Posted on

Val Greenwood on Genealogy Wikis

Genealogy Wikis

Among the many excellent features of the 4th edition of The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, by Val D. Greenwood, are two entirely new and up-to-date chapters on technology. Like the entire volume, the author has written these chapters so the average family researcher can understand them and apply them effectively in investigations. To illustrate just how clearly Mr. Greenwood explains the technology of contemporary genealogy, we have excerpted below a small portion of the section on genealogy wikis.

“Wiki” is a Hawaiian word meaning “quick .” The Honolulu airport gave the name “WikiWiki” to their shuttle buses. On the Internet, the term “WikiWikiWeb”-shortened in common usage to just “wiki”-is used to describe websites that are open for input and discussion by their users. To become an authorized wiki participant, a person is required to register with the wiki involved. Having registered, he can contribute new information, and he can delete and/or edit information provided by others. Most people are familiar with the popular Wikipedia website because it frequently comes out near the top of many search engine queries. Though Wikipedia is often a good place to start one’s research on many subjects, it is seldom the best place to finish that research.

There are three types of family history wikis:

  1. Family tree wikis: those that relate specifically to pedigrees and lineages
  2. Reference wikis: those that provide useful background and pertinent “how to” information that is helpful to research
  3. Specific topic wikis: those that relate to precise subjects

Many wikis are moderated, which means the site owner must approve all content before it can  appear on the wiki. The top wikis also request that those who provide content also provide source citations for their content.

The best thing about a wiki is that anyone with relevant information can publish that information  on the wiki and make it available to everyone else.

And, sadly, that is also the worst thing about a wiki. There is the benefit of a wonderfully broad contributor base, but there is also very limited authority control, and contributors need not be experts. Remember that opinions are not facts, and the repeated assertion of those opinions does not make them any more accurate. We know that from our family history research.

Some of the more popular wikis in [the family tree category] include the following:

Family Tree Wikis

  • Family Tree on the FamilySearch website ( is the largest and  most widely used family  tree wiki. Its use is free, and as of May 2016, there were about 1.I billion records on this wiki. The fact that this program is a wiki is the reason I do not recommend that you make Family Tree the place to maintain your personal official tree. Keep a copy of your tree there, of course, but realize that it is vulnerable and other people can make changes at any time. There is much more information about Family Tree and the FamilySearch website in Chapter 10.
  • WikiTree: The Free Family Tree is a popular, fast-growing, and free wiki with more than 12,866,621 profiles included, edited by 387,678 genealogists/contributors in 2016.
  • WeRelate Main Page – Genealogy (  is another large and significant family tree wiki. It had more than 2,750,000 people on its pages in 2016. Note that we mentioned this site earlier in the chapter when we discussed its function as a social media site.
  • Familypedia ( http:// familypedia ) claimed in 2016 to be working on 216,200 articles and 331,436 other pages, including many family historical accounts. The focus of this wiki is to capture the details of the lives of our ancestors and to provide information about the historical and social context in which they lived.
  • Other family tree wikis include Ancient Faces ( and Genealogy Today  (

Reference (“how to”) wikis

  • Familypedia | Fandom ( is one of the most important wikis in the reference category. Information from this wiki has been included in many places in this book, and there is also a more detailed explanation about it in our discussion of the FamilySearch website in Chapter 10. As of July 2016, there were 84,966 articles on the English FamilySearch wiki, most of them written by the Family History Library staff.
  • The Ancestry family history wiki ( is also significant.  Included on this wiki are two books published by Ancestry: The Source and Red Book. There are also other significant Ancestry materials as well as articles written by site users. The approximately 8,500 (in 2015) are available for general use.