Help:Starting pages for people, places, or surnames/Guidance

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The 423,324 pages of this wiki have been created in various ways.

Articles about individual people are now mostly and best created in an automated fashion through use of the "Create article for person" menu item near the top of most pages (which for a couple of years required use of Firefox 3 but was fixed in mid-2012) or the related work-around. See "Start a really new person page" below for a walk-through.

Pages that usually need manual creation will include:

Check whether the article exists

If you want to start a page for an individual or a place, please save yourself and other researchers time by ensuring that there is not already a page for that person or place (possibly under a slightly different name). Type the name in the "Search" box, click the icon, and see what hits you get. Hits with your search term in their page names should be listed before hits that have it only in their text. Check out any that may be your person or place. (If it's under four letters long, the Search may not work; if so, try adding a word such as " surname" or a state name for a bigger search term.)

Use an individual's existing page if there is one

If you find a page that has the right name and you don't know if the dates are right but they could be, we suggest that you use that page as if it were the right one. (It will be easier to copy your additions to another page later, if a difference is found, than to merge two pages about the same individual.) Write notes about apparent differences somewhere in the article itself or on its talk page.

If you can't see an "Edit with form" link above a person article, the page probably uses an old template or no standard template. You will probably save us all time in the long run by upgrading it to the current system. See Forum:Converting a non-form page to an "Edit with form" page.

Create an individual's page from a link

If your person turns up in the text of another page, start there. Best choice is a child of your person, because if your person appears as a green button in the infobox you go straight to "create with form" mode and can get maximum information already in the input form.

If the name is not in the form of a link, please turn it into one (either by highlighting it and clicking the "Internal link" button above the edit box, or by putting double square brackets around the name and the dates). Edit the text if necessary, so that it is in this form: [[Firstname (''optional'')Middlenamesifany Lastname (year-year)]]. Do not include a question-mark, an en-dash, a slash or square or curly brackets anywhere in the name; and quotation marks may be troublesome too. Space after last name but no spaces around the years. Estimate birth and death years if unknown, omitting the "year" if death year completely unknown. Then Publish the page.

Click on that link, and you should reach one of two types of page:

  1. Edit with form: This is the highly recommended way of creating a new page about an individual. The form looks a bit formidable (!) but will save you and other users time in the short-to-medium term by linking and displaying relatives of the person in a semi-automatic manner. See "Start a really new person page" below.
  2. Ordinary wiki edit page: An ordinary editing screen with a big empty box for typing and a collection of little typing-aid buttons above it. You may just use it as it is, but we recommend that you instead copy the pagename and use it to create a page using Form:Person, the "Create new article" menu item above, then following the procedure in the "Start a really new person page" paragraph just below this one.

Start a really new person page

So the name of your individual does not appear as the page name of, or anywhere else on, an existing page?

Click the "Create article for person" menu item above and choose the standard form, entering the name, with birth and death years if known, in the panel provided. Do not include a question-mark or a slash or any square brackets or curly brackets anywhere in the name.

(The advanced or "verbose" form, which you can use on a subsequent edit, allows you to enter exhaustive information concerning fine details such as alternative names, citing primary versus secondary sources, third and subsequent marriages, and so on. Eventually we should have such things as events and honors and migration and education semi-automated too.)


Person article and three standard subpages

If you clicked on an infobox link on a child's or spouse's page, two or more boxes may be already filled. Check that they are what you want, but don't change the one you came from unless you rename that person's page.

Fill in what you know about the person concerned, including at least the following:

  • "Given name"
  • "Surname"
  • "Short name" (your choice, but best choice could be the name the individual was addressed by as a child, including the birth surname, because it heads the infobox and is used elsewhere; adding a woman's married surname is OK after the maiden name, and you can include titles such as "Sir")

Highly desirable additional entries for the first edit (because it gets useful links established sooner) are sex, parents, spouse(s), and at least one child if any. NOTE: because we have so many articles, the "autocomplete" function can go crazy if you type just a single letter in a parent or spouse box, so it's best to paste the names there.

If there were two or more spouses or other partners with whom children were produced, put them in the Spouse box, in chronological order of children and/or association, joined by plus signs. If the partner name in a liaison that resulted in a birth is unknown, please leave a blank, which generates "unknown parent" at the top of the children box but doesn't put a useless green button in the infobox.

Fairly desirable at this stage are children of the first marriage (if any), also joined by plus signs. They would be more fiddly to add later. However, if the person's spouse already has a page with those children shown, leave or make that section blank because the system will eventually display them automatically and will update them without double typing.

For each parent, spouse, or child shown on an individual's form, the name should be the existing or future page name, including date(s). Remember: Do not include a question-mark or a slash or any square brackets or curly brackets anywhere in the name. Quote marks can cause problems too.

If you have any "source" websites open, paste their URLs into "Notes" and/or "Sources" boxes. Make a mental note to add other references at next edit. Each Notes and Sources box has a maximum of 1000 characters.

Localities, counties, states, etc - please don't include any square brackets or curly brackets anywhere in the name. Placenames usually show as links if you use the Familypedia name, which is nearly always the Wikipedia name. For the USA, add State name to locality and to borough, county, or parish (e.g. Greene County, Ohio) to turn them into links. For Britain and Ireland, the county name is usually enough on its own (e.g. Cambridgeshire or County Down) but localities may need something bigger added. In all cases, the full Wikipedia name is best and is likely to work if anything does. "Autocomplete" will often save you much typing time for countries and some state names (and, if you expect to have many entries for a given county or locality, you are welcome to use the help desk to ask how to bring it into the autocompletion system).

Please add a brief "Edit Summary" such as "New" or "Intro" then click "Publish". (You may start with a "Preview", but it looks somewhat unlike the final page and you may get a message about having not entered an edit summary - annoyingly untrue if you have entered one.)

The page will probably not show everything you entered yet, because "Semantic Forms" work in mysterious ways not quite like normal wiki pages. (Short explanation: templates display data extracted from the page, which doesn't exist until the page is published.) Don't worry! To progress towards showing everything, your very next procedures could be:

  1. Click on "Edit with form" then on "Update/Create Sensor page". You're welcome to check the "Minor edit" box, then you need to click "Publish". Then you should see some buttons for creating other subpages, the most impressive of which is usually the "tree".
  2. Click the button that gets you to a "tree" page. It probably also needs just a click on "Publish" after "Minor edit".

After creating those subpages, you may need to republish the sensor page and/or the main page to see the tabs that point to the subpages.

After the sensor page is created, you can add a subpage for descendants if there were grandchildren. (Not worth the trouble if there weren't, because it shows less than the article shows.) It is created (much as the tree is) with a couple of clicks semi-automatically and will be updated fairly automatically. Its button appears on the sensor page; the tab should show on the article page after you republish the sensor page then the article.

After you "Publish" the article and the "sensor" page once or twice more, things should be coming right, appearing where you expect them to. If still no good, check the page History to see what was added or subtracted from one version to the next. If puzzled, post a query on the help desk or check its recent postings to see if anyone else has had similar problems.

Child from second or subsequent marriage

If you want to create a new page as above by clicking on a parent link in an infobox, and you know that that child was not the child of the parent's first marriage, you will need to do a little fiddling to switch spouses and/or children, probably needing a second edit. Editing without the form should show you the coding, where "g1" (meaning spouse-and-children group 1") will need to be changed.

Going straight to the "Advanced" form

Until we fix some of the recent software problems, you may get an error message if you hit "Advanced form": solution may be to go up to the URL and change "/person/" to "/person advanced/" then hit an "Enter" key.

Maybe don't "Edit with form" again after page creation

The forms software places and replaces some standard templates at the top and some at the bottom, leaving other templates and text in their original order in between. If you put something like "{{Living}}" or "{{Verify}}" at the top of the page, it may move down after another "Edit with form".

Instead of "Edit with form", to edit most of the page again you may use the "Edit facts" link in the infobox, which leaves alone everything that is not part of the standard templates. Child info has to be done separately anyway if you want to use a form after the initial page-creation, but it too can be edited manually as part of the article.

Start a really "new" place page


If you want to start a page for a place, and a page for it does not exist and you can't create one using a link on an existing page, create a link as described below. Wherever possible, use the article name that Wikipedia uses for the same place.

Two templates

Desirable inclusions are two templates:

  • {{bdm}} displays two tabs at the top of the page, one pointing to a subpage you are about to create showing births etc.
  • Either:
    • {{Usedwps}}, the best one if any of your article is copied from Wikipedia; or
    • {{alsoWP}}, which produces a box that leads to the Wikipedia article of the same name, used when nothing is directly copied. You can then add a line or two of description if you like. Later edits can do numerous enhancements.

Those two can each be inserted with a single click if you can find their icons among the four green jigsaw-puzzle pieces to the right of the edit box. Each needs the exact Wikipedia name added after a pipe ("|" - "Shift plus Backslash" on standard keyboard) if the page name is not exactly the same as ours.

Births, deaths, etc, at that locality

After publishing the place page, click on the "Births etc" tab. That links to the "/bdm" subpage. Click "Edit" if it's not already in Edit mode.

All that you put on that page (right at the top with no space before it) is :

{{Bdm1}} for a locality
{{Bdm2}} for a county

You can click on the green Bdm icon at the right, then type the number.

{{bdm1}} incorporates {{Showfacts locality}}, which gives you headings about people who were born, died, etc in a locality, and tabulates any such people who have facts pages on Familypedia. {{bdm2}} does much the same for a county.

Create link or tweak an URL

If you need a way to start a page that's not about an individual, a good place is your User page (because it is so easy for you, if logged in, to reach from anywhere on the site) or a subpage of it (e.g. User:yourusername/New pages), where you just add a link. Wherever you choose, just type the name of your article, surround it with double square brackets, preview, and publish. When the revised page appears, you should see a link with the title you just inserted.

  • If the link is in blue, then the article already exists; you can go to the article and add any information you feel it needs.
  • If the link is in red, the article doesn't exist yet; click the link and you will end up on a blank page, where you can insert whatever you want according to whatever format you want.

Another way to start a new page is to manipulate the URL of whatever page you are on; the standard format is " name", with no need to use underlines or CamelCase.

What if I want to change the layout of the article?

The most common article on this site is one describing the family history of a given person. Different genealogists have different needs when it comes to writing person articles. Some wish to include only the most basic information. Others need a more complex presentation. Some users have highly specific, and perhaps unique, requirements.

The input forms at Form:Person and Form:Person advanced utilize standard templates designed to meet a range of requirements while achieving all the linkages genealogists expect, including most of the fields that would be in a GEDCOM file. Boxes that you leave blank will generally show nothing (not even a heading) on the page. You may move these templates around on the page. You may even delete them if you wish, but that may make more work for you or a relative later, with little or no benefit. (The directly-edited page code ("free text") appears in a box near the "Publish" button at the bottom. Don't mess with things inside curly brackets!) Also, if you have specialized requirements, you are welcome to create a template of your own to incorporate them. If you need help with that, place a message on Forum:Help desk, and there will probably be someone reading that who can help you. New templates like that should be listed at Forum:Templates update so that anyone can benefit from them.

People not mentioned on the wiki yet

If you want to start a new page for someone who does not link from any page here, it is recommended that you use Form:Person. Follow the procedure in the "Start a really new person page" section above.

If the person has a Wikipedia article, please create a page with exactly the same name initially, then "Rename" it to add dates etc. Before finalizing it, please ensure that you have read Help:Copying from Wikipedia.

Naming conventions

Individuals' page names follow a standard (for ease of manipulation by templates and to minimize duplication), usually of the form:

Person's full name at birth (BirthYear-DeathYear)


John Isaac Smith (1900-1985)

Please use "c" right up against the year if it is approximate or estimated or even the best guess. If showing nothing for birth year or for death year, leave no space between the hyphen and the parenthesis, Examples: (c1100-1165), (-c1876).

For further details on conventions for articles with non-Latin fonts or in other languages, see "Page names".


After creating a person article using one of the forms, you may at any time select the "Edit with form" menu item, to add details anywhere, or you may use the "Edit" item to change details and/or fill out your article with a narrative on the individual. The two main infoboxes have "Edit facts" or "Edit child facts" links for the easiest access to changing or adding details of the person's basic facts or the tables of children or siblings.

You may use the rich text facility to add pictures, headings and tables to the article without using special codes. Try it - you will be surprised how easy it is to create an attractive and memorable article on your ancestor.

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