Yikes! This page requires printing out and careful reading. It's overwhelming for a newbie such as myself.

I got excited when I saw the link to "List of Categories" but when I got there, I saw a long list of numbers, not of Categories. When I clicked on one of the four-digit numbers, it said "Births in (some year) Category: 11th century". That seems backward to me.

Anyway, I'm still looking for a list of categories. Jillaine 14:21, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

Found them[]

Well I found the "list" of categories by going to the end of the category list, then working backward, but I gotta say, from a newbie perspective, and trying to understand how best to use and apply categories to the pages I'm working on, this is VERY confusing. (Is there any way to break the category list down so that all the years are grouped together and we can quickly jump to different parts of the alphabet?) Seems to me that the whole function of a CATEGORY is thrown out the window if there as many "categories" as links or pages.

I fear that when you get more people like me over here-- people who want to contribute genealogical information, but are not wiki-smart-- that we are going to make a mess of things. Or be so afraid of using the wrong categories that we don't use any at all. Then those of you with wiki-smarts will spend all your time cleaning up after us. (That may not be a bad thing, but I doubt that's why YOU're here...)

The section in this Help:Category page called "Considerations" should really be edited by someone who is wiki-smart and who can speak "newbie" language as well, who can make this a bit more context-specific. For example:

  1. When do we add a place category to a page about a person?
  2. When do we create a YEAR category? (This one I REALLY don't get. That long list of years seems like an utter mess to me.)

I'm sure there's more, but we newbies-- at least this one-- really need greater guidance about when to use and not use categories. AND an easier way to find out which categories should be used such that we all contribute to a great GeneaWikia.

Jillaine 12:30, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

The "categories" has been an issue that has come up previously; discussions have led to easier ways to get to categories. (see Help:Surname categories grouped by initial letters for a partial solution.) On a personal level, I probably agree with you on some of your comments, particularly with regard to the utility of a "year" category, but others find this particularly useful. So, in situations such as this, where you may find something completely illogical, it's probably because it meets a specific need that you do not have. Which is not to say that there's no room for improvement. For one thing, we need a better pointer to the item I just referred you to. Right now it's tucked away under the title "Indexes" on the community portal, and I suspect it needs to be in something related to categories. Bill 14:03, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
"Help:Surname categories grouped by initial letters" is ALSO directly linked from half a dozen pages including Main Page/Getting Started and the slightly obvious "Help:Surname categories". That latter Help page was created last September, and was then listed once (and is from today shown twice) on Category:Surnames as well as being linked from half a dozen other pages including Main Page. I've just added a direct link to the long one to Category:Surnames too. Robin Patterson 03:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Lists of categories[]

There's more than one "List of Categories". Jillaine didn't tell us what page she actually found, and I couldn't recognise it from her description.

That would be Special:Categories Jillaine 13:51, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Doing an ordinary "Go" for it...

Something new... What's a "Go"?? ;-) Jillaine 13:51, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
Look in the navigation pane (usually to the left side of the screen, but varies depending on the "skin" you've selected. The search box has two buttons. One is "Go" which takes you directly to the page you ask for (assuming that you've actually entered a complete page title that matches something). Bill 14:42, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
Ah, I see... a type of search-- or rather a way of using the search box to go directly to a page. Kinda like Google's "I'm feeling lucky" link. Okay. Thanks! Jillaine 17:00, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

...brought me to a page our graves expert created (not matching Jillaine's description), which was more of a table than a list and was primarily aimed at categorising military origins of grave occupants, so I've renamed it less ambiguously and included it on the list of options for people who try the word "Categories" in the search box.

Here are two lists of "all" categories (one of which I expect Jillaine found):

Finally for today, here are the uncategorised categories (dozens of which are "redirects" but some of which need my attention!):

Robin Patterson 03:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Uncategorised and uncategorized categories[]

Oh dear my... I fear to tread... Jillaine 13:51, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
I just tread and read... what is it that makes these uncategorized? And how do I avoid creating an uncategorized category? Jillaine 14:03, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't want to encourage you to avoid creating uncategorized categories. Every category created in the simple way starts life uncategorized. (It doesn't mean "decategorized"). Then the lucky ones (ideally all except the top cat) get categorized, i.e. put into a category or two or three. Current score is over 97%, so - no worry. Goodnight/morning! Robin Patterson 15:54, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
Robin, I really want to understand this process-- how uncategorized categories become categorized. Can you point me in the right direction to where I can learn more about this? (I've read the general category help pages, but I've yet to see in those pages how uncategorized categories are handled.) Understanding how you all do this may go a long way to helping me understand how this Wiki-space is organized. Thanks! Jillaine 17:00, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
The simple (not always the quickest but generally the best) way to create a new category is (er - from memory!!):
---Type [[category:Name of new category]] on another page - often an article but possibly a category or image or Help page etc - then Save.
---Click on the (red) category link that has just appeared, and you will find that category waiting to be edited (but listing your "base" page or category already). If you do nothing more, that "proposed" category will be listed under Special:Wantedcategories - currently 831 of the poor little mites, I see, though some were mistakes that can be buried and forgotten.
So um... I went and looked at Special:Wantedcategories and um... tried to "help you out" by editing the category pages for them, but even after reloading, the ones I edited are still "wanted". Did I do something wrong? Jillaine 18:22, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
---The category will become fully alive, no longer listed as "Wanted" (Who said "Every child a wanted child"??) as soon as you or someone else edits and saves it (giving it text such as an introductory sentence, and/or typing [[category:Name of PARENT category for our dear new much-wanted category]]).
If you added just text etc without a category, your new category will be one step up from "Wanted": it's now merely "Uncategorized" - meaning it is a sort of orphan with no parent category. It exists and will appear in Special:Categories.
If you did, however, give it a category tag (for an existing category or another new one) using the above process for it in turn, then as soon as you save it it will be an ordinary fully-formed parented category (i.e. a subcategory of that parent). You can click on its parent category to see whether that exists or is, in turn, a new wanted category.
And on you go, happily contributing to a vibrant and cohesive wiki.
Robin Patterson 15:13, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
Fascinating. Thanks, Robin. But isn't there then some ur-ur-gros-foreparent-of-all categories that won't itself have a parent? ;-) Jillaine 15:35, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

"Place" categories[]

I don't use them for individuals' pages at all. I think the only justification would be if a person stayed in one place all of his or her life. "Place" categories collect pages and subcategories about a place, such as:

  • the main article for the place (preferably listed first in the "Articles" section)
  • cemeteries' pages
  • history page (where that's too long to be comfortably shown in the place article)
  • suburbs' pages
  • for a port, its ship pages
  • family history societies
  • "Surname in place" pages, such as "Coker in Alabama"
  • other repositories if numerous

Robin Patterson 03:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Robin, This is exactly the kind of explanation that should be added to the HELP pages-- or a particular section of HELP aimed specifically at newbies. Thanks. Jillaine 14:16, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm copying it now, for that purpose. Robin Patterson 15:13, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

"Year" categories[]

These are just like Wikipedia's year categories - the year is the page name. (Same with year pages) They are grouped in centuries - not too much scrolling there! - and should include links to adjacent years. See

See Forum:Standardising "year" articles for some discussion of what should be on a year page as distinct from its corresponding category. Robin Patterson 03:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

To use or not to use?[]

Jillaine says, with utmost consideration, "we are going to ... be so afraid of using the wrong categories that we don't use any at all. Then those of you with wiki-smarts will spend all your time cleaning up after us."

Be less afraid (or not at all). Generally one "wrong" category is better than none at all. But:

  1. There's no really wrong category apart from one that has no relation to the subject; sometimes a better one could have been chosen because it already existed and would do the intended job better (eg by linking to more pages or being in a form that would be easier to find in lists))
  2. Changing a "wrong" category is easy; where things get time-consuming is where some keen newbie creates a "wrong" category then enthusiastically gives it an introductory paragraph and parent categories and so on. All have to be undone and/or redirected, one page at a time.

How to find the best one if it exists[]

  1. If you can find similar pages, see what categories are used for them.
  2. Use (one or more of) exactly the same categories as Wikipedia uses for similar pages; go to edit the WP page and copy the categories direct from its edit box and paste into your page.
  3. Think of the most particular/distinctive word or two in what you think the category should be, and try a Search for that; look at the most promising: it or one of its subcategories may be just what you want.
  4. Save the page without a category but create a Forum:Help desk item (with a link to the page) explaining the position. Someone "with wiki-smarts" will notice soon and probably find the best category, apply it, and tell you gratefully. Robin Patterson 03:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

How to get more proficient[]

Click (best temporarily using a new window if your page-opening rate is slow) on each unfamiliar category shown on pages you visit. That will give you a feel for how things fit together. Robin Patterson 03:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Improvements to Help:Category[]

I plan to incorporate a little of this page, as suggested. Robin Patterson 03:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Done. Robin Patterson 15:54, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

SO happy to hear this, Robin; this is ALL great stuff. I'm also drafting my own Newbies page, initially compiling what I'm learning, but ultimately hoping to craft something aimed at other people like me.
If you ask Bill nicely, he may show you his and Margie's to save you a lot of typing. Robin Patterson 15:54, 5 July 2007 (UTC)