Guillaume Néel, SV/PROG 1 - How should the surname of the first generation be shown?

Started by Sharon Doubell on Sunday, March 17, 2013
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Private User
3/19/2013 at 3:47 AM

Chris we can always add the summary of the name variations/history in a Curator note - as well as the About section to explain why it has been done. I do think that the Collaborative nature of Geni is a very important consideration!

3/19/2013 at 4:38 AM

Thanks for extending that thought for us, Lodewyk. Your solution for the Prog profile is, to my mind, still "using the birth surname and surname that we individually prefer" - in this case, Steyn. ie This still doesn't give us a logical rule to apply outside that of our individual preferences. eg What do we do when it comes to the father and mother of the progenitor?

It seems like small-pond thinking to me to ahistorically change a name on a profile from the world tree for no better reason than because we want it to conform to the South African descendants' names. Bjorn Brox famously calls this 'fabricating facts'. 'Because it suits the South Africans', isn't, to my mind, a good enough reason on a collaborative world tree.

One standardizable solution (not necessarily the best one) to your Gerbens example above, might be to use the earliest documented spelling in the Birth Surname field; and the last documented spelling in the Last Name/Surname field; putting all others, including the regularized modernisation 'Steyn' into the aka field - which Bjorn and June tell us is searchable - crucial for the very important reason you give - "to make it easier for people to find their progenitors."

Private User
3/19/2013 at 4:58 AM

Sharon makes a valid point - I assume that you have had an open discussion about this particular issue Chris?

3/19/2013 at 6:01 AM

I'm with Sharon on this one. I'm really cautious of altering historic facts for the sake of convenience because when we do that the original information is lost. I feel it's important to keep a record of variations that crop up in our research and to document them as accurately as possible.

The method of recording the original surname in the 'birth surname' field and the later surname in the 'surname' field is, I feel, a good and practical solution in most cases. Other variations can be recorded as Sharon suggests.

In the case of the Nels, as I understand it, Guillaume's children were given the surname Nel from birth, so I feel it's appropriate to use this variant from generation b onwards.

*However* there are variations in this spelling too, and I feel it's important to keep a record of this because, in some cases, the different spellings point to a different line of descent.

In my case, for example, my family used the spelling 'Nell', so that's what I put into the surnmane field. However, I find they're often (incorrectly) recorded as 'Nel' in official documents, so I make a note of that by adding this variant in the AKA field. The spelling of "Nell" has helped to track predecessors who used this spelling, so I've found the correct spelling of the surname in other records very helpful.

Private User
3/19/2013 at 9:17 AM

OK, to summarize your joint advice :-).

The profile my Steyn progenitor ought to have as birth surname his patronymic GERBENS (his baptismal record).

His surname will be STEIJN (his last will and testament).

In the Aka then I list the variants that I have already found in official documents:

Douwe / Douwen / Douw

Gerbens / Gerbrants / Gerbrantz / Gerbrandse / Gerrebrandtze / Gerbrant / Gerbrandze / Gerbrantsze / Gerb:

Stein / Stijn / Steijn

Since the variant which is currently in common use globally (not only in SA), Steyn, was not used in any of the documentation, it would not be historically correct to put it on his profile, right? And not in the profiles of his two SA children either as they also did not use Steyn as far as I have been able to determine. And most probably not in most of the profiles of their children either? So in about the fourth generation we get a mix of surnames that includes the currently common Steyn.

Clarifying question: Is this a reasonable summary of the consensus that has been growing in the discussion thus far?

Technical question: for a search to find somebody among all the variants, how do we separate the variants: with a comma, semi-colon, forward slash? Is it best to list the variants in the way I did above, or should I list the variants in full, e.g. Douwe Gerbens / Douwe Gerbrants / Douw Gerrebrandtze Stijn / Douw Gerbrantz Stijn / Douwe Gerbrant Steijn / etc.?

3/20/2013 at 3:46 AM

This looks logical to me, but June and Sharon are far more knowledgeable than I am on complexities like this, so I'd defer to them on this.

I'm also interested to know how one should separate the variants. The usual standard is a semi-colon, as forward slashes are read differently by search engines, but again, I defer to those with more experience on these conventions :)

Private User
3/20/2013 at 4:15 AM

It says in the AKA field separate with commas!

Chris that all looks very complex and I think the best bet is to put it to all the managers in a discussion linked to his profile!

Of interest - Stampouers -

First Fifty Years -

3/20/2013 at 4:34 AM

Commas it is then! Luckily I don't have the same level of complexity to deal with as Chris does!

3/20/2013 at 5:24 PM

I've enjoyed this discussion (yes, name changing comes up in ancestors too!)

One thought not yet mentioned is to make a text document "on the fly" in Geni that summarizes the variant surnames & their evolution and attach that document to the line of profiles. Then it can even be used as a "sourced fact" document - you tick off the variant used by that person in the "citation" field.

The document then makes a very nice artifact of it's own with the profiles & their citations attached.

For better readability and edit protection - make the document offline in Word, export as PDF, and then upload.

Private User
3/20/2013 at 11:32 PM

Excellent idea Erica! Any volunteers??

3/21/2013 at 12:41 AM

Afraid not! Good idea, but HUGE job ...

3/21/2013 at 2:08 AM

Thank you for this most interesting discussion. Having added many Piketberg ("Piquetberg") and Hopefield ancestors on my "Ouma Breggie De Jongh (nee Louw)" 's side from many different and often ambiguous records, I have come to realise that the second and third names are often swapped around or just simply changed. Her mother was born Gildenhuys but was known as "Geldenhuys". Her sister, "Aunt Molly", was born Engela Helena, but was known "Engela Magdalena" on her ID.
I think the two most import records are
a) The birth/baptised name
b) The name given by the person when introducing him- or her-self.

The "Tree View" would help follow the name changes over time. The cited documents also help one understand ambiguous hand-written records: Particularly where double "s" is written using the old "long-S" (similar to the German EsZet) or cursive capital F.

3/21/2013 at 4:05 AM

Fascinating contributions, I agree Wilferd Duckitt. You get the feeling that no one solution will ever do the problem justice.
Charlemagne's profile is a case in point - multiple spellings across languages and eras; no one country or group of descendants to which he can be said to belong; and we have no idea how he would have introduced himself, except that it wouldn't have been any of the written versions we have! The Curators fondly call him "Chucky' for this reason :-)

3/21/2013 at 11:30 AM

Nel aka Nell

3/21/2013 at 11:20 PM

I've added the Nell to the aka, Daan'

Private User
3/22/2013 at 1:32 AM

I have started a document attached to his profile which managers can edit - based on the suggestion made by Erica. The restriction of plain text makes it a little difficult to follow, but perhaps this is something that could be better done in a project.

In the mean time please add references to the document in chronological order by selecting edit and then saving to share with us all. It can also be linked to other profiles as necessary - so variants such as Nelson can be documented. I would be interested to hear how many would support a project along these lines for names where there are many variants. Names that spring to mind are Grundlingh, Campher, Knoesen, Biebou - there are many!!

3/22/2013 at 1:39 AM

It would be an interesting project, and also a good place to keep 'back up' versions of these docs.
Perhaps you can help Private User set up a similar doc for the Steyn Prog?

3/22/2013 at 2:52 AM

June - can't see it. Have you posted it yet?

Private User
3/22/2013 at 3:00 AM

Look under documents - have just linked it as a source too.

3/22/2013 at 3:04 AM

OK, I see it under 'Sources' but don't see a documents tab ...

Private User
3/22/2013 at 3:29 AM

Media - then on the left of the screen

3/22/2013 at 3:48 AM

Ah! Hah! OK, goddit - thanks :)

3/22/2013 at 8:09 AM

I've started a Nel Family project to collect and protect all this and any other data of interest:
Please come and join and make it look as you want it to.

Private User
3/22/2013 at 12:45 PM

I have added a document to the Steyn progenitor's profile that gives an overview of his life as reflected in various documents with the name variations and with end notes giving the references. I have used the information from the First Fifty Years project as well. Thanks for the reminder.
Did put it in a pdf file, however and asked for feedback / comments. Thought it might make things easier if one person serves as the editor that adds additional information as it comes in. Reason for this is that some of the older genealogical publications contain mistakes and I would like to avoid those mistakes being reintroduced :-)
Or would you recommend that it should be a text document?

3/23/2013 at 12:17 AM

Sharon - joined the Nel/Nell family project - thanks so much for setting it up :)

3/23/2013 at 1:11 AM

Great Chris.
Thanks Lee.

3/23/2013 at 1:18 AM


3/24/2013 at 2:09 AM

Jaco Strauss inboxed an opinion yesterday:
I like to take into consideration the way the person signed his/her own name. In 1696 this man signed his own name as "Willem NEL", the Dutch version of his name.
Perhaps the best would be to refer to him as Willem NEL (a.k.a. Guillaume NéEL) son of Pierre NéEL and Judith Gouye

3/24/2013 at 2:11 AM

I'm good to put Wiliam Nel - his most commonly used name - in the Display Name field.

3/24/2013 at 2:12 AM

Sorry - Willem Nel - as per his signature. My brain is obviously running its own background translation programme :-)

Showing 31-60 of 79 posts

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