Looking for something on the Internet and use Google or another search engine to find what you’re looking for? Well, have you noticed that the top results that return are very often from the one of the world’s largest encyclopedias? Wikipedia to be precise. Go ahead search for Internet, England, North America, John Lathropp, or almost any other subject, and Wikipedia results defining what you’re searching for will be one of the top results.

Wikipedia isn’t only for definitions about things, but is a great place to find information about people. First, though, a little bit about what a wiki is all about.

Wiki – A wiki is a type of webpage or website that let’s visitors quickly edit and contribute to the content on the site. For example, if you were visiting a webpage and saw a typo on the page, a wiki site would let you, yes you, edit the and correct the error without knowing how to code HTML. Most wikis will have an “edit” link for the page you’re viewing and don’t require you to create any type of account to edit the page.

How can a wiki be useful? We’ll if you’re building an encyclopedia, there are a lot of subjects that could be included but just can’t because of staffing and physical limitations. If your staff consists of the whole world, then you can include almost any subject. You can search for people, surnames, places, dates, events, items, etc. and find answers.

Articles about Individuals – Wikipedia has many thousands of pages dedicated to information about individuals (some famous, and some not so famous).

You Can Share – You can add articles to Wikipedia about your ancestors. You’ll need to follow the guidelines set up by Wikipedia for contributing quality articles. Wikipedia doesn’t want you posting articles about yourself, but if you have an ancestor you think should be included, write your article and publish it. The worst that can happen is that it gets removed, but if you’ve done your homework and written the article to wikipedia’s standards, you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Sources – What Wikipedia wants is good sources (published sources) or else your article may be removed. Just FYI.

Getting Started – There are a few steps that can help you get started and speed up the learning curve with writing an article for Wikipedia. Guidelines from Wikipedia are helpful so check those out. Below are a few quick additional tips:

  1. Select an ancestor for which you have good information (good sources too) so you can contribute an article that will be valuable to others.
  2. Search Wikipedia to see if an article already exists for your ancestor. (You might be surprised I found one already written for one of my ancestors). If an article already exists, you can contribute to it with information you have by clicking the “edit this page” link at the top of the article.
  3. If you search for your ancestor’s name and no articles appear, click on the link which allows you to create an article yourself.
  4. Start writing your article and save it and it will be published.

To make sure you have the conventional formatting correct, find an article about another person and click “edit this page” and view how the article is formatted, that will really help you in creating your own article.

Other Wikis – Wikipedia is by far the top of the wiki reference sites, but there are a few (albeit, much much smaller) wikis that focus on genealogy information.

Werelate.org – Which stands for “We Relate” not “We’re Late” touts itself as the largest genealogy wiki out there. It’s free and has a lot features. Create wiki pages about your ancestors, places, tips, etc., and link information into a family tree you create.

Others you might want to check out but don’t seem as large at the moment as werelate.org are:

Starting Your Own Wiki – If you want to start you’re own wiki and have some experience with setting up websites, you can use http://www.mediawiki.org which is the software behind the major wikis. You can download and use it for free.