Combined use of WeRelate and Wikitree


Comparing WeRelate and Wikitree

I have found a range of opinions and information while undertaking my latest review on WeRelate and Wikitree. Reviews, blogs and follow up comments on the internet including information and comments from Chris at Wikitree and Dallan at WeRelate. These online discussions have assisted in forming the opinions expressed in this article.

Users of genealogy wiki's such as Familypedia, Wikitree, WeRelate and Geni will generally agree that sharing family information and genealogy in a wiki format is a great thing. The greatest logic being that the best everyone has to offer is the single result for each individual. Replacing the multiple duplication of the same information for individuals and families which has been the standard until the introduction of genealogy wikis. There are some detractors but that will be discussed later.

This article is also located on Wikitree.


Who cares about living people

The single biggest difference between these 2 genealogy wiki's is that WeRelate only includes profiles for deceased people while Wikitree includes the living. This has created a range of discussions and perceived problems with users and potential users alike.

People who are alive and find themselves listed openly on a genealogy site may be pleased, surprised, annoyed, concerned or paranoid about privacy. Whatever their reaction may be, it is the responsibility of genealogists to manage the sensitive matter of listing living people on genealogy sites. As the organisation hosting the information provided by a large number of genealogists, it is the responsibility of the wiki to provide a way to manage that situation.

WeRelate manages this concern by only allowing profiles for people who are known to be deceased or were born over 110 Years ago or married over 90 years ago. While ensuring privacy for the living this does create a disconnect in family trees.

Wikitree manages this concern through the use of privacy controls. There are 6 different levels of privacy from Unlisted through to Open which is the default setting for people over 200 years old. The problem with the privacy controls appears to consistently come back to individuals not setting the appropriate privacy level and denying shared access to profiles for other researchers.

My perspective is that both sites are doing a good job of ensuring privacy controls for the living, in line with social protocol and the laws which exist in some countries. I like the openness and default sharing which occurs on WeRelate for all deceased people. I also like the privacy controls for the living on Wikitree because I can list living family members without being concerned about upsetting someone.

My wishlist is similar to many others, in wanting the default sharing of deceased people while being able to maintain the privacy and include the living all on one site.

Profit versus Not-for-Profit

The fact that Wikitree is a for profit company and WeRelate is a not-for-profit organisation has been raised as a point of difference and a concern by some users and commentators. Undertaking a risk assessment to decide which site to use is in many ways similar to deciding which software to use for your genealogy research.

WeRelate is a not-for-profit organisation relying on volunteer resources. There are many examples of large not for profit organisations which make a lot of money that goes towards maintaining and growing the organisation so that it remains around for a very long time. A reliance on volunteers requires that there is always a strong enough, continually renewed community interest and belief in the organisation to maintain itself.

Wikitree is a for profit company maintaining a free resource via advertising. Good companies grow and regardless of whether they are bought and sold they continue to grow and support their clients. The level of profit or lack of profit received by a company can result in changes to their policy of providing free resources.

My perspective is that regardless of the profit or not-for-profit status of an organisation, changes can happen within the business model. They could cease to exist for reasons not yet imagined or they could become a household name for centuries to come. Not-for-profits certainly attract more volunteers of which the genealogy space certainly has many, but I have seen good not-for-profit organisations suffer due to differences of opinions and the subsequent behaviour of individuals. For profit organisations are more inclined to impliment changes in how they make their income, which may not be inline with their original intent of providing a free resource.

My wish is that I can help ensure the success of a quality genealogy wiki which is still in existence seven generations into the future.

Functionality and Page Layouts

What you think of ease of use, functionality and page layout preferences are going to depend greatly on your personal preferences and even to some extent what you are already familiar with using.

WeRelate has a simple layout where you can see the individual's profile, pictures and sources along with their parents and siblings and also their spouse(s) and children all on one page. Staying on that page and clicking on one link, you can open up a family tree which can show both ancestors and descendants.

WikiTree has multiple tabs which you can click through for the person's profile and family tree views. A large amount of report-like information is easily available from the assorted tabs.

My perspective is that I prefer the layout of the WeRelate pages, however I particularly like the standard reports in Wikitree which show information for seven generations of ancestors; this of course works well with the concept of genealogy Onto the Seventh Generation. There is also the report which shows all the known descendants of an individual.

Wish List Considering what I have just indicated, I would love to have the WeRelate pages with the descendant and ancestor reporting functionality of Wikitree.


Interaction entirely over the internet does not tell you a lot about the people you are communicating with so while my comments below are very generic, they also relate only to my experience and some snippets of what I have read on other reviews and comments.

WeRelate has a strong focus on quality genealogy including sharing information and providing source information. This is reflected in the communications at WeRelate and it encourages me to ensure a reasonable level of source information is included on my entries and that for entries with profile narratives that they are presented with significant levels of information, photos and sources.

Wikitree has a strong focus on sharing family information and this is reflected in the fact that there are private profiles which can be shared for living people. Interactions have certainly been more around locating general family information. There have also been some negative experiences related to information on living people being made public and deceased people being locked and not opened up to others even when it was their direct ancestor.

My perspective is that with family history information, there are a variety of interests from just wanting to know what we can easily find out, searching out information on specific people, through to fully referenced genealogy with extensive articles written about that individual or family. Because there are differing levels of interest and experience in genealogy I believe that Wikitree does an excellent job of providing family information to the people who are seeking a bit more family information. Meanwhile the articles on WeRelate tend to be well presented and contain a lot of information.

My wish is that people could stop complaining if someone only wants to gather and provide information at a basic level and that those who want to go into more detail can do this because this is what a wiki enables. If the information is not there and someone adds it, that is a good thing even if there is not a lot of evidence behind the information. That would mean that now there is a little bit more of a lead for those who do want to seriously chase up sources and tell the family history. A wiki enables us to gather the best information that is out there and if we discover mistakes on a profile then instead of just changing it, also leave information on why the other information is incorrect. When conflicting information is inconclusive then hopefully by sharing what we know then we can either reach a conclusion or allow others to build on our work at a later point.

Which one to use

I use WeRelate more then Wikitree, however I like Wikitree and my bigger concern is for a time when I am an open profile on both of these sites. Which site will still be around for my grandchildren and great grandchildren to update and share information about me and the other deceased members of my family.

WeRelate is troublesome in that I cannot include the living but I also think that is a good thing because distant relatives are comfortable that I won't write about them and include their private information on a website because they can see that living people are not listed. I also find that it is very good for creating articles and sharing family information in a user friendly manner.

Wikitree includes the living and works very well for tracking all known descendants of a family and therefore linking to distant cousins and being able to share further information while giving them control over their own profile and for the family members who they are closely related too.

My perspective is that using the privacy controls on Wikitree I have effective cousin bait but when it comes to sharing information openly I have found WeRelate to be very user friendly. Some people are concerned about copyright and that all their work may just be taken, personally if it wasn't for other people sharing little bits of information then I wouldn't have the big picture story to share.

My wish is that I knew all of this when I first started using both of these sites as I would have put all of my information with just the names, dates and locations for my family up until the seventh generation on Wikitree and placed links on the profiles of my deceased ancestors linking across to their profile on WeRelate where I have further information including photos, references and copies of source materials along with articles about the families lives.

For Example On Wikitree my maternal grandfather, Frank O'Sullivan's profile has a link to his profile page on WeRelate where a lot further information is available.

The Back up Decision

Neither site enables you to upload large GEDCOM's and that is a good thing because when you are matching into other profiles and checking for accuracy and errors then a large GEDCOM file is not practical. So if I do all the work on a genealogy program and then update to a wiki then I need to keep track of which branches I have made change in and just update that branch.

WeRelate being only for deceased profiles means that if I do my additions here then when I download a GEDCOM to my genealogy program then I need to be able to merge it so that it reconnects with the appropriate living people.

Wikitree is better for this because if I do my additions on Wikitree and then download a GEDCOM then I get both the living and the deceased.

My perspective is that neither of them are ideal for doing the work on the genealogy program and then adding that to the wiki. I really like WeRelate but if it came down to a decision about ease of backing up onto a genealogy program then Wikitree would have to be the answer.

My wish is that at least one Portable, Open Source, Freeware for Genealogy would include a link to the appropriate wiki page for individuals. This coupled with a report that showed everyone in your genealogy program which wasn't linked to a wiki page would at lease indicate which profiles are new and would require updating.


Hopefully this article gives you some ideas but mostly just choose a method and stick to it because if you don't you could end up with a mess. For example, I have over 6000 individuals on WeRelate and they are all deceased, I don't have a lot of those people on Wikitree and yet on Wikitree I have living people and it is over 6000 individuals. I need to download and merge both trees without creating too much of a mess.

For further comparisons of WeRelate and Wikitree you should read this article found on Wikitree and there is also a good discussion from Chris Orme saying why he chose Wikitree and there is A Review of WeRelate from Pamela Pollard.