Thursday, July 9, 2015

David Kirby (1740-1832) Went Missing on WikiTree!

I had a private message from a person on WikiTree this morning asking me why I had a David Kirby (1740-1832), a Revolutionary War Soldier, in Massachusetts married to a Martha Soule when her David Kirby (1738-1811), also a Revolutionary War Soldier, lived in Virginia and Kentucky and was married to someone else.  She didn't think that her David Kirby had ever been to Massachusetts.  Was I mistaken?

I uploaded the profile of David Kirby-136 (1740-1832) in 2011.  He was my 5th great-grandfather. Apparently, she edited that profile yesterday, disconnected my David Kirby from his parents, spouse and children, erased all of my Notes and Sources, and then added parents, spouse and children, plus notes and sources and media, to reflect her David Kirby (1738-1811).

Same name, both Revolutionary War Soldiers, not the same places or relationships -- what could go wrong?  I was the only Profile Manager for Kirby-136.  It was an Open profile, so any registered WikiTreer could edit it.  Did she find a WikiTree profile that was closest to the 1738 birth date and assume it was the same person?

I can see how that might happen on WikiTree.  When you search for a person, you get a list of people in WikiTree with that name, as seen below:

The list provides the name, birth date, birth place, and death date , and a profile manager link (image taken after I added my David Kirby back into WikiTree).

Rather than fire off a stinging rebuke for changing my David Kirby profile, for which I was still the Profile Manager, I did what I thought was the sensible thing.  I responded back saying these were two different persons named David Kirby, and I will relinquish my Profile Managership for Kirby-136 so she can manage the profile, and I will create another profile for my David Kirby (1740-1832).  My logic here was that I had to re-enter the data for my David Kirby once anyway, and then would have had to delete her work, and I was pretty sure that would upset her, since she did a great job on her profile of her David Kirby (1738-1811).  Essentially, I avoided a flame war, and hopefully, educated her a bit about using WikiTree.

It was easy to create the new profile of David Kirby as Kirby-2316.  all I had to do was:

*  Click on the "add husband" link for Martha Soule (Soule-129)
*  Add name, birth and death information for David Kirby, and save.
*  Add marriage information for David Kirby and Martha Soule, and save.
*  Connect David Kirby to his parents, Ichabod Kirby (Kirby-130) and Rachel Allen (Allen-2030)
*  Connect David Kirby to his two children, Sybil Kirby (KIrby-122) and Ichabod Kivby (Kirby-138).
*  Copy Notes from my RootsMagic database to insert into the Notes for David Kirby, edit and save.

That took all of ten minutes at most.  The result - a new profile:

I left a message on the David Kirby (Kirby-136) profile explaining what happened and what I did to make sure that both profiles are available for WikiTreers.  I then removed myself as Profile Manager of Kirby-136.  I needed guidance to do this so I used the Help button.  Easy peasy.

It's nice to have David Kirby (1740-1832) back on WikiTree after he went missing for a day or two.  I doubt that anyone else missed him!  Amazingly, there have been 15 accesses for this new profile in about two hours!

Events like this are bound to happen on unified and collaborative "Our Trees" trees like WikiTree, and FamilySearch Family Tree when users who don't completely understand the system are able to edit a profile.

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Or contact me by email at


Michael F Harris said...

Hi, there is a procedure on dealing with this type of issue on Wikitree. It does work as I've had to use it.

For some reason many out there think there can be only one person with a name. It drives me nuts when they question why you think what you do when clearly they are right.

My wife's 7g grand father had sons Jacob, William, and Conrad. Each of them had a son named Jacob, William, and Conrad, they all lived in the same small Norther NY town until the started shooting each other and some ended up in Canada. The naming conventions went on for several generations. Getting the correct info is challenging.

Charlene M Filipiak said...

Randy, I loved how you handled the situation. I have had several of my known ancestors deleted from colbrated trees and this frustrates me to no end. I will have your wonderful post to remind me how to keep my cool and clean up the mess at the same time. Great blog, thanks for sharing!

Linda Stufflebean said...

Randy, Did this person ever realize they were two different people and did she apologize and admit maybe she was a bit too quick with the delete key?

Unknown said...

Hi Randy,

I think that is absolutely awful. You handled it with greater aplomb than I think it's right to ask of anyone. I want to be sure that I understand the sequence correctly, here - what I understand is that she wrote to you to complain about your having put "wrong" information in the profile, but did so AFTER she had made the changes???? WikiTree DEFINITELY has policy about that - someone is supposed to contact the profile manager to discuss it before making any changes, even if the profile is open so that they have the ability to do so. Also, your task would have been much easier if you simply restored the profile to before her changes (if you click the Changes tab, you can select any previous state and restore it to that) and then let her know that there is apparently a different person with the same name and that she needs to create a new profile for that person. I think I would also have changed the privacy to "public" - at least for a while - to prevent her from going back and doing it all over again.

Unknown said...

Hi Randy

First, thank you for your blog - what a great idea! As someone "bitten by the genealogy bug," (it doesn't hurt but oh what an amount of Time it consumes!), and who has worked with WikiTree for a couple of years, I think that what you did was awesome and you are much kinder than I probably would have been. I agree with Gaile - previous comment - that WikiTree does have a method to "restore" the data changed by someone who does not consult profile managers etc. and that is probably a better thing to do than to create a new profile for "your" ancestor when you had clearly posted him years before the "newer" one's data was used to replace yours.

I am concerned, as a WikiTree Ranger and Leader, that hopefully you did engage in dialogue with the person who changed your data without consulting you first - mainly to make sure that she knows that on all "open profiles" (any that are over 200 years old on WikiTree) that any substantive changes should be made WITH PRIOR consultation with the profile manager(s). Many of us share those older profiles - yes, we ARE distant cousins! - that's the fun part of WikiTree - and we need to cooperate on posting information that is common to us all. The other thing I would add is that anyone working on WikiTree - which is 100% Free: another great aspect of it! - is that we rely on some kind of SOURCES being added when profiles are created and/or data is changed/added/replaced etc. This is one of our biggest hassles on WikiTree - insuring that people add SOURCES properly so that future researchers and family members who "discover" their ancestor on the Tree can understand why what is written about them is there and look it up themselves.

One final thing: now that you have created the replacement profile for your ancestor, I strongly suggest you go onto WikiTree and put up the 2 profiles side by side (under the "Merge" tab) and then REJECT their being merged. Otherwise, 'sure as shootin,' someone else who is not well-informed will come along and try to merge them, thinking they are the same man... once again! The Rejected Merge should help deter them from replacing your work again. Best wishes and Happy Ancestor Hunting! Chet Snow - A WikiTree Ranger and Leader