What is WikiTree?
Updated on April 16, 2024
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What is WikiTree?

WikiTree is a genealogy website that gives users the tools to create or contribute to their family trees while working together on a global shared family tree.

Users can collaborate with others for this huge tree, adding more data to a worldwide database. You can add DNA data to their database and profiles to contribute to its legitimacy and genealogy research.

With over 1 million members and 37 million profiles, WikiTree offers users a free opportunity to privately document their family history and potentially give back by adding volunteered information to the vast global tree—about 12 million of these profiles are backed by DNA data.1

What is WikiTree? 7

WikiTree is entirely donation, advertisement, and volunteer-run. Their services are free for users who sign and abide by their Honor Code. In this agreement, the user promises to be collaborative and only to contribute accurate data and reliable information.

WikiTree was founded in 2008 by Chris Whitten. It has since grown into a supportive community where users can contribute when they wish and are even encouraged to collaborate on their forums.

WikiTree is a community passionate about collaboration and a warm space that offers a space for genealogy to thrive without needing monetary compensation.

What Can You Do on WikiTree?

WikiTree offers users free family tree services. You can plug in your family’s information and figure out how generations of your lineage are laid out.

WikiTree’s most well-known feature is that it has a single global family tree that its users are contributing to all the time.

You can offer your DNA information, flesh the tree out, or even correct or add to other profiles to further their genealogical scope. Their goal is to have a worldwide tree with profiles from every reach of the globe.

Other things you can do on WikiTree also depend on your membership status. Again, WikiTree is free, and members aren’t under any obligation to do anything. However, specific badges and features are behind other security preferences and agreements. Here are the member levels:

Guest – Guests can browse the site, make their family trees, and delete their accounts whenever they like. The family tree builder doesn’t require any further membership levels.

Family Member – If you want to reach out to any potential family members you stumble upon on the site, you just have to add your personal communication preferences to your profile for a family member account. Otherwise, you can stay a guest if you’re not interested in reaching out to potential relatives.

Wiki Genealogist – If you want to contribute at a site level and edit or add to DNA profiles, provide DNA information about different profiles, and help grow the global tree, you must sign WikiTree’s honor code first. You can start adding to the worldwide tree after you sign it and pledge to be as helpful as possible while respecting user privacy and committing to reliable sources. You also will stop seeing advertisements as a bonus.

If you have an exported GEDCOM file, you can upload it to WikiTree and see any matches you get with their GEDCompare report.

What is the WikiTree Honor Code?

The WikiTree Honor Code is a nine-point code the user signs to contribute to the world tree.

According to them, this code requires mutual respect and a spirit of cooperation, as any contributions are voluntary but still require the utmost discernment with sources and respect for everyone involved.

Here are all nine parts of the agreement:2

  1. Collaboration – The work is collaborative as everyone adds to ancestor profiles. WIkiTree’s goal isn’t a solitary activity or project.
  2. Accuracy – The aim is to have pinpoint accuracy with information and to address and fix mistakes as they come up.
  3. Mistakes are unintentional – Mistakes will happen no matter what, so be understanding, just as others will understand any you make.
  4. Courtesy – Being courteous to everyone, even those who aren’t as agreeable as you’d like, is necessary.
  5. Privacy – If information may be sensitive, it will be privacy-protected. If someone asks to delete their information outright, WikiTree will do so to protect them.
  6. Copyright – Copyrights are respected and will not be used on purpose.
  7. Credit – Credit is given to genealogists and researchers, even if unnecessary. Everyone deserves to be recognized for their hard work.
  8. Reliable sources – Use only well-cited sources. It’s how to verify information best.
  9. Information is free and open – With respect to privacy and copyrights, information on WikiTree is as free and accessible as they can make it.
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Key Features of WikiTree

Aside from its family tree builder, WikiTree has the following key features that it’s best known for:

Collaborative Family Tree

The huge world tree is a family tree that encompasses as many people as they can get information on.

All the information they include is always parsed for any sensitive information first and readily taken down if someone requests them to take it down.

This collaborative family tree is what WikiTree is best known for. It’s a massive database of information available for free as long as you swear by the site’s honor code. It’s a great way to see not just your family history but also how the branches of your family tree may interlock with other families.

Your tree exists amidst several others, and seeing how they may be related can be fascinating. It’s considered a pretty reliable family tree since it’s got several contributors, and at least 12 million of these profiles are backed by trustworthy DNA data.

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Many members, considered “Wiki Genealogists,” contribute to the one world tree aside from other WikiTree family trees and are pretty committed to being as accurate as possible.

While, again, it makes looking into your family history rich and fulfilling, some limitations include:

Everything is user-contributed, which means that some people may make mistakes—but those are inevitable

Some data is privacy-protected, just in case someone doesn’t want their sensitive information out there, so information isn’t always going to be available consistently

Not all the profiles have DNA testing to back up their data

The user interface, in general, has been criticized for looking a little dated

However, despite these limitations and criticisms, most people agree that WikiTree is a fantastic source and an excellent community of people who share an interest in genealogy, family tree building, and a passion for a big project—all on a free platform.

Many users agree that WikiTree seems the most genuine in its approach to connecting research findings about families compared to other genealogy websites. Other sites sometimes hide their features behind hefty paywalls or have fewer features. WikiTree is a rare genealogy site that doesn’t require any payment.

Privacy Controls

Because WikiTree also houses information on living descendants of ancestors and even those who are recently deceased, privacy is of utmost importance.

This is why they have several tiers of privacy protection and how open and public information is. Certain members can only access specific tiers, depending on their status on a WikiTree member’s trusted list. Here are the tiers:

  1. Unlisted – Unlisted profiles can only be seen by those on the Trusted List. These names do not appear in any searches, nor are they listed in the surname index. Unlisted profiles are reserved for any living person who is not a member of WikiTree to respect their privacy. The only exceptions are some public figures.
  2. Private – Private profiles can be searched, but only a limited amount of information is available on them. Some people can hide exact birthdates, middle initials, or even more personal data. Other strictly private information can only be viewed by those in the trusted list and edited on privacy settings.
  3. Private with public biography – Similar to the private profile, however, the public biography is visible to all. Only those on the trusted list can edit these profiles.
  4. Private with public family tree – Just like the private profile, but you can view their relatives in this view.
  5. Private with public biography and family tree – Like a private profile, but with a public biography and relatives list.
  6. Public – Anyone can view the information on these profiles, but you must still be part of the trusted list or profile managers to edit the information. This is not an option for living people.
  7. Open – All the information in an open profile can be viewed by the public. You still need to be a Wiki Genealogist (or a WikiTree member who has signed the honor code) to be able to edit these profiles.

Even with these tiers, some sensitive information can still be hidden, even on open and public profiles. This is to protect the owners of those profiles or their families.

The trusted list of any member can differ from others. Just because someone is on one member’s trusted list doesn’t mean they’re also on that person’s relatives’ trusted lists. Living members can customize this list so your information is as safe as possible.

These lists and privacy controls are manageable and easy to navigate. Make sure you understand what you are making private on your profiles. You can edit your preferences later if you want more or less privacy.

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Source Citations

WikiTree prioritizes two citation styles: the Chicago Manual of Style and Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained style.

While they aren’t overly meticulous about adhering closely to proper citation style (a few misplaced punctuations and capitalizations are fine), they believe in always citing sources.

In their sources section, they quote Loren McGinnis Schulze of Olive Tree Genealogy, saying, “Genealogy without sources is mythology.”4,5

They’re very serious about citing sources, as it’s one of their honor code’s nine points of agreement. Only a small percentage are still unsourced profiles, with users seeking out more sources daily regarding DNA verification or historical records.

Genealogical research can be easily made up, as people can say anything about lineages. This is why proving these claims is essential, especially to WikiTree. Every change or entry in profiles and the world family tree needs proper citation to disprove any conflicting claims and solidify how trustworthy their database is.

How Big is the Global Family Tree on WikiTree?

According to their website, WikiTree has about 37,094,207 profiles on their world family tree, with 12,807,457 having DNA test results or DNA testing connections.

These numbers are subject to change as more people sign up to contribute. There are currently 1,077,352 members worldwide contributing further research on genealogy and the world’s singular tree. And, with how they have observed growing membership over the years, we can expect more family profiles and genealogical data to come.

This massive amount of information and profiles is due to the growing number of contributors to WikiTree adding their profiles and those of their family members. Many of them convince other family members also to sign up to flesh out their trees and the global one.

Immediate ancestors are then placed into the tree, and it only grows from there. WikiTree users are also careful about the information they add and are bound by the honor code agreement to always cite their sources to ensure they aren’t making unverifiable claims.

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WikiTree is also working on even more DNA integration than it already has to solidify its website’s trustworthiness further.

WikiTree users take this very seriously and even hold events like source-a-thons or connect-a-thons that attempt to add sources to any profile that is missing any and add more verified profiles to the site.

These events are pretty popular, with some users contributing to over 1,000 profiles in that stretch. It’s also a great morale booster for the users, as most are just volunteers. Recognizing them for their hard work seems like the way to go as popularity continues to grow.

Despite having a relatively smaller database compared to other sites, WikiTree’s sense of community makes it unique. It’s a ton of members with a singular goal of making such a big, all-encompassing family tree in the name of genealogy and information accessibility.

WikiTree is also very careful about duplicate profiles and overlapping information.

Is WikiTree Free?

Yes, WikiTree is completely free to use. You only have to register as a member and choose how much you want to contribute.

If you don’t want to add to the big tree, you aren’t required to. You aren’t even required to make your own tree. If you just want to peruse the site, you’re free to do so. You can also delete your account and profile any time you like.

That being said, contributors to WikiTree aren’t paid either. The entire database is volunteer-run and uses donations and advertisements to earn and stay afloat. So even if you put in hours of work, you aren’t getting compensated either. It’s up to you how much you want to contribute.

User Experience on WikiTree

WikiTree’s user interface and usability are often subject to criticism, like:

Dated-looking webpage (it was founded in 2008, but it doesn’t seem like it’s been updated much visually since then)

Clunky and difficult to navigate the front page

Has a steep learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to add and manage profiles

No direct contact information (like phone or live chat), but the forums are pretty active in terms of offering support

These criticisms have been made about WikiTree for a while, but many users are also simply happy to work together and feel refreshed by WikiTree’s philosophy over other genealogy sites.

Users feel that WikiTree has more of an organic and human goal than other databases that seem more focused on money. This makes WikiTree feel more trustworthy and like a passion project rather than a cash grab.

WikiTree and DNA Test Integration

WikiTree does not offer DNA testing. However, it does let you integrate results into profiles and verify the connections that are there. So if, for example, you have your own DNA data, you can plug that into your profile and verify any connections to family members there.

Because of the big tree, you can see any distant relations you may have. Two family trees merging with the inclusion of DNA test results is not unheard of and is usually a topic of excitement for many users.

The great thing about finding potential matches on WikiTree is that many of the profiles there are by people who are active and also trying to flesh out their own trees. This means you have a higher chance of establishing a connection.

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Source: 123rf

Comparing WikiTree to Other Platforms

Other genealogy platforms, like WeRelate and FamilySearch, are often compared to WikiTree. Here’s a breakdown of what each offers.

WikiTreeFamilySearchWeRelate
PriceFreeFreeFree
DatabaseAbout 37 millionUnknownAbout 3 million
Create your own family treeYesYesYes
Upload a family treeYesYesYes
DNA test integrationYesYesNo
Connects you to possible relativesYesYesNo

FamilySearch has an unknown database, but it’s known to have a pretty big one otherwise. The exact numbers just aren’t readily available.

FamilySearch and WeRelate are also generally considered more user-friendly than WikiTree. Both of these sites have a more “modern” front page and navigation panel, making the learning curve less steep compared to WikiTree. WikiTree really doesn’t have the most intuitive interface, but they’re making small adjustments slowly.

However, some people say they prefer WikiTree for the community and the collaborative spirit despite the old-fashioned front page.

Commonly Asked Questions About WikiTree

Here are some of the most common questions about WikiTree.

Is WikiTree owned by Wikipedia?

No, WikiTree is not owned by Wikipedia. It’s an independent genealogy website founded by Chris Whitten, owner of Interesting.com, Inc., who also founded WikiAnswers (also not related to Wikipedia). It’s totally independent of Wikipedia.

How much does WikiTree cost?

WikiTree is totally free, even when you change your membership from guest to Wiki Genealogist. You only need to adjust some preferences and agree to WikiTree’s honor code to fully contribute to the site’s main project.

How do I contact WikiTree?

You have three options in terms of contacting WikiTree:

G2G Forum

Email

Private message

Note that WikiTree has no dedicated hotline and that those who do respond via email or private message are not actual customer service representatives. Because WikiTree is purely volunteer-run, volunteers will be the ones getting back to you.

Is WikiTree safe and legit?

Yes, WikiTree is a safe and legitimate genealogy website and database for anyone who wants to take a deep dive into their own lineage. WikiTree has a very strict privacy policy and is careful about sensitive information.

WikiTree also allows people to edit their privacy settings according to their preferences. If they prefer not to divulge any information, they don’t have to.

Living people who aren’t members are automatically “unlisted” in the database as they can’t consent to having their data displayed publicly. Users also have the option to add only certain people to their trusted list, making them the only people who can see any information about them at all.

Anyone unlisted cannot be looked up on the database, not even in the surname index.

WikiTree also reminds its users that they share personal information at their own risk. WikiTree employs security measures, like most sites, but also acknowledges that no system is perfect. Still, they do their best to keep data private.

Where is WikiTree based?

WikiTree is based in New York, New York.

Updated on April 16, 2024
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5 sources cited
Updated on April 16, 2024
  1. How to Use WikiTree.” WikiTree.
  2. Honor Code.” WikiTree.
  3. Privacy.” WikiTree.
  4. Sources.” WikiTree.
  5. Myth.” Olive Tree Genealogy.
Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad
Content Contributor
Angela is a full-time digital content manager and editor for Know Your DNA. She also contributes freelance articles to several local and international websites when she has the time. She's always been a voracious believer in finding the truth and ensuring the science is sound.