What Makes WeRelate Different?



What Makes WeRelate Different?

An Article by Jrich, with minor editing by Delijim

I was just browsing one of the standard genealogy forums. A posting asked for information on some past ancestor of name "XYZ", and a person replied with a message saying "My XYZ line is", giving several generations, and never mentioning the person asked about. Other replies merely stated facts without explaining how they were known, as if the replying author's acceptance of those facts was sufficient to make them true.

As a user, what strikes me as different from this typical behavior, in regards to WeRelate, is that WeRelate is not about your genealogy. Even your ancestors that happen to be in WeRelate aren't about you, they are about reaching a consensus about what was. You have no more right or authority in regards to that page than someone who might even be a non-descendant.

To that end, I have some suggestions that users could consider as they work with WeRelate. I don't pretend to have any authority in saying this, other than noticing that many WeRelate users apparently fall into the old behavior patterns, such as marking their ancestors, or writing about the whole history of a surname on a Person page, or not providing sources:

1. Input your data with the reader in mind. Put data on the page in a form that will be useful to others. Recognize that all you know about the reader is that they happen to be looking at that one page. Don't assume they know the information presented on some other page, or that they have seen any particular source, or that they are necessarily a descendant of that person.
2. Provide your sources. Expect that you may have to convince a person who disagrees with your conclusion. To reach a consensus, we must strive to find the primary evidence or source that justifies all the stated information, so different hypotheses can be compared and judged by the whole community dispassionately on the basis of verifiable facts. Attempt to link all appropriate source references to source pages to identify your sources unambiguously. Don't assume that just because your information comes from a published book, that it is correct; in many cases the person writing the book may have made a wrong assumption, or perhaps didn't have enough primary information at the time. If you have photos, maps or other images on a particular family, by all means please add them! Unlike most other genealogical websites, WeRelate allows researchers the ability to add these types of sources and images to ancestor's pages. Be sure to take advantage of this flexibility.
3. Be precise but don't say more than is known. If all you know is the baptism date, don't use it as a birth date. If you have a will date, don't pretend it is the death date. Explain your estimates, guesses, assumptions and hunches, and don't present these approximations as known facts. The abbreviations "Abt." and "Est." before a date tell other researchers that the exact date is not known to you.
4. Collaborate. Try to improve any page you touch. Ask if the change you are about to make adds information that will be meaningful and credible to other people interested in that page, or if you are making changes for the sake of personal preference. No page belongs to you. Be flexible about spellings and formatting if existing data communicates adequately. (Utilize "Alternate Spelling" for names with differing spellings). Try to reach a "consensus" through researching any differences with other researchers.
5. Avoid creating pages that have no facts, just a name. Consider that a person looking for the page would like to get an idea of the time-period that they lived in (even if just estimated), the general region they lived in (state, county, etc.), parents and spouse if possible, in order to know who it is. If none of this is provided, it clutters up search lists with unidentifiable people with little distinguishing information.

Keeping these suggestions in mind may make your experience on WeRelate more rewarding and enjoyable.