WeRelate:Wikipedia Biography Inclusion Project


What is this?

The key goals of this project are:

  • Avoid duplication of effort between WeRelate and Wikipedia, by making the existence of a corresponding Wikipedia page obvious. WeRelate should always attempt to gain from Wikipedia scholarship, and likewise WeRelate should feed back corrections and improvements to Wikipedia whenever possible.
  • Locate and resolve duplication in WeRelate, particularly by improving pages related to known historical individuals.
  • Boot-strap WeRelate with as much genealogical information from Wikipedia as possible.
  • Encourage use of both WeRelate and Wikipedia, and each to best advantage.

On a large scale, it tries to be embody the principles found in our Wikipedia Guidelines Help.

Why are we doing this?

Isn't wikipedia poor quality?

Sometimes, Wikipedia (WP) pages are poor quality. However, studies have shown that quality is generally of a high standard. That said, there's no special reason to be quicker to accept the quality of a WeRelate page (WR), just because we have a genealogical focus. There are still many thousands of completely unsourced WR pages - just as there are many WP stubs. The key insight behind wiki scholarship is that many small contributions, through a process of refinement, will eventually produce a result that approaches or exceeds the quality produced by traditional methods. More contributions will move that process more quickly. Refusing to participate on WP - when it overlaps with WR - serves only to break up the size of the group making contributions on common subject matter - thus slowing down everyone.

So what if a corresponding WP page is wrong? Why connect to it then? Arguably, it's MORE important to make the connection then, because it means that one of WR or WP should be improved! By all means - fix the WP page error! Failing that, communicate with the WP page authors or add a note to the WP page talk indicating the issue. No good is served by leaving a WP page in error - setting up a situation where bad information lingers and is needlessly repeated.

Any other reasons?

When researching the genealogy of an individual - we will be interested in a very complete tree of ancestry for that person only. The tree will be dense and - genealogically speaking - local. By contrast, a tree built predominantly from links among WP biographical entries will be coarse and wide ranging. As WeRelate consolidates data from many different sources, the WP-backed pages serve as reference points that tend to be easy to recognize across different contributed content.

How is this going?

Of course, this will never be finished. Still, it is good to know what has been accomplished within the context of an effort started in late 2008.

  • Medieval Merge - without a framework of WP-backed pages, we would still be swimming in a huge swamp of dubious and duplicate pages associated with relatively ancient genealogy. Charlemagne alone, appeared over 40 times in different uploaded GEDCOM content. What is worse, that also means that the dozens of generations of information leading back to Charlemagne, were duplicated at least as badly. During the course of that part of this effort, well over 8000 duplicated family pages were removed, and presumably twice as many duplicated person pages. Work remains - but the content is vastly improved.
  • WP-attached person pages are "semi-protected", such that GEDCOM uploads do not change the information on the page. This allows new GEDCOMs - containing famous lineage - to be uploaded and merged without making a mess of things.
  • As of August, 2013, over 21,900 wikipedia-sourced person pages are now present on WeRelate. Search on person pages with "wikipedia-notice" to get the latest total (search).

Current Practice

As always, anyone is free to add whatever pages they would like in any given situation. That said, the current practice is:

  • Add wikipedia reference materials for any existing WeRelate page that corresponds to a Wikipedia biography (see Guidelines for use of Wikipedia), in particular:
    • Add the wikipedia page as a source, specifying the page name as a clickable link - "[[wikipedia:the page name|the page name]]".
    • Add a wikipedia include source template to to the page body - "{{source-wikipedia|the page name}}".
    • Add dates of birth, death, baptism, burial, etc., to the WeRelate person facts table, along with whatever geographical information is handy. Reference the wikipedia source entry for each such fact.
  • Add a new person page, with the wikipedia inclusion template and wikipedia indicated as a source for DOB/DOD facts, for any person that can be genealogically linked/reached from existing WeRelate ancestry.
  • Keep careful track of opportunities to include more pages associated with Wikipedia biographies using the Wp-include-project template (more on that in a moment).

Non-wikipedia source pages are also added when needed to establish linkages between existing lineages and/or other wikipedia lineages. Of course this means family pages, but also person pages. For example, Wikipedia may observe that one person has a grandparent relationship with another - but the intermediate person does not have their own wikipedia page. In that situation, the intermediate page is created with whatever name seems most "typical" in the wikipedia pages in question, along with whatever other information can be gleaned from handy sources.

Not too surprisingly, fame (as measured by having a Wikipedia biography at least) tends to run in families. So it can often be the case that, as you pursue addition of one Person page backed by a wikipedia biography, you will encounter others. Keeping track of such opportunities, to follow up later, is a key part of this effort (since finding them in the first place can be so difficult). The WP include project template was created for this purpose. The template can be added, any number of times, to a convenient existing Person or Family page, to mark a nearby opportunity to expand the WeRelate tree space to include another person with a wikipedia biography. The template accepts a single string parameter, which corresponds to the name of the Wikipedia page containing a related biography. For example, the syntax {{Wp-include-project|George Washington}} expands to:

Wikipedia (WP) biography include project

This page is closely related to one or more people for whom:

  • WP hosts a biography (e.g. George Washington).
  • WeRelate does not host a PERSON page.

To learn more, see "Wikipedia Biography Inclusion Project".

If we didn't already have a WeRelate page for George Washington, we could mark the need to add George with this template. We would put it on a Person or Family page that is reasonably "near" to where George would actually be located in the WeRelate tree space. When we wanted to find our way back to George, we could start by first looking up the template page. From there, we would see what pages include the template, and we would find the places where we can resume adding (and who should be added there). After a Person page for George had been created and associated with the appropriate Wikipedia content, we would remove the template invocation for George.

Finding Pages to Add

Probably the most important way to add Wikipedia-backed biographical content is simply to be alert for the opportunity. When working through lineage with potentially interesting ancestors, make a point of checking whether Wikipedia has pages for those people. If that's not enough for you, and you want to actually seek out pages that can potentially be added, there are ways to investigate available biographies from the Wikipedia side. Examples:

WP Pages Other than Biographies

While the primary focus of this project is WP Biography, we should not miss opportunities to benefit from other scholarship when appropriate.


Many of the existing place pages have been backed by corresponding WP place pages since very early in the existence of WeRelate. The steps for creating any new place page are described on the FAQ. When creating a place page that will be backed by WP, simply use the {{source-wikipedia|wp place name}} template to mark the page for work by the WP template creation process (normally runs once a week - can take longer if page is not in current WP archive). As of October, 2012, over 75,400 wikipedia-sourced place pages are present on WeRelate. Search on place pages with "wikipedia-notice" to get the latest total (search).

There do not presently seem to be particularly good ways to systematically identify new place pages for inclusion as WeRelate place pages (and therefore, in the WeRelate place hierarchy/organization). The most effective approach seems to simply be alert for opportunities, and not to miss them when they are encountered.

Other Types of Pages

Of course, WP can be useful with other types of WR pages. For example:

Templates related to Wikipedia content

  • Template:Source-wikipedia
    main template for drawing content from Wikipedia; recognized by a bot which copies content from Wikipedia into WeRelate ... and does automated updates of content in the future
  • Template:Wp-include-project
    used to tag content in WeRelate for Wikipedia-assisted expansion
  • Template:Wikipedia article
    templated link to Wikipedia; takes Wikipedia article name as the single parameter
  • Template:Copy-wikipedia
    used to indicate a passage which has been copied from Wikipedia
  • Template:Wikipedia-notice
    similar to 'copy-wikipedia' in that this template signals that content has been sourced from Wikipedia
  • Template:Moreinfo wikipedia
    adds a "more info found in wikipedia"-type message to a page
  • Template:Wpsurnamelist
    used on Surname pages to indicate that a Wikipedia article exists for that surname, but the content presently consists only of a list of links to Wikipedia biographical articles