father, is incorrect on WikiTree so I’ve added my article about Jotham that shows his early connection in New Jersey. Y DNA connects him with that line too. Unfortunately, that means that Mindy and I probably aren’t related.☹
- Joan E. Whitaker (Williams) – no relation
Joan added a relative and cleaned up several profiles.
- Nancy L. Wilson (Cox) – 16C
- Ellen Smith – 7C through Mehitable Wood
Our common ancestor, Mehitable Wood, has several people listed who are descendants and provide their autosomal test information. I need to check and see if I match with Ellen or anyone else who descends from Mehitable.
I love the ability to add the different types of DNA tests for each ancestor. I use WikiTree often to check for both Y and mitochondrial DNA descendants. If everyone tests their autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, and males test their Y DNA at FamilyTreeDNA, this would eventually allow nearly every ancestor to have their Y and mitochondrial DNA information associated with their profile.
- Tommy T. Buch – no relation
Tommy has worked on many WikiTree challenges. Often, people who have been the lucky recipients say thank you on the profile of the various volunteers – and Tommy has several.
- Yann Le Ny – no relation
It looks like Yann just joined WikiTree in the spring of 2021 and has already made more than 1000 contributions. Welcome and thank you!
- G. Price – 9C through Thomas Durham
I am really impressed that she has provided for her “Digitial Afterlife,” something we all need to do. I need to take this same action, and so do you. Take a look at what she did, here, by scrolling down.
Stephen Tomaszewicz – no relationship
Stephen worked on cleaning up several Dodson profiles, even though they aren’t his family lines.
I was startled to discover that most people were contributing on lines that aren’t their own. Just from the kindness of their hearts.
David A. Lambert – 9C
David is the Chief Genealogist at American Ancestors of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, so it’s only fitting that we connect via my Hill/Mitchell/Andrews line. I would wager a guess that I can count on the information for our common ancestors, Joane and John Andrews, being accurate.
Eileen Robinson (Bellamy) – no relation
I wish we were related. I find Eileen’s bio very inspiring. Additionally, in 10 days or so since I originally wrote this article, Elieen has gone from crossing the 1000 submission threshold to 1905. Hats off to Eileen!
Janet Wild (Langridge) – no relationship
In addition to working on my challenge, Janet has participated in other challenges including being the captain, has been a project team lead and a one-name-study coordinator. I didn’t realize that WikiTree had one name studies. I need to go and check this out!
Karen L. Stewart – 10C
WikiTree has different privacy levels. Karen has set her privacy level to “Private with Public Biography and Family Tree.” You can read about the various levels and what they mean, here.
Jelena Eckstädt – no relation
When I saw Jelena’s German name, I thought sure that we were related. Alas, no, but I was still the beneficiary of her German expertise.
Anon Sharkey (Cormack)
Anon may want to remain anonymous, but with almost 45K contributions, Anon is clearly making a huge difference.
Thank You One and All
I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone for working on my ancestors during my WikiTree Challenge week.
If I worked on 10 items a day, for a year, I wouldn’t have been able to get this done. It’s not just time. I was the beneficiary of the expertise and determination of these amazing volunteers.
Truly, the holiday season came early for me this year!
Thank you one and all.
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