Genealogy Wiki: The Power of Crowdsourcing

A genealogy wiki can be an invaluable tool for answering to your most vexing family research questions.  Let’s face it, no one is an expert in all things genealogy.

The subject is just too large and complex for anyone to master it completely.  We now have powerful resources like genealogy wikis to help us and you should be aware of what is available.

What is a Genealogy Wiki?

Back when I was a kid, my parents invested in a set of World Book Encyclopedias.  Any parent who wanted to setup their children for success in the world needed to invest in a set of encyclopedias, at least that was how the sales pitch went.

These books were a well written set of books, arranged alphabetically covering a variety of subjects.  I fondly remember pulling a single volume and thumbing through it just to see what subjects were covered.  I must admit in those days I mostly just looked at the pictures.

A genealogy wiki is the modern web-based equivalent to a set of encyclopedias devoted exclusively to the subject of genealogy research.  The power of a wiki comes from the crowd sourcing model under which it is operated.

How do Wikis Work?

By creating a collaborative environment in which anyone can edit wiki content allows for pockets of expertise to be combined from many different sources.  Having many critical eyes reviewing the content of the wiki also keeps any one user from going rogue with their additions.

In the past, you had to be a credentialed author (preferably a PhD) to be allowed to write articles and books for public consumption.  The drawback to this approach is the slow speed at which scholarly work can be published.

The wiki model turns this way of doing things on its head. With lightning speed content can be created and reviewed.  Each wiki volunteer author has their own areas of expertise in which they feel comfortable adding content to the knowledge base.

This newly adopted crowd sourcing model works with marvelous efficiency and effect as can be seen in the wildly popular Wikipedia, which has become the de-facto standard for looking up general subjects on the Web.

What Free Genealogy Wikis are Available?

When it comes to wikis bigger is better.  The more contributors to the wiki, the more likely it will be that you will find articles useful to further your research.  Below are the two biggest available.

Ancestry Family History Wiki

This wiki is free to browse.  You need to be a registered user on to add or change content.  There is a list of popular topic links listed or you can use the search box at the top of the page to manually search the wiki.

FamilySearch Wiki

FamilySearch’s wiki allows you to search their content either by topic or place.  You can click on the map and drill down to the specific location for your research or use the search box at the top of the page to search by subject.

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