FamilySearch Wiki ~ Reference Citations

The FamilySearch Wiki uses the ‘Cite’ extension to enable the use of citations, footnotes and references with a consistent presentation.  Source and reference citations should be included in any declarative document or publication to support the statements and claims in the presentation.

The folks at FamilySearch have an open invitation to family history enthusiasts to add to the ever growing knowledgebase on the wiki.  As I watch the article count on the wiki increase daily, it is obvious that there are many takers of the invitation. 

They freely share their research skills and knowledge with the genealogy community in the wiki articles they create and edit.  Most remember to add reference citations to their articles but not all.  Part of the reason may be that they don’t know how to add them to their article for display similar to their presentation in a Word or other document.

The wikitext code to add them is simple.  Let’s explore the simple commands. 

In the New York in the Civil War article, citations are spread throughout the article.


The superscript citation indicators are seen adjacent to the subject in focus.  [1], [2], etc.

What does the wikitext look like that created these three paragraphs?


The first citation we encounter focuses on the 130,000 foreign-born combatants in the U.S. Civil War.   The source for this statement is from Wikipedia and is referenced by this statement in wikitext immediately after the the end of the fact.  The wikitext code is:  <ref name=”wikipedia”>, [ New York in the American Civil War], (accessed 27 January 2011]. </ref>

How does that populate the reference at the bottom of the page?  Let’s examine the code.

<ref name= starts the reference callout.  It is followed with the name “wikipedia”.  If you think of “wikipedia” being the name of a bookmark on the same page, then you understand what this part of the code is doing.   The rest of the code gives the name of in plain text in the footnote which is followed by the link to the article in Wikipedia. 

In wikitext, a single bracket denotes a link to an ‘external’ website, thus the link is coded as [ at which point the exact article URL is completed.  It is followed with a space then the plain text name of the page New York in the American Civil War followed by the closing bracket ]. 

Next is a plain text reference telling readers that date that the wikipedia page was accessed, so they have a reference point in time.  Articles on Wikipedia can change with some frequency as they are updated, corrected and otherwise modified by the wikipedia community, thus the timestamp is important knowledge to convey to the readers of the FamilySearch wiki article.

The citation ends with the wikitext code </ref>, meaning close the reference statement.

The author of the Cite extension gives several examples of adding a citation to an article on a wiki that uses their extension:

According to scientists, the Sun is pretty big.<ref>E. Miller, The Sun, (New York: Academic Press, 2005), 23-5.</ref>

The Moon, however, is not so big.<ref>R. Smith, "Size of the Moon", Scientific American, 46 (April 1978): 44-6.</ref>

How does the reference statement look when the article is displayed on our screens?  At the bottom of the article a wikitext command <references /> should be added so all <ref> statements in the article will be displayed.  It was added to New York article and indeed there they are, at the bottom of the page in a consistent and very readable format.


As you can see, a second reference was added to the article in other locations as well.

Some articles are heavily sourced and many references appear at the bottom of the page.


When you look at the code, it is obvious how easy it is to add source citations to your wiki article or article edition or addition.  The next time you work on an article for the FamilySearch wiki, be sure to include the sources you’ve used to support your arguments.

Copyright (c) Lee Drew 2012-08-26 08:00:00
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Family history research is a favored avenue of relaxation. It is a Sherlock-like activity that can continue almost anywhere at any time. By leveraging a lifetime involvement in technology, my research efforts have resulted in terabytes of ancestral data, earning me the moniker of Lineagekeeper. And yes - We are all related to Royalty.