Should we add to our faq that questions will be closed unless they contain sufficient citations? For example where-in-mi-or-ny-did-frank-phoenix-virginia-duc-woods-marry seems a straight forward enough genealogical question to me (where did two people marry). Yet it was closed as

closed as not a real question by π Luke♦ Dec 19 at 18:01

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.

It appears to me based on the comments that the reason it was closed was not because it wasn't a real question but because sufficient info wasn't supplied to be able to answer easily because citations weren't supplied for the information in the question.

Other examples might be g-grandparents-brickwall-kilkenny-charles-and-sweeney-magovern or which-french-male-in-montgomery-county-ny-is-the-father-of-john-s-french-who.

I personally think it is a mistake for this site to turn away 'casual' genealogists by closing their questions instead of helping them improve them (which stack exchange has a different process for and closing them is not the mechanism) or just leaving them open. However if this group feels that it is appropriate to close if sufficient citations are not supplied then we should be explicit and say so in the faq. If we don't feel the citations are needed, then we shouldn't close those questions (and we should vote to reopen the ones that are there). As is, we are sending a very mixed message to the vast majority of people interested in genealogy.

Full disclosure, the questions mentioned above are not mine and I have no interest in them. However I did have one of my questions closed that I then put alot of effort into responding to all the comments and it was not reopened. I gave up on this site for awhile but thought that was petty so I reengaged. Further research showed the deck is stacked against reopening questions on se (they are looking at changing the mechanics but problem is this particular closing reason is stop flamewars so it has to be set fairly biased like it is now). So instead I am trying to solve the generic problem of what exactly are we looking for and what is the right mechanism to get it. I deleted my question so this shouldn't be seen as a roundabout way to get my question reopened. Note the reason I deleted is so my relatives at our reunion (who I'd been promoting the site to) wouldn't see it and get discouraged.

Note the person who asked the first question above doesn't appear to have come back after the first few days of attempting to fix their questions. I believe that supports my contention that we discouraging them from participating by closing their questions. Although it's possible they are just going to the website without logging in.

1 Answer 1


There's a piece at https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/how-to-ask which I think encapsulates why people are asking for more detail about what work an OP has already done. (As far as I know, there's identical guidance for all stackexchange sites).

Do your homework

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and most of all it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

Given that genealogy/family history is absolutely rooted in the informed use of sources, is it unreasonable to ask what sources an OP has based the information in their question upon, so that we can assess how reliable the information they've provided is and avoid duplicating work they've already done?

That said, I wonder if as a community we've made a rod for our own backs by trying to be "nice" and not down-voting content if it's poor. Would 'casual' genealogists (Duncan's term) be less put off by seeing negative scores for their questions, and/or by just not getting answers? I don't know.

I'll just add that Genealogy/Family History is one area where, with the best will in the world, it isn't always possible to fix a question if you're not the OP. G Grandparents brickwall - Kilkenny/Charles and Sweeney//Magovern is a good example -- only the OP could tell us what countries the persons of interest lived in. Somebody attempted an answer, but with the little information that was provided (both by questioner and answerer) there's no way of telling whether they were talking about the same people or just some individuals who happened to share the same names.

  • my issue isn't with downvoting or comments - both of which I think are appropriate for low quality questions. My issue was with closing them as opposed to leaving them open with comments, downvotes, and edits. Nothing in genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/how-to-ask says the question will be closed unless you provide citations. In fact the words citation and reference never appear. It says to do your homework and say what found. To most people that would not include citations. In fact there is a lot of chatter in geneaology blogosphere on where appropriate or not to include in blogs.
    – Duncan
    Dec 29, 2012 at 14:36
  • I'm clear that you have an issue with the reasons for closing some questions. I understand you're happy with down-voting, or with not getting answers at all; I was wondering out-loud whether newbies would be (I suspect the distinction might be lost on them). I also thought I'd been very clear: I believe we should include a very clear recommendation that people document their previous research, otherwise their question is likely to be deemed low-quality or even NARQ. But we've only heard from you and me so far -- let's both wait for others to express their views?
    – user104
    Dec 29, 2012 at 14:46
  • I agree with Cole. The FAQ is still the standard boilerplate FAQ. No site-specific changes have been made on our FAQ yet. It is yet to be decided what will go in it.
    – Luke_0
    Dec 29, 2012 at 14:49
  • My point in asking this question on meta was to make some of these decisions. If the decision is to require citations or question will be closed, then say so in faq. I don't have to agree - I just want it clear and documented if that is the community decision. The community is already behaving that way, so document it. My opinion that it hurts the site more than it helps is already clear. I've had my say, but I'm the minority. So the majority should document their decision so people coming to the site realize.
    – Duncan
    Dec 29, 2012 at 17:43
  • @Duncan, I don't know if you're in the minority or not -- that's why I want to listen to others.
    – user104
    Dec 29, 2012 at 17:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .