About a year ago, I learned how to correct errors on Wikipedia. There is a protocol and etiquette so that a collaborative editing process goes smoothly. Fortunately, most of the other editors on that page were patient with my learning curve. Once I had been guided into the correct etiquette, the change was made peacefully.
Wikipedia also has policies or protocols about the sources of information for statements made in the articles. Those sources have to be published and available. The sources that led me to realize there was an error were not readily available. Some were on microfilm, some were in manuscripts, and the analysis was in my head. I had to search for a new way of explaining the error using online sources before I could get it corrected.
The other factor that made it hard to correct the error was that the error itself was already cited to an online "published" source. This ahnentafel had achieved credibility with the editors of the page. During the process, one editor told me that the online tree had source citations itself and was created by reputable genealogists. All of this is true, but we can learn a lot by looking more closely at this tree and its sources. When I analyzed it, I found at least five errors in the colonial generations without really trying to find errors. I shudder to think how many I could find if I actually researched it. I did try emailing the web site authors but no one responded. I later learned that one of them was terminally ill at that time and would have been unable to respond.
I'm going to take a few days and discuss the ahnentafel, the sources, and the recognizable errors in more detail as a learning exercise. The Wikipedia entry was for Gov. Thomas Welles of Connecticut. The error was in listing Sarah Palin as a descendant of the governor. The ahnentafel that was used by Wikipedia to support this attribution was by Robert Battle who acknowledged contributions from Tom Brown, William Reitwiesner, Gary Boyd Roberts, and Michael Hurdle. The ahnentafel can now (2011) be found at:
Feel free to analyze this one yourself. My next step will be to look at the sources and then to discuss just how much of that ahnentafel really is source-cited. Is every statement of fact cited to a source? Hah!@!