Thursday, January 16, 2014

Collaborative Genealogy

Randy Seaver's post Diana, Princess of Wales may be my 11th cousin made me think some more today about collaborative genealogy sites. 

According to Geni.com Diana, Princess of Wales is my 9th cousin twice removed.  

Geni.com path between Kris Hewitt and Diana, Princess of Wales


There are a few collaborative genealogy sites out there.  Geni.com, WikiTree, OneGreatFamily, and FamilySearch are some of the main ones.

The idea behind a collaborative site is a good one.  There is so much genealogy to do that one person can't hope to accomplish it all in a lifetime.   The further back in our trees we go, the more ancestors we have.  But, there are also more cousins who are also descended from that ancestor.  So why all work on our own when we could be combining our efforts on our common ancestors?

I will use my ancestor Edmund Rice as an example.  On a collaborative genealogy site, instead of each of us having a profile for Edmund Rice, there will be one shared profile to which we all contribute.

People can all add sources and photos and documents to the profile, and so the work can be divided up among several people.  Discussions can take place about incorrect data, or new finds/leads.  Cousins can be found to join DNA projects.  

This sounds great in theory, and often it is great.  Sometimes though, problems arise.  Some people get possessive of the profiles of their ancestors and don't want to share.  Sometimes people disagree on what information is correct, or what format to display the info in.  

And of course, errors can, and do, happen.  It can be difficult to see someone else make a mistake in "your" tree.  Collaborative genealogy isn't for the faint-hearted or the perfectionist!  

Another issue is the insane number of duplicates.  It can take some time to get all profiles merged, and keep the tree clean of duplicates.  For example, WikiTree does not show my path to Diana, Princess of Wales, since several profiles have not yet been merged.

When a site allows GEDCOM uploads, hundreds of certain profiles will need merging.  

At Geni.com and at FamilySearch you can add sources with links to the online source image etc directly to a profile.  In fact, FamilySearch has a contest right now for adding the 12 millionth source to a profile.  

I try to keep my family tree info everywhere I can, because, just like you don't know where a relative may have DNA tested, in the past or future, you also don't know where a relative may start a family tree.  For example, I have found cousins on WikiTree that were not on Ancestry.com or Geni.com, and found plenty at Geni.com that were not anywhere else at all.

I really like the interface at Geni.com, but WikiTree has a nice DNA feature.  WikiTree has no direct links to sources.  Each site has its strengths and weaknesses.

Which collaborative genealogy sites do you belong to? Why do you prefer a certain collaborative genealogy site over the others?