FamilySearch Wiki:Headings for Articles about Records

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Wiki contributors frequently ask "How should I write articles. What kinds of information should I include?" To help answer this, a committee of FamilySearch employees and wiki volunteers compiled a list of the headings used by various authors in wiki articles, in FamilySearch publications, and in Record Search at FamilySearch Labs. The following is a list of those headings.

Fear not[edit | edit source]

This list of headings is not intended to restrict authors, but to prompt them to write the kinds of information that will be useful to readers. As you write, feel free to experiment in changing the order or wording of these headings or by combining them or omitting them when appropriate.

An example[edit | edit source]

The first wiki article which implemented this list of headings was the Maryland Newspapers page. Studying this page will show you that some of the headings were combined, so feel free to experiment. We will learn best practices as we implement the list. 

Headings and descriptions[edit | edit source]

Heading Description
Introduction/Definition A description of the record that distinguishes it from other records. For instance, most people starting out in genealogy research don't know what a census, vital record, or probate record is. Defining this up front helps the reader engage the rest of the article. Sometimes it works well not to include a heading for this section, but to simply place the definition of the record just below the article title. It is also often useful to combine this section with the Record coverage section.
Record coverage The record’s time periods, jurisdictions (places?), and population coverage. Aternate title: When and Where the Record Existed. Question: Do we cover the dates when the record was most complete?
Why to use the record The most common uses of this record.[1] The sales pitch for using the record. This could be omitted and covered in the Record Content section or in a strategy article. But if the user comes to a record type article directly from Google, this section may be needed.
Record content Lists the types of information the record may yield. An alternate title for this heading is What will I find.[2]
Before searching you must know The family information needed in order to be able to search the record. If you search an archive vs. a Website, the information in this section would be different. Access point matters.
What to search before using this record This heading, used in Darris’ article, appears to be an extension of Before Searching You Must Know.
Where to get the record This section points to a few of the best sources of this record, such as a specific Website, library, or archives. Sources are recommended with accessibility, cost, record quality, and record completeness in mind.[3]
How to search/use the record Once you have identified the jurisdiction and the record collection you need, this section gives instructions on how to locate your ancestor in the record.[4]
[An image of the record] A picture of the record to show the customer what it looks like and what information such records might contain.
Record reliability This section analyzes which pieces of information in the record tend to be reliable vs. unreliable. (For instance, birth information on a death record is usually less reliable than death information.)
Tips This section can include what to do if your search fails; special circumstances surrounding the search of a minority, minor, or common name; links to articles on how to decipher old handwriting or abbreviations; a heads-up on patronymics; etc.
Tips for beginners Recommendations to search variant spellings, search online sources first, or special techniques.[5] It may be that these can be folded in with the main Tips section.
What to do next This section can include a prompt to find other family members in this record -- or other records this record might lead to. See Darris Williams’ wiki article “Register of Cottage Leases Dowlais Iron Company 1818 to 1877” and Jennifer Kerns’ “Ohio Birth Records 1867 – December 19, 1908.”
Terms Common words used to describe the record or words commonly found in the record.[6]
Important Dates Dates of significant changes to the records.[7]
See Also Links to related content.

Headings to copy and paste[edit | edit source]

Below are each of the headings from the table laid out so you can easily cut and paste them into articles. 


Record coverage

Why to use [this record]  

Record content

Before searching you must know

What to search before using this record

Where to get [this record]

How to search or use [this record]

[An image of the record]

Reliability of [this record]


What to do next


Important Dates

See Also

  1. The Why to Use this Record section tends to overlap somewhat with the Record Content section in that each may state a piece of information the record contains. However, the Why to use this Record section would tend to list only the most common reasons to use the record, where the Record Contents section would enumerate every kind of information the record usually bears. For example, in an article about U.S. federal census records, the Record Contents section would be a long bullet list of data one can glean from the record, whereas the Why Use this Record? section would mention that the census is a great source for reconstituting whole families, finding an ancestor’s genealogical information without having to know their county or state of residence, or for discovering where in the U.S. they lived.
  2. See the Beginner’s Corner of United States Naturalization and Citizenship
  3. The Where to get the record section is represented in multiple links/sections/subpages of United States Naturalization and Citizenship, namely the Online Sources box, the Availability, Indexes, and Soundex Indexes pages linked from the Topics box, the pages linked from the four links under Where to Search for Records in the Finding Naturalization Records box, and the How to Find Naturalization Records link on the Naturalization Records box.
  4. Most Part A guides and research outlines recommend multiple sources for a record (such as a Website and a Family History Library film) because customers’ favorite repositories, Internet service, and budgets vary. When multiple sources are recommended in a single wiki article, sections on where to get the record and how to search/use it should be combined to treat both these issues together, one source at a time. So if source A is a Website, cover where to get the record and how to use it in one section. Then cover where to get Source B (say an FHL film) and how to use it. Where this approach is used, it would be helpful to employ a dual-purpose heading worded something like “Finding and Searching the Record,” or “Record Location and Searching.”
  5. See Tips for beginners linked from United States Naturalization and Citizenship.
  6. See the wiki’s Naturalization Terms and Acronyms. It is linked from United States Naturalization and Citizenship.
  7. Timeline tag, Kahlile Mehr’s RMOM schema.