WeRelate.org is a user-generated family tree and research guide built using the wiki model. One of the most useful sections is the Cemetery Portal which is a collection of articles about cemetery research along with a growing number of pages devoted to individual cemeteries.
I’m embarrassed to say I’ve paid little more than quick visits to my family pages at WeRelate lately, so once I finally did stop by for a good look around, I was pleasantly surprised.
First off, the current featured page for David Edmiston, and the associated Early Settlers of Augusta County, Virginia page, are quite inspiring. I love the beautifully designed links box on David’s page that directs you to all the research related to him and his family.
The addition of the new family tree viewer on family and person pages makes it easy to see where an individual fits into the family and to navigate between family/person pages. The dots next to an individual box tells you there’s a family page associated with that person (Marjorie has two) and the plus signs next to an individual will expand the tree to show that person’s family.
The family tree isn’t active on the page by default. You must click on the family tree icon just below the initial person/family details box on any page. Click again and the family tree area will disappear. It’s a great addition to the site.
WeRelate continues to amaze. I know where I’ll be spending a good deal of the upcoming holiday weekend. I’ve got a lot of Henry data that needs to be compiled . . .
Some of the most fascinating information at WeRelate can be found in the portals. Portal pages are designed to serve as an overview for a section or topic.
Let’s start with the Community Portal. This is probably the closest thing to a table of contents you’ll find on the site. Here you’ll find links to other portals, WeRelate projects and discussions, administrative information and lots of tutorials.
Every namespace in WeRelate has its own portal. You’ll find links to them at the top of every portal page. Here is the Family Portal page.
The Cemetery Portal discusses how to set up your own cemetery page on WeRelate and link it to the portal. The cemetery portal has a growing number of cemeteries listed with history, photos and contact information. Like much of WeRelate, it is a fabulous source of information for researchers which will only increase in value as more of us add our own information.
Spend an afternoon browsing the portals at WeRelate. You’ll be amazed at the fascinating information you’ll find along with a lot of inspiration you can put to use in your own research. If you have a fact or suggestion to add to a page, please do so. Every little bit helps.
Now that we’ve looked at the major components in WeRelate, it’s time to see how all this can come together for research and collaboration. We each have our own research style, so I’m throwing out a list of ideas that you can choose to incorporate into your style or adjust to fit it.
- Do you want to get your feet wet, but are afraid of inadvertently deleting something important? No problem, experiment to your heart’s desire in the Sandbox site. This is a duplicate of the main site created just for users who want to practice something before they put it in place on the live site. There’s also a Sandbox page in the Help section used to get you comfortable with the wiki editor.
- The Surname in Place pages (example: Barker in Chattooga, Georgia, United States) make a great place to not only document useful resources, but also maintain your research log and todo list for the group.
- Follow the links at the bottom of any page to other pages associated with this one. My Surname in Place page links to the Barker Surname page, the Chattooga County page and the Barker in Georgia page. A little browsing in these related pages might hook you up with others researching your family or places.
- Your own User page is a great place to bookmark WeRelate pages associated with your research. Not only does it make it easier for you to move within the platform, but it lets other researchers see at a glance which families and places you are researching.
- Watch pages related to your research. Just click the Watch link in the sidebar (shown as Unwatch here) of any page. In this example, you can see I am watching this page. Click on my username in the sidebar and you will be taken to my User page. This is a great way to find – and be found by – research cousins. Also, when you watch a page, you will be notified when anyone makes a change to that page.
- Take advantage of the growing number of portals and research guides available within WeRelate. You’ll find research guides covering a broad range of topics – from ethnic groups and historical events to cemeteries and sources. Check both the watchers and contributors (by looking at the page’s History) to find possible collaborators.
- As you discover research resources online, add them to the appropriate place pages or research guides so others can find them too. Every addition adds value to the entire community.
- You can use article pages to include additional content related to your people and places. One group has included pages as a notebook for a significant family or to provide analysis of their research.
WeRelate offers a tremendous amount of flexibility, adjusting to your research style rather than forcing you into a style you may find awkward. The toughest adjustment is learning the wiki editor, but even that will quickly become second nature. Few platforms offer the potential to connect and collaborate like those found here. So what’s stopping you?
See you on WeRelate!
As you wander around in WeRelate, you’ll notice patterns in how things are named. These naming conventions make it easier to design the programming to support the site’s functionality – especially with the all-important search engine. They also let us know at a glance what we are looking at. Here are some page name examples to show you what I mean:
- Person:John Barker (11)
- Family:John Barker and Linnie Blake (1)
- Place:Holland, Chattooga, Georgia, United States
- Source:Chattooga, Georgia, United States. 1920 Census Population Schedule
- Repository:Family History Center
Are you beginning to see the pattern here? Every name begins with a namespace. A namespace is a programming term defining a category of information. By looking at the first example, we know right off that it’s referring to a specific person while the second refers to a family.
What comes after the namespace (besides the colon) depends on the type of namespace. For each person in WeRelate, their page name displays only their first given name and their surname. The number in parentheses in my case shows that my John Barker was the 11th John Barker added to WeRelate. When you visit his page, you will find that his full name is John Thomas Barker. This may take a bit of time and effort for us humans to get used to, but the machines managing all this information understand it just fine.
You usually don’t have to worry about creating a page name. When you create a new person or family page, you enter the given names and surnames into the page’s data entry form and the system will generate the page name for you. Places are quite simple too. Start with the smallest entity and move out from there. In my example above, I’m referring to the community of Holland in Chattooga County, in the state of Georgia which is in the United States. With “Holland” and “Georgia” also being the names of countries, this system helps keep everything in perspective.
Naming conventions are important to limit duplications. Most of the steps to creating a new page in WeRelate involve a search to see if the page already exists. That’s a whole lot easier to do when there is a standard format for naming things.
Which leads me to sources. Yes, we all cringe at that word. Because there are so many variables, sources are the most difficult to name. As a result, there’s an on-going effort at WeRelate to consolidate duplicate source records. There is a section within the WeRelate Help files dedicated to naming source pages. Read it. Bookmark it so you can get to it easily for a quick reference. This is probably one of the most important pages in WeRelate’s help system.
Standardized page titles also make it easy to get to that page within WeRelate. For example, the actual URL to the Help:Source page titles page is http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Help:Source_page_titles. Not bad, huh? It makes it easier to search for things when you know how they are named. And, it helps prevent duplication of people, places and things within the platform. Since there are more than 2 million people pages residing here, all these things are important. Spend some time getting familiar with WeRelate’s naming conventions and you’ll soon discover how useful they are.
What’s up next? Sources! We’ll look at how to craft a source page and why that time and effort is so worthwhile. See you next week!