The FamilySearch.org Research Wiki is an almost inexhaustible source of information about where and how to find genealogical resources around the world. This is not to say that every country and every subdivision of every country is yet completely represented, but the basics are there and the details are more than most need or can comprehend. Despite any claims as to how "easy" it is to find your ancestors, it is really a very challenging and therefore satisfying pursuit. Here are some important introductory points about the Research Wiki:
- The Research Wiki is not a place to go to search for your ancestors. It is the place to go to find out how and where to search for your ancestors.
- Because it is a wiki, the Research Wiki is user created and maintained. This means that there are constant changes and updates.
- The Research Wiki is not now and will never be complete. It will always be a work in progress.
- The current form and underlying program of the Research Wiki is nearly identical to the program used by Widipedia.org and MediaWiki.org.
- Editing the Research Wiki is now possible with any browser on any computer or mobile device operating system.
- All of the instructions for using, editing, correcting, programming and any other activity with the Research Wiki are in the contents of the Research Wiki itself.
Each page or article in the Research Wiki has multiple layers. There is the main page and then there are standard support pages represented by the tabs at the top of each page. Here is a screenshot of the Arizona, United States Genealogy page;
The arrows show the tabs that bring up the supporting pages, the Talk page, the Edit page and the View History page. Here is a screenshot of the Talk page:
The Talk (or Discussion) page is the place where you can express your opinion about the content, layout or whatever of the main page. This is the Arizona, United States Genealogy Talk page and it contains any discussion about that particular page. There really isn't much here because there are very few issues with the Arizona pages.
The FamilySearch.org Research Wiki is a moderated wiki. This means that there are people watching all of the changes and the content. In the background, there are volunteers, either associated with FamilySearch or not, that watch all of the changes to all of the pages. This is possible because of the structure of the wiki. The maintenance workers keep track of the wiki and make sure that the content conforms to the terms and conditions set down by the Research Wiki's sponsoring institutions, both FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is not to say that the Research Wiki is restricted from doing its primary job, but it does mean that certain types of information, as set forth on the FamilySearch Wiki: Policies page are enforced.
One of the first questions that often arises in the context of a wiki is how accurate is it? The answer is not as simple as it might seem to be. Since anyone who is registered can add, delete, edit, modify or correct any information entered into the Research Wiki (or most other wiki such as the FamilySearch.org Family Tree), then the information is as accurate as the latest corrected update. One of the most common problems, for example, is maintaining all of the thousands of links to other websites. As the Internet changes, the Research Wiki must also adapt to those changes. Most recently, the Research Wiki was updated with newer software. This upgrade changed a lot of the format and operation of the Research Wiki. This made some of the links and features to not work properly. Over time these will all be fixed by the work of the volunteers who are scrambling around on the Research Wiki looking for problems and fixing them.
If you find something on the Research Wiki that you want to correct or know something you want to add, then you do not have to ask anyone's permission, you can just sign in and make the change or add the new content. If you want to get started in contributing to the Research Wiki, then see the following page:
Any explanation about the inner workings of the Research Wiki could get rather complicated, but most of the editing and contributing can be done without learning a great deal about those inner workings.
Stay tuned for next installment of this series. Here is a link to the previous post.