Naming Conventions for the Historical Tree on Geni

Started by Private User on Tuesday, January 5, 2010
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Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:21 AM

Awaiting an ”official historical tree” for the old parts of The Big Tree, where all changes are logged, only a group of skilled moderators or curators can accept changes to profiles, where documentation and sources will be of strong importance, and where, instead of new uploads/adds, people hook up to the existing common tree instead of adding more duplicates and thousands of hours of work for us – let’s talk about Names.

There are a lot of questions about Names in the historical tree, and some of us spend a lot of time correcting names back after merges where people choose the wrong names.

For the common tree (Big Tree) it is important that we try to unite on one good naming practice. For our modern profiles we of course use what we’re used to: close relatives, living people, claimed profiles, all will write their names correctly according to how it is done legally in the country in question. For the whole Big tree we try to use the best genealogical standard.

But for the parts of the tree many people share, usually starting 1700 and back, we need to cooperate to get it as good as possible, by both genealogical and historical standards. We must remember when working in the Big Tree with historical profiles that naming practices were often very different from what we are used to in our own culture, in our own language, in our own time. When we encounter something where we are not sure or lack the knowledge, we must ask for help, or at least leave it to the ones who are experts in the area.

There is a guide on the wiki-page: Main principles:
* Name as close to original name as possible, language, geography and time period to be taken into consideration
* Names in the language used by the people in that culture
* All given names in First Name field
* Adjust First Name field to avoid misunderstandings or mistaken identity where necessary, by adding order/number, byname, or patronymic if necessary
* Patronymics in the Middle Name field
* Maiden names are normally avoided for Medieval profiles as there were none at the time – however Original Name is always the most important
* Last name, surname, family names in Last Name field
* Titles usually go in the Last Name field
* All names a person is known by in any source listed in Nicknames: bynames, titles, variations
* Use the Overview/About field to explain

The posts below are eligible for discussion if you have well-argued and informed information and opinions. The posts can and will be edited/deleted and re-posted if we need to change something. If you wish to discuss and perhaps suggest improvements and new areas we should look at, post here – and delete when no longer relevant. Avoid posting general comments here saying just “OK”, “read it”, “looks fine by me” - and keep posts STRICTLY to topic. More general comments can be made in other threads.

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:24 AM

For all active mergers (and everyone else, this should be the default):
Make sure you have ”show middle names” ticked off. For most historical people there will be valuable information here. You can always switch it off when viewing more recent lines in your personal tree if you prefer that. Maiden names (the term should certainly be renamed “original last name” or “birth (last) name” and be included regardless of gender) must also be shown, as these are the most important ones from a genealogical perspective. To adjust, click (takes you to your Name Preferences page):

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:25 AM

Avoid choosing/editing names into All Caps. In the common historical tree we do not use capitalized surnames (or maiden names), even if some (10 %?) of users prefer it for their closer relatives etc. All Caps is an expression of emphasis (and for lack of other editing tools like “bold” I use it here in my headlines) and in most Internet communities All Caps indicates shouting or yelling. Some genealogy software programs have “show maiden names” and/or “show last names” in capitals, as a method of making name lists easier to read. This is however not applicable here on Geni where we want profiles to be orderly and nice-looking. Uploads to Geni from users who have chosen this option in their private genealogy files will often result in profiles having All Caps names. However, these should be edited when merged into our Big Tree. No one expects you to change it all at once, but we’ll fix as we go.

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:28 AM

Even if Geni started out as an American website, the big common tree contains profiles of people from the whole world, more or less. Out of respect for all the different languages and cultures, we should always try to use the original name where known and possible, and where it is not more confusing. Only if the original name is very different from English or difficult to understand for the majority of people on Geni, the English or most common name form can be added to the original name, and then usually in the Middle Name section in addition to other names. All varieties of a name should always be added in Nicknames. Sometimes the historic or archaic language is known and can be used, at other times a more modern form of the language of the area.

Based on this, we should use the names Guillaume d'Aquitaine for the Dukes of Aquitaine, but include William, King of England for Guillaume le Conquérant de Normandie – since the latter is after all also connected to England, whereas the former is "French only".

Svend Estridsen av Danmark (dansk/Danish)
Æthelred Unræd (Anglo-Saxon/Old English)
Boudewyn van Vloandern (West Flemish) and Baudouin de Flandre (French)
Hedwig von Sachsen (Deutch/German)
Louis ‘le Saint’ Roi de France (French)
Philippe de Bourgogne (French)
Alfonso II 'el Casto' Rey de Aragón (Spanish)

If you don not speak and write all languages – which will be the case for all of us at some point – we should be careful. To find a French name for a French historical person: Check the person’s English Wikipedia page, then see if there is a link to the French parallel page (most often there is). Copy-paste the name from there. This works for all languages. It is also a very good idea when we need letters we do not have on our keyboard: ø, æ, Þ

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:29 AM

For languages with a different alphabet than the Latin letters the western world is used to, both original language AND English/Western is interesting and useful. In such cases names should be included in BOTH ALPHABET FORMS, divided by a / if necessary for clarity.

This is applicable for Hebrew, Russian and other languages using Cyrillic, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic etc – profiles of people from cultural areas using a different alphabet, to make the profiles readable and searchable also to the English speaking world. See also the Biblical merge project: for an example.

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:31 AM

A lot of names that later developed into surnames, and title-names, are based on places, telling us something about where a person was from or where he lived or ruled. Such names are common especially for nobility and landed gentry in many countries. These typically contain something similar to a preposition or "particle". A particle before a name is always written in lowercase letters, only the place/name is capitalized.
Thus (correct language-rule also applying):
de Bourgogne (not “Of Burgundy”),
de Normandie (not “Of Normandy”)
of England (not “Av England”)
d'Evreux (not “de Evreux” or “De evreux”)
d'Ivry (not "de Ivry" or "De Ivry"
von Sachsen (not “of Saxony”)
van Vloandern and de Flandre (not “of Flanders”)
av Valvatne
av Sverige (not "Of Sweden")

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:33 AM

(See above)
These names should also be treated as UNITS and not split in Middle and Last Name fields. "Of" or "De" is never a Middle name.

At some point in history these place names including particles often changed to regular surnames being perceived as ONE name, and spelling would often change to Devereaux, Delacroix, DeVere etc. The spellings of these and use of capitalization may vary a lot. Exactly how will be known by the families who use the names, but it does not apply to Medieval names. See also:

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:35 AM

ALTERNATIVE NAMES/A.K.A/Aliases/Variations
Several Geni users have asked Geni to extend their naming fields in various ways, particularly to record different variations of the same names. Ideally we’d want additional space for names of all kinds: first, middle and last. It is important that all varieties of a name is recorded, as all forms are found in search and users will know historical people under different names.

At the moment we have the Nickname field (under “personal” on the profile), which is used for all these variations. We can and should also use the About/Overview to explain about different names when necessary, especially from which sources and/or languages they.

* Names in other languages than the person’s own: Baudouin de Flandre (French) or Boudewyn von Vloandern (West-Flemish) is known as “Baldwin of Flanders” in English
* Names recorded in different forms in different records by various officials: Maud, Matilde, Mathilda, Matilda
* Bynames not already included with the First or Middle name (see other posts)
* Real nicknames like “Ronny” for Ronald or “Curly” would be recorded there

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:38 AM

Surnames are a fairly modern invention. The custom that a family starts using a name in common as a marker of being related started in Anglo-Norman culture around 1300. Different cultures and times have different customs, and to get it right we must know where and when we are. There would also very often be different customs for nobility and ordinary people.

* Anglo-Normans and Anglo-Americans: hereditary surnames through paternal line from early 1300
* Spanish speaking cultures: paternal surname + maternal surname both used
* Scandinavians: patronymics and possibly farm names, few family/surnames, until c. 1800 (Denmark), c. 1850 (Sweden), c.1900 (Norway) or still currently used (Iceland)
For more info, see:

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:38 AM

The idea of patronymics might be difficult to grasp for people who are only used to hereditary surnames and not this naming custom. However, throughout European and Arabic history (and maybe a lot more) this has been the most common type of names in addition to given names.

In the Nordic countries, in early Norman world, Celtic Scotland, Russia and other Slavic cultures it is important to know this system well if you are to write the names correctly and understand relations.

The general idea is that instead of a hereditary family name, the patronymic name consists of the father’s (or sometimes mother’s) given name + a suffix. Thus the names will change for each generation. Sometimes an additional name describing place, or a family name, would be added in addition to the patronymic.

More information will follow.

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:40 AM

Normally we have to use the Last Name field for titles in the Medieval period and earlier. Most people at the time would not have a family name or surname in addition to the title, so that should not be a problem, and for those who have (like the Plantagenets) there is the Middle Name field as well as the Maiden Name field to use. Titles were usually at first areas of responsibility and rights, and in time became hereditary through various rules, and would include a person’s family.

Sometimes people seem to have come up with titles that do not exist. The Viking Jarls or Earls often had several mistresses, a frille, in addition to a wife. None of these had any title, and we can’t call anyone “Countess of Møre”, “Princess of Sweden” or anything like that. Viking kings’ daughters would be referred to as that and never as “Princess” which is a more recent title. Titles should be historically and culturally correct.

Sometimes people confuse titles and names, like the Scottish Mormaer. The same rule as always applies: If you’re not sure, leave it to somebody else. Between us we have experts in almost all fields in the Geni community.

However there are several forms of usage for titles together with names. We speak of
* Queen Elizabeth II
* H.R.H Elizabeth, Queen of England
* Magnus Berrføtt
* Kong Magnus III
* Magnus Olafsson III, Konge av Norge

Our current practice is to fit the last of these versions (the most formal) into the current naming fields. For recent and current royalty, we might use the Display Name fields as well in order to get it all correct, including HRH etc.

FIRST NAME: Richard 'le Bon'
LAST NAME: Duc de Normandie
MAIDEN NAME: de Normandie

If Geni implements a flexible prefix field we will have to revise this practice.

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:41 AM

Like all rules we need exceptions to rules, and the most important exception will be for profiles particularly prone to errors, mix-ups, confusion.

There are ways to avoid errors, and sometimes we have to add info in the name field that clearly distinguishes a profile from the ones it should not be confused with. Also: always write explanations for this in the Overview/About section of the profile, to explain. Where necessary or appropriate, a public discussion linking the profiles in question can also be a good idea.

The same system makes it sometimes necessary to have Placeholder profiles, that are not genealogically correct, but are there to prevent errors in the tree. Ex: NN Doda's unknown father (to avoid confusion with another person)

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:44 AM

Article by Diana Gale Matthiesen

Historically, when people lived in clans or small villages, everyone had just one name: a "call" name or what we would now describe as a "given" name. One name was all they needed because everyone knew each other. As population increased, it became necessary to distinguish between people with the same call name. One obvious way to distinguish between, for example, two John's in the same village, would be to indicate whose son each is. In other words, John, son of William, or John, son of Robert; or more simply, John, William's son, or John, Robert's son. These have come down to us as Williamson, Robertson, and all the other -son's and -sen's (in several European languages, not just English). At some time, surprisingly late in some regions, these "patronymics" became fixed as an unchanging surname. But before discussing the fixation of patronymics as surnames, it's important to understand how patronymics work.

In the days before surnames, a person's call name (John, Ann, Matthew, etc.) was followed by the name of their father, usually with a grammatical ending indicating the name was a patronymic. Using Danish patronymics as an example, here would be a series of fathers and sons, before the use of surnames began:
Father: Søren Hansen
Son: Niels_Sørensen
Grandson: Hans_Nielsen
Great-grandson: Lars Hansen
For daughters, the ending is -datter/-sdatter:
Father: Søren Hansen
Daughter: Agate Sørensdatter
Father: Jacob Larsen
Daughter: Christina Jacobsdatter
Father: Peter Andresen
Daughter: Katrine Petersdatter
While "-datter" is the typical ending for a Danish female patronymic, there are regions where you will find that female patronymics follow the same pattern as males (i.e., with the -sen ending or, in some cases, with just the abbreviated "-s" ending). For example:
Father: Jes Larsen
Daughter: Karen Jessen
Father: Conrad Knudsen
Daughter: Birthe Conrads

In 1526, surnames became mandatory in Denmark only for the nobility. In 1771, surnames became mandatory in Slesvig-Holsten. In 1828, surnames became mandatory throughout Denmark, but the law was largely ignored. Then, in 1856, the legal mandate to use a surname was strengthened forcing the holdouts to give in and finally adopt a surname, making Danes among the last in Europe to adopt surnames.

I can use my own Danish ancestry as an example showing when surname fixation took place, that is, the generation in which the child was not given a patronymic based on the father's call name, but was, instead, given the father's patronymic as a fixed SURNAME (distinguished here in ALL-CAPS).
Mathias Hinrichsen
Søren Mathiesen (c1784-1840)
Andreas MATHIESEN (1819- )
Carsten MATHIESEN (1842-1904)
Andreas MATHIESEN / MATTHIESEN (1867-1921) — the immigrant in 1886
Arthur Carsten MATTHIESEN (1895-1967) — my paternal grandfather

As you can see, Mathias and Søren each used a traditional patronym based on his father's call name. If the tradition had been maintained, Søren's son, Andreas, would have been called "Andreas Sørensen," but we can see that, in this generation, Søren's patronym was fixed as a modern surname. I can only guess that the second "t" was added in the U.S. because the English patronymic of the same derivation (viz., Mattheson, for "Matthew's son") is spelled with two t's.

There are some important ramifications resulting from this process, other than the obvious. One is that people, today, whose surname is based on a patronymic, may be totally unrelated to other people with the same surname. Picture, if you will, that ca. 1856, everyone in Denmark was mandated to use a surname and most adopted their father's patronymic as a surname. Two brothers, Mathias and Søren, now have all their descendants named, respectively, MATHIESEN and SØRENSEN — yet these families are closely related. In contrast, two unrelated men named Søren, on opposite sides of Denmark, now both have all their descendants surnamed SØRENSEN — yet they are not related at all. It is for this reason that, as a Danish MATHIESEN, I feel no "sense of clan" with other Danish MATHIESENs, beyond my near relatives. A "reunion" of MATHIESENs — in Denmark or in America — would simply bring together a lot of unrelated strangers, hence there isn't likely to be such a gathering. For my family, it would make much more sense to have a reunion of "Danes from Visby" — our home town in Denmark (where my great-great-grandfather's house still stands and is still lived in).

The other important ramification is that once you've worked back to the point where surnames disappear, it becomes essentially impossible to trace your ancestry any further using traditional methods, unless you happen to be descended from nobility or royalty. What can be used beyond this point is DNA analysis, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities for researchers who have hit this wall. However, one other ramification of patronymic surnames is that Y-chromosome DNA surname projects are meaningless for them because, as I mentioned above, so many individuals with the same surname are not related while many with different surnames are related. The only logical way to organize Y-DNA projects for those with patronymic surnames is regionally, at the outset, and then genetically, after test results are known, as is the case in the Danish Demes Regional DNA Project. But back to the subject of patronymics …

Not all cultures dropped the use of patronymics when surnames were adopted. Some simply added the surname, and the patronymic became what we would call a "middle" name. Russians follow this custom and are more likely to call each other by their given name and patronym, than by their given name and surname. Here is an example of four generations, from father to son to son to daughter:
Ivan Petrovich [or Petrov] Zokolov
Mikhail Ivanovich [or Ivanov] Zokolov
Ivan Mikhailovich [or Mikailov] Zokolov
Anna Ivanova Zokolov

The vast majority of Russian surnames were, however, themselves formed from patronyms; so, from a grammatical point of view, it's likely to appear someone has two patronyms, as in the example above where Zokolov also looks like it could be a patronym. But the true status of the last name as a surname will be apparent because it will be passed unchanged from generation to generation, while the patronymic will keep changing.

Here are some examples of patronymics in different languages (the list is not exhaustive):
Language Ending(s) Examples
Danish -sen or -s (for a son or daughter), -datter or -sdatter (for a daughter)
Lars Hansen, Søren Friedrichsen, Marte Sørensdatter
Swedish -son (for a son), -sdotter (for a daughter)
Hans Anderson, Niels Larson, Sonya Svensdotter
Dutch -sen or -son (for a son), usually shortened to -se or –s, -sdockter (for a daughter), usually shortened to -sdr, sd, -se, or -s
Willem Jansse, Cornelis Dirkse, Jannetje Adrians
Russian -in, -yn, -ov, -ev, -vich, etc. (for a son), -vicha, -a, -ova, -ovna, -ina, etc. (for a daughter) The grammatical formation of Russian patronymics is actually even more complicated than implied here, but you get the idea.
Anton Alekseev, Dmitri Borodin, Sofiya Alekseeva, Anastasiya Borodina
Polish -owicz (for a son), -owna (for a daughter)
Janek Aronowicz, Kondrat Dawidowicz, Kornelia Dawidowna
Norman Fitz- ("son of")
Historically, FitzRoy has a special meaning as an Anglicized version of the French, Fils de Roi, which means "son of the King" and is applied to a King's bastard children.
Robert FitzAlan, James FitzScott, Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond, bastard son of Henry VIII
Scots Mac- or Mc-
John MacDonald, Daniel McRay,
Irish O' or Mc-
John O'Brian, Adam McDermott
Welsh ap (for a son), ferch/verch (for a daughter)
Gruffyd ap Rhys, Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Angharad ferch Maredudd
The Welsh were very late in adopting surnames, and many
of these are actually, though not at all obviously, patronyms. Jones = John's son, Davis = David's son, Williams = William's son, Roberts = Robert's son etc.

By Diana Gale Matthiesen: (slightly edited)

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:46 AM

A very good article on Norwegian naming practices by John Føllesdal.
Norwegian naming practices by John Føllesdal
pat•ro•ny•mic [noun, late Latin patronymicum from patr- (father) + onyma (name)]: a name derived from that of the father or a paternal ancestor usually by the addition of an affix.
(Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary © 1994 Merriam Webster, Inc.)
My great grandfather, Daniel Rasmus Jonson, was born on the Føllesdal farm in Nordfjord, Norway, on March 31, 1869. According to the patronymic naming system which was being used in Norway at the time, he was called Jonson because his father's name was Jon. Under the patronymic naming system, sons of Jon were called "Jonson" -- Jon's son, while daughters of Jon were called "Jonsdatter" -- Jon's daughter. These patronymic names, however, were not part of the child's baptized name, indeed the baptized name consisted only of a first name, such as Daniel, and sometimes a middle name, such as Rasmus. Thus, in the church records for my great grandfather it says in the column called Barnet's fulle navn (The child's full name): "Daniel Rasmus".

The patronymic name was added in day-to-day interactions because several persons could be named Daniel Rasmus in a community. Referring to someone as Daniel Rasmus Jonson helped to clarify that it was Daniel Rasmus, the son of Jon, that you were talking about, and not Daniel Rasmus, the son of Ole.
Unfortunately, the first name followed by the patronymic name was not always sufficient to identify a person: there could be several persons in a community with the name Daniel Rasmus Jonson.
To avoid any confusion, rural Norwegians would therefore add the name of the farm where the person was living -- not as a name, in the modern sense of the word, but as an address or identifier. My great grandfather was therefore known as Daniel Rasmus Jonson Føllesdal.
In a small, rural community, this naming practice worked well. My great grandfather was known by everybody in his community -- "There goes Daniel Rasmus, the son of Jon, who lives on the Føllesdal farm."
However, this patronymic naming system poses certain problems. One is that while a farm name may be added to a name, the farm name was not used as a surname, but rather as an address. For example, we can look at Daniel Rasmus Jonson's father, Jon Jonson, my great great grandfather. He was born and raised on the Hanebrekke farm in Nordfjord, and he was therefore called Jon Jonson Hanebrekke. As an adult, however, he moved to the Føllesdal farm and was thereafter known as Jon Jonson Føllesdal.
Neither were patronyms, such as Jonson, Danielsdatter, Evensen, etc., used as surnames. The patronym only said that the person was the son of Jon. It was not a hereditary surname.
In Norway, the change to a fixed family surname began in the early 1800's. The change started among members of the educated upper class (the clergy, the military, and high ranking civil servants).

In addition, people who lived in cities, such as Bergen or Trondheim, used hereditary surnames. These surnames were often very old, and were, in many instances, of foreign origin--British, Dutch, or German.

But it was not until 1900 or so that the patronyms "froze" and became widely used as surnames, i.e., a name that would be passed down from generation to generation. The use of a fixed family name was not made compulsory by law in Norway until 1923.
Another problem is that the spelling of a person's first name, patronymic name, and farm name can often vary from one source to the next. You may, for example, find your great great grandmother's name spelled as "Anne" in her baptism record, spelled as "Anna" when she was married and as "Ane" in another source, such as a letter or a family bible. Likewise, "Ola" might be spelled as "Ole", and "Paul" might be spelled "Povel". Such spelling variations also occur in the patronymic names: "Danielson" might be spelled "Danielsøn" or "Danielsen" depending on the source. Yet another problem involves the letter "Å". This letter started to replace the double letters "AA" in the late 1800's. You may therefore find your ancestor named "Haakon" also referred to as "Håkon".

As Ivar Staale Ertesvaag pointed out in another post in the thread on the patronymic system:
....There is a rule that historical names shall be spelled with the modern spelling. In public use (i.e., governmental use) this rule is followed....... Accordingly, the kings shall be referred to as Håkon (not Haakon, Hàkon, or Haakonn), Kristian (not Christiern, Christian, etc.), Fredrik (not Frederick, Friedrich, etc). Most of the bygdebooks (local history books) -- in fact all of the ones that I have seen -- follow this rule. It is rare, however, that we find the name of a person spelled the same way [in the various original sources]. We find, for example, Povel/ Poul/ Paul, or Nils/Nils, or Anna/ Ane/ Anna, or Lisbet/ Lisbeth/ Elisabeth/ Elsebeth/...........
[As to the letter "å",] in one probate record that I have examined and copied (from 1884), the writer changed between "å" and "à" in the same document ("à" is Old Norse and Icelandic).
Farm names were also spelled differently from one source to the next. I have seen the farm name "Myrold" spelled "Myrvold", and "Roset" spelled "Rosæt." Given the fact that names are spelled inconsistently in both original as well as secondary sources, what are we to do? I believe that the most historically accurate approach is to write down each variation and note the source and date of the document. If our ancestors were not consistent with the spelling, then it would not be historically accurate for us to ignore that reality and arbitrarily choose one version of the name as the correct name.

It should also be made clear how children's names were selected. The first name was not chosen at random, but followed a strict rule: the oldest son was named after his paternal grandfather, and the second son after his maternal grandfather. Likewise, the oldest daughter was named after her paternal grandmother, and the second daughter after her maternal grandmother. When the names of the paternal and maternal grandparents had been used up, the great grandparents names were used, but in no particular order.
There were, however, a few exceptions to these rules: 1) the name of a deceased spouse was used first, i.e., when a widow or widower remarried and had a child, that child would be named after the deceased spouse; 2) if the parent of a child died prior to the child being baptized, that parent's name would be used (if necessary the name would be feminized - from Wilhelm to Wilhelmina, for example); and 3) if a child died, the next child would be named after the deceased child.

Excerpted and edited by DLS from:
Norwegian-American Surnames by Marjorie M. Kimmerle
Norwegian-American Historial Association, Online Volume XII

In America the patronymic and the farm name of the immigrant from rural Norway vied with each other to become the family name. Almost all Norwegian-American names today belong to either one of these two types of surnames. The problem of the rural Norwegian immigrant, as has already been indicated, was not simply that of adjusting one name to the speech habits of a new country, but first and foremost that of changing his custom of naming -- to habituate himself to the use either of a farm name or of a patronymic. The surnames now used by descendants of the Norwegian pioneers did not become established as family names as soon as the immigrant arrived in America. There was a gradual adjustment to American ways. The immigrant does not give up his native customs entirely as soon as he comes to a foreign land; he tries to transfer the customs of the old country to the new.
Norwegian names:
First names:
Farm names:
More information:
Family names in Scandinavia:

Historically, there were few hereditary family names or surnames in the modern European sense in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). People had three names: first a given name/first name, second a patronymic (derived from the father’s name), and third the name of the farm where they lived.

Patronymics - MIDDLE NAME on Geni:
* Larsson (Old Norse, Norwegian, Icelandic, Swedish) son of Lars
* Larsen (Danish, Norwegian bokmål after ab 1800)
* Larsdóttir (Old Norse, Icelandic) daughter of Lars
* Larsdotter (Norwegian, Swedish)
* Larsdatter (Danish, Norwegian bokmål after ab 1700)
* Larsdtr (common abbreviation covers all three forms above)

Farm names - LAST NAME on Geni:
* Functioned as address
* When people moved to work on a different farm they changed their name
* When people married they would get the name of the farm where they settled, whether with the man’s or woman’s family or elsewhere
* A family would have the name of the farm where they lived, whether they owned it or worked there
* Several non-related families could have the same farm name, because they lived there

Under the Danish rule, from 1397/1596 to 1814, the clerks and nobility of mostly Danish and German descent would often have family names like Holst or Mowinckel. Thus priests, clergy, tax collectors, civil servants etc would use surnames in the European sense. Also immigrants from other European countries could have family names.

In the 1800s, people living in the towns and cities would often start using a family name instead of the older Scandinavian naming custom, as this seemed more fashionable. When more people moved from farms in the countryside to towns in the late 1800s, this new custom of family surnames spread. As families changed their naming tradition there were several choices of names. Some took the names from the farm where they had stayed, like Frøysa or Krogset. Some choose a patronymic recently used, like Larsen. A woman would take her husband’s name as she married. The Act of Names from 1923 made surnames in the modern sense mandatory.

Private User
1/5/2010 at 8:58 AM

Without being in disagreement with Anne Marit, I suggest the names of agreement use with wikipedia, that determines perfectly the use of names and surnames in different countries, always and when the original names should be used in the language of the country of birth of the person in question, and not the translation to the language of the person who includes it in the tree.


Specially the undue use of midlle name in the cases of the names of Spanish origin and Spanish-speaking countries, since in these cases the midlle name does not get used to use, but the surname composed for for the surnames of the father and the mother.

1/5/2010 at 10:01 AM

I am truly torn on all of this because there are two conflicting needs: 1) To preserve the record what the person was legally named and/or the name that they were commonly known by in their day, and 2) To be able to trace the birth family lineage when a person's name changed sometime after birth- often due to marriage, or a change in title, or just a legal name change. It gets particularly confusing when a person's name changes several times during their lifetime for one or more of these (and other) reasons.

And we've all seen cases within Geni where someone uses the Maiden Name field to record the last name after one of several previous marriages. This often gets confused by others to be a true maiden (birth) name and therefore leads to erroneous merging with someone else. Another problem is when, for example, a Duke of one place becomes a King of another, and all of these names/titles get jammed into the family (last), middle or maiden name fields.

This is why I have repeatedly proposed a "name timeline" feature to Geni.

See my latest rant on this on the forum at

1/5/2010 at 12:29 PM

I can only agree on the principle of following naming conventions. I also support David's comments about the difficulty of recording name changes accurately. Human activities cannot be shoehorned in a database and we must be sure that our ancestor's memory are not leveled down to what fits into the Geni datamodel.
Regarding the Geni guide on naming conventions, I disagree that the "Titles usually go in the Last Name field" for reason 1 mentioned by David and because a title is a meta information about a persons career and/or position and therefore belongs in his/her history.

1/7/2010 at 7:25 AM

Another category of last names used in northern Europe were last names derived from a persons work. These persons descendants could also keep that last name and we see it often today.

Snedker - Carpenter
Müller - Møller
Smed - Smith

And a lot of others.

Private User
2/7/2010 at 12:43 PM

In general:

When merging Master Profiles (the well-worked-through profiles that have been merged 50 -150 times), do NOT change the names.

And all: please read the guidelines carefully.

I'll try to write an update on Titles, which are the most difficult elements to fit to the current categories. We all wish for a better system for this. In the meantime, use the Work-fields to describe which titles when.

Private User
4/17/2010 at 3:37 AM

We urgently need to agree on rules for the use of Cyrillic letters, especially since some Bulgarian guy have started to use it on none-Russian profiles. I had to remove him as a collaborator since he tends to delete profiles instead of merging them.

Валерий Павлович Кузьмин have taken some initiative on this:

Private User
4/17/2010 at 3:55 AM

Names for profiles from cultures with other alphabets should of course use the multiple alphabet rules:
For languages with a different alphabet than the Latin letters the western world is used to, both original language AND English/Western is interesting and useful. In such cases names should be included in BOTH ALPHABET FORMS, divided by a / if necessary for clarity.

This is applicable for Hebrew, Russian and other languages using Cyrillic, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic etc – profiles of people from cultural areas using a different alphabet, to make the profiles readable and searchable also to the English speaking world. See also the Biblical merge project: for an example.
This will solve the problem for everybody. Some 90 % (99 %?) of all Geni users speak a Western European language and use English to communicate between us. Thus the English/Latin letter version of the name HAS to be included, but as secondary to to original name.

As stated above this applies to:
* Hebrew
* Cyrillic
* Arabic
* Hindi
* Chinese
* Japanese
* and other similar cases

Also remember to fill in all alternative names for a profile in the NICKNAME field. They will then come up in all searches.

Private User
4/17/2010 at 4:03 AM

I would not say ALWAYS use multiple alphabet, - only for commonly known profiles and their close surrounding, like the Romanov line.

I do NOT expect Russian people to invent names/add Latin letters on their family profiles, - unless it is profiles of international interest.

Private User
4/17/2010 at 5:44 AM

All the suggested "rules" in this thread are meant for the Historical tree, i.e profiles for people born before about 1750 and being well-known beyond their immiediate family. They are of course guidelines based on the conventions developed by the most active users merging and working on profiles in this part of our common tree.


Yes, I think about, that most of people dont understand what is writen in Cyrilic. At first I think that for other variations exist field Nicknames, but I dont know how work search on this field. if write English (here problem how translate from russian to english) name go a bit long. In ideal must be field Original Name, and translations to other language. But now we have what we have. And we need to define strong rules for naming.

1. First question is romanisation.
2. How it write? write it trought "/" looked like a bit strange and very long ,
3. we have field Display name, how we can use it?
4. we have field Niknames we can use it so.
5. How to translete names lke "Иван IV Грозный"? I think we can simple translitrerate that "Ivan IV Groznyy" and in Nikname write something like "Ivan the Terrible" and other names

rules how to make Romanisation:,

site what can help (NB! in Russian:)

My proposal we take one profile and make it for Example so that all sides are enjoed and all is Clear.

PS. Sorry for my English

Interesting, I am first who raise the question on russian Names?
And until we define strong rules I stop merge conflict data

Private User
4/17/2010 at 6:44 AM

Your are the first Russian speaking person having any interest in finding a solution ;-)

I have tried to make examples, for example on this profile, but I see that it is changed again ;-(

Yaroslav the Wise

4/17/2010 at 7:35 AM

I think (based on other internationalization work that I have done) that this is yet another argument why "name" should be a multivalued field.

Using uppercase for one script and lowercase for another, it seems wrong to make rules that force my name to be harald / HARALD tveit / TVEIT alvestrand / ALVESTRAND, as it will be today.

If names were a true multi-vaule, with validity dates, we could have

Berit MaidenName (1931 - 1956)
Berit MariredName (1956 - 1972)
Berit SecondMarriageName (1972 - 1999)

which would solve a different problem, but als

Adam (Latin)
ADAM (Cyrillic)
MADA (Hebrew)

apologies for lack of keyboard & knowledge to make proper examples.

But that, of course, requires coding work at Geni, and cannot be solved by a convention; while the system is as it is, the HARALD / harald convention seems to be the least distasteful solution I've seen.

4/17/2010 at 8:39 AM

I proposed a similar idea a very long tiime ago in the Geni Forum:

Simplest way for Geni is automatic romanization of non English leters(words) and it must be optional. Rules of Romanization is clear and automatisation must be simple, but I dont know how often Geni make things that offer community. I think in database it must be stored as is. but this is a future.

I made changes to profile of my grandfather, pls review:

I think that storing booth Russian / english names in one field is not good, but we have not other choice. beter for me is using Display field but it is not showing no there.

Private User
4/17/2010 at 2:21 PM

Your example of your grandfather is OK, - that is the method we used when we merged the first Cyrillic variant of the European royal lines. Since most of these profiles is of international interest we use the national/Latin spelling of the name and moved the Cyrillic name to the Nicknames field, example: Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom

You could logically turn it around and demand the same rule for Russian profiles, and I partly agree - but... for international known profiles as long as we don't have any language dependent view of names we should use a rule which satisfy the majority of Geni contributors, users and viewers: Latin spelling in the name fields.

The question is however why either variant is important:: Search and Readbility.

We have to choose a solution which keep hot-match and profile searches in mind, so the only solution today is to compromise to satisfy both the national and international spelling, even if hard-core genealogist and historians dislike it.

This means a variant of Shmuel's solution of the Biblical lines where the name fields contains both the Hebrew and Latin spelling of the names.

Hot-match and searches will make a hit on these profiles whatever variant you have, but not the opposite way, which in my opinion is not so important. If someone wants to merge their profiles to the main lines it is better that the hot-matched work for them and not the opposite way.

Back to the main example: Yaroslav the Wise - Google Translate gives me: Ярослава Мудрого, so the compromised name would be?

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