Meet our Members: Paddy Waldron

+10 votes

Hi everyone!

Meet_our_Members_Photos-92.jpgIt's time to meet another one of our wonderful WikiTreers. This week's member is Paddy Waldron

Paddy became a Wiki Genealogist in April of 2021. He is currently a Team Leader in our Ireland Project.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy?

It's so long ago that I can't remember.  There are photographs of me aged 7 on my first communion day in Dublin in 1970 with two of the nuns from my school. I always knew that, like my grandmother, they were both from County Clare.  After decades of looking at those photographs, I was surprised to discover one day (a) that the two nuns were second cousins to each other and (b) that there was, therefore, a time in the very distant past when I was not yet a genealogist.

My paternal grandfather, who died four years before I was born, took up genealogy as a retirement project in 1949. His mother married at 17 and had him and his identical twin brother and their older sister by the time she was 19.  She lived to 88, so was still around to help her son with his retirement project.  Her memory and the oral history that she had absorbed, both from her own family and from her husband's family, reached back further than many of the archival sources available to present-day Irish genealogists.

My father later developed an interest in updating his father's family tree, and I started to help him from a young age.

I remember spending the Christmas holidays of 1976/77, when I was 13, rewriting everything by hand in my own format, including making a start on my mother's side.

I got my first personal computer in 1987 and began another full transcription, this time into a database using Personal Ancestral File (PAF), which subsequently evolved into Ancestral Quest.

Over the intervening 35 years, that database has grown into my own mini-WikiTree.  The original scope was my own blood relatives and their spouses, to which in turn I added parents of spouses, then anyone connected to two people already in the database, and eventually unconnected mystery DNA matches and their relatives. I have always included notes containing biographical details and sources to most individuals. The database now includes 19,359 blood relatives, out of 202,874 people who are connected to me in the WikiTree sense, and a total of 208,352 individuals.

The World Wide Web appeared a few years after I started my PAF database. I actually had a webserver running on my office computer back in November 1993, before even Microsoft had a website.  By June 1995, I had discovered GED2HTML and published the first online version of my family tree.  Now much of my database is on my password-protected TNG website, which currently has 969 registered users.  They suggest corrections, updates, and additions faster than I can add them.

For many years, I remained an advocate of desktop genealogy software over web-based family trees.  Efficient data entry using keyboard shortcuts and control of my own backups seemed preferable to battling slow broadband and trusting my work to the whims and financial imperatives of a commercial website owner.

What inspires you to contribute to WikiTree?

As I have grown older, I have become more conscious of the need to make sure that my lifetime's work outlives me.

There is a lot to be said for individual genealogists repeating, checking, reviewing and verifying each other's work.  However, life is too short and our shared family tree is too large for that to remain practical.  So I have gradually been converted over the years to the merits of a more collaborative approach.

I am old enough and experienced enough to realise that cloud computing is but a myth.  Clouds evaporate, even while their creators live, and the monster database which I have created will very likely evaporate not long after me.  The WikiTree community and the WikiTree website have much better chances of long-term survival than myself and my personal website.  However, it would take several lifetimes, or a small army of assistants, to properly integrate my whole database into WikiTree.

[interview continues below]

WikiTree profile: Paddy Waldron
ago in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.9m points)

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I have degrees in mathematical sciences, economics, and finance.

Another interest that I inherited from my father was horseracing.  I think that interest came to him mainly from his mother's first cousin, Harry Keogh, who was a very successful racehorse owner in the 1940s and 1950s.  I got interested in racehorse pedigrees around the same time as human pedigrees.

When I realised that lecturing in an economics department was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I started to apply my mathematical training to betting markets, mainly horserace betting, where I was successful enough to eventually become ''persona non grata'' with the bookmakers.  That happened around the time that the genetic genealogy revolution gave me a different outlet for my mathematical interests.

Now when I read ''The Irish Field'', a weekly horseracing newspaper, it sends me down rabbit holes investigating my genealogical connections to the human families involved in the world of horseracing - a group that do not yet appear to have featured in the WikiTree Example Profiles of the Week!

What is your genealogical research focus?

The problem with my genealogical research is that it is unfocused, usually looking at my most recent interesting DNA match or at the most recent query from one of the societies or Facebook groups to which I belong, or at someone mentioned in the last phone call from one of the many genealogist friends and relatives with whom I have kept in regular contact through the recent pandemic.

Are you are interested in certain surnames or locations?

I am administrator or co-administrator of the Clare Roots project and of the ClancyDurkin/Durkan/Durcan, Marrinan, McNamara and O'Dea/O'Day/Dee surname projects at  In the future I would like to investigate how to integrate these projects with one name studies at WikiTree.

Although I was born in Dublin, my childhood holidays were all spent in the west of County Clare, where my paternal grandmother had her roots. That is probably why I spend a disproportionate amount of time on that quarter of my ancestry.  I am involved in several genealogy and local history societies, most of which are based in County Clare.

Do you have a favourite ancestor?

I shouldn't pick favourites, but, if forced to, I would have to select the grandfather who started the family tree.

Do you have a favorite genealogical discovery?

I see genealogy as combining oral evidence, archival evidence and genetic evidence to solve puzzles.  My favourite example of that is the story of Eugene Lynch, now known to various members of his extended family as "Eugene the Blackguard" or plain "Bad Grandpa".  Eugene arrived around 1900 in California, where he married and fathered four children, before disappearing around 1910.  All that his grandchildren knew was that he came from somewhere in Ireland.  When eight of his grandchildren appeared on the DNA websites, I was able to combine the oral, archival and genetic evidence to prove that Eugene's grandparents were a couple named Michael Lynch and Mary O'Dea, who lived in the early 19th century in Moveen West, the townland where my own grandmother was born.  Several of Eugene's descendants were on the next plane from California to Moveen to visit their ancestral home.  We then spent several years searching for Michael and Mary's missing son who appeared to be Eugene's father.  When the Californians returned for another visit, I had a flash of divine inspiration and discovered that it was Eugene's mother who was the child of Michael and Mary.  He began life in County Clare as Eugene Corry, went to New York where he married a neighbour from home, abandoned his first wife and family there, and reinvented himself in California using his mother's maiden surname.  The evidence had been staring us in the face for years, and it just took some lateral thinking to eventually make sense of it.  We are still looking for Eugene's third family!

Another moral of this story is that if you want your family secret to remain a secret, then not only must you keep your own DNA and that of your living relatives out of the DNA comparison websites, but you must do likewise with the DNA of future generations.  It might be easier to just come clean now.

What is your toughest brick wall currently?

There are several.  I have my grandmother's diaries, where she mentions that Jim Houlihan (in 1904) and Mrs. Browne (in 1932) both told her at different times that they were her third cousins.  That's like a note in an old marriage register of a dispensation for a couple ''in quarto et quarto gradu consanguinitate'', or like a present-day DNA match.  I still have no idea how the Houlihan relationship comes about, and in the other case I have a theory in which my confidence waxes and wanes, but has never been strong enough to remove the "uncertain" tags on WikiTree.

The other major brick wall is the Waldron male line.  My Great-great-grandfather, Thomas Waldron joined the Irish Constabulary in 1847, before it became the Royal Irish Constabulary. His life before that is a complete blank, apart from multiple sources giving his birthplace as County Roscommon.  The surname as I currently spell it first appeared in Ireland in 1609 as part of the Ulster Plantation, but appears to have later been used as an anglicised spelling of similar-sounding Irish surnames.  I have no Waldron Y-DNA match (apart from another descendant of Thomas), and the surname has apparently daughtered out in the well-documented family which arrived in 1609.  I can almost fit Thomas into the planter family, but there is no solid evidence.  During Scott Fisher's WikiTree Challenge last year, it transpired that his great-great-grandfather Arthur George Waldreaon might also fit neatly into the planter family, but again there is no solid evidence.

How long have you been on WikiTree? What brought you here?

I have been an occasional editor of Wikipedia since 2005, but I cannot explain why it took me so long to progress from that to WikiTree, which I describe to anyone unfamiliar with it as "Wikipedia for genealogists".

I myself was introduced to WikiTree when I met Patricia Gallivan O'Malley at the 2011 Clare Roots Society conference in Ennis. I registered a couple of days later, but did not return until links between GEDmatch and WikiTree became possible around the start of 2017.  However, I did not attempt to integrate a GEDCOM file from my own genealogy database with the WikiTree collaborative tree until Louis Kessler's Behold Blog alerted me to the WikiTree Challenge in March 2021.  The following month, my nine-year-old laptop computer died suddenly.  The manufacturer (one of the biggest names in the computer world) offered me a big discount if I ordered a replacement within 24 hours, but then did not deliver it until June, leaving me to struggle for several weeks with my previous, now sixteen-year-old machine.  I quickly discovered that WikiTree was about the only modern website where the programming was efficient enough to allow it to be used on a machine of that age.  I was hooked by the time the new computer arrived.

What do you spend the most time doing on WikiTree?

Last year, I spent a lot of time on the WikiTree Challenges.  A couple of the early participants had Waldron or Waldreaon ancestors.  Then I discovered that I had a competitive streak which got the better of me, and I became the MVP on two occasions, for the Daniel Loftus and Melanie McComb challenges.

I soon realised that, like genealogy in general, WikiTree can be addictive.  I am now trying to ration myself to 100 contributions a month, so that I stay in "Club 100".  The last time that I missed that target was last July, and in most months I have come in well over my target.

Now my priority is to gradually migrate my direct ancestors from the uploaded GEDCOM file to WikiTree.  This is a good excuse to review and revise and update biographies that I might not have looked at for several years.  I am constantly on the lookout for potential new connections between my own relatives and the main WikiTree, or connections to existing unconnnected branches.  Making these connections becomes a distraction from the direct ancestors.

I also spend a lot of time linking individuals in my own database to their WikiTree profiles, whether added to WikiTree by myself or by others.  The confirmed overlap is currently 5,064 individuals.  This in turn sometimes highlights potential shorter connections between two people already on WikiTree, and in other cases identifies duplicates in WikiTree.  Hence, I often find myself helping in the battle against the scourge of duplicates, by proposing and tidying up merges.

Every Monday, I like to analyse my connections to the new example profiles of the week, just to get a feel for how well connected my own little branch of the tree is to the rest of the world.

This month, I signed up for the first time for the Connectors' Monthly Challenge.  I have been compiling a list of unconnected branches of the tree, including Irish notables, to whom I know that I can create a connection by adding a handful of new profiles. Actually creating those new profiles is proving more time-consuming than I anticipated.

Which project or projects are you most involved in?

I am still trying to get my head around the network of projects and the rights and responsibilities of project members.  Based on the badges on my profile page, the only project of which I have become a member is the Ireland Project, in which I am the leader of the County Clare Team.

As a mathematician, I have spent a lot of time trying to explain to people how closely related we all are, so I am fascinated by the Graph Theory interpretation of WikiTree as a network of nodes (individuals) and edges (relationships).  Having spent a lot of my time on WikiTree looking for and adding closer connections between profiles, I was delighted to find Bernard Vatant's 100 Circles: A Geometry of The Tree project.

What feature or function would you most like to see added or improved?

When I think of WikiTree as a graph or network, I wonder why sources, notes and biographies are always part of the nodes and never part of the edges.  Uncertainties, disputes and disagreements are far more likely to concern relationships than individuals.

The GEDCOM standard allows NOTE records to be part of both INDI and FAM records.  When I imported my GEDCOM file from Ancestral Quest to WikiTree, the NOTE parts of the FAM records appear to have been ignored.   When I edit a marriage on WikiTree, there is nowhere to add notes or sources, and the "Change explanation" is still optional.  When I add a parent, sibling, spouse or child who is already on WikiTree, all I need to do is enter the WikiTree ID and click GO, with no opportunity to add either an explanation or a source for the relationship.

If I have something to contribute which refers to more than one individual, I type a paragraph in TextPad (with Wiki Links to everyone mentioned), and then I paste the same text into the biographies of every individual mentioned.  It would be much more efficient if I just had to add the paragraph to the FAM record which connects all those mentioned, and not to the separate INDI records of everyone mentioned.

Why should people prefer WikiTree to other websites which host family trees?

I recently found that there are no less than 404 user-donated family trees at which include Christopher Corneille, with not a single primary source to be found in the first few that I consulted.  The irony that 404 is a HTTP code for "Not Found" was not lost on me.

People frequently complain to me about multiple (maybe not as many as 404) DNA matches, hints and user-donated family trees on other websites with exactly the same error, and no way of correcting the errors.  Many of the people who see errors going viral on other genealogy websites unfortunately seem reluctant to trust WikiTree users to get things right.  I tell them to try WikiTree anyway, because (a) there will be at most one copy of the error and (b) they can immediately correct it themselves.

I especially like the fact that there is a unique and meaningful permalink for every individual in the tree.  I find it much easier to identify with Waldron-201 than with the equivalent L85B-MZ5 at!  Hyperlinks to other websites can change or evaporate as users update their trees.  Worse still, on some websites one can end up in an infinite loop, following links from one user-donated tree to another, in a vain search for the primary sources.

What could we do to inspire more people to participate in our mission?

I see WikiTree's mission as comprising several important components, such as:

* to preserve our family histories for ourselves and posterity;

* to remind us that humankind is just one large extended family;

* to integrate DNA information with that family tree of humankind;

* etc.

As regards the second component of WikiTree's mission, I am concerned that the peddling of estimated ethnicity percentages by DNA companies perpetuates ethnic and racial divisions.  If I am asked for my "race" or "ethnicity" on a census return or elsewhere, I have always just written "human race".  If "race" or "ethnicity" is something inherited, and I have not confirmed even the full names of all of my great-great grandparents, how can I put a label on their, or my, ethnicity?

The DNA companies should point out that the estimated percentages which they sell are no more reliable than opinion polls before elections, and therefore should be treated with the same scepticism as struggling politicians treat opinion polls. 

Furthermore, the emphasis on ethnicity both hampers the far more productive use of DNA analysis to break down brick walls in individual family trees and denies the WikiTree message that we are all related.

Since there is clearly a huge demand for ancestral percentages, perhaps WikiTree could add a tool to show similar percentages, but based on the birth countries of end-of-line ancestors, or of closer ancestors if the birth countries of the end-of-line ancestors are blank.

As regards the third component of WikiTree's mission, the links between GEDmatch and WikiTree should be better known.  If you have a match on GEDmatch with a Wiki link showing only a handful of ancestors, then you will probably still use these as clues in your own search for a common ancestor.  Having done that research, then you can (and should) add what you find to WikiTree, which will help all that match's other current and future matches.

My efforts to get people to upload GEDCOM files to GEDmatch and to the other DNA websites have not been as successful as I would have liked. Now I realise that it might be more efficient and more successful in the long term if I encouraged people to register at WikiTree as soon as they have registered at GEDmatch, and to at least add themselves and one or two more generations to WikiTree.

The customers of the other DNA websites should be crying out for links to WikiTree.  It was only as I answered this question that I discovered that 23andMe allows users to add links to WikiTree, and I immediately updated my own 23andMe profile accordingly.  I have not yet noticed any of my own 1504 23andMe matches with a link to WikiTree, nor found a way to search my 23andMe match list for matches with WikiTree links.

In short, more people could be inspired to participate in WikiTree by better two-way integration with all the DNA comparison websites, whose tens of millions of customers are all potential WikiTreers.

Do you have any tips for someone who wants to get more involved in our community?

I hope that I have inspired anyone who has read this far and who is not yet on WikiTree to sign up.  If you set a target of 100 contributions a month, you will gradually learn about many of the useful features of the website.

If you want to start slowly, then just find someone related to you who is already in WikiTree and start adding profiles to connect that person to yourself.  Anyone who is closely related to me, and most who are not, will need to add only a handful of close relatives in order to connect to the 26 million or so people who are already connected to each other on our global family tree.

If you want to dive in, then upload a small GEDCOM file, maybe starting with just your direct ancestors, and allow the system to search for whichever of those ancestors are already on WikiTree.

Finally, to help us all to get the most out of WikiTree, don't forget to add the links to your DNA kits.  If you are not already in the DNA system and "fishing in all the gene pools", and if you don't have family secrets to hide, then spit for AncestryDNA or 23andMe and copy your DNA data to the other DNA websites.  Once you are on GEDmatch and/or 23andMe and/or WikiTree, then link your accounts here for WikiTree and here for 23andMe.

I so enjoyed this remarkably intelligent interview -- thank you, Paddy! (P.S. I also aim to continue to be a perpetual Club 100 member.)
Thank you, Richard.

6 Answers

+7 votes
Congratulations, Paddy, and thank you for all you do for our tree.  It's great to hear about your work on the Irish project.  My only known Irish ancestors, Hector Douglas and his wife Sarah Hamilton, are brick walls for me.  I collect any Irish Douglas profiles that pop up in my genealogy feed, hoping to eventually make a connection.  Thank you, Eowyn, for another great interview.
ago by Mark Weinheimer G2G6 Pilot (730k points)
Thank you, Mark.
+6 votes
Great interview, Paddy. I enjoyed reading it.

I appreciated seeing your little compliment to WikiTree IDs based on surnames. ("I find it much easier to identify with Waldron-201 than with the equivalent L85B-MZ5 at!") I've often wondered over the years whether doing WikiTree IDs like this was a mistake. There are downsides: it means we need LNABs for everyone, and we need to change an ID when an LNAB changes. So, it's nice to hear when someone recognizes the benefits.
ago by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Thank you, Chris. The only thing that I might do differently with WikiTree IDs is to strip out spaces and apostrophes, which would make it easier to tell how many O'Deas, O Deas and ODeas there are on WikiTree, and to tell which is the older profile when proposing a merge.
+6 votes
You are awesome, Paddy.

Thank you for your contributions to WikiTree. DNA to me is liquid gold. Without DNA, I wouldn't have verified most of my research. You should check and see if you have a close connection to my father in law.

Awesome interview as always, Eowyn!
ago by Eileen Robinson G2G6 Mach 6 (64.2k points)
Only 32 degrees to you, through your father-in-law, Eileen.

Thank you for the compliments.
+3 votes
Thank You for sharing with us Paddy. I will agree that WikiTree can be addicting. I've got accounts with a couple other Sites, but this is more fun, educational, and helpful than any of my other experiences.

Thank You for another great interview Eowyn,
ago by Marty Franke G2G6 Pilot (251k points)
Thank you, Marty.
+2 votes
Thanks so much for this interview Paddy. I have been following your blog since I got into DNA, and have learned a lot from you. We have a distant link in my way back not yet found Clare ancestors. I fully endorse your idea of linking the Family Tree DNA surname projects with one name study projects on wikitree.
ago by Elsie Gorman G2G6 Mach 1 (11.2k points)
0 votes
Hello Paddy! We are 22nd cousins 2xr! I very much enjoyed reading your background and especially liked your comments about inspiring people to participate in the WikiTree mission. Preservation, connectedness and integration are the triumvirate of genealogy on our site and in our endeavors. Thank you!
ago by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (627k points)

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