FamilySearch Wiki:Guiding Principles

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Purpose and Scope

The Research Wiki is a tool that allows individuals to come together and teach the world how to do genealogy research. As a Wiki, anyone can share their knowledge in specific areas and topics. Through collaboration, sharing, open-edit, and forums the community can build a high-quality resource.  As a community of contributors we follow these guiding principles to ensure we are creating an exciting tool for the research community.

Use the “Guideline Links” at the end of the Contents Box to access a table listing specific guidelines and related articles.

Free[edit | edit source]

As a not-for-profit entity, FamilySearch fundamentally requires that all its products and services, including the Research Wiki, be free of charge to everyone. 

All content on the Research Wiki is covered under a Creative Commons license, which states that anyone can use this content, with proper citations (Attribution), under the same or similar license (Share Alike). Each page in the wiki includes a CC-BY-SA graphic that links to the specific license.

Articles in the Research Wiki may include links to records and other sources on the Internet that charge an access or registration fee, as long as the user has a clear choice whether to pay it or not.

Sources and Delimiters[edit | edit source]

Articles should cite authoritative, verifiable sources whenever possible. Any un-sourced material may be challenged and removed. Limit discussion of religion, politics, ethnicity, culture, and history to those aspects which affect family history research or record keeping. The Research Wiki does not have copies of the source documents (except the few pages used as examples). Do not include details about specific ancestors, or individual biographies unless they are used as examples on a record, or as case studies to illustrate a process or principle.

Neutral Point of View[edit | edit source]

The Research Wiki must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly and without bias, all significant views of family history related topics that have been published by reliable sources. This allows those who use and depend on the knowledge contained within the Research Wiki, to see and try all techniques and suggestions for finding records about their ancestors. Neutral point of view also requires the citation of sources that are authoritative and verifiable. Avoid personal points of view, personal opinion, personal experiences, or arguments. The Research Wiki is not the place to include personal testimonials, stories of research success, or advertising platforms. Overly religious, political, ethnic, cultural, historic, and nationalistic discussions can tend to be biased and one-sided. They rarely apply to family history research, records, or instruction. The best way to avoid being personal or dogmatic is to write with a neutral point of view and cite authoritative sources for the ideas you express. Strive to fairly explain any competing points of view that differ from your own. Even though this site is sponsored by a religious entity, it is neither reviewed nor correlated for doctrinal correctness, and therefore, should not become a forum for doctrinal discussions or discourses—even ones that are purely informational in nature. Other sites may exist for this purpose, especially and may be linked to from within the Research Wiki.

Spam-Free[edit | edit source]

As a tool designed to guide users to the best sources of genealogical information, the wiki has some sensitivity around the topic of linking to commercial Websites. Like any librarian, wiki contributors writing an article on Ohio death records will recommend a variety of good sources for these records, including free sources (like FamilySearch Historical Records Collections, RootsWeb or U.S. GenWeb) or fee-based sources (like Ancestry, Heritage Quest, microfilms at Family History Centers, or even a government records office). The goal is to recommend sources in the order that the user might want to find them, taking into consideration budgets, time constraints, and desire for instant gratification.

That said, the wiki may not be used simply as an advertising platform. Pages should not be slanted overwhelmingly to any one vendor's products in exclusion of free sites and other vendor sites. Do not direct researchers to an expensive source when a free one will suffice.  Recommend sources to users in terms of what will help them, not what will help your business.

For further information regarding advertising, see the Professional Genealogists page regarding advertising and marketing.

Etiquette Guidelines[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Research Wiki has etiquette guidelines similar to that of other large wikis. It includes respect for all of your fellow users, even when you may not agree with what they say. Those who contribute content or edit existing content must be civil and avoid conflicts of interest, personal attacks, labeling of others, broad sweeping generalizations, stereotyping, etc. They should seek for consensus and avoid edit wars — follow the three-revert rule. FamilySearch Wiki:Assume Good Faith on the part of others, be warm and open in your speech. Profanity or profane slang will not be accepted in any form or language.

Be Bold[edit | edit source]

Do not wait for permission to make a change that you feel will be beneficial to those who use the Research Wiki. If you see something that needs to be done, do it. Don’t make a suggestion, make a change. However, remember that when making changes don’t do anything that would prevent those who disagree with your changes from reverting back to the original version while civil discussion happens to reach an acceptable compromise. Don’t let the possibility of disagreement stop you from making the changes. If you feel the change is needed change it. Don’t take edits or changes as a personal affront. Contributors and editors are encouraged to work with the community to make the Research Wiki a superior site for family history research information.

Learn More[edit | edit source]

Guideline Links[edit | edit source]

Research Wiki Guidelines and related links