I check G&FH at least once day. This morning a new question (Getting birth certificate of German born in Romania in 1895) was already closed as a duplicate because it asked for birth records in a particular country. (The answer should address time-frame and region, not just the whole country; the accepted answer is too limited, in my opinion, to be used for all cases).

Last week, a question on World War 2 occupations (German Soldier in WWII) was already closed when I saw it, because it was assumed that it could be answered by the excellent answer on German military records.

In both cases, I think the moderators jumped the gun. I left comments, but I suspect the OPs won't be back after seeing the closures. I know comments are considered transitory, but they have been useful. That the question might be re-opened after edits is not well-explained.

Should there be a minimum time period before closure to allow other users, perhaps more familiar with the particular subject, to assess the question?


3 Answers 3



I would tend to disagree with my fellow mods on this.

To get the community to engage and moderate the site, there needs to be content to moderate. And if we rush to closing questions, even if as simple as a duplicate, then users of the site don't tend to even look at the question, never mind vote or act on it.

It's no wonder that users don't vote on questions, or vote to close or reopen, if in general there is very little content to engage with.

For whatever reason, questions once closed are only rarely reopened on this site. So closure does seem to be a rather final action in most cases.

The stats from last year at 2019: a year in moderation:

  • 95 questions closed by mods, 1 by the community
  • 2 questions re-opened by mods, 0 by the community

That's not really the way it's supposed to be. The only way to get the community to take these actions is for the mods to step back a bit.

In general I would say to the mods: if its an obvious verbatim duplicate, then close it. If it's clearly off-topic, close it. If there's doubt, either confer with other mods or wait for the community to give their input. If the question is a few days old and the community has still done nothing, then close it.

Sometimes moderator action needs to be done swiftly. Closure of most questionable questions on this site is not one of them.

  • 2
    I agree with you. Its a tad disheartening to visit the site during my lunch-break only to find that all questions are already closed, welcomes posted, comments for clarity asked, etc. Giving the community more of a voice would be welcome. Jan 14, 2020 at 13:37
  • 1
    @PeterKuehne I would say that there's no harm in having multiple welcome messages.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Jan 15, 2020 at 0:19
  • @PeterKuehne Sorry that I had not noticed when you joined our site two months ago. Welcome to G&FH SE! I'm glad you already found the Tour to learn about our focussed Q&A format and hope you'll ask many questions, and receive and provide many great answers.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Jan 15, 2020 at 1:15
  • @PeterKuehne I'm afraid that's inevitable in a site that only gets a few questions (if that) a day and so has more active users than questions. By the time I get to the site at typically 0700 my time, our active Australian and US users/mods have dealt with everything that came up 'overnight'.
    – user6485
    Jan 15, 2020 at 8:56
  • However, you can be relatively certain that I won't be issuing 'all the welcomes' -- IMO they're patronising chit-chat especially boiler-plate ones (which is ironic because they encourage users to take the Tour which promises them no chit-chat). However, they seem to be part of the culture of this site, so I grit my teeth and move on... I will welcome somebody as part of a necessary comment, but not just for the sake of welcoming them.
    – user6485
    Jan 15, 2020 at 8:56
  • Harry, do you not think that reducing the number of votes needed to close will allow moderators to step back a little?
    – user6485
    Jan 15, 2020 at 8:58
  • @ColeValleyGirl I think welcoming new members to a community is a nice thing to do, whatever the community. Since this site lacks a messaging feature, it will have to be done in comments... Jan 15, 2020 at 9:00
  • @PeterKuehne, as I said it seems to be an accepted piece of chitchat round here. I frequent a number of other sites and never see it there.
    – user6485
    Jan 15, 2020 at 9:04
  • @Cole Re: reducing number of close votes needed - yes, voted in support of that on the other question
    – Harry V. Mod
    Jan 15, 2020 at 15:34
  • 1
    I think closing too much does not hurt as much as re-opening too little. I have seen a somewhat recent question that was bad first but then got improved. While I voted to re-open this never happened.
    – nebulon42
    Jun 5, 2020 at 21:08

As moderators, we try to stick to @Shog9's advice to moderators when deciding whether to close/re-open vote:

When you see a post you think should be closed, close it. When you see a post you think should be re-opened, re-open it. If you're not sure, don't do either.

In the case of this question, the answer at https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/13077/6485 seemed totally appropriate.

However, if you disagree, you can vote to reopen. (A comment explaining why it's not a duplicate wold be helpful to others if you do so).

  • Today's Romania question closure may have been warranted anyway; it doesn't have enough detail (yet) to address specifically. The linked question is for a specific region (Bucaresti), where I don't have expertise. There are a few other past answers that might also been applied. My issue is the timing of closure, which I guess you've addressed.
    – bgwiehle
    Jan 13, 2020 at 16:40
  • @bgwiehle I was spoiled for choice when trying to pick a question to which it was a duplicate -- in the end I went for the one that didn't have a reqion-specific answer.
    – user6485
    Jan 13, 2020 at 16:42
  • @bgwiehle We can add extra duplicates to any question closed as a duplicate so feel free to alert us to those using flags and providing their links. It's very easy to do with mod privileges, and I think those with a gold dupe hammer can do it too.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Jan 13, 2020 at 21:35
  • @PolyGeo What is a "gold dupe hammer" and how do I know if I have it? (I checked the list of my privileges, but am still confused).
    – bgwiehle
    Jan 14, 2020 at 22:36
  • @bgwiehle You get a dupehammer for any tag that you have earned a gold badge for - see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/230865/… In your case the tag badges you have for united-states and germany are both bronze - see genealogy.stackexchange.com/users/279/… For more about tag badges (bronze, silver and gold) see meta.stackexchange.com/a/63836/215590
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Jan 14, 2020 at 23:34
  • I wonder how much different this place would be if things weren't so slow. How many of our users have gold badges in topics (and thus would earn a dupehammer)?
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Jan 15, 2020 at 0:16
  • @JanMurphy I suspect none - not even our top 3 (you, HarryVervet and lkessler) have a gold tag badge yet. If we had more posts, votes and edits our site would be awesome for genealogy, family history and microhistory.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Jan 15, 2020 at 1:08
  • @PolyGeo My point exactly, I only have one silver tag badge so far (United States).
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Jan 15, 2020 at 3:21
  • @JanMurphy every upvote cast puts someone 10 pts closer to at least one gold tag badge (and a dupehammer) - genealogy.stackexchange.com/users?tab=Voters&filter=all - and every edit made helps improve a post and push it towards its next upvote - genealogy.stackexchange.com/users?tab=Editors&filter=all
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Jan 15, 2020 at 3:31

I echo @ColeValleyGirl's answer and would like to emphasize that quick closing works best when used hand-in-hand with quick re-opening.

If you ever see a question that you think is closed when it should be open (or open when you think it should be closed), and if you have the cast close and re-open votes privilege which comes at a reputation of 500, then be sure to vote the way you see fit.

If you do not have that privilege, or if you see waiting for 5 close/re-open votes being too slow on our site, then just flag a moderator, and explain your reasoning to get us to review for instant action.

If any experienced G&FH SE user flags me to re-open a question because they have an answer to provide, I usually re-open that question instantly.

If the actions above do not result in a particular question reaching the open/closed status that you think it should have, then be sure to ask about that particular question here on Meta G&FH SE because that is another way we can decide to change its status, and to help tune our site's scope.

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