Monday, December 10, 2007

Wikipedia article on Genealogy improved

The Wikipedia article on "Genealogy" was not "wonderful" until recently. The first paragraph read (as of 29 October):

"Genealogy (from Greek: γενεα, genea, "family"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is the study and tracing of family pedigrees. This involves the collection of the names of relatives, both living and deceased, and establishing the relationships among them based on primary, secondary and/or circumstantial evidence or documentation, thus building up a cohesive family tree. Genealogy (often misspelled "geneology"[1]) is often also referred to as family history, although these terms may be used distinctly: the former being the basic study of who is related to whom; the latter involving more "fleshing out" of the lives and personal histories of the individuals involved."

Today, the opening paragraph reads:

"Genealogy (from Greek: γενεα, genea, "family"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is the study and tracing of families. Because many unrelated individuals can share a common name, modern genealogical research is more than a collection of names affixed to pedigree charts. Rather, genealogy involves identifying living and deceased individuals, differentiating between individuals who bear the same name in the same place and time, establishing biological or genetic kinships, and reassembling families. By modern standards, reliable conclusions are based on the quality of sources (ideally original records, rather than derivatives), the information within those sources (ideally primary or firsthand information, rather than secondary or secondhand information), and the evidence that can be drawn (directly or indirectly) from that information. In many instances, genealogists must skillfully assemble circumstantial evidence to build a case for identity and kinship. All evidence and conclusions, together with the documentation that supports them, is then assembled to create a cohesive "genealogy" or "family history".[1] Traditionalists may differentiate between these last two terms, using the former to describe skeletal accounts of kinship (aka family trees) and the latter as a "fleshing out" of lives and personal histories. However, historical, social, and family context is still essential to achieving correct identification of individuals and relationships."

John Newmark and Elizabeth Shown Mills have taken the lead in sprucing the article up - there is a lot more than just the opening paragraph. At least the opening paragraph is accurate, is written by a renowned genealogist, and is a significant upgrade over the previous version.

It is interesting to see the History of the Genealogy entry - you can see all of the changes, with comparisons to the previous entry and to the current entry, here.

This "problem" has been a discussion item on the APG mailing list for the past few days - the first entry was here. The discussion quickly turned from "politically correct" to "let's fix the genealogy entry" to the latest fix. Undoubtedly there will be more additions and corrections. It's fascinating to watch (at least to me!) the editing process at work!

My compliments to John and Elizabeth for doing a professional job of improving the entry.


Sally J. said...

Randy, this is PRECISELY why wikipedia works. Instead of complaining about and entry, get in there and improve it.

Go, genealogists, go!

-Sally J.
(Practical Archivist and Wikipedia User)

Terry Thornton said...

Thanks, Randy, for an interesting read. It is amazing to me that we've got this modern means of communication, Internet, and a huge reference tool, Wikipedia. And to watch the collaborative process unfold is amazing even more. So many in the academic world were skeptics about websites that could evolve through such a cooperative effort --- and to see leaders in various fields editing and summarizing and enriching all our lives is truly amazing. Thanks.

Lee said...

I hadn't looked at that page since it was discussed on the list. I checked today's history, and I was surprised at how many times it has been vandalized. No wonder some people get tired of fooling with it. The good news is the vandalism is easily repaired because of the saved history.