Friday, February 21, 2020

What I Love Most About WikiTree

As I've said here already, I'm an avid user of Big Online Collaborative Trees. Although they have imperfections (sometimes glaring ones), I'm a fan of both their dynamic approach to genealogy and their potential to disseminate and preserve ancestral knowledge. The two I use most are the FamilySearch Family Tree and WikiTree. Today I want to talk about the main reason why I love WikiTree and spend considerable time there.

Here is the simplest way I can summarize my enthusiasm for WikiTree: it combines basic family tree functionality with wiki-style data entry. This allows for the entering of precision research into a large text space with very few constricting fields. The site's html/inline citation features for entering biographical, note, and source texts are all extremely attractive to someone like me.

Why someone like me? Because I mostly can't stand the windows, fields, and stiff-arming of traditional genealogy software. There, I said it. I use traditional software for my "main" tree, and am convinced by the basic arguments telling me that I should do so, but I don't like it. I always fume at spending more time negotiating my software's source lists and confining layouts (especially for my citations) than I do actually getting real research done when I use it. With Wikitree, I can write everything out in an unencumbered manner, and easily link very detailed source citations to multiple facts and biographical information for each person. I can even hot-link to other  people's profiles on different pages. I can make lists. I can link multiple facts to a single citation without having to worry about entering different forms of the citation. It's like having a big Microsoft Word document that also works like a family tree.

If there were a genealogy software program that could work exactly like WikiTree does on my desktop, and editable only by me, I would buy (at a hefty price) and use that program for my main tree in a split second. Are you reading this, Chris Whitten? I think you're sitting on a goldmine. Make a desktop version of what you have at WikiTree, and I'll bet you'd be surprised at how many copies you sell. (If I had such a software program, I wouldn't stop using the WikiTree website. Indeed, I would update both software file and site pages together simultaneously.)

So, there it is: WikiTree is my favorite Big Online Collaborative Tree because it rewards and enables scholarly research while bypassing the headaches of traditional software. In my own research, I am used to writing everything out. I love Wikitree because it lets me do the same with genealogy. Then there is the wealth of other neat, Wiki-related features there, not to mention some nifty privacy and quality controls (which I may discuss in another post). It's no wonder I spend as much time at this site as anywhere else, genealogy-wise.

So, what about the FamilySearch Family Tree? I'm there a lot, too, for slightly different reasons. The main one is their Memories tool and the fact that I'm confident this is the Big Tree that will be around the longest. I try to keep an eye on eternity, and the FSFT is right within that eye's line of vision. But this is a subject for another post.


  1. Would you mind sharing a link to a person in WikiTree where you've done the kind of free-form sourcing that you've described? I'd love to see and example.

    1. All of my WikiTree profiles are works in progress. I have lots of adding, editing, and shoring up to do. But here's one: