Proposed Rules - No.2 - The maiden name ...

Started by Brendan Swemmer on Wednesday, December 29, 2010


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Showing 151-180 of 222 posts
Private User
2/25/2011 at 8:41 AM

I'm with David.

Private User
2/25/2011 at 11:15 AM

I agree with David also. 163 posts in this discussion and there will never be a consensus. Just ignore the field name and use it for a name but not a nickname or title.

2/25/2011 at 1:42 PM

the dIctionary defines "Maiden Name" as the "Birth Name"

Just put the info where it was intended to be put by the programers instead of this debating all the time.

The same goes with middle name if the is a middle name use it if not don't.

The suffix is a the place for JR of SR or V , not the middle name,

The reason the debate goes on is because people try to set rules for everybody when the rules go against Logic and the "normal" people don't follow it because

1. The rule does not make any sense
2. They don't know where the rules are anyway so they try to use common sense and put the info in the block that is made for it.

The fact that there is yet another discussion on it shows that no one reads "The Naming Conventions"

2/26/2011 at 2:02 AM

Agreed - it's becoming really frustrating. And nothing changes.
Remi - your zendesk proposal to call fields:
"1. First name (all first names)
2 Middle name (middle names like patronymicons)
3 Last name (genealogists always use name at birth as last name, Geni should also adopt the way most genealogists do it around the world.)
4. Other names/Name variations (all other names a person is known by in a persons life)"

will run into the ambiguity problem that LAST NAME can easily also be read /translated as 'last surname' (ie 'married name' for many women).

'Name at Birth' is still, to my mind the best solution for that descriptor

Private User
2/26/2011 at 2:07 AM

Well, I disagree with you, Sharon.

I need two fields to merge properly and indeed to connect with LIVING relatives, which is ALSO the purpose of Geni.

1. Name at birth
2. Current last name / name at death

Otherwise I will not find the Geni program useful.

Private User
2/26/2011 at 2:09 AM

AND I disagree with you, Marvin! Sorry -- but in English, a "maiden" is a virginal woman. Impossible for me to read it as otherwise.

2/26/2011 at 2:15 AM

Or 'Surname at Birth'
(For myself I'd make it: 'Surname/ Family/ Household Name at Birth' - but I'm sure there will objections to that one.)

2/26/2011 at 3:29 AM

Erica, am rushing off to art class, so will come back to this later - but I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm not arguing for reducing the name fields - just suggesting that
Surname at Birth, and
Other/Subsequent Surnames
should be the names of the two fields in Remi's descriptor.

Private User
2/26/2011 at 3:34 AM

Ericas arguments is a very good reason to rename the field to "Surname at Birth" and make it available for all genders.

Private User
2/26/2011 at 4:57 AM

Erica, that's exactly my point. If Geni would simply agree to change the label for that field to something like "Last name at birth" (dropping the "Maiden Name" moniker altogether), we would all be on the same page.

Simple change, simple solution, everybody's happy.

Does anybody out there believe we need BOTH a "last name at birth" AND a "maiden name" field as two seperate things?

Private User
2/26/2011 at 5:00 AM

BTW: I'm equating the term "last name" to "surname" for the sake of this discussion. I don't want to get into semantics on that part quite yet.

2/26/2011 at 6:24 AM

To day we have the field labels Name, subdivided into
1. First Name
2. Middle
3. Last Name
Display Name and
Maiden Name.

Name 1 and 2 is ok, the 3. "Last Name" should be labeled as Last Name at Birth/Surname at Birth or something like it. That would be ok by me, and shouldn't make any misunderstandings. I don't want todays "Maiden Name" field changed to "Name at Birth", beacuse it is genealogically wrong and it is allready messing up gedcom imports and exports for the purpose of exchanging it with orher genealogists. A gedcom-file where a persons Last name / Surname is not written with the name that person was born with, is to me useless. And having the Last Name field only showing name at birth we make it a lot easier to find ancestors.

The field "Maiden Name" should change to "Other Names" and include the possibility to write several different names of that person, and these other names should ofcourse be searchable. This should solve Erica's problem and she could write down both current last name, name at death, maiden name if it's different from name at birth, names in censuses, names at immigration, and so on.

So, Sharon I don't have any problems with your suggestion with the label "Name at Birth"/"Surname at Birth" for todays field "Last Name". To me it's not important what the label of the field is, to me it is important that the name in that field is a persons Last name at birth.

David: As you understand, it's not good enough to change the field "Maiden name" to "Last name at birth". That name should not be in that field, that name should be in todays "Last name" field. That will facilitate easier search for ancestors, that is genealogically right, and it will make names in gedcom imports and exports correct, which is an important part of Geni.

Private User
2/26/2011 at 8:40 AM

I actually happen to believe that a simple rename of EITHER field will be problematic. If I put my software programmer hat on, I'll bet I can come up with some data migration logic that would at least minimize the damage. For example, where both fields are populated but do not match, assume the data in the Maiden name field is the surname at birth, etc.

2/26/2011 at 9:52 AM

Private User@eric

the dictionary defines Maiden as "an unmarried girl or woman : it has nothing to do with virginity


I use several Genealogy programs and the Geni GEDCOM export puts the Last name(married name) in the last name slot and the Maiden name in the maiden name slot of all of them. There is nothing wrong with the GEDCOM interface.

I use


Roots magic 4

My Heritage Family tree maker

and several other lesser known and I don't have any trouble with the compatibility (including pictures)

2/26/2011 at 9:55 AM

Maybe the problem is a translation problem Last name is the married name for a woman and maiden name is the BIRTH name of a woman.

2/26/2011 at 11:29 AM

Marvin, I'm a good example of why that 'translation' is not straightforward in action, because it makes too many cultural assumptions.
I am married, but my last name is my birth surname.

Hence, my name on Geni, appears as Sharon (Doubell) in the screen view. I think the contradiction that is irking Erica about the designator 'maiden' is clearly viewable in the fact that I have 2 children and am married - yet I am still viewable as having apply to me terminolgy that is clearly about as far from accurate as it could be.

With Remi's version, birth surnames of both genders would appear without parenthesis.
And subsequent surname changes - including Western women's married surnames should be what appears in parenthesis.

1) First Name
2) Middle Name
3) Surname / Family / Household Name at Birth
4) (Subsequent / Other Surnames)

PS. My comment about 'last' was to do with the problem that it can too easily be misunderstood in a multilingual context as meaning 'final' surname (ie surname at death, not birth!) Also, there are cultures whose surname is not placed 'last', but 'first', who are likely to be confused.
So I would still opt for the descriptor Surname not Last Name

Private User
2/26/2011 at 12:37 PM

My thought has always been, drop the "Last Name" field and replace it with the "Maiden Name" field, renaming that field as "Last Name".

2/26/2011 at 12:56 PM

Ya know, it doesn't have to be all that confusing. For genealogists, the last name of a man or of a woman is the family name - name at birth - whatever you want to call it. My own name here on geni is the name I was given at birth. Genealogists have been doing it this way for as long as there have been surnames! Geez, it's almost a no-brainer. Remi's right, what good does it do to put in a woman's married name as her last name?? You can see her married name by looking at her husband! For other names/married names, put it in the notes section. Problem solved.

Private User
2/26/2011 at 2:11 PM

Janice, it does a lot of good if both married name and surname at birth are known. I have successfully resolved many thousands of duplicates where the husband's name was not recorded in one of the two profiles, but the woman's married and birth surnames were both there and shown to be different. And of course, two pieces of information requires two seperate fields in the database.

More importantly, a HUGE number of profiles are already using the Last Name field for married surname, and NOBODY is using the maiden name field for that purpose. Actually, the Last Name field is interchangeably used for either married or birth surname (depending on the whim of the person who entered it), and there is no way to tell which is in there. At least the Maiden Name field is pretty consistently used for surname at birth only.

The key point here is that we need to be primarily concerned about the data that is ALREADY in the profiles out there- mixed up and inconsistent as they are. It does us absolutely no good to set a new convention for the use of these fields going forward unless the vast majority of users have already been using that convention prior to this point.

Migrating the existing data and THEN renaming the fields will at least give us a relatively fresh, new start.

2/26/2011 at 2:37 PM

David, that's one thing I don't like about Geni profiles when merging - some contain all the info and others don't (in the 'compare profiles' view). But when you open up the profile, all the info is, indeed, there. Of course the married name(s) have to be shown, but if the husband's name is given, well, it's a given! That's what I meant by that (more probably in tree view than in profile view).

The standard in genealogy is and always has been to use the birth/maiden/family/whateveryouwanttocallit name in the case of the wife.
The founder of geni probably has no background in genealogy; I have no idea if any professional genealogists are working for him. But it would seem not.

Then we have all the people who merge w/o even opening up the full profiles to find parents' names, spouse's names, children's names etc. I haven't really taken geni seriously since my own private personal family line was totally screwed up by several people who merged all the same names together. I suppose none of them ever heard of sons being named after fathers, grandfathers, etc. Oh well, so it goes.

2/26/2011 at 5:21 PM

@Marvin C said: "I use several Genealogy programs and the Geni GEDCOM export puts the Last name(married name) in the last name slot and the Maiden name in the maiden name slot of all of them. There is nothing wrong with the GEDCOM interface."

Ofcourse, gedcom is only capaple to work with the data you put into your genealogical database. But if you sent me a gedcom-file of your data it wouldn't work for me. We genalogists always write name at birth in our "Last name" fields. Your married name is ususally reflected in the husbands profile as his "Last name", but it can also be put in the field "Other names" in my programs under the label "Married Name", which is where it belongs.

2/26/2011 at 5:44 PM

@Janice I wholeheartedlu agree :-)

@All of you: Please give this a thumb up if you like the proposal:


2/27/2011 at 2:16 AM

Do you all know that Geni has an option to display the "maiden name" instead of the last name (if present, I assume)?

It's under "options" in the tree view.

(obDataStructuringOpinion: We should have two single-valued fields for "last name":
- First known Last Name ("name at birth")
- Last known Last Name (current, or "name at death")
We should be able to choose which one to display, and GEDCOM exports should make them appropriately tagged for other programs.
In addition, we should have "other names".)

2/27/2011 at 5:53 AM

Ofcourse we know that Geni has an option to display the "Maiden Name" instead of "Last Name", Harald. And it's beside the point. This has nothing to do with how names are displayed, this has to do with what name shall be written in the "Last Name" field.

Your "- Last known Last Name (current, or "name at death")" should appropriatly be written in one of the fields labeled under the proposed "Other Names" field. Because the same person can have several different Last known Last Name (current, or "name at death"). Hypothetically: You, me and "Mr. Smith" has the same person on Geni but in three different profiles, where each one of us are managing one of them. You know the Last name at death, the latest name I have found for the person is 20 years before death, and "Mr. Smith" has only found the person 20 years before that. All Last known Last names are different. None of us has written any other Last names on this person, not even names at birth. How shall we know it is the same person, Harald? Would that be easier if all three of us had found and written down the persons Name at Birth instead?

Private User
2/27/2011 at 9:09 AM

The biggest problem I see with relegating the "Last Known Last Name" info to the "Other Names" category is that it will almost certainly put off the huge number of currently living Geni users who are not serious genealogists. Believe it or not, we're in a minority here when it comes to Geni account holders. MOST users just enter themselves and out to their granparents and perhaps second cousins- and then invite their closest family and in-laws to do the same.. And MOST of those folks completely "get" the current Last Name and Maiden Name fields. To hide or significantly change the meaning of these field labels for them would be highly ill-advised.

We need a solution that does not confuse or alienate the average casual non-genealogist Geni user while giving us in the minority the tools we need to handle the serious part. I personally continue to believe that simply renaming the Maiden Name field to something like "Last Name (surname) At Birth" would be a 95% solution for everyone. No need to go further than that as a first step. We can talk about subsequent steps later, after the first step has been taken.

Now pardon me while I step out of this endlessly circular debate and go back to being productive. I'm going to "un-follow" this discussion now, so somebody please PM me iif you hear that Geni has actually decided to make some type of change in meaning or label for these name fields. Until then, it's pointless to keep talking about it.

2/27/2011 at 2:29 PM

Remi, your hypothetical isn't that good ..... if you know the name 20 years before death, but not the name at death, chances are good you don't know the name at birth either. When we merge, we'll have to figure out if the person is the same person given a flock of names. The critical resource will then be knowing what names these are supposed to represent, and where they came from.

That's a sourcing problem.

The reason I dragged the "prefer to display maiden name" into the discussion was that I see a possibility that "serious genealogists" and "amateurs" can coexist if both can display the names they want. Of course the important stuff in the long run is that the data is in the database with clearly known properties, but if we get away from the absolutist situation where it's "name at birth or nothing", I think we'd have better chances of figuring out a way forward.

Arguing for a change that will modify the names everyone sees on Geni overnight seems to me to be unlikely to be accepted; I'm seeking solutions that will give us clear data in the database and a non-disruptive display modification to most users.

2/27/2011 at 4:06 PM

AMEN to Janice Weeks Hollenczer well put and well said - and David the info is there for a woman if all husbands are listed and information noted under the notes also - I can not see a string of any where from 2-5 names after a womans name to included everyone of here marriage to me that is insane - she can only go by one name at a time unless she chooses to hypnate her name and use both her birth surname and her married name in combination which is being done in today's society - also many women in today's society is prefering to retain their brith name in their career employment status - - one is not so stupid as to not search under one or more of a woman's name if she married or remarried - -

Like some others here i do not think there will be one accepted method for listing a woman - to many of us are steadfast in our way of doing genealogy and doing it in "Genealogical standard" I guess then you can call us oldsters just "plain hard header'

and Janice's statement - 'Then we have all the people who merge w/o even opening up the full profiles to find parents' names, spouse's names, children's names etc. I haven't really taken geni seriously since my own private personal family line was totally screwed up by several people who merged all the same names together. I suppose none of them ever heard of sons being named after fathers, grandfathers, etc. Oh well, so it goes.' is so very very true - -

I learned alot from geni users those month's of breaking up merges to re-gain my orginial profiles i had entered per the instructions of a geni rep rather than just 'dumping' my tree and either leaving Geni completely or re-starting under another e-mail address as I could not re-start using the same e-mail I always use and is my primary e-mail of my internet provider - - my consenses was alot of geni users merged just for the sake of merging ...

Private User
2/27/2011 at 4:19 PM


I agree with David Kaleita and Harald Tveit Alvestrand.

Simply put -- you are making it too difficult for family researchers to build their trees. What good is that?

All that needs to happen is what David / Harald suggest and both the professional genealogist and the family researcher are satisfied.

2/27/2011 at 4:32 PM

Harald, sorry you didn't/couldn't answer my hypothetical scenario. I have found several people im my reaserch looking at censuses, 5, 10 , 20, 40 years before death, were the persons Last name is different from their Last name at death. This is in fact fairly common, at least in norwegian names, if you count farm names as Last names. What if I didn't know their name at death? In censuses there is an age or date of birth, which means that it would be easy for me to find their birth/baptizm date and name at birth, and hard for me to find their name at death, since i don't know when they die.

So, Harald, your sentence: "if you know the name 20 years before death, but not the name at death, chances are good you don't know the name at birth either." is very wrong, in fact it's really common in my research to find names and dates at birth and not finding any information about their death.

Everything in genealogy is a sourcing problem, including all names. So that's not really an argument. If everyone, the casual person her on Geni and the genealogist, would use the "Last Name" field as it should be used, writing Last name at birth, this wouldn't be a problem. So all Geni has to do is tell everybody that the "Last Name" field is used for name at birth, and not for Last names later in life, and the problem would be gone. All other names should go in a "Other names" field.

Maybe you now can try my hypothetical question to you, Harald?

2/27/2011 at 4:44 PM

No, Erica, I'm sorry to say, but in your way, i would not find the ancestry of a person, or it would make the job a lot harder. But if you want it hard, that's your choice. It's your way that are making it harder for family researchers to do their research and build their trees. What good is that? All that need to happen is that everybody on Geni start to write Names at birth in the "Last Name" field. The rest should go in a "Other names" field, which I hope will come sooner than later.

The facts are:
- There are too few fields to write names in Geni.
- Today, the choices are Maiden name and Last name, which in a genealogical sence is the same name. A genealogical site should use the most common way genealogists use to write names, which is names at birth.
- Geni need to teach every newcomber on Geni how names are written in their database. This can be done by making every newcomber read something about it before they start adding persons.
- We need a field where we can write all alternate names and name variations, and as many variations as we like.

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