A wiki is a collaborative website, which allows multiple authors to contribute content to its pages. Some wikis allow anyone to add, edit or delete information, while others restrict it to specific individuals. Free wiki software is available from various companies including Zoho and Wikispaces.
So how are wikis useful for family history research? Genealogists, archives, libraries and family history organisations are using wikis to publish research advice, contribute family history stories and to share information.
Do you have a female ancestor that signed the 1891 Women’s suffrage petition? The Public Record Office Victoria’s wiki allows users to add biographical information and stories about the women who signed this petition.
Know a lot about Victorian family history? Why not help those who are new to this topic by building up the pages for Victorian family history on the Family Search Wiki. This wiki lets members of the community submit research advice on any number of family history topics.
The UK National Archives’ wiki allows users to contribute articles about historical records held in their collection. For example, a page on Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea, lists references held in the UK Archives. Users of the Archives are invited to add further references or information.
Some genealogists are even using wikis to publish their own family trees. Members of the same family (or distant relations) can add and edit information about a common ancestor. Examples of these types of wikis can be seen at WikiTree and FamilyPedia.
While there are a number of benefits of using wikis (quick and easy to use, allow multiple authors), it is important to keep in mind the issue of authority. An unfortunate side effect of allowing content to be shared so easily, means that content may not always be correct. As with any information source, you will need to make a judgment call about the accuracy of the information.
Have you used any family history wikis in the course of your research? I’d be interested to hear about your experiences.