From FamilySearch Wiki
Revision as of 01:29, 19 July 2012 by Lembley (talk | contribs) (abbreviations)

Jump to: navigation, search

This Manual of Style (MOS) or style guide is a set of standards for all FamilySearch wiki articles. It describes the visual and technical aspects of the wiki, including prose style, article structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling that are unique to this wiki.

General Principles

Accuracy - Accuracy is critical to the success of the wiki. To give readers confidence in the accuracy of information in an article, contributors should cite the source of their information.

Relevance - Articles and links must be relevant to the purposes of the FamilySearch research wiki. Content and images must be appropriate to the FamilySearch Research Wiki.  Irrelevant or inappropriate content or links will be removed.

Usability - Information provided in the FamilySearch Research Wiki should be useful, usable information. Articles should direct readers to the most accessible resources, and explain instances where a less-accessible resource is more valuable. Place emphasis on circulating over non-cirulating materials, and digitial over print versions of nearly identical resources. Explain terms and acronyms; avoid using local jargon.

Collaboration - The FamilySearch wiki is a collaborative effort. Content contributed to the wiki is relinquished to the community under the Creative Commons license. Individuals and organizations work together respectfully to create content that presents the best available information from a neutral point of view. Bylines are not appropriate. To facilitate respectful interactions, become familiar with and abide by basic wiki etiquette.

Article Naming

Names for articles should meet the following criteria:

  • Unique - Each wiki article must have a unique name.
  • Informative - The reader should be able to ascertain the general content of the article from the name.
  • Searchable - Include within the title words that a researcher is likely to use to search for an article with the information contained in the article that you are titling.


Consistency is important in what words are used and how they are placed within article titles. Geographical jurisdictions are given in ascending order, e.g., London, England. The word "County" is included where appropriate, words are capitalized in sentence case, and abbreviations are not used except in specific instances.

Main article: FamilySearch Wiki:Naming conventions.

Changing or Correcting an Article Name

Articles may need to be renamed to correct an error, or to better state the purpose of the article. Renaming an article requires moving the content of the article to a page with a different name. If it is likely that the page has been widely viewed and bookmarked, a "redirect" should be placed on the old article following the move. After the content has been moved to a new article, some old articles can simply be marked for deletion.

Main article: Help:Renaming a page

Article Structure


Subheadings or sections should be used to organize content, keep similar information together, and make it easier for readers to scan an article to find the information they need. Using the pre-defined heading level styles on the format bar automatically creates a simple Table of Contents for the article.



Many wikis (including Wikipedia) utilize portals to display content organized into boxes. The FamilySearch wiki does not utilize portals. To display content in boxes, use tables within columns instead of using sub-pages within portals. To see an example of columns and tables in use, go to the Maryland page, click Edit, and switch to Wikitext view. To see an example of portal code, go to the India portal on Wikipedia and click Edit this page. For more about this topic, see The Un-Portal Page.

Mechanics of Writing and Formatting

Grammar and Punctuation

For assistance with general grammar, punctuation, capitalization or other writing mechanics questions, refer to a widely accepted authority, for example:

For grammar, punctuation, capitalization and other writing details unique to genealogy or the FamilySearch wiki, see Writer's Guide for the FamilySearch Wiki.

Character Formatting

Font - Regardless of the font you paste into the wiki edit screen, your work will be saved in the system's default font.

Bold - avoid using bold, unless emphasis makes the article more readable. 

Italics - use italics to denote the title of a book.  Do not use italics for quoted text.

Underline - indicates a hyperlink.  Do not use underline to emphasize text or denote the title of a book.


Buttons or Tabs - When referring to a button or tab name, match the capitalization from the button or tab. Example: "Discussion page"

Places - Capitalize the word “city,” “county,” “state,” or “province” only when the word appears as part of a place name.

Wiki Articles - When referring to another wiki article, match the capitalization from the article title.

Spelling Variations

Variations of English are acceptable. For example, either colour (British) or color (United States) is acceptable. Each article should use only one variation of English. When editing, use the variation of English already established in the article.


Do not use postal code abbreviations or Latin abbreviations including ca. (about), etc. (and so on), e.g. (for example), or viz (namely). Use simple English instead.


Main article: FamilySearch Wiki:Linking

Meaningful, relevant content that is not suitable for inclusion in an article should be linked. Links may be one of three types:

  • internal links (to other FamilySearch wiki articles)
  • links to other FamilySearch resources (Historical Records, Forums, etc.)
  • external links (to county, state or county web sites, for-pay genealogy sites, etc.)

Where possible, links should take readers directly to the content described.  Internal links should point to a specific section within an article if only that portion of the article is relevant.

Links to resources or explanations should be in context or "in-line" with text.  Links to similar articles or articles for further reading should follow "See also:"  Do not display the full URL of a destination page unless there is a compelling reason to do so.  Do not use "Click here" or "Link".

Use a link template when linking to the following often-referenced resources:

OCLC/WorldCat: {{WorldCat}}
RecordSearch: {{RecordSearch}}
Wikipedia: {{Wikipedia}}
Wayback Machine: {{Wayback}}

Terminology Unique to this Wiki

Genealogy-specific terms

Use the capitalization and spelling shown for the following genealogy-specific terms:

  • family group record
  • family history center (This term is not trademarked and is not capitalized.)
  • family tree
  • Personal Ancestral File (PAF)
  • International Genealogical Index (IGI)
  • pedigree chart
  • record types (for example, census records, court records, military records)

Technology Terms

  • GEDCOM (acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunications)
  • Internet
  • website (one word, all lower case)

References to FamilySearch

Use the capitalization and spelling shown for the following FamilySearch terms:

  • Family History Library
  • FamilySearch
  • FamlySearch Research Wiki (just "wiki" or Research Wiki is also acceptable)
  • FamilySearch website
  • or (both are correct.)
  • historical collections (on

FamilySearch is the legal name of the organization responsible for and other family history initiatives.  Refer to the website as and the entity as FamilySearch.

Correct: You can search historical record collections at
Incorrect: You can search historical record collections at FamilySearch.

Latin abbreviations. Do not use ca., etc., e.g., or viz. Use simple English instead.

ca. (Use "about")
e.g. (Use "for example.")
etc. (Use "and so on" or "and so forth.")
i.e. (This term actually means "that is," and is often used incorrectly to mean "for example." Depending on meaning, use "that is," "such as," or "for example.")
viz. (Use "namely.")

Draft Pages or Sandboxes

Major editing work on a page that will not be finished for an extended time may confuse readers. Lengthy or long term editing preparations should occur within a sandbox.  Add a link to in the article's "Discussion" page, pointing to the sandbox where text is being created or edited. This will allow comments on the new content until it is moved from the sandbox page to the page that needs the changes.

Further information: FamilySearch Wiki:About the Sandbox


Metric or U.S. If measurements are needed, they can be written in metric or U.S. systems. The same system should be used throughout the article. It is recommended that the contributor provide the measurement in both systems. Metric may be listed first with the U.S. equivalent in parentheses, or the U.S. measurement may be listed first with the metric equivalent in parentheses. The same order should be used throughout the article.

Correct: Many narrow-gauge railroads in the Maine forests were 2 ft (610 mm) wide.
Correct: Many narrow-gauge railroads in the Maine forests were 610 mm (2 ft) wide.

Including a unit. Always include the unit of measurement with the number (for example, yard, meter, quart, and so on). Standard abbreviations may be used if they do not have more than one meaning.

Correct: Staten Island in New York City covers 59 square miles (153 square kilometers).
Correct: Staten Island in New York City covers 59 sq mi (153 km2).
Incorrect: Staten Island in New York City covers 59m.


Listing costs of services. When referring users to a site or institution that charges for its services, it is appropriate to let users know there will be a charge. However, because prices change often, it is best to avoid listing the exact cost of the services.

Correct: There is a fee to get a copy of a deceased ancestor’s Social Security application.
Incorrect: There is a US$27-$29 fee to get a copy of a deceased ancestor’s Social Security application.

Identifying the currency listed. If it is important to indicate an amount of money, indicate both the amount and which currency is listed (Canadian dollars, Japanese yen, Mexican pesos, British pounds, and so on). Frequently, an abbreviation for the country is listed in front of the amount (for example, US$25). The original price and the equivalent in today’s money may be listed.

Correct: In 1800, a private in the British infantry was paid 1 shilling a day.
Correct: For the Louisiana Territory, the United States paid France US$15,000,000.
Incorrect: For the Louisiana Territory, the United States paid France almost $190 million in today’s money.

Related articles