One of the most important things we do as genealogists is share! We share research findings, family stories, trees, heirloom photos and more. These days, sharing online is often the way to go. It’s fast, it’s relatively organized, it gets things into the hands of those who want them and (often) it’s free!
To wrap this series of blog posts on collaborating, I offer 4 ways to share genealogy online (in addition to Dropbox and Evernote, which we discussed in previous posts).
1. Attach scanned documents, photos and stories to your online tree. Whether you keep a tree at MyHeritage, Ancestry, FamilySearch or another site, beef it up with everything you have. That only enriches the body of knowledge out there and gives others a leg up on the next bit of research. You can also include links to applicable notes in Evernote.
2. Post gravestone photos and other burial information at online cemetery sites. BillionGraves and Find A Grave are the two big ones, of course. These sites provide searchability and a platform for collaboration between descendants.
3. Post meaty queries that show what you know and what your questions are. RootsWeb and USGenWeb are two enormous sites, organized by location and topic, where you can post questions about people, places and more. Check out this page on how to write a good query and this Cyndi’s List portal to various message boards. TIP: Remember to include all important related keywords, name and location spellings, and dates in your messages so they are easily found by your long lost cousins using Google!
4. Publish your research. Genealogy newsletters, magazines and journals of all levels (from the local to the national and beyond) want your well-researched, well-written research. What’s a chunk of research you could share? Look for publications that are indexed in PERSI, the Periodical Source Index, because other genealogists are most likely to find your work when it’s indexed there. Of course, family history websites, blogs and books are all great ways to publish your research, too. Just get it out there!
As the online genealogy community continues to grow, our opportunities to grow bigger, better family trees also grow. So my question to you is: What do you have to share? And have you begun?
Check out the magazine article that inspired this series of posts on collaborating. It’s “Teaming Up,” and it appears in the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. Sharing genealogy files is just one topic we cover. The article itself was a cross-country collaboration between myself and Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton. To write it, we relied on a lot of the same tips and tools we recommend!
Finally, check out my previous blog posts in this mini-series on collaboration:
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Dropbox for Genealogists
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Evernote for Genealogists
Show Notes: The FamilySearch Wiki is like a free encyclopedia of genealogy! In this FamilySearch Wiki tutorial, discover the wealth of information the Wiki has to offer, and learn the secrets to navigating it with ease. We’ll also cover the number #1 reason people get frustrated when searching the Wiki and how to overcome it.
Watch the Video
RootsTech has set the class video to “private”. You can watch it on their website by going to the video page in their on-demand library. You may need to sign in to your free FamilySearch account in order to watch it.
Enjoy this special free tutorial video which was originally presented at the RootsTech conference. Download the ad-free Show Notes cheat sheet for this video class. (Premium Membership required.)
What is a Wiki?
A wiki is a website that
- Allows collaborative editing platform for users
- doesn’t require HTML editing
- has links to both internal and external resource pages
- The FamilySearch Wiki is a lot like Wikipedia. It’s basically an encyclopedia of information. But the exciting part is that it’s specific to genealogy. This means you don’t usually have to worry about including the word genealogy in your searches.
What Does the FamilySearch Wiki Do?
The FamilySearch Wiki is focused on providing information for genealogy research such as:
- how to find data
- where to find data
- how to analyze and use the data
What are the sources of Wiki content?
- Original material was added from the old Family History Library research outlines.
- User added material in their areas of genealogical expertise. The Wiki is constantly being updated by LDS missionaries and other volunteers as new material is discovered or released.
Don’t worry about Contributor info.
You’re going to see many things about wiki creation and management. Not everything is relevant to you when just wanting to find information. In fact, the majority of the Help section is geared to people creating, editing and maintaining pages. Don’t worry about being a contributor. Enjoy being a user.
2 Ways to Access the FamilySearch Wiki
- Going directly to https://www.familysearch.org/wiki. Although you can sign into your free FamilySearch account on this page (in the upper right corner) it isn’t necessary in order to use it.
- Logging in at the FamilySearch website. In the menu under Search click Research Wiki. By logging in and you’ll have access to additional features like participating in discussions, posting and creating watchlists.
The FamilySearch Wiki focuses on records, not ancestors.
Keep in mind that the purpose of the Wiki is to explain where genealogical materials are located and how to get access to them. The Wiki does not have individual ancestor information. If you want to find records, start by deciding specifically what kind of records you want. Identify when and where the ancestor lived at the time the record was created. Then head to the Wiki to figure out what records are available and where they can be found.
The Wiki links to:
- Materials that available at FamilySearch.org or any other online genealogy website.
- Materials that are not available at FamilySearch.org or any other online genealogy site.
- Materials that were previously unknown or newly made available online.
- Strategies and techniques for finding and researching genealogical records.
Types of Searches
Topic Search: When searching for information on a specific topic such as probate records, type the topic into the Search box. As you type, a list of pages with the topic word or words in the title appears below the Search box. If one of the listed pages is the desired topic, highlight and press enter. If you don’t pick from the drop-down list you will get a results list of every page that includes the topic.
Vital records Search: FamilySearch recommends using the Guided Search for info on vital records.
Location Search in the search box: When only the name of any country, state in the U.S., province in Canada, or county in England is typed in the Search box you will be taken directly to that Wiki page. For example: If Texas is searched the result is the Texas, United States Genealogy page.
Page Title: If you happen to know the exact title of the Wiki article you want, type it in the Search Box.
How to Overcome the #1 Search Problem
Many people will search for something like marriage records, Randolph, County, Indiana, and they will get a list of results. The results don’t look as clear-cut as Google results, and they may not all be on topic. This is where we can get lost. I think probably the number one reason why people give up on the wiki is they get these kinds of search results. They realize, wait a second, this isn’t even Indiana, it’s talking about Kentucky! Why am I getting all these? It can be frustrating.
This happens because we tried to do it ourselves, with our own keywords. Remember, like most search engines, they’ve indexed their content to make it searchable, so that means they’ve already decided how they want to talk about a particular topic. Rather than just addressing marriage record first, the wiki focuses on the location. Where is this marriage record? So, focus first on the place unless you are just looking for general information on a general genealogy topic such as genealogy software.
Pre-filled suggestions will appear as you type because the wiki is going to suggest what it has in the format it has it. Again, you may want to first go to the country, state or county-level page and then look for the record type.
If you’re looking for marriage records but you don’t see them listed it might be that the word marriage isn’t the keyword the wiki uses. Or it might be that the type of record you’re looking for is a state or federal record.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see what you want listed in the table of contents. It may just be a keyword issue. Let the work that they’ve already done in organizing their materials guide you. You’ll be more successful and also avoid frustration. The FamilySearch Wiki is just too good of a resource to miss.
The FamilySearch Wiki Search box
You can run three main types of searches:
- Single key words,
- and search strings.
Resource: Wiki Search Help Page
- Quotes: Odd Fellows – 49 results versus “Odd Fellows” – 32 results
- Minus sign
- Word stemming applies: car will also find cars
- subpageof:”Requests for comment”
- Numrange doesn’t work on the wiki
- Use Google site search to search using Google’s engine and search operators!
Generally speaking, the map is the best way to search for records and information that is rooted in a location. Start by clicking the button for the continent, such as North America. From there, select the county from the menu, such as United States, then drill down by state. This will take you to the Wiki entry for that state.
Location-based FamilySearch Wiki Pages
If you’re really new to research in a particular location, start with the guided research link on the location’s wiki page. You may also see links to research strategies, record finder, and record types.
Getting Started section – links to step-by-step research strategies and the most popular records.
The county pages are where the real magic happens because many records such as birth, marriage, death, and court records are typically available at the county level. There you’ll find out how to contact or visit the current county courthouse. Look for Boundary Changes on the page. Use your computer’s Find on Page feature by pressing Control + F (PC) or Command + F (mac) on your keyboard to more quickly find words like Boundary on the page.
Exploring Record Collection Pages
Many record collections have their own page on the Wiki. As you type, these pages will populate in the drop-down list. Example: German Census Records. Take a moment to read through the page and you’ll discover some important information that will save you time and headaches, such as:
- When censuses were taken
- National versus local censuses and their various levels
- Censuses in areas where boundaries have changed over time
- Various types of census forms we may encounter
- The purpose behind the creation of census records in Germany
- The kind of information we can expect to find in the German census
- Other types of records containing similar information
- Resource articles (including a handout from a past RootsTech)
- Wiki articles describing online collections
There are a couple of actions we may want to take before going on to search for records. Here are a few:
Click on the Category to see what else is attached to this category – in this case we see some example images that are helpful in interpreting German census forms.
Click the Cite this page link in the left column if we plan to reference the page elsewhere.
Click Printable Version in the left column if we want a printable or PDF version of the page.
Explore related pages by clicking the What links here link in the column on the left. Notice it also shows if there are any other users watching the page.
Learn more about using Family Search
Videos at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems YouTube channel:
Recently we heard from Jennifer, who wondered what kinds of genealogy resources she might discover in a state capital.
“I’m tagging along on my husband’s thesis research trip to Columbus, Ohio. I have some ancestors from other parts of Ohio. I was wondering what exactly I could look for in a state’s capital collections/archives that could save me a trip to the city or county? I was thinking that the state capital may have a “gem” that I couldn’t find elsewhere, or even duplicated information [from local repositories]. Do you know?”
Yes, Jennifer is definitely thinking along the right lines! Here’s our advice:
At the state level there are often two key resources: the state library and the state archives. These might be combined. One might be called the state historical society. You just have to look for each state. In Ohio, the Ohio History Connection serves as the state historical society and official state archives. But there is also a state library that serves as a repository for government documents and a resource for other libraries. Each has resources for genealogists, online and in-house. (Click here for digital genealogy content at the state library and here for resources at the Archives/Library of the Ohio History Connection).
In addition, public libraries of major cities often have excellent local history and genealogy collections. This is definitely true of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio’s state capital!
We suggest you contact librarians before you go and ask what they have that can’t be found anywhere else, both on a state level and for locales you are researching. Often times that will include photograph collections, company (business) collections, and my favorite newspapers on microfilm. If you can formulate specific genealogical questions that you want to try and answer and share those ahead of time with the librarian that will help her guide you toward the unique gems. Every state library and archive is unique, so consulting by phone with the reference librarian is the best way to go.
Here are a few articles on my website that can help you prepare to find genealogy records in a state capital repository or in any major library: