How should military categories be structured? [closed]

+9 votes
The more I think about this the more confusing I find it. :)

Currently my thoughts are that we should sort of have two category structures for military: one for units, branches of the military, etc., and one for specific wars/battles.

So I guess the question is, do we have those as totally separate, or as intersecting? In other words, eg: someone fought in WWII in the British Columbia Dragoons. Does he go in a category for the British Columbia Dragoons and one for WWII Veterans, or does he go in one category that's just for British Columbia Dragoons in WWII? (My personal opinion: I'm inclined to keep them separate, because the other way just seems really hard.)

Also, we have to think about how the war veterans categories are structured. Right now, there are aspects that don't make much sense. For example, Category:War of 1812 Veterans is a subcategory of US Army Veterans. The problem is, not all War of 1812 veterans were in the US Army. Half of them were Canadian, and even among the Americans, many were in the Navy, not the Army. So this brings up more questions: Do we have one category for everyone who fought in the War of 1812, or do we have one for the Americans and one for the Canadians? Same question goes for every other war that's not a civil war (and even for civil wars, do you split it up by side?).

Tough questions! Help is appreciated! :)
closed with the note: I'm closing this since it's gotten so long and hard to follow. Let's move this to
in Policy and Style by Lianne Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (423k points)
recategorized by Chris Whitten

5 Answers

+2 votes
?  World Wide Tree - wouldn't it need to eventually include all sailors/soldiers/aircorps etc from:





WWII: Australia

WWII: Japan

etc, etc, etc.
Exactly. Which is what makes this so difficult. :) We have to remember early on, as we're making these categories, that eventually there will be a whole lot of people in them! So we need to figure out the best way of structuring that.

I'm inclined to think that for a war there should be a category for each country involved, ie. US WWII Veterans, Canadian WWII Veterans, French WWII Veterans, etc. Maybe also split those up by military branch, ie. US Navy WWII Veterans, etc., or maybe not. I don't know!

That way, US WWII Veterans can be a subcategory of US Veterans, or something, and that will make sense, whereas WWII Veterans doesn't make sense as a subcategory of US Veterans, because they're from many different countries.
Does putting someone in a category put them in the higher categories, or can you put people in mid categories? For example, it would be really annoying to put someone in all of these: military, army, us army, wwii, wwii america, etc...
Assuming that the category you placed them in has been associated with those high level categories, then in a sense, yes.  You would still need to drill down all the way through the categories in order to find the profile though.
Putting someone in a category doesn't make them appear in the higher categories, but technically they are in them, because that's what subcategories are for. It's best to put people only in the more specific categories. We wouldn't want everyone who'd ever been in the military to be listed together on one page. :)
Exactly!  Kind of like saying a file is on your C: drive, but it's really 32 levels deep.  Technically correct, but still takes some digging to find the file!
Would be nice to have data entry as  WWII Service:
Country of Enlistment
Branch of Service
Country of Birth*
I think that would be better suited for the bio test on an individual profile rather than a category.
+4 votes
I was thinking about this the other day... We should have branch categories for army, navy, marines, etc... for people who were in them, and then war categories for people who are in them, if someone was in the army wwii they would be in two categories, etc... I put someone in a confederate or union soldier category the other day... category was already there, but i do like that... perhaps for wars you could have the two sides?
by Lindsay Tyrie G2G6 Mach 1 (18.1k points)
I've used this: [[Category:WWII]]
I don't have a lot of information yet about many of my familys military history.  If I use just the war, couldn't I go back and edit to something like [[Category:WWII_Army_France]]?  Or add Technician Fifth Grade?  The categories would continue to get thin after a while.  How far should it go?
Yes, you can edit the category on your profile to get more specific if you discover more specific information.

As for how far to go, that seems to still be under debate. :) It's true that making categories really specific now means that they're quite thin, but the issue is that we want the structure to still work when we have a lot more people in them.
+2 votes
What about something like this:

Wars, conflicts, etc would have a specific category, say for example WWII ([[Category:World War II]]).  This could be associated under MIlitary History under British, Canadian, American, German, Japanese, etc.

For military branches, you could have it go by Country, then Branch, then unit.  

You could then link these under categories for Veterans, Professions (for career personnel), etc.  

For grouping of specific Veteran groups, you could then create WWII US Army Veterans, WWII Canadian Army Veterans, etc.  You could classify these however you wanted, but roll them up under Veterans in general, the specific branch or unit, and under World War II..

It's begins to look like a spider web eventually, but this takes into account the fact that (for the sake of this discussion) all Veterans of a war or conflict are service members, but not all service members are veterans of a war or conflict.  

Hopefully if enough thought is put into it beforehand, you could feasibly create categories such that only one would need to be associated with a profile but by means of associated categories in the hierarchy, would serve all the functions as linking multiple categories to one profile.

And yes, sometimes I confuse myself, too!
by Allen Minix G2G6 Mach 1 (17.4k points)
You're thinking along the same lines as me, I think. I've just been undecided on whether there should be a WWII US Army Veterans category, or whether those should be two separate categories. There's one issue I still have: WWII US Army Veterans is still broad, because it doesn't split up into units. So if we're going on the theory that each profile should be in just one military category (assuming they fought in only one war), the number of categories would end up being the number of units times the number of wars, basically. Which is scary.

But I definitely agree with the rest of what you're saying: Have military branches split up by country, then branch, then unit (which I've already been doing; see Category:Canadian Armed Forces and Category:United States Armed Forces). Plus the whole spiderweb thing. I like it!
Take a look at Smithson-98 (Hugh Percy).  In this instance, he was most notably associated with two specific infantry units of the British Army, as well as a noted British General during the American Revolutionary War.  I resorted to using multiple categories in this case.  

I guess my wish is to try and accomplish categorization with as few as possible, but it would seem that in some cases multiple may be necessary.  (Which totally contradicts my previous post, I know!)  I guess you see my dilemma.
I like the way fold3 has the civil war soldiers organized. I can usually find a soldier pretty quickly just  by knowing his unit or by knowing which unit he was likely to join based on where he lived.

I also like being able to see all the other soldiers in the same unit- leads to other connections.
The more I think about it, the more I think that if you take out the part about units, your original explanation is perfect, Allen.

This is what I'm picturing (I'll use WWII as an example, because that's the one that's actually currently structured in a way I mostly like): We have Category:World War II. That contains categories such as World War II US Army Veterans, World War II Canadian Air Force Veterans, etc. People go right into those categories, and then also go into categories like Royal Winnipeg Rifles, etc. (ie. unit categories) which are a separate structure.

Then of course it would be nice to be able to view the intersection of two categories... I wonder if this would be a feasible thing to add (it's actually currently being debated as a new feature on Wikipedia). But I think trying to create that intersection through the categories themselves would be a lot harder than just keeping the two structures separate.

This is so much harder than the nice, simple location categories! :)
0 votes

Didn't even know there was a 'military' category.  There's nothing in the so-called COMPLETE help index.

There are lots of things that are hard to find on this site. I wish the help index would be improved upon or updated. 


We haven't really spread the word about categories a lot yet because we've just started using them. There is a page in the help index about them, though: It's still a work in progress.

If there are other things that you feel aren't adequately explained in the help pages, let me know, and I'll make a new page or improve an existing one! We're always trying to improve the help pages, and your feedback is helpful for that. :)
+2 votes


Hi All,
I'm catching up to this a bit late.
This is an important question. Which categories should veterans go in?
To organize my thoughts ...
I.) Military/Unit Classification
I think Allen is definitely right that categories such as "5th Regiment of Foot" make sense.
That's a simple and independent classification system. Military forces have always had these, so it's just a matter of figuring them out and knowing where people fit.
II.) Historical/Conflict Classification
So, if we have unit categories, do we need "veterans" categories at all? What's their value?
The basic benefits of categorization, as I see them:
1.) organize your own family history
2.) connect genealogists whose family histories intersect
3.) help historians who are researching specific subjects
Putting someone in an "American Revolution Veterans" category will have little value for #2 or #3, but they could definitely be useful for #1, especially when we can limit the display of categories by Watchlist. Many of us would like to be able to group our veteran ancestors. And many of us don't know their units.
Assuming we keep doing veterans categories, the next question is whether we should split them by country or side in addition to conflict, e.g.  "American Revolution Patriot Veterans" and "American Revolution British Veterans" instead of "American Revolution Veterans".
I'm thinking that maybe we should not, i.e. we should just have "American Revolution Veterans", "US Civil War Veterans", "World War II Veterans", etc. Subcategorization by nation is being done in the unit hierarchy.
If there is subcategorization in the veterans hierarchy, maybe it would make more sense to do it by battle or engagement, if at all.
The way I'm seeing it now, the unit hierarchy would be based on military classification. The veterans hierarchy would be based on historical experience.
III.) Professional Classification
There's at least one other way to categorize veterans: By their job in the military.
I've done this, for example, with "Generals" and "B-29 Navigators".
I think there's value in this -- for #2 and #3 in my "benefits of categorization" above.
That's not to say I think we should categorize privates, corporals, etc. Unless it's a command role, e.g. general, navy captain, where the rank equals the profession, rank is irrelevant (plus, it's fluid).
If we categorize command roles like "General" should it be "American Revolution British Generals", i.e. with conflict and country? Or just "British Generals" or what? I don't know.
So many questions. :-)
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Thanks for all the good info, Keith.

When you propose sub-categories of War/Era, Nation, and Branch, do you mean true sub-categories or all-in-categories like "US Army 761st Tank Battalion in World War II"? The latter makes for long category names and has various problems. But the former, e.g. "761st Tank Battalion" can't be cleanly subcategorized by conflict, because branches and units exist independent of the conflict, right? Part of the question here is whether to organize people from the same unit together, regardless of when they served.

As for why we want to categorize or group veterans together, I think one of the biggest reasons is to connect WikiTreers whose families share something in common. If you and I both had relatives who served in the 761st Tank Battalion, that could be a foundation for us to work together on a project.
I tend to be visualizing things in a hierarchy, wherein the Veteran Category is then broken down by Era, Nation and Branch in true sub-categories.
Certainly the desire to have enough specificity to allow connections between WikiTreers having ancestors with common service histories is understandable.  But I question the likelihood of that occurrence against the volume of effort and space required.
Era/War as a subcategory would take precedence (at least in my own thinking) for the very reason you point out: connectivity.  This conclusion being drawn from the simple fact that (then)Colonel Hal Moore and Colonel George A. Custer could never have met, despite the fact that both commanded the same regiment, (Custer 1876; Moore 1965).
A final thought from me being that whatever categories, sub-categories, articles or whatever makes sense to other contributors should certainly be established and tried.  No point in keeping the racehorses all tied to the fence due to one man's speculative misgivings.  ;o)
I went into the Categories:Military and did a little trial example.  Not sure it takes me where I want to go.   I did NOT  actually enter the suggested subcategories yet, thinking that it might confuse the software if there were to be more than one place where the same label was being directed.  Let me know if you think it is workable or would rather I remove it.
Hi Keith,

The level of specificity isn't something we really need to figure out now. That's something that can be done when people really get into categorizing profiles. Moreover, we're working on technical improvements that will make it easier to see profiles in subcategories.

What we do need to decide is the basic method of categorization. Right now we're getting more confused instead of less.

What is the basic hierarchy, in real WikiTree terms? You theoretically proposed this: War or Period > Country > Branch of Service > Unit. However, those aren't actual category names.

These could be category names: World War II > United States of America > US Army > 761st Tank Battalion. However, those don't work in a Mediawiki category hierarchy.

"United States of America" is not a subcategory of "World War II". "US Army" needs to include conflicts other than World War II, etc.

If you wanted to categorize by conflict and nation, it would be something like this: Military History > World War II > United States of America in World War II > US Army in World War II > US Army Battalions in World War II > US Army 761st Tank Battalion in World War II

If you wanted to categorize by unit, independent of conflict, it would be something like this: North America > United States of America > US Veterans > US Army Veterans > US Army World War II Veterans > US Army 761st Tank Battalion

Note that you can have cross-categorization or subcategories and multiple categorizations for the same person. A person could be in "US Army 761st Tank Battalion in World War II" and "US Army 761st Tank Battalion". And "US Army 761st Tank Battalion in World War II" can be a subcategory of both "US Army 761st Tank Battalion" and "US Army Battalions in World War II" at the same time.


My head hurts.
But then, it occurs to me that we better add all the Service Academies!  Cadets and Midshipmen who attended the academies formed life-long relationships with many of their fellow officers, and many were career soldiers, sailors, aviators and marines.
(I've already added a FreeSpace for the United States Naval Academy).
Hey Keith.

Categorizing real profiles is the best way to work through these questions. With a little trial and error, we'll figure things out.

I categorized your US Naval Academy page under US Navy and US Military Service Academies.

How about this one you created?
Should it just go into a "US Navy Patrol Squadrons" category, which then goes under US Navy?

Or maybe these three?
[[Category:Glenview, Illinois]]
[[Category:US Naval Reserve Units]]
[[Category:US Navy Patrol Squadrons]]
Based upon the discussion thus far, Chris, VP-60 should go into the three categories you have listed.
I haven't read all the comments in this thread...

Personally, lowest normal page would be unit for a specific era. Personal example, 19th Bomber Group in WWII.  It would have a list of the people in the unit, and for this specific case, the planes. For Navy, Armed Guard, USCG, merchant marine it is the ship, wing or shore command. For Army and Marines it's company.

Add the lower units to higher level pages as needed.

Each branch of service would have various eras, and for some like WWII, the regions (Pacific, Europe, Other).

I figure everybody has at least an idea of when and branch their relatives served. So under each branch's era would be "Individuals with no known unit". Repeat the no known unit at the lower levels, so I know one of my relatives was 82nd Airborne at D-Day, but nothing lower than the era (WWII), and division.

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