FamilySearch Wiki talk:WikiProject County Page Template

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  • General recommendation:  It may be prudent not to simply come up with only one vanilla template for all 50 states.  It would be better if a template was created that accounted for each state's differences as consistently as possible.  For example, in Ohio, birth and death records were kept solely at the county level until 1908, when the state kept these records centrally, making the county courthouse irrelevant for these types of records from 1908 onward.  Cemetery records in Ohio were predominantly kept at a township level in early settlement, as one of the township's functions was to administrate them--however, in states in the Southeast, such as North Carolina, there are no contiguous units of government beyond the county level, whereas in Ohio and many locations in the Northeast and Midwest, counties are ALWAYS broken into townships, some of which in whole or part have become villages or cities.  Also, modern records often neglect to record township boundaries, relying mostly on modern ZIP codes, but older records most certainly require attentiveness to townships, including the U.S. Census.  Also, in Maryland and Virginia, for example, some parts were divided into hundreds, which are now no longer used, but relevant in locating specific parts of a county.  It would be wise to have experienced researchers from each state converse as to differences which would require a statewide divergence for one state, or a group of states, to use a slightly different template that accounts for the state's governmental structure and record keeping structure, making it much easier to know where blanks need to be filled in.  It therefore stands to reason that a template for North Carolina might be a bit simpler than one for Ohio or Pennsylvania, albeit not exactly the same, as some sections would not be applicable in other states. - Lee T Hawkins 22:30, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
    • I agree that each state is going to have significant diferences. The idea of a template is to encompass the common elements so that gets done for all fifty places in one shot. All the peculiarities would then be added to the page to make it specific for the state. The great place to have a template with the state peculiarities will be with the county pages in each state. Darris G. Williams 05:14, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
      • What you say sounds to be on the same plane. (BTW I wrote the original comment above, I forgot to sign it :-/ ) I think it's of prime importance to keep every state as closely similar as possible, albeit not so rigidly as to force conformity where it simply cannot exist. I just discovered this wiki recently, so I am working to flesh out all the information on a county I am very familiar with here in Ohio in order to determine what a good structure would be, while taking some time to look at how other county articles have been developed to find good ideas on how to improve as I go. I intend on reviewing as many county articles that have been nominated to be featured as I can to see what some others' ideas are, so I can use anything good that I see. I will report back with any findings and to request feedback/comments/issues. My goal is to come up with a more robust template and at least one county article worthy of feature, though of course this will take some time and collaboration! Should be fun! - Lee T Hawkins 07:02, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

SOME GENERAL CONCERNS (--Melungeon 12:44, 22 September 2011 (UTC)):

Sorry if this isn't the best place for the following, but the procedure/strategy pertaining to this article isn't completely clear to me. Let me know if I should move at least some of the following to the article itself, somebody, and I'll do that. (I'm also not remembering how to sign; I guess I'm used to Wikipedia, which does things differently). Should tips and suggestions regarding specific parts of the template be added in the article itself, or in the discussion page? Some major concerns of mine in this area include the following:

  • Some sections of some county pages have been set up in a very book-centric manner, with the assumption apparently being that all sources within a particular category should be printed books, with web materials relegated to some other place. In this era of online books and ebooks, I don't think that makes sense.
  • Some sections of some county pages have had items listed in no particular order. This becomes an issue when the number of items becomes large. I've attempted to list items in either chronological order (e.g. census records) or in alphabetical order (e.g. specific cemeteries), depending on which is more appropriate. 
  • I have the impression that information regarding date of county formation is automatically entered by someone, somehow, from the Handybook for Genealogists. This book is riddled with errors. In many instances, the date that is given for county formation is completely erroneous. In addition, the date that is given for county formation in some counties is the date of the passage of the legislation that authorized formation of the county, while the county might not actually have been formed until, say, the following year. This can, of course, cause confusion when trying to find records.
  • Many county pages contain a huge picture of something that, in my mind, is actually pretty irrelevant, such as a giant portrait of someone the county is named after but who never actually set foot in that county. This is obviously a matter of personal taste or preference, but I personally don't see any point in it. It creates a page that takes longer to scroll through for no practical benefit. 
  • Similarly, some "brief history" sections read like a travel brochure, touting the benefits of the county in broadly worded abstract terms, with references to the county's "southern hospitaility" or the like. What I see as a major problem is rampant, and that is the verbatim reuse of county introductory material from other websites - usually either Wikipedia or a county government page. I don't know about Wikipedia's policy regarding verbatim copying from its website, but in some cases this very widespread practice appears to perhaps constitute copyright violation.
  • I personally like to see links provided for web pages for specific towns and townships within a county, but I don't know how many others share that view. I have been adding links to pages for towns and townships from such sources as Histopolis (Collaborative Genealogy & History), ePodunk (which contains some very useful genealogy-related options at a highly localized level), etc. I do this by adding briefly worded links separated by vertical lines: | . Unfortunately, however, some counties have the towns or townships already placed into some sort of table that precludes adding any kind of links.
  • For some counties, a huge amount of data has been entered that, in my opinion, is far too specific. Someone might have added a link to each individual person for whom there's an early will, for instance, when all the data is in the same source and one link for all would suffice. Or someone might list every Civil War military unit for that county when, again, they're from one source and a link to that source would suffice. In some cases, I've felt that, frankly, Civil War interest has virtually (no pun intended) taken over a county page before anything else is entered.
  • In many instances, someone will go into a specific section of a county page and enter data in a format that assumes that this listing will be the only item anyone will ever enter. This is usually a somewhat lengthy explanation of something with no subheading or opening heading, perhaps followed by a bulleted list containing one item. In order to add additional items I've had to reword such items, perhaps prefacing them with some sort of brief identifier, before converting them into a single bulleted list in what then becomes an expanded list. I don't know that there's any way around that.
  • In one case, I had a somewhat unpleasant back and forth conversation with an individual about one county page, because the introductory section contained matter-of-fact summaries of various county families, briefly stating, apparently, where the earliest "known" generations of these families came from, with of course no documentation and no possibility of extended discussion. I pointed out that this was no place for this sort of material, because the "brief history" section for a county does not afford room/space for extended discussion about what SHOULD be a controversial matter, that being the origins of specific families. In other words, this material was either unproven or not documented at that point, and it wasn't the proper place for discussion about whether the pedigrees behind these claims were true or false. We went back and forth on it and never got anywhere. Finally, I inserted extra wording to the effect that "it is said" that these families had such-and-such descent or originated from such-and-such a place, but I don't think that dogmatic pronouncements about the specific ancestry of specific families has any place in the "brief history" section of a county page.
  • I find the way people often relate to building the "local histories" and "web pages" a bit problematic in that it seems that some view "local histories" as necessarily printed books and web pages as anything else. I have been using the "web pages" section as a section for general sources, such as the county's forum page in GenForum, the county's page in Linkpendium, etc. Perhaps the "web pages" heading could be reworded to reflect the fact that these are general sources (e.g. "General Web Pages"), if others agree with this approach. I add ample web pages that are more specific (such as a page on a specific cemetery, or on WWI soldiers from a specific county) to some other section.
  • With regard to the web pages section, there seems to be confusion about state-based GenWeb vs. U.S. GenWeb Archives. With many counties, for whatever reason, there will be a regular GenWeb site with its set of online records, and a set of completely separate U.S. GenWeb Archives pages for the same county, with a completely different set of records.
  • Perhaps some suggestions for the "web pages" section could be provided. There are large websites with individual county pages that, apparently, are frequently overlooked or that are perhaps just unknown to most researchers that could be suggested (perhaps they won't apply to all counties). These include GenForum, n2Genealogy, Linkpendium, etc. For the "maps" section, which seems to usually be empty, Libre Maps Project provides highly detailed online topographic maps.
  • With printed paper-based books, the tendency has been to just supply FHL references. Unless the book has been microfilmed, this won't help those who are unable to use the SLC library. I have been trying to add WorldCat references, which are far more useful to those who do not live within a short distance of the Family History Library. There seems to be no standard or even custom for listing different ways to access a particular book. I've been attempting to list these methods after the book citation and separated by vertical lines, as: FHL | WorldCat | Internet Archive (complete text) | Google (limited preview) etc., with of course links provided.
  • There really needs to be some sort of category like "Genealogies and Biographies" or "Biographies and Genealogies" or the like. This could house not only books on specific families or individuals, but substantial or significant web pages as well. (I would suggest not adding pages that are simply "trees," especially if automatically generated with little or no documentation.)
  • I would also suggest perhaps a "Miscellaneous" category to house such items as yearbooks, old picture postcards, misc. groups of portrait photos, and the like.
  • The "vital records" section hasn't been clear to me. I've been taking this as referring to official records, and have been dividing into the following subheadings: Birth Marriage Death. I've been placing obituaries under Newspapers, since that's a primary reason why genealogists use newspapers, but then funeral home records become an issue, since they're neither newspaper-related nor official records.
  • I would suggest breaking down the Cemetery section into the following subcategories: General, Specific Cemeteries. General could house, for example, web pages and books containing information on multiple cemeteries, while Specific Cemeteries could include, for example, web pages on specific cemeteries that are not linked through the "general" sources. One question becomes whether GPS coordinates should be provided, since sometimes they differ. Another issue here becomes the fact that one county may contain two or more cemeteries with the same name (or one cemetery with two or more names). I believe some sort of location information should be provided where possible in order to obviate this problem. This, however, may require a lot more work, e.g. checking topo maps, etc. In most cases, indicating the township(s) in which the cemetery is located might suffice.
  • For some states, a state library or archive might provide a list for each county specifying which records are available for that specific county at the state level. It would be nice if this info could be inputted for each county all at once. Such lists could be included under a "General" category under "Resources." In some counties, I've introduced such a category, sometimes with multiple "general" web pages or web documents that list or discuss what records are available for that county. Sometimes such lists are provided locally, by a local library or the like. A General category would be an appropriate place, I would think, to house these very important resources.