Forums: Index > Watercooler > Standardising page names for individuals

(NB: early part of this has been /archived. Towards the end of 2008 we got close to agreement, so nobody has to read anything from 2007 although newcomers may find it helpful as background.')

AMK152's proposal[]

I would like to at least propose something that can give us a start.

This is my proposed policy:

  • Format: "Name (YOB-YOD)"
  • For "Name," it contains at least First and Last Name (example: John Smith (1900-1985)
  • If First or Last Name is unknown, use "Unknown" instead of leaving it blank or useing a "?" mark. (Example: John Unknown (1900-1985) or Unknown Smith (1900-1985)
  • Surname must be maiden name, not married name.
  • Middle Name is optional. (example: John Isaac Smith (1900-1985)
  • Roman Numerals can be included if the contributors agree (example: John Isaac Smith IV (1900-1985) or John Smith IV (1900-1985)
  • Reccommend use of only one middle name (example: use "John Isaac Smith (1900-1985) instead of John Isaac Bartholomew Robert Smith (1900-1985)
  • Use "?" if year of birth or death is unknown, don't use "unk" or "unknown"
  • Use "c" if year of birth or death is approx., don't use "c." or "abt" or "about"
  • Use "bef" if year of birth or death is before the indicated year.
  • Use "aft" if year of birth or death is after the indicated year.
  • For living individuals, use only birth year in parentheses.

Basically, these have been around and used traditionally, but I suggest we at least make it official. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 21:33, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

All very reasonable. However, I would except the following:
Roman Numerals can be included--wouldn't recommending setting this up as a standard. Use of Roman numerals is really a "by-name", which is fairly arbitrary, and creates similar problems to the use of Jr. and Sr. If someone REALLY wants to use them, then setting up a redirect from the "by-name" to the formal name would solve the problem. That way you could use the by name in an article, but still link to the formal name.
For living individuals, use only birth year in parentheses. A) I wouldn't put in a living person in the first place, and B) if it were done I'd go with (Living). Bill Willis 12:57, 9 July 2008 (UTC)
I agree with the Roman numerals part. Thing is, articles of living people have been created. People have created their own article including their birth year by choice. I say include the birth year, if the person wants it provided. If the individual does not provide or does not wish to provide their birth year, then they can use the (Living). That can be used by people who don't want to reveal their birth year. However, I do worry about a lot of the same articles that read (John Smith (Living) or even Living Smith (Living). Plus, notable individuals have their birth year revealed as they are politicians, celebrities, rich people, etc. (Such as George W. Bush (1946) or Jessica Ann Simpson (1980) or Donald John Trump (1946)). The (Living) can be used when a living person's birth year is nto specified or the person doesn't want it specified. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 13:29, 9 July 2008 (UTC)

Is there any further news on this proposal? I'm new here, and Genealogy:Page_names#People_articles is not as clear as it could be. I agree with the above proposal, but really I think it's more important to have some solid guideline to which people can work, and spell it out very clearly. — Sam Wilson ( TalkContribs ) … 01:04, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

Sam, the above "Proposal" is what most of the recent active contributors are using for most pages. Details of how many middle names and where the Roman numerals go are fairly insignificant in the overall scheme and can be personal preference if there is only one contributor-relative (because they are likely to involve unusual names that will appear in the same section of any automated listing and thus be quickly merged if there are in fact duplicates). We overcame the Google-search problem by introducing the simple name idea that produces a page such as Mary Brown for the search engines (and internal searches) to find; users are welcome to create such a simple page linking to each full-name page using the explanatory page for which the short-cut is hndis (which is short for "human disambiguation" and is a term borrowed from Wikipedia but used slightly differently here). If Genealogy:Page_names#People_articles is not improved/updated soon, give me a reminder! Robin Patterson 02:35, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

Okay, I've melded the above points into that page, and cleaned the whole thing up a fair bit. I've tried to keep every point and example that was there previously, but just make them clearer. What do you think? (I'll post something to the talk page there, too.) — Sam Wilson ( TalkContribs ) … 06:30, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

I agree with the above proposal and am making changes to the few pages I have created that do not follow it (things like using "?" for an unknown name instead of "Unknown"). I do not understand why we would use Roman numerals and not Sr or Jr when they are more common (as far as I know). I am also hesitant to add new pages or upload my comparably modest 4,000 plus GEDCOM until this is resolved.Bill H 15:49, 12 April 2009 (UTC)

Sensible caution, Bill, especially as we may be on the brink of semi-automating loading Gedcoms. If you want your data preserved in public meantime, try a simple upload to WorldConnect. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 03:28, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

Extract from WeRelate[]

Fred Bergman 20:26, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

==Why do you try to reinvent the wheel ?==
You can learn from other Genealogy Wiki's and improve the wheel !

Keep it simple
Many documents, sources, and references refer to your ancestors only by their given 
names and surnames. Your cousins may not be aware of middle names, nicknames, or titles. 
It is less confusing if page titles are limited to only the given name and surname. 
For instance, suppose I didn't know my great grandmother's middle name or title and you 
did. We could easily create duplicate person and family pages without ever knowing it, 
because the pages would have different titles if you included her middle name. Keeping 
the page titles simple reduces duplication and keeps us on the same page. 
But what if two different people have the same given name and surname? Middle names, 
nicknames and titles can be entered in specific areas on the individual's person page. 
Also, WeRelate will automatically assign each person an index number to make her/his 
page title unique (e.g. Wayne Phillips (1)). 
Keeping it simple makes it easier for your cousins to identify common ancestors 
and collaborate with you. 
[edit section]Match/merge function

Because of names such as "St. John," "de la Vega," and "Von Monfrans," the 
match/merge function considers all words after the first space as the surname. 
Do not enter other information such as suffixes, prefixes, titles, 
nicknames or middle name(s). 
For example, to create a page for Captain Robert Harold Townsend III, 
enter "Robert" as the given name and "Townsend" as the surname. There will be an 
opportunity to enter the other information later. 
[edit section]Person index numbers
Many persons have the same given name and/or surname. Some even share the same middle 
names, nicknames, or titles. 
For instance, there were six men named Lewis Green Caddell, all contemporaries of the 
same small frontier town and buried in the same cemetery. As they share similar birth 
and death information, it is difficult to tell them apart. WeRelate adds a person 
Index number to make each one unique. So, "Lewis Caddell (1)" has a separate page from 
"Lewis Caddell (2)", and so on. 
If you are adding a person for the first time, do not use a person index number. 
WeRelate will give your person a unique person index number the first time you 
When adding a person who already has a person page on WeRelate to a list of children on 
a family page, remember to include that person's index number. If you don't include 
the number, the system will assume that she/he is a new individual and assign another 
index number. 
In addition to person index numbers, WeRelate also uses family index numbers to 
classify families. Click here for more information about family index numbers and how 
to use person index numbers on family pages. 
Pedigree charts and maps
--Jrm03063 13:09, 29 December 2008 (EST
I strongly agree with the first half-dozen lines of the above extract. Possible duplication is the main reason why I was suggesting we not use middle names. See below. I await study and reporting by Rtol about exactly how the conversion program looks for duplicates. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 03:48, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Middle Names[]

I know this is a year old, but I didn't find a better place to voice my opinion. I strongly recommend we include middle names. In my family, the middle names have been used to separate fathers and sons who have the same or similar names. My father is Mattias Anthony Lynch. His father is Mathias William Lynch. One was Matt, the other Tony. No one knows my fathers first name. This happens at least three times in my fathers generation, and another two in my generation. It also happens in my step-fathers family, and my husbands. Thanks, Lanica 13:34, April 29, 2010 (UTC)

We have short_name (Matt Lynch, Tony Lynch) and long_name (Mathias William Lynch, Mattias Anthony Lynch). I would call their pages Mathias W. Lynch and M. Anthony Lynch. rtol 05:24, April 30, 2010 (UTC)

Needs more certainty for GEDCOM upload[]

Material from Gedcoms needs to be formed into a page name (and distributed elsewhere in the article and/or its info page). Brian Yap (User:Yewenyi) was doing that, and any usable variation of his program will do the same. The program then checks whether there is a matching existing page. I'm not sure whether it will be able to recognize only a precise match or can raise the question if certain elements match; the latter would be preferable. With GEDCOM upload seeming much closer this month, we should firm up the standard that the program is to follow.

Robin Patterson (Talk) 11:51, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

Checking for duplicates[]

Our existing 20,000 person pages are mostly (though far from overwhelmingly) "Firstname Middle-if-known Surname (YOB-YOD)". It may be possible for the program to ignore middle names in its first check on whether a new person from a GEDCOM is a duplicate. That would throw up a larger number that might be duplicates, where one contributor omitted a middle name but the other included it. Better to have two similar persons put on a single page for examination than to have them treated as different if they might not be. Human inspection can then sort them out at leisure.

Robin Patterson (Talk) 11:51, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

Middle names[]

Whether or not the program can ignore middle names as above, I'm inclined to recommend that they not be part of future page names; for at least three reasons:

  • Reduce potential programmatic duplication
  • Raise Google rank
  • Match Wikipedia

The full name, titles, etc, etc, will appear very close to the top of the article for quick visual checking in case the disambiguation (hndis) page does not have enough detail.

Robin Patterson (Talk) 11:51, 6 April 2009 (UTC)


Similarly with death years (and maybe even birth years??) unless there's fairly good documentary evidence? We have several hundred pages that have only a birth year; so omitting all of them in future would not be totally radical. We have even more that have a question-mark for birth year and/or death year; nothing lost if those "years" get deleted. Wikipedia generally has no dates in person-article names. Several times, the value of having the exact same name as on Wikipedia has been recommended (because of great time-savings in view of our extensive use of Wikipedia text). To require all GEDCOM-derived page names to have no year provision would not be totally radical and would have some advantages as above:

  • Reduce potential programmatic duplication
  • Raise Google rank
  • Match Wikipedia

Robin Patterson (Talk) 11:51, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

Compensatory distinguishing text, and people with no dates[]

Wikipedia has a variety of methods, such as "(politician)". Where we follow Wikipedia we will get that anyway. Why not use it as one of several optional distinguishers in the future?

Robin Patterson (Talk) 11:51, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

I like (what I take to be) the present standard: Full name (YoB-YoD), so I don't like your proposal. I think "Raise Google rank" is "the tail wagging the dog", and anyway I usually use full names with a Google search as the "First-Name Last-Name" search usually gives too many irrelevant hits. Thurstan 12:02, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

I agree with Thurstan. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 01:57, 9 April 2009 (UTC)

People with no dates[]

There is another issue which hasn't been mentioned which I see occasionally, which is spurious links: both Robert II, King of Scotland (1316-1390) and James II, King of Scotland (1430-1460) are listed as having a daughter named Margaret (Stewart), about whom nothing more is documented. But when these two pages were created, their child lists points to Margaret Stewart (?-?), which used to be (before I changed it) a redirect to Margaret Stewart (1206-1255), a totally different woman. So if we start giving people pages "generic" names, we are going to get these spurious links. I don't think I should have to invent "Compensatory distinguishing text" for people that I have no information about (and I don't plan to name the link Margaret Stewart daughter of James II, King of Scotland, though perhaps that is what I have to do, in view of my next parenthetical). (My philosophy is that if I have nothing else to say about a child, in particular for people who died in infancy, then they don't need their own page. So I would see those "Margaret Stewart (?-?)" links as permanently red) Thurstan 04:47, 9 April 2009 (UTC)

And the same occurs with parents: if I know that Mary Smith's father was John (because that's what her death registration says, so it could be doubted), I would like to show it as John Smith (?-?) and never have it point to anything. If I get more info about Mary's dad, I should be able to fill in at least one date, change the link, and then create a page with a less generic name. Thurstan 04:51, 9 April 2009 (UTC)

(For the above with responses and continued discussion, please go to Forum:People with no birth or death dates.

Google rank[]

Genealogy is 48 on a Google for "Richard Tol", which is pretty good.

But, if you want to improve that, two things matter for Google. First, what do people look for? "William I King of England" ranks 9th, while "William the Conqueror" ranks 50+. This is partly because our page name refers to the king, not the conqueror.

Second, outside links matter, which is why I put two templates on Wikipedia that refer back to us. Rtol 12:20, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

I prefer using William I, King of England. There are many names we could use. I went to Google and found the following:

  • People seeking genealogical information on William who get Familypedia:
  • "William the Conqueror genealogy" ranks 6th on Google.
  • "William I, King of England genealogy" ranks 1st on Google.
  • Searching "William I, King of England" on Google brings Wikipedia's article up 1st.
  • Searching "William the Conqueror" on Google brings Wikipedia's article up 1st.
  • Actually, whenever I want to search for something on Google, typically the first result is Wikipedia. Just like Rtol said, link Familypedia's article from Wikipedia. Eventually, we could have as many as thousands of links to Familypedia all across Wikipedia. And just think at how many people use Wikipedia. It's ranked one of the top visited sites on the Internet. Links on Wikipedia itself will bring in people, especially as Familypedia grows. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 01:57, 9 April 2009 (UTC)


Just like "/info" all subpages should be in lowercase letters only, such as "/pedigree" "/descendants" and "/ahnentafel". This is my proposal. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 04:07, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. See Forum:Standardizing subpages of people pages. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 03:41, 18 April 2009 (UTC)

Royalty/People with titles[]


Previous discussions:

There seems to be no set standards regarding names of pages for royalty, although there has been discussion. I would like to see it consistant with names of non-royalty, such as John Smith (1900-1985). Basic proposal as to what should be in the page name for royalty

  • First name and common middle name(s) - preferable one middle name.
  • Surname (examples: Plantagenet, Capet, Bourbon)
  • Most significant title (examples: ", Holy Roman Emperor" ", "King of France" and "Count of Gloucester") Basically - "NAME I SURNAME, TITLE of PLACE" such as "John Plantagenet, King of England (1167-1216)" - thus we distingush them as roaylty and still use the First Name Last Name format. However, there is something we must settle in regards to a title: Emperors of Empires.
  • "Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire" or "Holy Roman Emperor"?
  • "Emperor of the Roman Empire" or "Roman Emperor"?
  • "Emperor of the Persian Empire" or "Persian Emperor"?

I would prefer using EMPIRE Emperor. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 20:10, 20 April 2009 (UTC)

You would prefer to reverse the wording order just because of a small difference in nomenclature? King of England but not Emperor of Austria-Hungary or IMPERATOR ROMANVS?? So why not British Emperor? Please explain your preference. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 04:36, 21 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Using Emperor and Empire in the page name seems repetitive than just Persian Emperor or Roman Emperor. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 20:18, 21 April 2009 (UTC)


In this section I am referring to Dr., Rev., Lt., Pvt., Capt., Col., etc.

  • I do not prefer titles in pages names. However, I am neutral on the use of "Sir." This should be discussed. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 20:10, 20 April 2009 (UTC)
On the whole I agree that we don't want titles to start names. (I'll have to accept a change to Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell!) "Sir" is not exceptional (because it can have more than one meaning, such as knight or baronet) and is often not part of a person's name when many of that person's events take place. We have, for convenience, a page for President Obama but it redirects to a page starting with "Barack". — Robin Patterson (Talk) 04:36, 21 April 2009 (UTC)
Good point on the use of Sir. I agree. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 20:20, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Extract from WeRelate ! Fred Bergman 20:26, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

==='''Medieval Nobility'''===
I'm definitely making this up as I go along, the conventions I generally follow are thus: 

If there's a wikipedia page for the person, use that name as the name of the werelate page Change the "preferred" name of the page to be the same as that used for the page name. Retain the unique set of other forms as alternates. If there is a wikipedia page for the person, always add a source reference for that page. Try to preserve any source citations that may exist in the old text body, even if I don't understand what they mean or how they work - just pull any sources from the body of the page into individual werelate source entries (don't try to reformat them or tidy them, unless you are familiar with the reference and know how to turn the existing format into something more werelate consistent). Unless the page has a body of text that was maintained/modified for werelate, junk it in favor of sourcing the wikipedia page If the person does not have a backing wikipedia page, but is named in a wikipedia reference, change the werelate page name to be consistent with the wikipedia usage (this is common for wives, who are often only noted by name in their husband's page and indicated as children of a particular father). Try to remember to change the name of family pages to be consistent with changed names of the husband and wife pages, with an "and" in the middle. If you don't have a wikipedia page, or a wikipedia page for an adjacent ancestor to go from, there does seem to be a wikipedia convention, but it's not universally followed and I've never gone that route. Instead, I choose among the duplicated page names for a person, keeping the name that seems most "helpful" (by no particular objective standard). In so far as there is a wikipedia convention for royalty and people living before the advent of modern given-surname conventions, it seems to be: <first name>[<numeric sequence>][of <originating community>][, <primary title>]. A fictional example - Frederick V of Shrimptom, 5th Beadle of Shrimpshire.--Jrm03063 13:09, 29 December 2008 (EST
The thing is, not all royals have their own Wikipedia article. Consistency should be used so that multiple pages are not created:
  • Henry II Plantagenet, King of England (1133-1189)
  • Henry II, King of England (1133-1189)
  • Henry II of England (1133-1189)
  • Henry Plantagenet (1133-1189)

People would create all sort of inconsistent formats. We are not Wikipedia. Wikipedia is inconsistent. We are not multiple GEDCOMs with the same people. Multiple GEDCOMS are inconsistent. We are not a personal genealogy site. Personal genealogy sites are inconsistent. Inconsistency causes confusion. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 02:10, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

I support with the added comment that many medieval titled families (especially in Germany) never acquired surnames, so I would prefer Henry II, King of England (1133-1189) to a form that pretends that he had a surname. Thurstan 03:11, 21 April 2009 (UTC)
For a concrete example, naming Rotrud (c837-?) as "Rotrud Carolingian, Countess of Laurenbourg (c837-?)" would seem to me to be a complete anachronism, though I think she should be "Rotrud, Countess of Laurenbourg (c837-?)". Thurstan 03:19, 21 April 2009 (UTC)
Well if they do have a surname, we should use it. If they do not have a surname, then we should just leave it out. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 03:24, 21 April 2009 (UTC)
Question what was a surname 1200 years ago? If in doubt, leave it out. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 04:36, 21 April 2009 (UTC)
Desirable to have the Wikipedia pagename as a redirect to our version. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 04:36, 21 April 2009 (UTC)
Yes. Redirects from Wikipedia article names. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 20:33, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Rtol's proposal[]

I would suggest the following principles, in order of application:

  1. Name someone by his/her common name. Louis the German is thus Louis the German, not Louis of Germany, or Louis King of Germany, or Louis Carolingian. This rule implies that people are easily found and googled. It also minimises the chance of duplication.
  2. Name someone by his/her family. Most noble families had family names by the year 1000.
  3. Name someone by his/her principal holding. Often, this coincides with the family name.
  4. Name someone by his/her title. I put this almost last, because a title is just a job title. People changed titles during their lifes, or had many titles. While we may think of William the Conqueror as King of England, he thought that Duke of Normandy was the more important title.
  5. Name someone by his/her name on Wikipedia. Often this coincides with 1, but disambiguation has led to some pretty strange things.

There is one further thing. I tend to call people in their language that is currently spoken on their territory. Guido di Spoleto and Hermann von Hessen rather than Guy of Spoleto and Herman of Hesse. Rtol 17:56, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

  • 1) I do not prefer to use this method. How do we decide what their common name was?
  • 2) I agree to using family names.
  • 3) I agree to using the principal holding for royalty (Duke of place, Baron of place, Earl of place, Count of place, etc.)
  • 4) I prefer not to use Wikipedia naming schemes, since they are usually inconsistant.
  • Another point that I strongly agree with is using the person's native language for naming their page. I have done so with my ancestors articles. I do think we need to decide on whether to use their native name, or the name they used when the migrated. I have French ancestors who fled France for the Netherlands, then immigrated to the New Netherland colony in the 1620s. I use their native names of French. But what about William the Conqueror? He was from Normandy. Do we use his Norman name? (What is his Norman name?) Since we use maiden names, and native names of immigrants, we should be consistant with migratory royals by using their name in the language they were born into. -AMK152(talkcontribs) 20:33, 21 April 2009 (UTC)


Does this wiki not have a Manual of Style (similar to Wikipedia's)? It just seems that all formatting guidelines are strewn about or communicated in all-page bold-font message alerts, when one centralized MOS would be ideal. —DeGraffJE talk 13:47, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

Currently no page with that name and no overall article covering the subject. I'll start one. This forum relates to Genealogy:Page names, which is still subject to revision, clearly.. Wikia's central style page (which recommends the WP manual) and policies cover much of what we do. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 02:22, 21 June 2009 (UTC)

Wikipedia has done a good job with its guidance. We should not indulge in the hubris that our encyclopedic material is so much different that we need to debate a whole new set of guidelines. Note that we don't have the time to arbitrate all the weird disputes that are in evidence at the different language Wikipedia's. We just use the MOS's for the wikipedia corresponding to the language. If it isn't in the wikipedia MOS, then the only exception is for genealogy specific exceptions, and a pretty darn good case should be made that an exception is necessary. The same goes for naming conventions. Our response to heated disputes on departures from MOS should be: Propose the change at the corresponding MOS document for the corresponding language. EG. for the question of commas in numbers in a (.fr) article, the authority would be fr:Wikipédia:Conventions concernant les nombres Once it is changed there, it becomes Familypedia guidance too. That way we can leverage their editorial experts and their arbitration mechanisms, which are formidable.

Note that tools like AWB have plugins that do quality control on articles but they assume the WP MOS. If we depart from those rules we cannot avail ourselves of those tools. The price of succumbing to the "not invented here" syndrome will be very high indeed. Let's not waste time reinventing the wheel. ~ Phlox 05:48, 7 July 2009 (UTC)