Is WeRelate really free?
People are always skeptical that this web site could be free; they are looking for a gimmick. Perhaps they think it is just an introductory offer, and that we will eventually charge for the service. However, we are actually a bona fide 501(c)(3) public charity, supported by private grants, volunteers, and tax-deductible donations. WeRelate was developed by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy, Inc. and is operated in partnership with the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana). The Genealogy Center recently reopened in a new facility and houses over an acre of genealogy materials under one roof; it is the second largest genealogy library in the world.
It is our belief that a collaborative web site is essential to modern research, and such a site must be free and supported by the public for it to be successful. Many genealogists would like to collaborate, but are discouraged by commercial sites that sell access to their freely shared research. Others are put off by religious organizations whose motives they don't understand. The Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library and the Federation for On-Line Genealogy, Inc. provide a non-commercial and non-sectarian collaborative environment. Everyone is welcome to create web pages, connect with other genealogists, and find new information at no charge.
What if people want to archive their work?
Most genealogists want to preserve their research for future generations. For some, family history is their life's work. However, some find that their children aren’t really all that interested in genealogy. I have spoken with a number of people who have huge GEDCOMs, but no way to preserve them after they are gone. They frequently ask the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library to archive their research, increasingly in a digital format.
WeRelate is a digital archive. Currently, all uploaded files are stored as wiki pages. This means that they can be modified or extended by other researchers. However, every version is archived so the original work is preserved and can be accessed any time. WeRelate will soon have a “Digital Library.” Like a traditional library, information in our digital library will be preserved and available to the public, but these web pages will be static and not editable.
How many Wiki pages does WeRelate have?
To date, WeRelate has over 115,000 ancestor wiki pages in the last few weeks. We also have more than 430,000 wiki place pages, 115,000 given and surnames pages, and 1.3 million wiki source pages. This makes WeRelate the largest genealogical wiki. We encourage every family historian to become a member of this virtual genealogical community. The more people get involved, the greater the opportunities for collaboration and connecting with our cousins.
"Social networking" is receiving a lot of buzz lately. WeRelate allows registered users to receive messages inside the system without exchanging personal information or email addresses. You can receive email updates whenever someone sends you a message, or adds or modifies information to any page of interest to you. Additionally, you can search the wiki pages to discover others researching the same individuals or families.
What is WeRelate about?
WeRelate is about collaboration. We provide a non-commercial, non-sectarian wiki enviroment for family historians to work together online. A wiki is a type of web site that allows everyone to add information to its web pages. No technical expertise is necessary; mostly you just type.
Participants create web pages by either uploading a GEDCOM or simply filling in the blanks on a page edit screen. WeRelate automatically generates person and family wiki pages. Unlike traditional web pages, wiki pages are dynamic. This means that you can add new information as you find it. This differs from static web pages, which must be reformatted and transferred to the server whenever you wish to change something.
This ability to add new information is an extremely powerful tool for collaboration. It means that cousins from all over the world can literally be on “the same page.” The cousin in New York can write about great-great-grandfather's childhood and education, and upload an image of the family bible and his diploma. A cousin in Colorado can write about his general store and upload a partially annotated family picture and some tax records. Then, the long lost cousin in Australia can Google that page, connect with family, and finish annotating the family photograph by naming those who immigrated to Australia. Best of all, if you can type, you can edit a wiki page. You don't need to know HTML or have any programming experience. You just type right on the web page to add new information.
Research doesn't have to be completed before you post it on the Internet. Participants can work together online, keeping each other posted as additional research is planned and completed. Images of documents and photos can be included and annotated as they become available. Notes can be attached to faces in photographs, hard-to-read lines in a document, or other import elements of the image. For examples, see annotated family picture and annotated document.
But what if someone disagrees?
Alternate opinions are encouraged and may be included by simply adding another paragraph. Also, every version of a page is archived and always available, so nothing is ever lost. For example, see page history.
I am reminded of my great-great-grandparents, Lewis Green and Mary Elizabeth Caddell. I was so confident I had all the information I needed. I have the marriage certificate and the death certificate and a few other things. Then my cousin pointed out that there were at least five Lewis Green Caddells—all contemporaries buried in the same frontier town cemetery. Two are married to Mary Elizabeths. Now the marriage certificate and tombstones don't really identify my great-great-grandmother. I need to gather all the information on Lewis Green Caddell in one place so I can sort it out. Then there is the case of my great aunt Edna, who according to the government agencies involved, died simultaneously in Oregon and California. I hope someday to connect with a cousin who has more information. My point is that even when we think we have all the right information from primary sources, we can benefit from another point of view. Otherwise, we may end up researching the wrong line.
I once talked to a man who had found 87 different cousins all researching the same great-great-grandfather; they didn't know each other. That’s 87 people looking at the same censuses, paying for the same certificates, and tracking down the same tax records. We can be so much more successful if we are willing to collaborate and work together.
What is the Family Tree Explorer?
This is an online tool that lets you work on your pages without ever losing sight of your pedigree. You always know where the person you are working on fits within the family. You can navigate between cousins, multiple spouses, and different generations while still viewing the index, pedigree, descendancy tree, or combined pedigree/descendancy tree.
What is this place index about?
WeRelate has the largest standardized index of historical and currently inhabited places. There are over 430,000 wiki place pages compiled from sources such as Wikipedia, Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990 by the U.S. federal government, Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names and others. Many volunteers have been creating and continue to augment these pages. The place index pages include information such as child and parent counties, date ranges for which various records were kept, alternate names, timelines, and research tips. This is particularly important when you need to know that Dempsey, Idaho is also known as Lava Hot Springs, or that Boston, Missouri changed its name to Amazonia, or that certain cities in Europe have belonged to three different countries over time. For example, see sample place page.
WeRelate uses an autocomplete function for the place field, which means that the place index will automatically generate a list of all the places in the world with a particular name, complete with counties and districts, as needed.
What can you do at WeRelate.org
- Create person and family wiki pages.
- Connect and work with cousins from all over the world.
- Find information on places, names and sources.
- Research person and family pages.
- Completely document all your research online. This way your cousins know about your successes and dead ends. You can coordinate research, stop repeating work already done, and move your research forward.
- Annotate images.
- View pedigree maps.
- Use the Family Tree Explorer.
- Archive your research.
- Collaborate with other researchers.
- Receive email updates when another researcher edits a watched page.
- Receive messages inside the system so no personal information is exchanged.