Quick creation of "Similar person names" pages[]

(Major upgrade and simplification in January 2013!! Please use the latest version below rather than an old copy.)
Better still, now: see if {{subst:SPN|||List=}} works satisfactorily for you. It's meant to be almost identical. You can't immediately add links to variant names. However, because it's a "subst" template you can add them on your next edit. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 12:00, January 17, 2013 (UTC)

We can easily create pages listing different people with the same "bare" name. See Mary Brown for how we can manually list some (with "Short description" if any) then the template tabulates in detail (in sortable columns) those that have "facts" pages. Any people of the same name who don't get listed automatically should be added manually ABOVE the coding lines (then manually removed if they get upgraded pages and appear automatically further down). People who are mentioned on another page (e.g. as spouse or child) but don't have their own pages yet may be added at the top too. Any of those non-automatic people can be incorporated in the initial template using the "List" parameter.

Small caution - some pages that are just "first-name surname" are copies of Wikipedia pages redirecting to our versions; other people with that name will need a "first-name surname (disambiguation)" page (e.g.William Penn (disambiguation)), which needs a little tweaking after the first edit. Replace {{PAGENAME}} with the two person names.

Copy the following (from the displayed page, not the edit box) down as far as the line above "above this line", paste it into the disambiguation page, and make the necessary few changes (i.e. delete the two "Mary Brown" example lines near the top, and substitute first name (for Mary) and surname (for Brown) each three times):

{{Similar person names|name=Brown, Mary}}{{tocright}}'''"{{PAGENAME}}"''' may refer to:
<!-- *{{PAGENAME}}, child of [[John Brown (1758-1822)]] leave this line 
for copying with changes to description -->
*[[Mary Margaret Brown]]
*[[Mary Margaret Brown (1811-?)]]<!-- yes, we may catch duplicates/triplicates -->
<br />
==Semantic search==
 (which may include any of the above)
{{Same name|Mary|Brown}}{{DEFAULTSORT:Mary}}<!--just first name here, with no space after it-->[[Category:Brown (surname)]]<!--don't use {{T|surname}}: it sorts on full pagename-->{{trywp}}
==More detail of some==
<!-- details from census and other records can help distinguish -->
==Notes and references==
==See also==
* <!-- add links to existing and/or potential disambiguation pages with 
similar spellings such as Maria Brown, Maria Browne, and Mary Browne -->

<!--above this line-->

NOTE: If the page name is of the form "Exe Wye (disambiguation)", you need to replace the expression "{{PAGENAME}}" (brackets included) with just the person names.

Then ideally (in a new window) paste the page name into this wiki's "Find" or "Search" box to pick up some others, as I have just done. In case that "Search" box is just a "Go" box - as in Monaco skin - add a comma at the end so as not to "go" to the "bare name" page. Robin Patterson 10:40, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

Note the final(?!) refinement for the surname category: to get the plain name listing first, DEFAULTSORT with just the first name, so Mary Brown precedes Mary Amelia Brown and Mary A. Brown and even Mary Brophy Brown. Robin Patterson 09:19, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

If you have recently just created one of these pages, you can very quickly add others of the same surname. Copy the recent page and (perhaps using the surname category) create a new page with a different given name and paste the copy into it. Change just the given name (in three places) and any manual list of people near the top. Robin Patterson (Talk) 05:34, February 22, 2011 (UTC) - slightly modified to fit update -- -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 01:01, January 9, 2013 (UTC)

Page name styles[]

We should try to follow the Wikipedia styles for ambiguous names here (partly to save bot-time when copying and partly to save typing-time). For example, if two people have the same name and birth year and no death year shown, add a distinguishing parenthetical expression such as "(rocket scientist) " or "(born Ohio) " before the date parenthesis.

"Exe Wye (disambiguation)" should be used only where there is one single/singular Exe Wye in the world that nearly everybody who knows one of them thinks of first - such as William Penn, Abraham Lincoln, or London - and we want a disambiguation-style page to link to all the others. London in England is just London; the listing-others one will be London (disambiguation). Each should refer to the other, and there are templates to make that very easy.

Robin Patterson 02:02, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

Further refinements possible[]

Eliminating but linking to similar spellings[]

The above now incorporates (thanks to User:Thurstan) the underscores after each name that prevent inclusion of longer names such as "Maryanne" and "Browning". It also eliminates "Browne", which is somewhat disadvantageous; the solution to that is a separate page for Mary Browne with links to and from. Robin Patterson 12:34, 27 July 2008 (UTC). Added a heading and guidance for those links. Robin Patterson 03:33, 14 October 2008 (UTC)

Middle names come in as surnames[]

As it stands, the coding will pick up middle names and treat them as surnames for listing. One may wonder why it has to do that - maybe the second element could link only to a surname parameter (possibly the contents of Template:Surname)? Would the experts please investigate that??

If that can't be fixed or until it is, any actual pages that are picking up middle names may be fixed by adding after each underscore a backslash followed by an opening round bracket (as shown at , so that the only instances picked up will be those where the selected name is followed by a space then a parenthetical expression (usually a year of birth and maybe a year of death). It would not be a good idea to change the model to do that, because that would eliminate too many names that should appear in some searches, such as hyphenated names (where the first element could be a valid hit) and names of people followed by the places they owned (such as John Pollok of Balgray (c1690-aft1720)).

Robin Patterson 12:34, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Four months later, no response to the paragraph following the heading. Maybe I should not have asked for experts. You guys who know about these things are too modest to identify with that title. Please reply if you have any ideas! Robin Patterson 14:14, 26 November 2008 (UTC)

Comma straight after surname[]

This happens with "Jr." etc. Here's how Thurstan fixed one: — I presume the single brackets indicate an alternative. Any problem with adding that into the standard? Robin Patterson 06:25, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

Other points[]

Three thoughts/ideas:

  1. Could we build this template into Template:Similar person names, since it seems they're inextricably linked?
  2. Would it be possible to simplify this template to something using pagename parameters (something similar to Template:Poss duplicate)?
  3. Would it be possible to use the aforementioned error that User:Thurstan fixed with underscores to create a "See Also" section linking to other disambigs?

What do ya'll think? Do I know what I'm talking about? Plcoffey 19:49, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

I understand the questions but I'm not a good enough coder to fix them all. I've just incorporated a manual response to your question 3; your question 2 is closely related to my above request for the experts to investigate; and for question 1, for now, I suggest that you do as I do, which is to have this page in my widgets box for instant access, whence I just copy and paste. Robin Patterson 03:33, 14 October 2008 (UTC)

Dutch version[]

Two of our biggest recent contributors have Dutch as mother tongue. I have suggested to one of them that he could translate the above "template". It would be useful for Dutch names. It could be below this paragraph but might be best on a separate page with Dutch explanation. Perhaps fully integrated into the template, as Plcoffey suggested at point #1 above. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 10:49, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

Second-level disambiguation[]

For very common names, there may be value in having another level of disambiguation with people who share two name elements and a date element. First worked example is Mary Brown (1850-?). Maybe its page name should be Mary Brown (1850-....)? Either way, use sparingly. Slightly different code would cater for Mary Brown (?-1844). However, as I suggested on a related page, "reporting" techniques (possibly using Semantic MediaWiki) may be a better way to list people with three or more common elements in their pagenames. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 10:49, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

POSTSCRIPT: do not use question-marks in person-page names (as the above examples did). Software can no longer handle them properly. So Mary Brown (1850-) and Mary Brown (-1844). -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 12:49, January 8, 2012 (UTC)

Two given names[]

Recently I've seen disambiguation pages with two given names. At present the best procedure for them is probably just {{Disambig}}. I hope someone can take us beyond that soon, at least with "showfacts" pages if not with info pages. Robin Patterson (Talk) 05:34, February 22, 2011 (UTC)

Recent alterations?[]

Maybe I've miscopied something. Hurrying before bedtime. Adam Starr doesn't list the 1844 man as it should. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 14:10, 11 June 2009 (UTC)

Still not showing, so it must be more than a cache issue? — Robin Patterson (Talk) 06:14, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

New headings[]

See Robert Hester for how a more detailed page can easily evolve; including some standard headings, which will encourage users to explore that option. The TOC fits in nicely. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 06:14, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

Improving link to Wikipedia[]

The current WP link has at least two imperfections.

  1. Often there will be no page of that name on WP, and the reader gets an invitation to search. That can annoy readers who would prefer a direct search link from here to save that extra step. It can also annoy readers who have been told that WP has a particular page only to find that it has not.
  2. If there is a page of that name, it will often be for a single individual, not always one that we have on Familypedia. That can be good or bad! Either way, it doesn't help the reader find more than one such person on WP.

I'm therefore proposing to change the link to a WP search. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 09:13, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

As an interim measure, I've changed the template, but not to a search. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 11:28, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Extending this system to "showfacts" pages[]

I really like this device (as one may deduce from the number of hndis pages I have created).

Now - how easy is it to get the clever stuff to include pages that have facts but no info (so to speak)? Could a bot give each facts page a dummy info page, maybe?

Robin Patterson (Talk) 04:03, February 27, 2010 (UTC)

The indefatigable Richard Tol has produced the answer, {{Same name}}, which is now incorporated. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 13:14, April 3, 2010 (UTC)

Now that facts pages are mostly captured, and more can probably be captured with just small alterations to the template, the data from info pages will be of diminishing importance as we upgrade them and discourage anyone from creating more of them. Where the DLP finds no qualifying info page, the article will display a message like:

"Extension:DynamicPageList (DPL), version 1.8.9 : WARNING: No results."

Where two of those appear, anyone is welcome to delete the DPL portion of the article, i.e. everything from the first "<DPL>" to the second "</DPL>" (including those tags and the heading between them).

-- Robin Patterson (Talk) 12:16, January 8, 2012 (UTC)

Including middle names[]

For "showfacts" pages, we NOW have an extension that looks for middle names as well as given names. Many people are known by their middle names, and our current instructions for using or bypassing the forms give no indication of what should be done for them. Some contributors put the common name after the first name in the "Given name" field, which probably results in having neither picked up. Many of those individuals - but by no means all - will have the common name as the first word in the "short name", which may be another way to catch duplicates. Robin Patterson (Talk) 05:34, February 22, 2011 (UTC) - amended since I added the simple search for sole middle names. See Ann Putnam for a working example. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 12:22, January 15, 2013 (UTC)

Next refinements will search for:

  • only the character string in the first name or the middle name, to catch pages that have the target name in quote marks or parentheses or as one of two or more names in the field; but string searches tend to melt Wikia's servers
  • short name matching whole disambiguation page name - with some way of not duplicating with the other searches; I guess that that will need the syntax that says "If the page conforms with any one or more of these criteria, list it", and I don't know for sure whether SMW supports that

-- Robin Patterson (Talk) 12:22, January 15, 2013 (UTC)

Not working properly?[]

See John Arbuthnot. The SMW section says there is no such person, but at least three people listed under "Other" should be there. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 04:39, July 24, 2012 (UTC)

Not really: John Arbuthnot (1861-1931) and John Peebles Arbuthnott (1939) are "non-SMW", while the other has to be resaved, as mentioned under Forum:2012 software upgrade. Thurstan (talk) 05:45, July 24, 2012 (UTC)
Thank you! If my internet continues to behave properly I'll catch up on recent events better. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 15:37, July 24, 2012 (UTC)

Removal of DPL[]

As we now have relatively few old-style pages, Thurstan has removed the DPL stuff, so there are now only three places where each part of the name needs to be replaced. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 01:01, January 9, 2013 (UTC)


Why are the Freudenberg pages not in alphabetical order? One of them's even under "C". (Maybe one of the critics of the standard page isn't as smart as he should be?) -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 13:18, January 28, 2013 (UTC)

Send me a link to what Freudenberg page you are referring to and I will fix it. --Richard Arthur Norton (talk) 05:00, February 5, 2013 (UTC)
Just look at the first page of the category Category:Similar_person_names. See a Freudenberg and a Lindauer under "C". Then notice the Arbuthnots and Baglins in alpha order but not the Freudenbergs. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 12:53, February 5, 2013 (UTC)
Fixed Thurstan (talk) 02:24, December 14, 2017 (UTC)