As I write this, How (and if) to include name change for transgender person in genealogy? has two close votes, with the reason given being that the answers are likely to be "opinion-based".

Under that option, the advice says:

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

I think an exception needs to be made about seemingly "opinion-based" questions when the question involves the standards, especially the ethical standards, of the genealogical community. This is a question where we can point to specific expertise and references in our answers. This particular question may attract a lot of "well I think" blah blah answers, but if we get low-quality answers of that kind, with no references to published community standards, we can protect the question to prevent chatter and noise.

I respect the community members who voted to close the question. In this case, however, it seems clear that the opinion that really counts is the living person whose information will be included or withheld in the work of genealogy. I think it's important to have a canonical answer for questions like these which we can point to in the future, and I've done my best to make one, using references and pointers to specific expertise.

I welcome suggestions that community members can use when editing questions to make them less likely to attract "well I think this" answers.


2 Answers 2


Firstly, I agree with you that the only opinion that really counts is the living person whose information will be included or withheld in the genealogical work.

I am one of the people who voted to close. My problem with this question is that it actually asks for the opinions of this community, rather than asking if there are any generally agreed standards or approaches in the wider genealogical community.

As it stands (and in my opinion) the question is essentially an invitation to discuss the subject. Almost any (hopefully considered) opinion would be an equally 'valid' answer.

In my experience, answers to questions worded in that way generally do attract answers:

... almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

Protecting the question after the event is rather like closing the stable-door after the horse has bolted. I would argue that either editing the question, or closing it so that the OP can edit it, into a form better suited to SE sites are better responses.

Having said that, I also agree that it would be great to have a bank of canonical answers to questions about standards on G&FH:SE for future reference, and I rather like what you have done in this case.

But in general, questions about standards (and, as you say, perhaps especially ethical standards) should explicitly ask for those standards that have been adopted by the wider genealogical community, rather than just asking "What do you think?".

  • 3
    I agree, and am glad to have this answer on record so that members of the community can see it. If we're going to ask users to edit a question to be less opinion-based, it's good to have an example of what to do instead. I think the question should be edited -- and it was wrong of me to assume that a close vote means a vote to close a question permanently.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 1:55
  • 1
    FWIW I've edited the question to ask explicitly for expert advice rather than opinions.
    – user6485
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 12:12
  • @ColeValleyGirl And I have retracted my close-vote since the edit. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 1:04
  • Who should edit the question to ask for standards / guidance / whatever? The Original Poster may not have the concepts to know what to ask for - should the "expert" suggest a form of words and ask if that makes sense to the OP? And agree btw them who should edit it in?
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:05
  • @AdrianB38 In general, I would prefer that the OP makes the actual edit since it is their question, and 'ownership' can be important. Requests for clarification and/or suggestions for improvements are exactly the sort of thing that comments are intended for. However, if the the OP can't or won't make the changes then (when the question is worth keeping) perhaps the community here should intervene. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:19
  • I'd agree with you that it is preferable that the OP does the edit. How about the extent to which the "expert" guides the OP, who may not realise that genealogical standards, best practices, etc, exist?
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:27
  • @AdrianB38 That's a good question. I don't think that there is any official guidance exists, so it probably comes down to the best judgement of the person posting the comments. That may be something worth asking as a question in its own right here on meta. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 22:03
  • @AdrianB38 Fair point. If the close vote had come with a comment explaining the issue (or somebody had linked to this MetaQ), the OP could have understood the need to fix it or ask for clarification about why opinions versus expert advice matter. But we collectively fell down on the job -- and I decided to act quickly as soon as the question was featured on HNQ to head off any doubt about the sorts of subjective questions we welcome here. (This was after it had accumulated an answer referring to ethical standards etc.)
    – user6485
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 8:18
  • @ColeValleyGirl The problem for me is partially with the SE Android app. Sometimes it simply doesn't allow me to post comments, particularly if there are already more than 3 or 4 comments on a question (it only seems to display a limited number of comments), although I'm told that may be due to a combination of the Android version & functionality in the app. In this case, I'd meant to check when I got back on the PC, to see if anyone had added more guidance in comments but irl stuff got in the way until this question reminded me. Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 0:13

I agree.

I do not think this question should be closed for the precise reasons that you have presented.

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