FamilySearch Wiki:Purpose and Appropriate Topics

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Blue check.png This page documents a guideline. It is a generally accepted standard that contributors should attempt to follow, though it is best treated with common sense and the occasional exception.

Any substantive edit to this page should reflect consensus. When in doubt, discuss first on the talk page.

FamilySearch Wiki is...

FamilySearch Wiki is a tool people can use to learn how to find their ancestors. It offers information on how to find, use, and analyze records of genealogical value. The site’s content is variously targeted to beginners, intermediate researchers, and experts.1

FamilySearch Wiki is not...

  • A repository of knowledge regarding the use of FamilySearch products.
  • A place to post (or find) information about a specific ancestor.
  • An advertising medium for products or services.
  • A collection of product reviews.
  • A place to publicly post internal policies or contact information of the Family History Department, Family History Centers, or any other LDS Church affiliate.
  • A place to post religious doctrine or advocate or criticize religious practices.
  • A place to post images of LDS temples.
  • An encyclopedia of holidays and family traditions of the world.
  • A place to post data sets and genealogical records, such as obituaries, military histories, or transcriptions of record sources.
  • A list of LDS family history centers in a geographic area (instead link to the searchable database on

Limited Topics

Some topics which should be included can detract from the site’s purpose if covered in unnecessary depth:

  • History of a place.
  • Geographic information.
  • Military history which influenced the creation or location of genealogical records.
  • Case studies useful for teaching genealogical methodology.2
  • Methods of citing genealogical sources.
  • Power usage of an important computer application’s features in finding or analyzing genealogical records.
  • Use of computer hardware in genealogy.

Writings on these topics can easily become bloated. For instance, while some kinds of geographic information can help genealogists learn where their ancestors may have migrated, others have little or no bearing on genealogy. When writing on any topic, then, the best rule of thumb is to ask “Have I made a good case as to how this information helps someone find, use, or analyze genealogical records?”

Items for Discussion

The community should discuss whether we want the site to include the following items:

  • Historical definitions of legal terms, occupations, etc. In other words, do we want FamilySearch Wiki to become a genealogical dictionary? How would this affect the search experience and navigation of the site? Should we outsource dictionary definitions?
  • Social networking. What are the possible applications/manifestations/values of social networking in genealogy, and which ones should we enable/disallow?
  • Predictions. There is value to what the future of genealogy will and should bring. To what extent should it be covered on this site?
  • Long lists of Websites. What is long? Assuming we don't want to replicate Cyndislist, what limits should govern us in adding links?
  • Limited-visibility content. Content that only members of a certain workgroup can see.
  • Long lists of Family History Library materials which are listed in the Family History Library Catalog. For example, Registers are FHL in-house publications designed to help patrons find resources faster than if they were to use the Family History Library Catalog alone.
  • Long lists of Family History Library materials that are not viewable on the Family History Library Catalog. For instance, thousands of Greek films are in the FHL's collection, but are not viewable on the catalog. Should these be listed on the wiki?
  • Alternate place names. Taken to its terminus, an effort to identify and post alternate place names becomes a names authority table. What should this site's limits be?
  • World Records Manager. Taken to its terminus, an effort to identify the best records to satisfy research objectives in any country in any time period using sources from anywhere becomes a catalog of all the world's genealogical records. What should our limits be?
  • Name studies, lists of common names for an area, or guidance as to the geographic distribution of names.
  • Locality-centric research advice. To what extent should the wiki give advice to patrons based on where/how they access records? Should we give advice on satisfying research objective X in Library Y? How will localized advice be navigated, searched, and identified by title?
  • Information on specific repositories. To what extent should the wiki include information on a specific library or archive and its collection?
  • Information on genealogical groups, such as genealogical societies, companies, or NPOs.
  • Political information relating to genealogy, such as a bill that will restrict access to a record collection, or a move to purge a library's genealogical collection.


1. Today FamilySearch Wiki’s beginner content is quite sparse. Therefore, we will add research guidance, otherwise known as resolution flows or reference interviews, to enable beginners to find good research advice without having to know genealogical methodology or lingo. We will achieve this in a low-tech fashion without having to code anything new in the application.

2. While some readers find case studies to be quite enlightening, many regard them simply as the best cure for insomnia. Inasmuch as case studies can quickly bloat an article, it is often best to cover a case study in a separate article rather than add it to a general page on, say, Pennsylvania Vital Records.