Should templates be allowed outside of the Template namespace? Finalizing Template Guidelines.

+22 votes
Hi WikiTreers,

This will only impact the few members who use templates creatively. For background, see

We never announced that those guidelines were official, and I think we need to.

In particular, I think we need to make clear that all templates need to be in the Template namespace. Since the Template namespace can only be edited by Leaders and Team Members that places a strict limit on who can edit them.

If any page can be used to transclude content into any other page, they can get incredibly complicated and hard to follow. And if anyone can edit them, a vandal could intentionally exploit this complexity to do damage, or a newbie could accidentally make a mistake on one page that cascades through a lot of other pages.

Mistakes and vandalism are usually easy to fix on a wiki. But if other members can't understand or follow what's been done, they can't easily fix it.

For an example of the complexity, check out and how it's being used on which is itself another template.

These are experimental examples from RJ Horace. I want to be clear that RJ hasn't done anything improper here. But what's doing could be very dangerous. In fact, RJ may be trying to demonstrate this. By orphaning Space:Space:Pipe so that anyone can adopt it, he's dramatically illustrating that anyone could knock over that domino.



in Policy and Style by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
One thing I would suggest considering changing is the part on Sources.  Templates should be OK if used for long, full citations when used in conjunction with a shorter version present in the profiles.
Cat-02 is done with.  It was only in use briefly for an experiment in paging a one-name category.

I have a lot of other work invested in templates, but that was foolish.  I won't do any more, so there's no need to disrupt other people's facilities on my account.

@R J Horace

Have seen Template:!

See this question ....

I think we can now call these template guidelines official.

I still have difficulty in understanding the guidelines (meaning if I do not understand it as your average WikiTree contribuant, I will not know when I'm transgressing and when not, unless there is some automatic mechanism in place that will keep me from transgressing) - as long as leaders and others understand it I guess I feel safe with it.

@Philip don't use templates so are you safe ;-)

Video explaining how Wikipedia use it to make the usage of repetitive material easier

But I do use them all the time. Our project is the fourth biggest in WikiTree Magnus (see: so do not tell that I do not use them. If they did not have templates they would not have been visible. I do understand how to use them also {{DateGuess2}}{{Unsourced}} etc.

I guess it is hard knowing so much as you do and having to keep your impatience with less technically minded but not less hardworking WikiTree colleagues in check ...
Philip, thanks for this link. I'd never seen this before. I'm stunned that PGM only has 3300 links. We have a lonnnngg way to go to complete the Anderson series (not to mention those not covered by him....)
Hi Jillaine, the link is actually one that Robin and / or Chris provided in G2G feeds some weeks ago. In another G2G feed there was again some discussion on what was exactly meant with "links" / "members" - I presume it is actually profiles, because there are more than 11000 profiles with the {{Dutch_Cape_Colony}} template on. It is handy link though isn't it ...:-)
Hi Philip

When you say that the Cape of Good Hope - Kaap de Goede Hoop (1652-1806) Project is the fourth biggest project in WikiTree because [[Category: The Dutch Cape Colony 1652-1806]] is the fourth most linked category, you are confusing the number of profiles/subcategories in a category with project size. Many projects on WikiTree do not add all of the profiles they manage to one category.
Maryann, all of the 11000+ profiles have this {{Dutch_Cape_Colony}} template on. It is something that we all make sure to take care of. There are more out there that are as yet not "tagged" with it. It follows logically that if there are that many profiles (I stopped counting them at the 10000 mark) that we are in this order of projects, the fourth biggest project. It is not about sub-categories (there is only 4 in our case) - you can go to our webpage and count them: scroll down, 200 names per page, times 55 (and one or two give or take more) you get to that amount. If other projects do not add their project categories it tells more about them than about us.

7 Answers

+7 votes
So is this post a verification that the guidelines are final or that this anyone's last chance to comment on them before you do officially so announce?  Not that I want to comment on them.  I just want clarification.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (407k points)
Hi Dave. The idea was to solicit feedback before finalization. We hadn't talked about this in a while so I wanted to see if there were any new thoughts. We won't leave this open long, though.
+9 votes
Chris, This are simple include pages.

I use it quite a few times in DBErrors project for repeated texts on multiple pages in error help and for Latest version. In both cases it was very useful, since after link change, I have to make only one correction.

I would also suggest, to make a list of 'Official' templates with short description of where and why to use them. I still have no idea of which templates to use where (except the ones Magnus and I created). Category is not enough, since there is no description. In early days I tried to find Which templates to use and when and I gave up on that idea since I couldn't find anything usefull.

I would also suggest creating official templates for mayor source sites, so in case of URL changes it can be easily updated on hundreds ot thousands of profiles.

Another group of templates could be prepared for all additional standard data, that is not included in main data fields of the profile. Like Baptism, Burial, Residence, Workplace,...This could be later used if such fields are added to main database or to populate Wikidata with data from this templates.
by Aleš Trtnik G2G6 Pilot (541k points)
I agree with Aleš suggestions (but I can't follow what RJ is trying to do with templates for punctuation).

I agree. I think what Ales is referring to will become very important to Wikitree as a necessary feauture in future to prevent rampant (yet unintentional) de-validation of protected content (Project Protected Profiles that will be in a state of perpetual curation) through the unchecked editing of profiles from any WikiTree member that has been certified to do so. It is something that I have actually wanted to start a G2G feed on because it has happened to one profile of us already where much of the content came via Facebook from WikiPedia but via one of it's contributors to the article there, which someone then when and through placing headings {{Unsourced}} a lot of the content (which was had been left due to other priorities in the process of being adapted for WikiTree - rule# Do not copy from WikiPedia for too long):

Me too am utterly clueless to the example of Horace (and what Chris is trying to illustrate with that).

Thanks, Aleš.

We're not talking about getting rid of transclusion. We just want to make sure there is community oversight.

This gets to what you're talking about regarding help pages and directories of templates. Right now we can't even track templates, let alone evaluate them in some official way. We need some rules and some structure to build a foundation.

But transclusion is a basic wiki tool so you can write once and use on many profiles.... and that tools are used to document houses and graves etc. 

Maybe we should train people? I understand the problem many people has with some technical things but I feel the biggest problem is Wiki formatting.

Free Space Transclusion Examples:

  1. House of Bernadotte
    1. Family grave of Prince Oscar Bernadotte
      1. used on
    2. The official resting place of Swedish Kings in the Riddarholm church
      1. used on
    3. The official resting place after 1950 Space:Kungliga_begravningsplatsen
      1. used on  
  2. Houses
    1. Bänntorp,_Sköllersta_härad,_Örebro_län
      1. used on
    2. Space:Lindmark_Bärbo_parish
      1. used on 
  3. Graves
    1. Grave Grobjle 40 Novo Grobjle, Tip 2 Grobnica, Parcela 27 Broj 27 Red 2
  4. Transcribe old churchbooks that has with more profiles to do 
    1. Space:Lindmark Bärbo parish - BärborAI: 1762
      1. used on 
  5. Research Notes for many profiles
    1.  Space:Svenska_Kungahuset
      1. used on 



A couple of days ago I accidentally transcluded a category into a person's profile -- because I absent-mindedly put { } brackets around the category name instead of [ ] brackets. When I saw what I had done, I fixed it immediately. But many contributors here wouldn't know how to fix that, and I don't think they should need to know.

I have a couple of ancestors whose profiles here include transcluded text of free-space pages -- for example, the complete list of passengers on their immigration ship. I think that content like that is wonderful to have. However:

  • It tends to overwhelm the rest of the profile
  • Contributors who don't understand template transclusion will be helpless to remove it if they don't think it belongs -- or to edit it if they find errors
  • We can make descriptive links to point to that kind of content -- and you don't need to understand templates or transclusion to follow a hyperlink to a free-space page and revise the page, if appropriate.


Why cant we learn people to ask at G2G if they don't understand genealogy or the syntax? How many times have we seen mistakes.

I have seen one person "destroy" a profile after a merge. The profile had inline citations and after the merge it was a inline mess....;-)

The main problem I feel are all those hard coded links...
I heard we have +160 000 from WikiTree to Find A Grave


  1. 2016 Wikitree is the only place you found ugly things like that
  2. Doing Genealogy correct you should also include more data on a WEB URL like
    1. Date retrieved
    2. Some information about the source etc...
    3. If the link is gone you should at least understand what the URL pointed
      - on was it a gravestone for the current profile or for someone else
The odd thing inside WikiTree is that we don't push do better Genealogy instead we have discussions like

Is not Ok {{FindAGrave|12212803|7 sep 2017|Rev Edward Joseph Hanna}}

Is not Ok {{FindAGrave|
Retrieved?7 sep 2017|
Name=Rev Edward Joseph Hanna}}

Maybe it's Welcoming but it doesn't make people learn how to do better Genealogy....  And mostly its just a mess check Harris-19184
We have 400.000 links to FindAGrave. 398937 on september 2nd to be exact.

If you think that Findagrave URLs are the ugliest sources we have here, you've been leading a sheltered life at WikiTree. Unfortunately, imported gedcoms, particularly from but also from other sources (and sometimes augmented by well-intended edits here) have resulted in many far uglier source citations, such as these:

  1. Source: #S11169 Note: Source number: 83.000; Source type: Electronic Database; Number ofPages: 1; Submitter Code: RWR, Source: #S11169 Note: Source number: 910.002; Source type: Pedigree chart; Number of Pages:1, Source: #S11146 , Source: #S11169 Note: Source number: 4684.005; Source type: Family group sheet, FGSE, listedas parents; Number of Pages: 1, Source: #S10742 , Source: #S10956
  2. Source: #S-550408936: Source number: 83.000; Source type: Electronic Database; Number of Pages: 1; Submitter Code: RWR. Birth date: 1620Birth place: FrMarriage date: 1645Marriage place:

And in case you are curious, those source numbers in that first note map out to:

  • Source: S10742 Certainty: 0 Other Heritage Consulting Repository:
  • Source: S10956 Certainty: 0 Other Godfrey Memorial Library, comp. Repository:
  • Source: S11146 Certainty: 0 Other Repository:
  • Source: S11169 Certainty: 0 Other Yates Publishing Repository:

Reformatting content like that in a template will not improve anything, but it might make it more difficult to figure out what the actual source was -- and determine whether that source has any value.

>>> If you think that Findagrave URLs are the ugliest sources

No I have connected +3000 WIkiTree profiles to Wikidata so I am sad about the overall quality inside WikiTree I think that is a problem see G2G  999 out 1000 times Wikipedia has better information/layout/structure.... a small step is the Database Error project that finds totally logical mistakes..

>>> Reformatting content like that in a template will not improve anything...


Templates is away just to substitute text and capsulate repeating text. If you add garbage to a template you get garbage. No one has spoken about that templates can fix bad genealogy research... in my opinion a template could help people add the needed information but I guess most people inside WikiTree feels they are  "impediment to open and productive collaboration" .... 

Category:SPC_Toolbox page with User stories and Templates linking to external sources that implements those user stories I did 2016 feb.....  for me that is the way you work always define user stories/requirements and then start thinking how to implement it.

If things is done better without templates then don't use templates.....

And I guess most people agree WikiTree don't need templates... 


+6 votes
I fully support Chris' proposed policy.

Templates that are used to transclude significant content onto a page are an impediment to open and productive collaboration, because users who don't understand the syntax (I estimate that this means a majority of Wikitree contributors, as indicated by the number of users who can't figure out how to remove an Unsourced template) cannot tell where the content came from and therefore don't know how to edit it or remove it.
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)


  • Applied_physics ==> people maybe not representing the normal average person.... I think we also inside Wikitree can see a problem between more high tech people and average Joe.... everyone using internet understand the problem with using Hardcoded URLs... inside WikiTree we have a "don't change" movement that refuse to understand using templates is a solution on that problem... instead they think templates is the problem and should just be used for adding graphics and images and mark a profile unsourced.... 
  • Good article about Wikidata "The problem with Wikidata" they point on issues creating a Wiki....

    We know that Wikipedia is a highly uneven platform. We know that not only is there not a lot of content created from the developing world, but there also isn't a lot of content created about the developing world. And we also, even within the developed world, a majority of edits are still made by a small core of (largely young, white, male, and well-educated) people. For instance, there are more edits that originate in Hong Kong than all of Africa combined; and there are many times more edits to the English-language article about child birth by men than women.

Maybe some aspects have changed since Apr 2012?

@Michelle if you speak about editors of Wikipedia my understanding it's worser....  they are active working with getting women take part and also get the rest of the world involved....

How wikipedia is hostile to women

a project by Wikipedia editors to examine why so few women participate on the site and why there’s a lack of coverage of notable women



I guess that WikiTree has the same rather homogene group of people and when you compare profiles of WikiTree on Wikidata and another Russian genealogy Wiki its a big difference of profiles per country

Also checking the Histropedia Timeline and selecting North America ==> you see no Wikipedia/WikiTree profiles before 1600.... feels like we document just some part of the history and some part of the world

Big pic  online search
Red banner = North America ==> we have no North America profiles before 1600.....

Big pic 
Difference of geographic birth/dead places of profiles between two genealogy Wikis Rodovid and WikiTree what profiles they connect to on Wikipedia... 




Thanks for the info. Very Interesting. Didn't realize the gender gap on Wikipedia. Never really thought about it. Guess I have more reading to do.

On another note Genealogy Startup weekend in Salt Lake City was very inspiring. The genealogy field needs more women with developer skills. Only 8 more months to go to fill one of those jobs. Sigh......
For a number of years, the Wikipedia community has been very concerned about the demographics of the contributor population. Wikipedia managed to develop great content in spite of a community culture that can be downright toxic -- and at its best makes many people uncomfortable. I've had some extremely positive experiences at Wikipedia,but I have also been on the receiving end of some pretty horrifying nastiness, so it takes little imagination to see why many contributors (such as most women) get "turned off."

I can point to a number of factors that have made Wikipedia so dysfunctional. Sadly, templates are one of the features that has created a lot of nastiness at Wikipedia. There are quite a few Wikipedia templates with extremely intricate template syntax (also, a template could have 100 variable parameters) and some entire articles (even long articles) have been created exclusively from transcluded templates. (Come to think of it, I even created one list article at Wikipedia that consists almost entirely of transcluded contents from other Wikipedia articles.) Some of the most disagreeable interactions I have observed or experienced at Wikipedia were about complex templates -- more specifically, they were due to young male self-made experts in Wikipedia template code who are vociferous (and nasty) in expressing their contempt for anyone who lacks the coding knowledge (and also good eyesight) needed to edit the articles they created with their templates.

When I joined WikiTree I was surprised at how "dumbed down" the Wiki interface is here (why couldn't I be trusted to access a complete page history, for pete's sake?), but over time I realized that "keeping it simple" for users was one critically important ingredient in the recipe for creating a Wiki community that would feel pleasant and welcoming for people who love family history but are not comfortable with anything that resembles computer code.
@Ellen thanks sharing your experience. Anything you feel is not so good in the WikiTree world? ​

Are you happy with the quality of profiles....
Really good input, Ellen. Really valuable addition to the conversation.

Have you weighed-in on the conversations regarding event templates and link templates?

Having event templates create a timeline -- a logically, visually separate section -- makes me more comfortable than replacing how we recommend putting all events in a bio.

Recommending templates for links, e.g. saying Find-a-Grave links should be done with a template, is a major step, but maybe not a step too far. Any link requires a bit of code.



>> Any link requires a bit of code.

I would rephrase it 

Any genealogy citation need some thoughts and structure so that you can trust it and understand it.  

Adding just a link for a citation is never good genealogy... If some people have problems with templates I am sure everyone has problem with bad citations and they shall be avoided.... 

Believe it or not, Magnus, not everyone who contributes to WikiTree wants to learn about template syntax -- or participate in an online forum. Many of the people who come here simply want to learn more about their ancestry, or contribute the genealogical information they've accumulated so that it will be available to posterity.

Imagine a 90-year-old who lives in a care facility, can't see as well as they used to, but has a computer with Internet access in their room, and wants to share family history records they created on a personal computer 25 years ago. (I don't think that very many contributors fit that profile, but I would bet there are a few.) Please don't try to tell them that their contributions aren't acceptable unless they learn how to properly format a templated reference citation by watching a YouTube video or posting a query in an online forum. Instead, thank them for their contributions, and remind yourself that there will be time to improve the formatting later on.

>> Believe it or not, Magnus, not everyone who contributes to WikiTree wants to learn about template syntax 

Yes I have seen that.... many people seems also to be satisfied with what GEDCOM import generates as they do nothing more....

>> Imagine a 90-year-old who lives in a care facility, can't see as well as they used to....

Guess WikiTree biggest problem for her is not templates... Maybe a Youtube interface..... When I heard Aleš with IQ +150 had problem understand what gedcom import generates then I guess 99.9% of the WikiTree users need improvements of today's Wikitree.... but as we don't ask people we will never know....

WikiTree miss good statistics and surveys what people like and use and why people stop using WikiTree... 

I feel most discussions inside WikiTree ends like this with some 90 years old persons as an user case and no actions....

And when someone tries to do something with templates people most get scared....

+8 votes

I feel like I've fallen into a grey area here a little bit. I have some free space pages set up for a couple of sources that I use extensively for my family lines. (e.g.,

I use these free space pages to transclude the citation into a profile using template notation. (e.g., {{Space: Owen County Cousins}} ). 

This gives me the flexibility of quickly and easily adding the citation to profiles. If it becomes necessary to change the format of the citation or add additional helpful information (e.g., repository information), that will automatically happen on the profiles where it's used.

I used this method on hundreds of profiles before the template guidelines came about. 

The free space pages are not templates.

Am I breaking rules by using the {{Space: Owen County Cousin}} notation to include the source citation? 

I've included clear instructions on how to use the source in a profile, which would involve choosing one of the following methods:

  • copying and pasting the necessary citation
  • copying and pasting the template notation
  • copying and pasting the <ref> statements

The way I set up the free space page gives people a choice about how to use the information provided. So, they don't have to use transclusion / template notation if they don't want to or don't understand it.

by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (384k points)
+6 votes

Some examples of sorts of things you could do with transclusion.

1. In,_Name_Studies there are two similar county boxes, done the hard way.  But you could have a Counties of England template which could be dropped in anywhere.  It would take care of the box and the counties and you'd only have to specify the variable bits (and only once, not once per county).  Ditto States etc obviously.

2. In, the Ballpark Index is a fixed version, but as a template it could be used instantly in any other large category, and varied in size and shape.

3. I was looking at a Wayback Machine template, so when citing a website and saying "accessed 15 May 2016" the date could be a link to the archived copy as of that date.  (And you'd be covered already if the site goes away.)  Likewise with Wikipedia you could link to the page as it was when cited, alongside the current version.

4. If you have a template on all the profiles in a project or name study or "House" with parameters for key attributes of the person and profile status, you can create instant categories in the template code using parameter values as criteria.  They can be temporary categories which disappear when not needed.  If you only want a list of profiles meeting a certain set of criteria, you can use a red category without creating a page.


by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (567k points)
Another good use for templates is to format charts and tables.  You enter the data as a pseudo-table


and then use the template to play with layout, punctuation, typefaces and colors by testing the parameters.

I'll have to do these in a spreadsheet now, so the resulting WikiTree page will be a "compiled" version from an offline "source".  And with all the markup inline, it will not be easier to edit than the template version.

These aren't world-changing ideas, but other people will have better ideas.

@RJ Horace agree 

Have you seen

I have started to spend more time in Wikipedia land right now they have a discussion of how to make it easier to use lists as lists is an excellent way of doing research.... 


I am getting more and more convinced that the WikiTree platform needs an update and have a query interface plus that data should be added in structured form...

Cool queries I have done lately at WikiData:

  1. Display graves on a graveyard grouped by a persons occupation

    Graves are added with plot reference and exact GPS coordinates

    See Q23810 Alfred Nobel below the properties used

    also started with people-buried-on-holy-cross-cemetery at Colma, San Francisco_California
  2. Displaying WikiTree people on a map and filter by Century

  3. Locations of items that has been named after a person with profile at WikiTree and filter by nationality

    Big pic


+3 votes

Two things you have suggested, Chris, need to happen.  That templates be Tracked and Controlled. These seem like a "no-brainer."

We have to know what's out there - which templates are where, and we need make access limited to the creation/editing of templates.  They are just too powerful to leave open.

I've personally seen new members who have confused categories with templates and created templates to use on profiles - inappropriately.

Templates for sources is another topic entirely, as they obviously would not be used in the "template space."  I would prefer that we deal with that separately.



by Cynthia B G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
+4 votes
To clarify the issue:

You can't actually "create" a template.  Any Space page (or Category page) can be transcluded.  It doesn't have to contain any special markup or be designated as a template by its creator.

So, if you have a Space page called My Dog Fido, I can turn it into a template, without your knowledge or say-so, by going to Mary Queen of Scots and typing {{Space:My Dog Fido}}.

Now, anybody looking up Mary Queen of Scots will read about that thing Fido used to do.  But that will be entirely my doing, not yours.

Which sounds bad, but only Mary is affected, and only what the reader sees - the stored page is unaffected except for what I typed in.  And of course I can mutilate Mary Queen of Scots in much worse ways.  It's a wiki.

Under the new rules, {{Space:My Dog Fido}} is now specifically illegal, whereas other vandalism is only illegal in a general way.  This of course makes no difference to a vandal, it only impacts legitimate law-abiding users doing legitimate things.


On the other side of the coin, even if a page looks like it's supposed to be a template, it's not a template if it isn't called.  It's just a dead page.  Its creator can't endow it with any evil powers if nobody calls it.

99.99% of users don't call Space pages as templates (you know if you do, because you have to type {{Space:...}}).  So long as you only call official templates, your template calls are at no risk to unofficial activity.

(Strictly, that's only true if images used by templates are also protected.  Though there isn't much anybody can do with an image, apart from privatizing it.)
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (567k points)
edited by Anonymous Horace
Thanks for clearing this up with such humor Horace, you made my day ... :-)

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