Monday, March 23, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 12: Sharing Research on WikiTree

Last week's e-mail had an interesting, make that huge, BSO (bright, shiny object). Someone had written me concerning a blog post I wrote over a year ago about my husband's 2GGrandfather, Elijah Hillhouse. In the post I had written about Elijah's military service in two different conflicts. This e-mail was a BSO as I have been running into dead ends in my Norwegian research and felt I could use a break.

The e-mail asked if I would share some of Elijah's information on WikiTree.  I had registered to participate in WikiTree several years ago, but I had not been involved in posting any information there.  This correspondence gave me the impetus to look more closely at WikiTree and how the site operates.

The primary reason I have been looked at WikiTree at all was its emphasis on citing sources for information and its collaborative nature in developing family trees. Before I started working in an existing WikiTree, I wanted to start building a tree of my one. This would give me a chance to learn more about how the whole system operates.

Because I have been so involved in researching my Norwegian ancestors during the Genealogy Do-Over weeks, I felt this was the time to share my work on WikiTree in addition to updating my tree on Ancestry.  I did a GEDCOM ancestor export from Family Tree Maker of my Grandfather Michael Myren (the son of two Norwegian immigrants) and his ancestors. The next day I received an e-mail from WikiTree accepting my contribution.  My contribution of Michael Myren's tree was accepted in its entirety as there were no apparent duplicate names with those in other WikiTrees. So far I haven't received any contact from others researching my ancestors, but I am hoping that sometime in the future I will.

Before I started to add some information about Elijah Hillhouse to the existing WikiTree, I spent time reading the details the website provides on editing and citing information.  Adding bits of specific information wasn't as simple as uploading my GEDCOM file. After all, the intent of WikiTree is to have only one collaborative tree for a family, not multiple ones. Admittedly, it took me about an hour to add a few facts about Elijah's family and the sources for the facts.  Entering information isn't as effortless as using the templates that I am accustomed to with Family Tree Maker, but it wasn't as difficult as writing a bunch of HTML code. Because the manager for the WikiTree (on which Elijah's family was a branch) had made me a trusted contributor, I was able to add several facts to the tree as well as to add Elijah's parents and grandparents to the tree. It was an interesting experience to share some of my research through contributing to someone else's WikiTree .

Now I'm ready to "head back to Norway".  Following up on that e-mail was like a breath of fresh air.  It provided me with an opportunity to see what WikiTree has become.  It provided me a reason to share research with others.  And, it has provided me with another place to look when I am researching an individual.  If you haven't used WikiTree before, I urge you to take a look and see if its collaborative research can help you.

P.S. If you are one of my former students, as with Wikipedia, the information on WikiTree is only as good was where the information was originally found. The format of WikiTree makes it easy to see the sources each contributor used.

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