Thursday, March 17, 2011

WikiTree: 5 generation updatable pedigree widget BETA

For fun today, I've been emailing back and forth with Chris of He asked me about what changes I'd like to see on my interactive pedigree chart widget. He reminds me this is just in BETA, and that I'll be the first to test this out on my DearREADERS. Be sure to give your feedback on how you like the look of the widget by posting a comment below this post on my blog.

As he was tinkering around a WikiTree widget that would work with width of my blog (which is very close to the default), Chris asked if I wanted dates, or ranges of dates, etc.. Having too much information for each ancestor will look crowded on the 5th generation that he added since my initial blog post featuring his experimental widgets with just 4 generation pedigrees. I then replied:

What genealogy software programs do is truncate fields or eliminate them on the 5th generation. Does this sort of thing make sense? Will one be able to pick and choose which options they prefer?
  • names only
  • years only
  • full dates
  • full locations
  • full dates and locations
Chris' response was to explain eventually there might be justification for providing options, but queried me for which ones did I prefer. I suggested:
  • Full names
  • Full dates
  • Full places
  • even if it means only 4 generations
I also told him I love the photo pedigree, and the little clickable links on each side of the ancestors' names that lead one to descendants and ancestors. Since I started with my father's side of the family, my 5th generation doesn't have a lot of photos. I would favor not having photos there in favor of more info on the ancestors.


updated live from the WikiTree free online family tree

This means that when I change an ancestor's info on, it will automatically update the widget on my blog, or any other website where I've placed the widget. Kewl option, huh?

The WikiTree widget below starts with my paternal grandmother,and I've included it here so you can see how "missing" information looks. I just don't know anything about Dolly Yockey's parents -- my biggest brick wall. With Dolly's father, I "estimated" his birth year and place, but in the case of her mother, I left out information entirely. I figured these are two likely methods for dealing with information in your usual personal computer database and I wanted to see how it looks at WikiTree.

updated live from the WikiTree free online family tree

WikiTree has gotten a lot of great press lately. Randy has been doing some great work, so be sure to see:

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. I much rather prefer's new pedigree charts, although they aren't embeddable (to my my knowledge). I think the WikiTree widget is too crowded by trying to fit all that text in there. And the full widget is so tall, it doesn't fit in my browser window (although it may be constrained by the column width of your blog). I'd prefer a configurable widget with controls for how much text is displayed, how many generations, pictures or not, etc. I like how Ancestry's automatically abbreviates middle, then first names to initials if names are too long, displays the birth and death years only (none for 5th gen), and still fits photo thumbnails on the chart. Then if you mouse-over an individual, a box with the full information pops up.

  2. I think the comparison between a website's pedigree chart and an embeddable widget is hard to make.

    Indeed the offerings of the website are more robust than a mere widget.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. "I think the comparison between a website's pedigree chart and an embeddable widget is hard to make."

    However, that's exactly what the WikiTree widget seems to be. If you compare the versions on this blog post with their corresponding pedigree charts on the WikiTree website, here and here, you'll see the widgets are merely truncated versions of those family trees.

    "Indeed the offerings of the website are more robust than a mere widget."

    I agree, I was just comparing the design decisions behind the two implementations. My personal preferences are different than yours, and I imagine, many other people. A configurable widget could bridge those differences, and display a pedigree chart however the embedding user prefers.

  4. Hi Minnesota Family Historian,

    The widgets on this page were optimized for Myrt's preferences.

    When we release the widgets for public use -- probably within a few days -- there will be at least a half dozen options. Some are much smaller and contain less text.

    And there will be more options when folks like you tell me what you'd like to use. A fully-configurable widget will be much further down the road, though.


  5. Myrt,

    These are really only 4-generation widgets, not 5-generation that you have in your post title.

    A 5-generation would be even better, but too big for the blog space, although they could be used on a full-width web page, I think. Or shrunk a bit to fit in a fixed width.

  6. Chris, Now that I've seen the examples on your Embeddable Family Tree Widgets page, I like what you've done. There are plenty of options between the various examples. You've obviously got the code on the backend to produce the different options. However, using a slash and number at the end of the URL doesn't seem very extensible. I think it would make more sense to use a query string with fields for the various options, e.g. to create a 3 generation, vertical widget, with the tree background, no place names, and only the birth and death years, the query string could look something like:

    That type of interface would be beneficial for you and the users in the long run. And writing a "control panel" to create the embed code for end users, similar to YouTube's for embedding videos, would be easy in JavaScript (completely trivial with jQuery).

  7. @MNFamilyHistorian: We added the "barebones" option just for you. It has middle initials instead of names, years instead of full dates, no photos, and fits in a compact square. Popping-up more info with a mouse-over is a little complicated. It would require Javascript that wouldn't work on everyone's system.

    @Randy: We could do a barebones version with five generations if people say they'd want to use it. Or a wide one with photos that would fit on a full page. (If anyone out there wants this, e-mail me at chris at

  8. Myrt & Co.,

    We added more widget styles!

    Most significantly, you can now do a ten-generation paternal or maternal line. These might be useful for illustrating a surname connection, or possibly for Y-DNA or mtDNA discussions.