scroll boxes allowed in bios still? [closed]

+9 votes
I read somewhere - and now I can't find it - that scroll boxes are now a no-no in bios (well, not those words, but stronger than "not recommended").

This profile of Magna Carta surety baron Saher de Quincy has several. Is that ok or does the profile need to be redone? If it's not ok, can you point me to the policy that says that?

WikiTree profile: Saier de Quincy
closed with the note: answered (no) & the scroll boxes removed from Quincy-226
in Policy and Style by Liz Shifflett G2G6 Pilot (319k points)
closed by Liz Shifflett
I've been removing them as I run across them.
For me I have a hard time reading stuff. To me shorter is better. I scroll right straight through the bio to see how long it is. If it is short I more then likely will read it. It needs to keep my interest for me to read anything long.

I have had scroll boxes i agreement forms from other sites and just scroll right through them without reading them.
I’ve moved this to the Policy area of G2G as this is really a policy issue not a technical matter.
I had it under tech because I thought the decision to not use scroll boxes was based on technical reasons.
They are a no-no and have been since 2015

5 Answers

+16 votes
Best answer

The scroll box uses inline css (<blockquote style="outline:black solid thin; height: 300px; overflow-y: scroll">) which is not allowed.

by Jamie Nelson G2G6 Pilot (203k points)
selected by Steve Schmidt
They make the profile frustratingly difficult to read.
The only reason I can see not to use them is that they do not print well.

Otherwise, I find the extremely long profiles (see Liz's example of Saier de Quincy) really hard to deal with.  If I'm doing research about these people, I want to see the facts cleanly (birth, marriage, clear list of children, death), and don't much care about the glorious escapades of a life.  When I'm just musing around, I like to read the long stories and will scroll through it all.
That link just says they are not recommended? That is different from not allowed?

Anyway in general I think long wikitree profiles are not normally good ones. Possibly one day I'll see an exception, but this case is more typical: big cut and pastes from different sources starting with a 19th century one, and still including fossilized footnotes, showing that no one has really edited this. Lots of repetition and material that is about other profiles. (We have everything for every member of his family from MEDLANDS?)

There probably is a lot to say about this person genealogically if we wanted to put our effort into that.
A good question, Andrew.  Does not recommended equal not allowed?

And I agree about, especially about unattributed blocks lifted from random sites - creates much noise and little illumination.
+5 votes

I hope that someone is thinking about our ancestors with worldwide connections where good folks have taken time to translate (quote) biographies into some other language(s).  Profiles will become extremely lengthy without using scroll boxes.  Of course this IMHO appears to be about as clear as the use of <span> tags... see  

The only thing constant in life is change- Heraclitus of Ephesus

by David Wilson G2G6 Mach 8 (84.2k points)
I’m not a fan of scroll boxes — they also don’t print well — but you raise a good point and I love the Heraclitus reference.

The span tag is a PITA but it does offer the benefit of citing a single reference with different page numbers or other details. That said, isn’t the span tag technically disallowed html? If not, why is some html allowed and not others ?

Oops. I see that the span tag is allowed.

I'm also not a fan of the span tag.  Total  PITA.
+6 votes
Scroll boxes allow for the inclusion of long documents (wills come to mind) and detailed presentations of evidence, without unbalancing the basic layout of the profile.
by J S G2G6 Mach 9 (92.7k points)
I've created space pages for wills, etc.
I create freespace pages for lengthy documents like Wills.  Then on the main profile's page I put a link.  One line instead of not-allowed scroll boxes.  Works for me.
Ros, I think you're mistaken in saying "not allowed," at least per the current guidelines.  Back when I was a wikitree leader, there was no controversy over using scroll boxes, and I was encouraged to figure out how to add them.

John they got not-recommended in the 2015 Style guide revisions. The directions needed to create them are not on the list of recommended wikitree tags.

Not a fan of scroll boxes either. I see nothing inherently bad about longer bios when the content is well written and non-repetitive.
Bios with several headings automatically generate a table of contents, making it easy to jump to a section. It is also possible to add links to other sections of the bio. So solutions for long bios exist without scroll boxes (as long as they are properly structured).
Hi everybody, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I wrote a long separate answer, sharing my perspective with examples.
+8 votes
My answer has more to do with personal preference than policy or style guidelines but I pass over information contained in a scroll box.  I don't take the time to read it or overly long or disordered bios.  I'm probably not the only one.  I think scroll boxes don't work because many readers just won't take the time to read the material contained in them.

I have been guilty of writing overly long bios but I have since tried to keep them short and sweet. Scroll boxes add clutter in my opinion and probably few people read them.  Keeping bios short and well organized is more pleasing visually and shorter bios get people to read them.
by David Douglass G2G6 Mach 7 (79k points)
+5 votes

I'm going to respond to other people's comments, and I welcome further discussion.  

First of all, regarding the suggestion that Free Space pages be used instead of scroll boxes, I have two reservations about that.  Sometimes it can work well, but sometimes the content of the scroll box isn’t enough to warrant creating a separate page.  And furthermore, I think that Free Space pages will eventually be eliminated, so I’m inclined to avoid going there..

Here is an example of a profile where I inserted a scroll box at the end, with the will of Thomas Tobey-9 at  I think this will is  notable because of the detailed instructions with which Thomas divided his land AND his house AND his barn between his two youngest sons, who had married their step-sisters.   (I’m descended from one of these two youngest sons, and my fellow leader emeritus Jillaine Smith is descended from the other one.)  In my opinion, including the entire will as a block of text at the bottom of the profile is unbalanced, because the rest of the profile isn’t that long.  My solution: a scroll box for the will.  Others are welcome to share their thoughts on aesthetically pleasing alternatives for this profile.  

A similar example is the profile of William Joseph Coons-329.  On this profile I could have used a scroll box for the military record of his company in General Sherman’s Army during the Civil War.  This block of text, just a list of marches and engagements, doesn’t blend in well with the rest of the profile, and many people will want to skip it over, although some descendants will be interested in coming back with an atlas and tracing the route that he traveled on his grand tour of the South with rifle in hand.  In my opinion, a scroll box would reduce the visible size of this block of text, making the profile look neater and “tucking away” significant information that won’t be important to many people.

Moving on to another point: somebody mentioned that there are solutions for long profiles without scroll boxes, as long as they are properly structured.  I agree, and I think a good example is my profile of John Carpenter-4118 at This man’s life was repeatedly touched by history, and his profile deserves more than a simple, boring bare-bones recitation of documented vital statistics.  I didn't use scroll boxes, but I did use a LOT of embedded links to help interested readers read further, as I tried to avoid cluttering up the profile with too much information.  Hopefully I achieved a reasonable balance.

Moving on to a different point, there were a couple of comments about “keeping it simple.”  Perhaps people could share examples of well-done profiles discussing genealogical headaches with snippets of circumstantial evidence that support a likely but unproven conclusion.  In my opinion, this is where scroll boxes are ideal.  Perhaps others could suggest alternatives to the way I have arranged the following profiles.

First of all is Samuel Durham-206 at
I began the profile with discussion of his uncertain parentage.  This gets a bit complicated, and I presented six interrelated points leading to the supposition that Samuel was a son of Thomas Durham by an unknown first wife.  The problem is, all of this evidence at the beginning of the profile is going to make the causal surfer’s eyes glaze over, so I put it in a scroll box so people could just skip it over if they wanted.  For a situation like this, I don’t like a Free Space page, because the discussion of his likely father should be front-and-center in the profile.  And once again, I think those Free Space pages are going to disappear…

Another example is John Colclough-52 at

I actually used three scroll boxes on this profile.  I’m pretty sure I came up with an original discussion of the only plausible parentage for him, disproving (or so I imagine) the other contenders.  And then I had to show the likelihood that two John Colcloughs in different counties were one and the same person.  It’s easy to get the gist: here is his likely father, and it is likely that there was just one man in two separate counties, not two men.  But the snippets of evidence supporting these suppositions can get overwhelming, and the casual reader loses sight of the forest for the trees.  My solution to keep the profile neat: scroll boxes that internet surfers can easily skip over; but they’re available with the relevant information for those careful genealogists who want to mull over all the evidence without clicking back and forth to a Free Space page.

A final example is William Davis-19677 of Pittsylvania County, Virginia (d. 1791) at

I’m proud of the research I did on this ancestor, and it seems to me that there’s simply no way to “keep it simple.”  This William Davis has been confused with three different William Davises from three different Virginia counties.  Furthermore, there were at least SEVEN DIFFERENT William Davises living in Pittsylvania County during the time he was there.  I had to sort them out by tracking down every Davis record I could find in Pittsy in the 18th century and organizing all the results.  (I created a Free Space page as a dumping ground for some of this overflow of information.)  Furthermore, a different William Davis (who moved to Kentucky) was falsely attached to this William Davis’s father by a respected genealogist.  So I have to show the disproof of that one, too.  The result has been an ever-expanding, half-baked monster profile that has been cooling on the back burner.  So far I haven’t used any scroll boxes for that profile.  Is there a good way to organize all the relevant information without them?

by J S G2G6 Mach 9 (92.7k points)
John, thank you for putting forward your arguments in favor of scroll boxes.  And those profiles are fantastic!

Clarifying question: you wrote :

I think that Free Space pages will eventually be eliminated...

What evidence leads you to this? I’ve only seen increase in the use of free space pages. And I don’t think I’ve seen any reference or hint that they are frowned upon. What are you seeing that’s leading you to this thought? Thanks. 

Here is the logical chain:

1.  Bandwidth is limited and costs money.

2.  Free space pages take up bandwidth.

3. Free space pages are unlimited and unregulated, so there is a growing clutter of "deadwood" free space pages, sort of like a pack-rat's clutter slowly filling up an attic.

4.  Eventually, the use of free space pages will have to be restricted or abolished entirely, especially as wikitree continues growing and the use of bandwidth becomes an issue.

Perhaps that won't take place for ten years; I have no idea.  But it's sort of like the national debt that keeps growing and growing.  That can't go on forever, even if we'd rather not think about it.
Reasonable conclusion, IMO.  May be hard to keep WT free if no one is looking at logical outcomes.

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