Family History Research Wiki

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Family History Research Wiki (also known as the FamilySearch Research Wiki or the FamilySearch Wiki) provides handbook reference information, and educational articles to help genealogists find and interpret records of their ancestors.[1][2]  It is a free-access, free-content, online encyclopedia on a wiki, hosted as part of the FamilySearch site. It is sponsored by FamilySearch, a non-profit organization, and a genealogical arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[3] Anyone may read any of the over 91,000 articles, and almost all articles can be edited by registered users (contributors); registration is free.


Most of the articles in this Wiki are about a place such as a town, county, state, province, or nation. Such articles suggest how to research records for information about ancestors in that jurisdiction. Every nation worldwide has at least one article. There are more articles for places in the United States, Canada, and Europe. So far, there are comparatively fewer pages for Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin America, or the Pacific Islands.

Contributors are invited to add any information about places to help researchers find, use, or better understand an ancestor's records. For example, information about local record idiosyncrasies, record gaps or record-loss, jurisdictional boundary changes, records housed in unusual places, or tips for using the records more effectively, is encouraged. Reference information about local jurisdictions, contact information, record start and stop dates, repositories, social life and customs that affected local record keeping are also welcome.

Content for a place-article may include maps, primary repository contact information, organization date, parent jurisdiction, internal sub-divisions such as towns or counties, boundary changes, record loss if any, neighboring localities, resources, local record types, local migration routes, and other local libraries, archives, societies, or museums.

Other types of pages[4] in Family History Research Wiki are about:

  • record types (like census, church, land, or vital records): descriptions, how to find them, and how to interpret them
  • short articles describing how to use a specific source like the Hamburg Passenger Lists, or Ontario Land Records
  • articles that explain how to corroborate similar multiple sources such as Tracing Immigrant Origins or U.S. military records
  • finding aids about specific reference tools and how to use them effectively
  • ethnic, religious, or political groups research
  • descriptions of significant repositories: libraries, archives, societies, museums, or Family History Centers with material of value to genealogical researchers
  • how to use selected genealogical software programs
  • research methodology—teaching the strategies or techniques for finding ancestors
  • migration routes like ports, rivers, canals, trails, roads, and railroads and their associated records
  • 20 foreign-language word lists which give English translations of phrases typically found in genealogical documents
  • letter-writing guides to help researchers write letters in foreign languages to local record repositories
  • handwriting guides help readers understand old forms of handwriting or foreign alphabets
  • calendar information which might be listed in some genealogical documents, for example Fixed and Moveable Feast Days for Sweden
  • blank genealogical forms such as family group records or pedigree charts
  • links to thousands of significant genealogical databases online
  • links to video lessons about how-to-do genealogical research
  • illustrations in articles frequently include maps, clickable maps, repository images, flags, and record type examples

The Family History Research Wiki is not a database of ancestors' names, photos, family stories, or pedigrees. Nor is it a place for genealogical queries, or message boards—however, it often explains and then links to such sites. Advertising, or product reviews would be inappropriate. Religious doctrines, church policies, and religious images do not belong on the Family History Research Wiki except where they directly impact genealogical research.[5]

Content history[edit]

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has over four thousand branches worldwide called Family History Centers. These centers have volunteer staff who offer free research advice to visitors. To help these volunteers better answer questions about research, a series of "research outlines" and other publications by the Family History Library were developed starting about 1988.[4] When the Family History Research Wiki was launched in late 2007, the electronic copies of the old paper publications of the Family History Library were immediately transferred into the wiki to become part of over 162 new articles. Of those articles, 86 were front-page-articles each linked to about 25 closely related topical sub-pages. For example, the front-page New Jersey Genealogy article was linked directly to the associated New Jersey Biography, New Jersey Cemeteries, and New Jersey Census pages, among others. Much of the early structure and phrasing of the wiki can be attributed to these publications. The old paper "research outlines" were the original kernel from which the Family History Research Wiki has grown.

Platform history[edit]

The Family History Research Wiki was launched 14 December 2007 when the main page was first edited.[6] The wiki began on Plone wiki software. However, it was soon discovered that MediaWiki software would be a better platform, so in January 2008 it was moved to the MediaWiki 1.17.1.[7] In late March 2016, it was moved to a newer, more-stable Wiki platform, WikiMedia 1.23.10, which does not require as much attention from FamilySearch computer engineers.[8]


Following the English language edition introduction in late 2007, the Family History Research Wiki has been rolled out in other languages. As of July 2014 it is available in 11 languages:[9]

  • English
  • Deutsch (German)
  • Español (Spanish)
  • Français (French)
  • Italiano (Italian)
  • 日本語 (Japanese)
  • 한국어 (Korean)
  • Português (Portuguese)
  • Русский (Russian)
  • Svenska (Swedish)
  • 中文 (Chinese)

Links to the other language wikis are found at the bottom of the Family History Research Wiki homepage. As of 7 March 2016, the Family History Research Wiki in English had 150,561 registered users who had helped create over 82,858 articles.[10]


The Family History Research Wiki has over 100 million views per year.[11] During most months it is usually the second-most frequently visited part (out of ten parts) of FamilySearch, its host site. Wider use of this wiki in the genealogical community seems to be growing only slowly. This resource has been discussed by expert how-to-book authors,[12][13][14][15][16] in periodicals,[17][18][19][20][21][22] by instructors at genealogical conferences and classes,[23][24][25][26][27][28] on Internet sites,[29][30][31][32][33][34][35] in blogs,[36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47] and on talk radio.[48]

James Tanner in 2014 on his Genealogy Star blog said the Family History Research Wiki ". . . is the one most valuable genealogical resource on the Web. I make no qualification in making that claim and have repeated it time and time again."[49]

Christine Hitchmough in her 2016 lesson "FamilySearch: Using the Wiki" explained "Because no one can be an expert in all localities, records, languages, or ethnic groups, the purpose of the FamilySearch Wiki is to collaborate and share knowledge that is designed to encourage and eventually enable all people, anywhere in the world, to know where to find, how to use, and how to analyze genealogy records."[50]

The Federation of Genealogical Societies in 2014 used their blogtalkradio hour "mysociety" to explain how to leverage a society's Internet site by adding a Family History Research Wiki article linking to their society home page.[51]

The London FamilySearch Centre in the Reading Room at the National Archives near Kew Gardens, England wrote in March 2015, "The Research Wiki is a work in progress. It relies on members from the genealogical community to help add information to make it grow. YOU are the genealogical community! You may know of a database or information not already listed in the wiki."[52]


The Wiki Governance Council oversees the direction and management of the Family History Research Wiki. Its purpose is to facilitate a valuable and productive experience for all Wiki users.[53]


  1. ^ The Vision: Why We Built the FamilySearch Wiki in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 6 March 2016).
  2. ^ FamilySearch Wiki:About Us in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 6 March 2016).
  3. ^ FamilySearch in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 6 March 2016).
  4. ^ a b Family History Library, Family History Publications List (Salt Lake City: Family History Library, 1995), 1-4.
  5. ^ FamilySearch Wiki:Purpose and Appropriate Topics in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 6 March 2016).
  6. ^ Revision history of "Main Page" in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 6 March 2016).
  7. ^ Version in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 8 March 2016).
  8. ^ Danielle Batson, e-mail "RE: What will the new software platform be?" to G. David Dilts, 8 March 2016.
  9. ^ FamilySearch Wiki:Non-English versions of the wiki in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 7 March 2016).
  10. ^ Statistics Archived 2016-03-07 at the Wayback Machine in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 7 March 2016).
  11. ^ James L. Tanner, Some Observations on the Research Wiki in Genealogy Star blog, January 4, 2016 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  12. ^ Michael Dunn, A Beginner's Guide to Online Genealogy (Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media, [2015]), 60.
  13. ^ Matthew L. Helm, and April Leigh Helm, Genealogy Online for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., [2008]).
  14. ^ Debbie Kennett, DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the 21st Century (Stroud: History Press, 2011), 171. (accessed 9 March 2016). Described in a list of wikis.
  15. ^ Dana McCullough, Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch (Cincinnati, OH: Family Tree Books, 2015), 216-20. Chapter on Wiki.
  16. ^ James L. Tanner, Guide to FamilySearch Online (Mesa, Ariz.: Bookmark Graphics, 2011). From reader review: "I found the section on FamilySearch Wiki to be extremely helpful. This portion of the book is worth the price all by itself."
  17. ^ "Civil War and the FamilySearch Research Wiki," Crossroads, 6, no. 2 (June 2011).
  18. ^ "FamilySearch Research Wiki, Overview," Searchers and Researchers, 33, no. 2 (summer 2010).
  19. ^ "FamilySearch Wiki as a Research Tool," Voices of the Past, 9, no. 1 (March 2013).
  20. ^ "FamilySearch Research Wiki," Sedgwick County Genealogy News, 13, no. 4 (December 2009).
  21. ^ "FamilySearch Research Wiki Description and User Tips," Echoes (The), 12, no. 6 (November 2013).
  22. ^ "Research Using FamilySearch Wiki," Genealogy Updates for VGS / Village Genealogical Society Newsletter, 2, no. 4 (April 2012).
  23. ^ What Is a FamilySearch Wiki??? (Rexburg, ID: BYU Idaho, Fall 2011) (accessed 9 March 2016). Lesson outline.
  24. ^ Calaveras Genealogical Society’s Spring Social in (accessed 9 March 2016). Lesson topic announcement.
  25. ^ Jamie Lee McManus Mayhew, Understanding the FamilySearch Research Wiki 10 page .pdf lesson. (California, 2015) (accessed 9 March 2016).
  26. ^ David Flint, Family History Research Wiki Archived 2016-03-11 at the Wayback Machine 2015 .pdf lesson handout.
  27. ^ Scandinavian Genealogical Research Resources Santa Clara County (Calif.) Historical and Genealogical Society lesson outline (accessed 9 March 2016).
  28. ^ Donald R. Snow, FamilySearch Catalog, Books, and Wiki Genealogy class notes of 17 May 2015 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  29. ^ FamilySearch: Oswego County in Ainsworth Memorial Library Genealogy (Sandy Creek, NY) (accessed 9 March 2016). Recommendation for local Oswego County research.
  30. ^ American-French Genealogical Society expands research resources with a page on FamilySearch Research Wiki in American-French Genealogical Society (accessed 9 March 2016).
  31. ^ Free Mormon Genealogy in Ancestor Search (accessed 9 March 2016). Short basic description of this wiki, on a list among other.
  32. ^ Nancy Hendrickson, Toolkit: Wikis 101 Archived 2016-03-11 at the Wayback Machine in FamilyTreeMagazine 20 April 2010 (accessed 9 March 2016). Discusses four online wikis.
  33. ^ Hints & Tips Twelve: How to Get the Best Results from FamilySearch in Society of Genealogists (England) (accessed 9 March 2016). Discussion of Wiki among others.
  34. ^ FamilySearch Partnership in TNGenWeb Project (accessed 9 March 2016). 2010 announcement re Wiki.
  35. ^ in Mary’s Genealogy Treasures (accessed 9 March 2016). Wiki takes a large section of this aggregator site menu.
  36. ^ #NGS2014GEN English Research and the FamilySearch Wiki in Ancestry Insider blog, 9 May 2014 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  37. ^ Diane Haddad, FamilySearch Research Wiki in FamilyTreeMagazine Genealogy Insider blog, 24 October 2010 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  38. ^ James L. Tanner, Have I mentioned the FamilySearch Research Wiki Recently? in Genealogy Star blog, 4 September 2014 (accessed 9 March 2016). Blog describes and praises it.
  39. ^ Leland Meitzler, The Updated Tennessee Page on FamilySearch Research Wiki in GenealogyBlog, 16 August 2010 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  40. ^ James L. Tanner, How to Search in the FamilySearch Research Wiki in In-Depth Genealogist blog, 18 August 2012 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  41. ^ Marian Pierre-Louis, Research Help for Unfamiliar Locations - FamilySearch Research Wiki in Legacy Family Tree News blog, 19 January 2012 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  42. ^ Newberry Library, FamilySearch Research Wiki Update Archived 2016-03-11 at the Wayback Machine in Newberry Library Genealogy Blog, 24 January 2014 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  43. ^ Blair Archival Research, Genealogical Research and the Wiki Archived 2015-09-05 at the Wayback Machine in The Passionate Genealogist blog, 19 March 2012 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  44. ^ Randy Seaver, FamilySearch Research Wiki, Videos, Getting Started Just Two Clicks Away Now in Genea-Musings blog, 19 April 2013 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  45. ^ Shanna Jones, Genealogy Corner… FamilySearch Research Wiki in Senior Sampler Genealogy Corner blog, 3 November 2011 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  46. ^ Jacqueline, Family Search Wiki in South African Family History blog (accessed 9 March 2016).
  47. ^ Pat Richley-Erickson, Record Selection Tables at FamilySearch Wiki in Worldwide Genealogy blog, 3 December 2015 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  48. ^ FamilySearch Research Wiki and Your Genealogy Society in FGS "The Voice" 28 October 2014 (accessed 9 March 2016).
  49. ^ James Tanner, Have I mentioned the FamilySearch Research Wiki Recently?, September 4, 2014 in Genealogy Star blog (accessed 7 March 2016).
  50. ^ Christine Hitchmough, "FamilySearch: Using the Wiki" (.pdf 27 February 2016) (accessed 7 March 2016).
  51. ^ The FamilySearch Research Wiki and Your Genealogy Society in "mysociety" on "The Voice" (Federation of Genealogical Societies) (accessed 7 March 2016).
  52. ^ FamilySearch Research Wiki Reaches 80,000 Articles Archived 2015-09-20 at the Wayback Machine in London FamilySearch Centre (accessed 7 March 2016).
  53. ^ FamilySearch Wiki:Wiki Governance Council in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 7 March 2016).

External links[edit]