Saturday, September 27, 2008

FamilySearch Wiki


By Maddie Wilson
Mormon Times
Published: Tuesday, Jul. 8, 2008
Genealogical researchers have a new, easy-to-use tool providing sources for research.

FamilySearch Research Wiki, which is in beta testing, is an "encyclopedia of research sources" from around the world, said Jim Greene, Wiki product manager. Greene said he hopes that within three to four months, the program will be formally released, with a link on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' familysearch.org Web site. Until then, Wiki can be found at wiki.familysearch.org.

"The idea behind Wiki is let's create a community landing page where we can share knowledge, share tips and tricks, tell people what's successful, what works, what's the latest information out there."

FamilySearch.org helps with genealogical research, but researchers eventually will have to look beyond it, Greene said. That is where Wiki comes in.

There is a huge surge of source documents being added on the Internet everyday, Greene said, coming from areas like Indexing and Record Search, both part of FamilySearch. Wiki is the place searchers can go to find out where all these different sources are located, Greene said.

Greene said that, like the Web site www.wikipedia.org, anyone can share information about genealogy sources on Wiki. The community provides all of the content, he said. To edit and add content, users need to set up an account with the site.
"We don't want to know about your ancestors; we don't want success stories. What we want is a list of sources and materials that are available for people to go look up their ancestors."

Wiki users need some familiarity with the Internet, Greene said. But the site does provide help. On the left side of the main page, there is a link in the "Navigation" box titled "Get started with this site" that provides articles and tutorials. For example, under the "Get started" link, there is a tutorial about how to edit a page, where users can participate in a step-by-step, guided practice of the process.

Once users set up an account and find a page of interest, they can choose the "watch" application and have all updates on the page e-mailed to them.

So far, the site is in English only, Greene said. He hopes to be releasing sites in Spanish and Chinese languages soon.

"Really, it's up to the community what order we release languages in. When we have people who can speak both that language and English come to us ready to be an active part of that community, then we open a site for them."

Greene said that Wiki is one of the "collaborative, next-generation Internet applications" that make up Web 2.0. Other Web 2.0 applications include blogs, forums, Facebook and other social networking sites, he said.

"We started examining those applications, looking at what they'd be good for and seeing where they would apply as far as family history. We're looking at all the Web 2.0 tools. We believe that family history is a topic of interest that will absolutely make for a tight-knit community. We think it's just natural to do this."

Greene said there is a forum associated with Wiki, and soon they will be adding blogs.

Greene said an "overarching" purpose in FamilySearch is to get more people involved in family history work so that more temple work can be completed. To fulfill this purpose, researchers need tools that are easy to use. Wiki is one tool.

"Wiki isn't the last place to look, but if it's the first, you'll be more successful."