The Wonders of WikiTree: Adventures in Collaborative Genealogy (Part 1)

Part 1: Preparing for the Adventure:

Genealogy is an adventure into the unknown. Many start their adventure unknowingly unprepared. They are unaware that danger lurks with every new discovery. Often, the only advice the novice may ever get is to “start with yourself.”

If you’re lucky, you may have been told to document what you know and to gather all the information you can from your living relatives. This may sound simple, but if you have a big family with lots of cousins, organizing their information can quickly become a huge task for an individual genealogist. Turning that information into something meaningful and useful can take a lot of time. It can be a lonely experience.

Imagine a place where your family could contribute their knowledge, share their stories, and help each other to fill in the missing details. A website where all your cousins could contribute their part of the family tree all in one place. A single family tree where Oma Gertie can fill in the details that Uncle Bill forgot when sharing stories about your mother’s first marriage to “the Irishman.”

Imagine a website where all adventurers, novice, intermediate or expert, gather to share their knowledge, grow their skills, and help warn others of the dangers that lay hidden when doing genealogical research.

Stretching your imagination further, you may even imagine a website where all contributors are held accountable and asked to provide evidence to back their statements of fact.

If you are Chris Whitten, creator of WikiAnswers, you create WikiTree. As the Whitten family historian, Chris started WikiTree in 2008 with a desire to encourage his extended family to share their knowledge of the Whitten family tree. Rather than working alone, organizing and documenting each individual piece of information by himself, Chris quickly realized encouraging collaboration among his family would bring advantages that working alone would not.

Now celebrating its 10 year anniversary, WikiTree is the place, “Where genealogists collaborate.” The website is free, and Chris Whitten himself has pledged that it will continue to be free, forever. In the past 10 years, over half a million adventurous genealogists from around the world have come together to share their stories in Wikitree’s single family tree.

Now, having learned that WikiTree is a single family tree where genealogists collaborate, you may ask, “How does it work?” In a series of forthcoming articles, we will answer this question, and many more.

We will prepare you for the adventure and warn you of any danger you may find along the way. We will encounter the many helpful Greeters and Mentors, and uncover the lost land of G2G. We will peek in on the fun of Projects and Challenges, learn about Sourcerers, and introduce you to the Forest Elf and her merry band of Rangers. These are but a few of the wonders that await you when you enter the world of Wikitree.

Our adventure starts here. Buckle up, and prepare for your first task, signing the Honor Code, WikiTree’s secret sauce to collaborative genealogy.

Part 2: The Honor Code

(Michael has been a WikiTreer since December 2011 and a Volunteer Leader since Oct 2014. He is currently working for WikiTree to help expand awareness of the site. Michael is owner of Missing Roots Genealogy and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists. He recently completed the Online Genealogical Research Certificate offered through Boston University’s school of Professional Studies.)

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