Jump to content

Grants:IdeaLab/Outreach to people interested in genealogy and family history

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Outreach to people interested in genealogy and family history
There are a lot of women who have serious historical research hobbies in the form of researching their family genealogy and history, and it could be effective for Wikipedia to increase its quality and diversity by developing outreach, encouragement, and training for this community.
amounti dont have a budget
idea creator
this project needs...
community organizer
created on22:54, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

Project idea


What is the problem you're trying to solve?


People who do family history research may not realize that Wikipedia wants their knowledge — and if they do try to contribute their knowledge, such as by creating an article about a famous relative, they may run into "conflict of interest" tension from other editors that discourages them more than guides them into contributing more effectively.

The context is that genealogy and family history is a popular hobby, and the majority of the people who do this are middle-aged women (in 2011, Archives.com said 62% of its members are women aged 45 or older, and a 2001 study of people interested in genealogy online found they were 72% women, with an average age of 54). Wikipedia historically has had a disproportionately small percentage of middle-aged women editors; Wikipedia is missing out on their knowledge and skill.

Here are a few examples I've observed in a pattern of editors and potential editors Wikipedia could do better at supporting:

  1. A female relative who has learned a lot about contextual topics while doing genealogy research: a small town in Sweden where distant cousins live, the history of a company a grandfather was involved with, finding an old magazine article about an award a great-uncle received, and so on.
  2. A female newcomer editor I saw (via an article history) who contributed a large chunk of information about a company her family had run a few decades ago, but without references - possibly original research, but possibly based on published sources she hadn't realized she needed to explicitly indicate.
  3. A self-promotional article I saw that had been written by a female newcomer editor about herself, to help promote a book she wrote about her grandfather, who was historically interesting. (Her article got deleted.)
  4. A female friend who is a current editor and would like to add to the existing article about her grandparent; she is interested in Wikipedia having some guidance for this case.

What is your solution?


Wikipedia should have guidelines documenting helpful, kind, friendly advice for people interested in making articles about family members who may be notable, including the case of people outside your immediate family - the COI guidelines barely mention this case. Being somewhat biased because of family affection is different from COI for financial interest, and editors should have guidance for dealing with family bias - for inexperienced editors working on family history topics as their first contributions, for experienced editors starting to work on family history topics, and for experienced editors needing to give corrections to other editors making related notability, verifiability, and neutrality mistakes.

We can have a friendly document with suggestions for how to apply historical research to Wikipedia - that for example, even if your relatives aren't notable, contextual knowledge about their place and time can be very relevant to add to Wikipedia, such as adding information to an article about the history of their town. We can explain specific relevant benefits of contributing to Wikipedia - the pride of sharing information in a way that is accessible to the entire world and to future generations.

We can have meetup guidance specialized for family history hobby groups who want to do Wikipedia editing workshops together.

We can reach out to family history websites to encourage them to write blog posts or other documentation (or offer to write it for them) with this type of advice and encouragement. There are a couple of family history websites that already have partnerships with Wikipedia to offer free access for experienced editors, so we could start with them: see w:Wikipedia:The Wikipedia Library/Journals#Newspapers.2C genealogy. One is Findmypast (w:Wikipedia:FindMyPast), and its page suggests they accept guest blog posts. w:Wikipedia:FindMyPast/Experiences has three examples of that website being useful for editors. The other is ScotlandsPeople (w:Wikipedia:ScotlandsPeople), with two examples of use at w:Wikipedia:ScotlandsPeople/Experiences. ScotlandsPeople doesn't appear to have a blog, but they have a Facebook page and Twitter account.

This project can start with research into editor experience to help plan the writing of new guidelines, advice, blog posts, workshop plans, and other useful materials. Some ways to do initial research:

  • A person can find some current Wikipedia editors (of any experience level) who would like to write about family history, have tried writing about it and encountered problems, or have successfully written about it - then interview them to learn more about their needs, ideas, hesitations, and problems. One way to find these editors might be via posts on social media channels, such as the WikiWomen's Collaborative Facebook and Twitter. Another way to find more people in this category might be to ask volunteers who work on Articles for Creation, Articles for Deletion, COI Noticeboard, BLP Noticeboard, etc., for some recent examples of family history related articles they've seen.
  • A person can meet with a local family history research group and do some friendly interviews to find out things such as: (1) How do they feel about Wikipedia? (2) Have they considered contributing? (3) What do they think they could contribute? (4) What are obstacles to contributing for them?
  • A person can interview their own relatives and friends interested in family history, and ask them those four questions.

A person can also review and summarize the support/neutral/opposition discussion at Wikimedia genealogy project, and reach out to some of the supporters there to ask for their input and help, especially people who indicate that they do genealogy research.



Get Involved



  • Volunteer I suggested this idea! I could do some work for pushing this forward, but I wouldn't want to do it by myself. A priority would be developing guidelines and advice for handling family COI, and I'm familiar with the COI rules but don't have in-depth experience with interpreting them or developing new Wikipedia guidelines. I'd be delighted for somebody to pick this up and run with it. Dreamyshade (talk) 22:21, 17 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Volunteer I think we need to share even more with our families, thank you, grettings and blessings Javier José Moreno Tovar18 (talk) 19:22, 4 May 2016 (UTC)


  • Love the idea! Sadly, I don't know anything about any famous relatives in my family; can't really help directly. But this idea would be a great way to bring in a new crowd. Futur3g4ry (talk) 02:52, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Great idea. UNU-MERIT suggests that older women (35+) do have an uptick in time spent contributing, possibly due to differing employment patterns (more likely to be stay at home parents or not working for other reasons) and this might link in well to common interests among that crowd. Agreed that COI training would be vital! I would love to see some online workshops/webinars (sorry, I hate that word, but you know what I mean) to help women in this community with their first wikipedia edits. Skud (WMF) (talk) 00:29, 10 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I love this idea too - I'm in situation #4, as both my mother and my grandmother have stub-class pages that I'd love to improve but COI makes it seem like this would be unwelcome :( Leigh Honeywell (talk) 21:28, 17 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I think this is a great way to bring in people with well-sourced information that currently isn't onwiki; several of my relatives (mostly women) would be really into this. Sumana Harihareswara 13:49, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I think this is a great idea! My aunt and female cousin -- bright, resourceful women -- spend a lot of time researching family genealogy but haven't dipped their toe into Wikipedia. And I'd like more guidance on how to handle articles about my grandparents. --Rosiestep (talk) 14:08, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Endorse: great idea, good way to bring in new editors! Montanabw (talk) 06:25, 29 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I think is important to share with our families Javier José Moreno Tovar18 (talk) 19:27, 4 May 2016 (UTC)

Expand your idea


Do you want to submit your idea for funding from the Wikimedia Foundation?

Expand your idea into a grant proposal

Project plan




just share more with our families



i dont have a budget

Community engagement




Measures of success


Project team


sharing more with our families

Community notification


Please paste links below to where relevant communities have been notified of your proposal, and to any other relevant community discussions. Need notification tips?