Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Exploring WikiTree - Post 8: Searching for Common Ancestors

Previous posts in this series are in the summary post The Exploring WikiTree Compendium.

One of the possible uses of any online family tree system is that it be searchable for potential common   ancestors submitted by the registered users of the website.  A successful search may result in communication and collaboration between researchers to the (hopefully) mutual benefit of all involved. 

In WikiTree, which has just over one million profiles, I have found no direct matches with any of my 2,900-plus profiles.  That doesn't surprise me too much, seeing as how I didn't include any person past ten generations of my ancestry, and did not include spouses of the siblings of my ancestors.  However, I have many lines that extend beyond ten generations, especially in colonial New England, so I have found some common ancestors in WikiTree, but I don't have my own Profile for them, and am not on any Trusted Lists yet. 

So how do I Search?  And what can I do if I find one of my ancestors in the WikiTree?  Here is what I did today:

1)  There is a Search box at the very top of most of the WikiTree pages in the very top line on the page - the Search Box has "First Name" and "Last Name" fields.  Here is the screen shot:

The Search fields are just above my picture next to my name.  I entered First Name = "peregrine" and Last Name = "white," who is one of my ancestors (but not in my WikiTree database yet).

2)  I clicked on the "Search" button and was rewarded with a list of six matches:

There are three matches for the Peregrine White who was born aboard the Mayflower in November 1620 to William and Susanna (--?--) White. 

3)  The only match that listed parents of Peregrine White was the third one down the list - here is the Profile for Peregrine White from this submitter:

Because this Profile is "Open" (the default privacy level for subjects that died more than 200 years ago, and the Privacy was not changed by the Profile Manager), I can see all of the information submitted for this Profile.  If I want to discuss the information with the Profile Manager, I can type something into the "Public Bulletin Board" on the right of the screen above.  The message can have up to 800 characters.

4)  I clicked back to the Profile for Peregrine White's father, William White, and noted the information about William White, including the sources used by the Profile Manager.  I have some problems with some of this information, so I wrote a message in the "Public Bulletin board," suggesting that the Profile Manager check the Mayflower Families book for William White:

I believe that the WikiTree system sent the Profile Manager an email message with my message, but I don't think that it sent me a copy.  We'll see! 

5)  In order for me to collaborate with this Profile Manager, I need to request to be on the "Trusted List" for each Profile that I'm interested in.  Down at the bottom of the Profile, just above the "Memories About..." section is a link:

 "[For full editing rights, request to join William "Mayflower Compact"'s Trusted List.]

I clicked on the link and saw:

I filled in the form and sent it off to the Profile Manager.  I received a message at the top of the Profile saying that a message was sent to the Profile Manager asking him to add me to the "Trusted List."  I actually asked to be added to several of his persons that are not in my WikiTree.

Some comments about this process:

1)  When WikiTree has many more Profiles, it may be an onerous task to search for a match.  An "Advanced Search" that adds at least a birth year and birth place, a death year and death place, and a spouse's name is advised.  I received 57 matches when I searched for "william white" and it didn't show the particular one above for some reason (perhaps the "Mayflower Compact" middle name was confusing? 

2)  A "Search" page that has the different Search fields may be better for searchers looking for ancestral families.  also, a list of the Searches conducted by the WikiTree user would be very helpful.

3)  I struggled to find the "Trusted List" link - I even had to use the Edit Find to find it.  A link up near the top of the page would be more noticeable, and therefore used, IMHO. 

4)  The "Public Discussion Board" works well - easy and fast.  Does the Profile Manager get an email message?  Does the commenter? 

5)  The "Trusted List" request also is easy and fast. 

I'm curious to see how the collaboration process works! 


Geolover said...

Randy, thank you for this interesting series.

You asked another tree poster about how William White, d. February 21, 1621, could have fathered a child b. 1622.

An ambiguity in pre-1752 dates in trees is the year-dating. Most tree programs do not support the clarifier, such as "February 21, 1621/2."

Some treebies put the date in modern form; probably some simply omit the last digit.

So -- this is a question, not a quiz -- did William White die February 21, 1620/1, or February 21, 1621/2?

If the latter, he could have fathered a child born in 1622.

Chris Whitten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Whitten said...

Hi Randy,

Thanks for yet another great post. Some of these suggestions are going directly on the to-do list.

Counter-intuitively, the most direct way to make connections on WikiTree -- a search like you explain above -- isn't the most common.

There is an automatic search when you add a new person to WikiTree. For example, if you had added Peregrine White manually while growing your tree it would have shown you the list of possible matches.

Since many advanced users like you import a GEDCOM, and automatic searches don't kick-in, there is a tool for searching your entire Watchlist for possible matches. This way you don't need to search for matches for Peregrine White and then William White, etc., etc. It will show you all the potential matches on one page.

Still, most connections on WikiTree currently happen in a completely different way. People find you on Google.

I like to say that our search page isn't -- it's

Someday a distant cousin of yours will be searching for one of your common ancestors on Google and find the WikiTree page you created. It could take weeks or months, I know, but it will happen. That cousin will be in research mode and they'll be ready to collaborate. That's when the real benefits of wiki collaboration will start to kick in for you.