Wikipedia has become the go-to source for an initial overview of any topic, from American history to episodes of Doctor Who. Historical figures are usually well-represented, and I can look up King Henry VIII or Captain James Cook and get a fairly good idea of his life.
But what if the person you are searching for isn’t there? Wikipedia has aternatives.
Here I am searching for David Whippy, one of my ancestors who settled in Fiji in 1825.
The first result is probably relevant. When I go to the article, however, the link in the article to David Whippy gives me this:
I am tempted now to write an article for David Whippy myself, and one day I will. In the meantime, Wikipedia offers alternatives in its ‘sister projects’:
Wikibooks is a collaborative, open-source project to build textbooks, including children’s books and cookbooks. There are currently 2,686 books on computing, languages, history, and much more. Nothing on Fiji, but there is one called A Concise New Zealand History. The book on Australian history is not yet finished.
Wikiquotes is a free compendium of quotes, with sources and links back to Wikipedia for more information. There are quotes from famous people, literary works, films and TV shows, proverbs and much more.
Wikisource is ‘a free library that anyone can improve’, with a current total of 287,335 texts in English. It has everything from out-of-copyright fiction to United States Senate Committee testimony. The portal page for the history of Australia lists many sources for the colonisation and exploration of the country.
Wikiversity aims to ‘set learning free’, creating educational resources for teachers, students and researchers. The current total is 20,467 resources. The page for Australia is part of the Comparative law and justice project and is a good introduction to the court system in the country.
Wikimedia Commons is an exceptional source of images and videos, to which anyone can contribute. There are currently over 17 million files from archives, libraries, and people like us. The copyright restrictions are specified for each file.
There are many other projects:
The only one of these projects to have a result for David Whippy was Wikisource, which has a book called Forty Years in the Pacific by Frank Coffee, published in 1920. The chapter on Fiji mentions David Whippy as one of the claimants made by the American settlers on Cakobau, the self-proclaimed King of Fiji. It is a book I hadn’t come across before, but as David Whippy died in 1871 Coffee can not be expected to have known Whippy personally.
I did search for pictures of Levuka in Wikimedia Commons and found a couple of beauties from Dumont D’Urville’s 1842 expedition:
The copyright explanation for different countries is helpful for knowing whether you can republish it in your country.
Wikipedia projects won’t replace Google as a source of information, but it’s worth checking to see what they have for those elusive Fijian ancestors.