Currently, our help page on What topics can I ask about here? includes these dot points:

and it is not about:
 - Locating identifiable living individuals
 - Which genealogy software or website is “the best”
 - Developing genealogy software
 - Celebrity or biblical genealogy
 - General history

I suggest that we should add another one, perhaps as second on the list, with:

  • Asking broadly for "any information about a person/family/etc" instead of something specific.

I would include a link to such a question but they invariably are edited (often with much effort) by high rep users. Having this extra dot point would provide something to point at when closing as off topic due to being too broad.

We could link from "Asking broadly" to some relevant words on Meta G&FH SE about why such "cousin bait" questions (that are more suited to bulletin boards) are discouraged in favour of specific questions.

1 Answer 1


One line answer: Nope, you shouldn't modify the 'topic' help to exclude 'bad' questions.

At more length:

As per https://genealogy.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1447/104, I don't believe this is a question of 'off-topic' versus 'on-topic'. Finding information about ancestors is very much on-topic for this site, and it would be a very bad idea to try to justify closing such a question as off-topic.

The fact is, they're just very bad questions that are on-topic. They should be closed as 'too broad' or possibly 'unclear', and the OP referred to the help centre guidance on how to ask a good question: https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask (with a comment explaining what should be done to improve them) -- i.e. the same actions as are taken now.

However, I know the only content of the help center that you have any control over is scope... so since you've only got a hammer, this problem looks like a nail :) However, I think it would be a big mistake to confuse two distinct concepts in newcomers' minds: 'topic' and 'quality'. (Anyway, most people who post vague questions like this won't have looked at the Help Centre or even the tour, so you can't head the questions off at the pass, so to speak, but have to mop up afterwards.)

If you do want to modify the scope statement, I'd look at doing something more root and branch such as: https://stackoverflow.com/help/on-topic

On the subject of cousin bait, as I explained at length at Can I post cousin-bait on this site?, there's nothing wrong with it on this site at all, as long as it meets the criteria for good questions.

  • I think this is a great answer but I'll draw your attention to an old answer of yours which you may want to revise/reverse. I'll be surprised if I don't end up accepting your answer because I think it is so good.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Sep 29, 2015 at 9:36
  • @PolyGeo Yep, we were using the scope discussions as a hammer because we didn't have any other tools!
    – user104
    Sep 29, 2015 at 11:02
  • 2
    @PolyGeo I'd support a meta-question about why such broad questions are not acceptable if it gave actionable guidelines on how to improve them: e.g. focus on a single fact about a single individual and tell us what you've already tried...
    – user104
    Sep 29, 2015 at 16:19

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