A Case for the Genealogy Wiki

If you have wanted to share your genealogical data on the internet you could create a website with that data. That was usually rather complicated for most people and very few people have done that. You could also create a GEDCOM file from your genealogy program and upload it to Ancestry, WorldConnect on Rootsweb, Family Search and other places. I put family data on Family Search many years ago but you couldn’t make corrections to data that you submitted. I also uploaded data to WorldConnect but to make corrections or even add a single person you have to delete your old data and then upload a new GEDCOM of data. I have found that some people have put the same person’s data on WorldConnect two or even three times. Then there are some people’s data¬† in all the major databases that are uploaded by many people. I have an good example…

Oceanus Hopkins was the son of Steve Hopkins and his second wife, Elizabeth Fisher. They came on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620 and, in fact, Oceanus was born on the journey on the Mayflower. His name came from the fact that he was born on the Atlantic Ocean and there has only ever been this one person named Oceanus Hopkins. I did a search on some websites to see how many records that they had of Oceanus. Ancestry has him in their “Public Member Trees” 2461 times. Also Oceanus is in their “Private Member Trees” 644 times and in the “One World Tree” 24 times. To make matters worse, 1171 records in the “Public Member Trees” have Oceanus born in Mayflower, Arkansas in 1620. WorldConnect has data on Oceanus submitted 1115 times. Then I checked the older data files on Family Search. In their “Pedigree Resource File” is data on Oceanus 393 times. Then I looked at the “Ancestry File” and there is only one record for Oceanus Hopkins in there. A possible explanation for just one record, later.

Just by looking at these three databases you can see that there are many duplicates in every database. It would be much better to merge the data of a single person from many submitters. That’s what you would do in your own genealogy data. That is also what the new genealogy wikis are doing. They use the same method (wiki) that is used on Wikipedia. That is, that any registered user can submit data or make changes to a page (or in this case, a person) that already exists. There are already some databases websites that are using the wiki technology. One website that I mentioned in an earlier posting is We Relate. It does most of the things that you would expect a wiki to do and when I searched for Oceanus Hopkins, he was in the database twice. In this case, Oceanus was listed as the son of Stephen Hopkins by both his first and second wives. In the well respected The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620 – 1633 (1995) by Robert Charles Anderson it says on page 988 that Oceanus was the child of the second wife, Elizabeth Fisher. I could correct the data on We Relate but I would rather merge the two sets of data into one but quickly gave up after trying and failing. We Relate just seems to leave me wanting it to work easier.

Currently in the later testing stage is “New Family Search.” As it stands now, you have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (AKA the Mormons or LDS) to get access. From the previews I have seen, it is much easier to use and maintain the data of a person. Hopefully it can get out of the testing stage and let the rest of us get a chance to use “New Family Search.” Rumors are that should happen sometime this year. I think, but can’t prove, that when I searched for Oceanus Hopkins on the old “Ancestral File” and found only the one record that it was the result of the corrections made by the “New Family Search” program. I know that at one time there were many records in the “Ancestral File” for Oceanus. Also when I look at the submitter of the data on Oceanus it shows 39 different people submitting the data. So that is another indication that the data has been merged. That also means that I might be able to correct some of the mistakes that I made many years ago when I submitted my family data. The only real problem with wiki pages is data battles where one person will correct a page and then another person will change the data back to the original and then it is repeated over and over. In those cases, the website can put the page on hold and has to arbitrate the fight. The LDS has the resources to moderate any wiki battles.

I hope that “New Family Search” will be available to everyone soon as I have much new family data to share.