Thursday, August 5, 2010

Searching the Wiki - Post 1

I haven't posted much about the genealogy wiki recently, although I did a "Wikis for Genealogy" presentation that included WeRelate in May 2010. At that time, I uploaded a second GEDCOM file with my White ancestors that included many colonial Rhode Island and Plymouth Colony ancestral families.

One of the comments in my presentation was that WeRelate is a bit difficult to navigate because information about each family (husband and wife) was on one web page and information about each person was on a separate Person page. In June, modified their page design and really improved navigation - it's much easier and user-friendly now ( had nothing to do with the change!). is an online family tree system in a wiki format. It is an inter-connected family tree, meaning that it is one big tree where each person has a page - there are not supposed to be separate pages for the same person in two or more trees. Researchers like you and me can submit a GEDCOM file to WeRelate, but we have to match any persons in our database with persons already in the WeRelate database. This is done person by person, and can take awhile if we submit a large GEDCOM file.

To submit data to, you need to register as a user. The data that is added to the family tree is what you submit. However, if more than one person submits conflicting data for the same person, the wiki feature permits all submitters to collaborate and discuss the differences with each other. For some historical persons for which there are many submitters, the content is "semi-protected" based on a consensus reached by the moderators on the system.

All of the data on the system is available to view and search for free. To see how the system works, the home page has some tutorial videos that guide a new user through the website and system. These are well done and very helpful.

I want to demonstrate the Search process in the screens below and they will show some of the breadth of the system. Here is the Home Page screen:

I clicked on the "Search" link in the menu row and it shows six choices - All, Articles, People, Images, Sources and Places. I wanted to search for a person, so I clicked on the "People" link and saw the search fields:

I chose Given Name = "george" and Surname = "soule" and added Spouse given = "mary" in the screen above, and saw:

The search field with the match results are shown above. I picked the first name on the list, George Soule, husband of Mary Buckett. George was a Mayflower passenger, and is one of my ancestors. The George Soule "Person Page" came up (four screens below) with:

On the first screen above, the "Facts and Events" information about George, the name of his spouse and the places are listed in blue - these are links to other Person pages or Place pages. On the left sidebar are the wiki-style links to Edit, History, Rename, Unwatch, Trees, etc. Below those links is a list of the registered members that have submitted or are watching the specific person. I'm on that list.

On the right sidebar are the list(s) of Parents with Siblings and further down are "Spouse(s) and Children. all of the names have links to Person Pages.

Further down the Person Page, there are sections for Origins and Will of George Soule. For persons that have a lot of information posted, the submitted information has been broken up into sections.

At the bottom of the Person Page is a list of References that include any footnote numbers in the "Facts and Events" area (but not the notes area), plus whatever additional references were added.

For the case of George Soule, a significant portion of the text added came from the Wikipedia article for George Soule.

For some of the persons in, the Facts and Events, the Research Notes and the References have been "vetted" by knowledgeable persons with access to "authoritative" references. For George Soule, those "authoritative" references include Wikipedia, the website, a Massachusetts town vital record book, and several town history books. In many cases, the information from Robert Charles Anderson's compendium "The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633 has been summarized and used.

While the website has only about 1.8 million Person Pages in the system, there may be information on those pages that is helpful to researchers. I encourage my readers to at least search for their ancestral families, and if you like the system to register and contribute to the system.

I really like the wiki concept and think that it has been implemented well. The site is still in beta test, but has matured well and is useful as a resource and an inter-connected family tree site.

I will write more about navigating on the website, about some of the other features, plus my experiences in submitting GEDCOM data to the site.

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