Monday, September 05, 2005

WikiTree--The Biggest Genealogy Project in the Universe?

I've just heard about WikiTree, "the Family Tree of Humankind," described as an effort to "provide a central place on the Internet for kin information about all people we know ever lived." It's an open-source, collaborative project sponsored by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. The idea apparently is to create a gigantic, user-driven genealogical database. The project commenced in April 2005, and as of today, has over 33,000 pages. The authors of the project home page say this is not as big an undertaking as it would seem.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the outfit that created Wikipedia, the Web-based free encyclopedia often linked to in this blog.

I think I would agree that theoretically, the task sought to be accomplished by WikiTree is not all that daunting. Think about how it could be done. First, a good core of "the family tree of humankind" could be created by digitizing all the known written sources that mention non-fictional human beings by name, or other identifying characteristic. That means every book, magazine, newspaper, telephone directory, government record, school yearbook, etc., would be digitized, much as Google is out now digitizing entire libraries. Then a supercomputer, or series of supercomputers, would analyze and organize the data into a single family tree.

There are several other Web-based projects with similar themes, but primarily of a commercial nature. I'm thinking of,'s OneWorldTree, and Rootsweb's WorldConnect. [The latter, though owned by Ancestry, is free]. But these projects and WikiTree may suffer from the problem of the limited, self-selecting nature of their audiences. My admittedly somewhat whimsical supercomputer idea might work better, except it would put full-time genealogists out of work and deprive part-time genealogists of the frustrations of brickwalls and the joys of discoveries.

1 comment:

Steve Bowie said...

Hi Cousin!

I heard about your blog from your cousin, Craig Manson. I took a look at it and noticed you’ve been researching the Bowies in Longview, Texas. My dad was born there in 1938, but the family left for California in 1942. The 3 previous generations of my family were born there, too.
Contact me through the information on “My Profile” on my own blog at:

Steve Bowie