Monday, March 8, 2021

Using Ancestor Explorer for WikiTree to Generate an Ancestor List and Map

On the Mondays With Myrt webinar today, Frank Jatzek from Germany discussed the Ancestor Explorer app created by Chase Ashley to generate a list of a person's ancestors using the WikiTree collaborative treeOf course, the user (like me) has to be in the WikiTree database and have added his/her ancestor's into WikiTree using a GEDCOM file or entering information one person at a time.  Users should understand that WikiTree is a free-to-use collaborative tree, meaning that any researcher can add or modify information for any historical person.   Therefore, "cave genealogus."

The Ancestor Explorer page says:

This app allows you to:
  • See a sortable list of all ancestors of a particular person (Descendant) for up to 20 generations back.
  • See sortable lists of all ancestors of Descendent up to 20 generations back who meet selected criteria.
  • Click on the icon next to any ancestor in an ancestor list to see all lines of descent from that ancestor to the Descendant.
  • See a map of the birth and death locations of ancestors in an ancestor list or lines of descent.
  • Download any of the ancestor lists or lines of descent to a .csv file, which can then be opened in a spreadsheet.
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or problems, please post a comment on Chase Ashley's WikiTree page.

To use the Ancestor Explorer, a user needs to know his/her WikiTree number.  Every person has a number - mine is "Seaver-15" because I was the 15th Seaver person entered into WikiTree.  

Here is the Ancestor Explorer page after I entered my WikiTree number, selected 20 generations, and opted in for maximum information:

I clicked the "Generate List" button and after about 15 seconds saw the top of my list of ancestors in WikiTree:

The top of the list indicates that I have "... 4121 unique ancestors and 1267 duplicate ancestors (additional lines of descent from a unique ancestor) within 20 generations."

At the bottom of my list is the 23rd generation back in time:

My guess is that I have more in that 23rd generation, but the ahnentafel number exceeds 10 million.  So I got 3 generations extra.

There was a button back on the first screen to download the list in a .csv file to my computer, and I did that.  

Looking at my list, I can see that I have not updated or added several lines that I have found in the past 10 years.  There are lots of place names that are not standardized in WikiTree - I contributed some of them, but other researchers have contributed also.

One of the key features of Ancestor Explorer is the Mapping feature.  On the home page, there is a button to see the "Map List."  The place names are correlated with Google Maps, and non-standard place names need to be resolved.  I had over 300 place names that needed to be resolved for the 20 generation list, so I created a 12 generation ancestor list and had only 96 place names to resolve, which the computer program did in less than a minute.  Here is the world map with green (births) and pink (deaths) stick pins in locations:

Some stick pins are in strange locations - for instance the one below Africa.  The place name in WikiTree was "Beverwyck, New Netherland" which Google could not resolve.  

The user can use Ctrl-Scroll or the plus/minus signs in the lower right-hand corner to magnify areas of the map.  If you magnify the map enough, you can see that many stick pins hide more stick pins behind them.  Here is my USA map:

And my map of western Europe:

This is a very useful tool for researchers wanting to see a list of their ancestors - at least those entered into WikiTree.  Users should certainly be aware that any user-generated or contributed family tree may be erroneous.  I love computer programs ("apps") like this!

I can read my saved list of 20 generations of ancestors into a spreadsheet and work on the missing lines, and add them to WikiTree.

According to the list above, I have only 4,121 unique ancestors on this list, when 22 generations of ancestors should be 4,193,204.  So I know only 0.10% of my last 22 generations of ancestors.  That's humbling, after 33 years of research. Obviously, there is lots more ancestors to pursue.


The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2021, 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.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at

No comments: