Saturday Night Wiki Fest

Over the past few months I have been contributing to FamilySearch’s Research Wiki.  In August I did a post describing my overall & positive impressions of the site.  Essentially, it could become the Wikipedia for Genealogy if enough of us contribute to it.  FamilySearch already has an impressive number of volunteers contributing to the Indexing initiative and it would be nice to see momentum gather around the Wiki.

The Wiki team has pursued collaborations with genealogy projects and societies as one method to increase contributions.  It is in these efforts that I’ve been involved,  for all three of the state USGenWeb projects in which I participate have “adopted” the corresponding wiki sites.   The TNGenWeb, NCGenWeb and FLGenWeb have all signed on to help add resources and information.

The Wiki is easy to add to – very much “what you see is what you get” with the option to add using wiki code if you’re comfortable with that syntax.  Tonight, I focused on adding links to the North Carolina counties I either host or am temporarily taking care of – Craven,  Jones, Lenoir,  Martin,  Onslow, Wake, and Washington.  A friend of mine sent me a template she uses for county sites and after viewing it, I created an outline for myself.  Though not as easy to use as a “template,” with my outline I can get a bare bones page up in less than 30 minutes.  The pages can always be enhanced, but at least if someone lands on them it won’t be blank :-).

If you have knowledge to share about any genealogy resources, consider adding to the Wiki.  Registration is easy and you’ll be going in no time at all.  I am trying to condition myself to use it as my own personal research tool – adding links to resources as I come across them from the appropriate page. So far, there’s only one drawback — I can’t seem to login with Google Chrome and need to use Firefox instead.  Hopefully they’ll fix that issue soon!

Evansville Argus – Historical Black Newspaper

I love newspapers.  I truly do. Anything I can do to promote their accessibility is one of my passions.  I am pleased now to learn that an African-American newspaper of Evansville, Indiana (where my husband’s family is from), is now available in it’s online!

The Evansville Argus was published from June 25, 1938 – October 22, 1943.  The University of Southern Indiana’s David Rice library is one of the few places that holds the entire run of the paper.  I have been interested in the paper for awhile now because of the fact that my husband’s family is from there and from time to time I have visited Willard Library in Evansville and perused a few of them.  I contribute from time to time to the blog of the genealogy society in Evansville and for one post I transcribed a marriage I found in the paper.

Front page of the first issue of the Evansville Argus - June 25, 1938

The David Rice Library received grant funds to digitize this collection, and in doing so, provides us all with access to this treasure trove.  You may browse the issues online at the library’s website or choose “Advanced Search” at the top of the screen to search specific information.   For any specific issue, the archive team has implemented a feature that allows you to view the entire issue in PDF format — quite handy indeed! I especially like that feature since I find contentDM’s page navigation absolutely horrid and nowhere as easy to use as that used by Google for their newspapers and the Library of Congress for the Chronicling America website.

And, in keeping with my new practice of using the FamilySearch Research Wiki as my own personal research tool I have added a link to the collection to the Wiki page for Vanderburgh County, Indiana.

(Update:  I thought ALL the issues were available, but it looks like currently they have up through April 1942 online).

Wiki Thoughts

Today while reading a blog post on the FamilySearch blog, a phrase they used with regard to their Research Wiki caught my eye — the blog post mentions that anyone using the wiki “need look no further” than their Research Wiki.  The Research Wiki, while a great resource, is far from needing to be the last place to look.

But, after reading the post, I did take another look at the site; for I do use it from time to time.   Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about use of Wikis in genealogy and how I’d love to see a site as comprehensive for genealogy as Wikipedia is for general use.  I think the Research Wiki has this kind of potential.

What I Like

  • interface – clean layout,  easy to navigate, easy to browse or search. given the importance of locality searching in genealogy, having an option to browse by country as they do on the front page is important.  also, on any subpage, there is a clear option in the top right corner to either browse by country or browse by topic. very handy indeed.  of course, the search box is always present.  Breadcrumbs are used throughout most of the site so you know where you are.  The icon at the top of the page needs to change though — it should go to the front page of the wiki, not the main FamilySearch page.  Branding the site as one of FamilySearch’s can be done differently.
  • editing – uses a “what you see is what you get” editor — much like using a word processing program.  This feature encourages broad participation since most users will be familiar with how to do edits if they’ve ever used a word processing program..
  • LDS records – the wiki is especially helpful in that they link to available LDS records and we know there is a lot of those! who else to do that better?
  • formatting – each county page, as an example, has a standard format; makes it easy to orient yourself when you move from county to county.  Topic pages are not standardized, but this would be harder to do given their variety.
  • social – each page has links to send a page to your Facebook or Twitter profile.  None of the other genealogy wikis have this feature.
  • registration – is easy. one-step process. see something you want to edit? register and you can start editing immediately.  and of course, anyone can edit.

The competition?

  • Ancestry Wiki – the newest broad-topic genealogy wiki. I like it’s interface too.  Registration capitalizes upon your Ancesty.com account so there is no need to learn a new password.   I like the overall interface of Ancestry Wiki, but without the use of breadcrumbs it is easy to get lost in the site; there is no constant navigation feature to keep you oriented.  Editing also is not truly WYSIWYG — you have to use Wiki syntax which means a steeper learning curve and is a barrier to participation that could be eliminated.  And, the logo on the site does not link back to the homepage – instead it takes you to Ancestry.com.  At this point, I don’t see it as viable yet for being “the Wikipedia” of genealogy.
  • Encyclopedia of Genealogy – this was started by Dick Eastman and is the oldest genealogy wiki of which I’m aware.   Eastman was forward-thinking to create the wiki and offer it as a way to capture the collective’s genealogy knowledge, but the site so far has less content than the Research Wiki and is not as comprehensive.   This is understandable though so I can’t complain too loudly :-)
  • National Archives Wiki – this is new as well, just announced a few weeks ago.  I applaud NARA’s efforts to incorporate more web 2.0 technologies and will keep my eye on this one.  The scope of the site is too narrow to be “the Wikipedia” of genealogy, but could grow to be a great resource.  I don’t find this wiki very easily navigated.   The link to browse by Record Group blends too easily on the right sidebar and should be made more prominent since most researchers will be familiar with the Record Group structure for NARA records.  The front page of the wiki also tries to squeeze in too much content in the space.   Their page editing is WYSIWG and that’s a positive! However, the registration process is cumbersome – it is not a one-step process like the Research Wiki and/or Wikipedia.  When I “create an account” b/c I’m ready to edit something,  I need to be able to edit right away – if I have to wait and come back I may not come back.

Overall, I’m excited by the potential the FamilySearch Research Wiki offers.  Given the long-standing history of LDS and their efforts to promote genealogy research, including their massive indexing project,  the Research Wiki has potential to become a great resource indeed.  The site has come a long way, but still needs work, so I’m going to do my small part this weekend and edit more pages so I can get an even more comprehensive understanding of its strengths and weaknesses.