Naming Conventions: United States - Emigrants from Other Countries

Started by Erica Howton on Wednesday, December 29, 2010
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12/29/2010 at 1:02 PM

Let's come to a consensus.

Best Practices for Names, Emigrants from Other Countries to the United States.

This is the field order of entry:

a. first name
b. middle name
c. last name
c. maiden name
d. suffix
e. display name

In addition, there are:

- the "nickname" field (proposed: relabeled to "also known as")
- the text of the "about me" (soon to be searchable in Geni)

Fields that are not available:

- prefix
- title
- original or birth name

the N.B.: "display name" is currently an issue in merges as it is not exposed in all views.

Private User
12/29/2010 at 1:17 PM

Two methods I've been employed are:

First Name: Katherina
Last Name: Schleirmacher
Display Name: Catherine Slaymaker


First Name: Catherine
Middle Name: (Katherina)
Last Name: Slaymaker (Schleirmacher)

I personally prefer the former.

12/29/2010 at 1:21 PM

Why the difference in first names? What name was she born with; what name did she use; and what name was reflected at death?

I tend to prefer one name (the one documented) with alternate spellings in "nicknames" or the "about me."

This is because I hate stuffing nicknames/ alternate spellings into name fields. I mean, we're not that dumb.

12/29/2010 at 1:23 PM

Bear in mind, Geni has said that nicknames / and text fields are searchable (or will be).

Also the introduction of the surname database should help quite a bit for the Slaymaker / Scleirmacher type issue.

Private User
12/29/2010 at 1:28 PM

Many Germans Anglicized there name after coming to America so it's a little more important than just a nickname or alt spelling. Many times the name fluxed back and forth for generations, neither one being right or wrong.

Private User
12/29/2010 at 1:44 PM

As I remember, many of the Germans that settled in what was called the German Coast of Louisiana (essentially a part of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge) Francicized (I guess that would be the verb form of "Francization") their names - Troxler became Trosclair, etc. And of course there was the whole Huguenot thing (de La Chaumette becoming Delashmutt or Shumate or...)

Private User
12/29/2010 at 2:03 PM

Yeah, those Germans did a good job of integrating,

Private User
12/29/2010 at 6:33 PM

Apparently the strategy was effective in avoiding being ostracized in the two world wars in the 20th century... well, mostly. Beer sales supposedly suffered in the first world war, if I remember the History Channel program on it well enough...

1/4/2011 at 8:50 PM

Breaking news!

Geni seems willing to create and implement new fields:

- Prefix
- Birth Name
- Title

and hopefully re-label "nickname" as "also known as."

This would be so helpful. I am psyched.

Given this information, can we come up with "naming conventions for emigrants to the United States, countries other than England?"

Maybe break it out by language / area?

For instance -- my grandmother, born in Ukraine:
Prefix: <blank>
Birth name: Clara Switotz (not sure how you spell it and no clue what it is in Ukrainian)
First name: Clara
Middle name: <blank>
Last name: Gottesman
Maiden name: Hyman
Suffix: <blank>
Display name: <system default: will show as Clara Gottesman (Hyman) to me based on my viewing preferences>

So -- that's nice and easy!

Anyone else with rules / examples?

Private User
1/4/2011 at 9:50 PM

I'm gonna hold off. Who know what they will and won't implement and how they'll be displayed on profiles?

1/4/2011 at 9:53 PM

So you want to see the new profile layout first and if the new fields will actually get implemented, and how soon?

Can we work on the Geni Wiki - which needs to be laid out better and way simplified for people - and Spanish / other languages in the meantime?

Private User
1/4/2011 at 10:07 PM

Right, like birth names.

Yeah we probably need to reorganize the wiki too.

1/5/2011 at 12:15 AM

Reorganizing the wiki is a priority. Can we get a group to help? Maybe draft it out here first?

11/19/2013 at 9:18 AM

@Erica Howton

This discussion is from the year 2011, when I was not a curator;-)

Since that time, no changes in the name fields have been made but I make some changes in my translation for the German Geni from English to German:

1. maiden name (Mädchenname) - my translation: Geburtsname (Birth name)

2. nickname (Spitzname) - my translation: Auch bekannt als (aka)

Yes I think the field "nickname" should be relabeld to "also known as".

This is a powerful field and it can be used for nicknames, native names, names in other languages or other characters.

We don't have the fields "Prefix" and "Title" (for me the same meaning) but we don't need this fields if we edit the field "Display name"

Example (German emigrant to US):

Prefix=Title: Dr. (this field does not exist)
First Name: Charles
Middle Name: <blank>
Last Name: Mueller
Maiden Name: <blank>
Suffix: Jr.
Display name: Dr. Charles Mueller, Jr (edited by me)
Nickname (aka): Karl Müller (the original name in Germany)
Carl Müller (the baptismal name in the parish register)
Carl Mueller (if there is a source in US with this name)

11/19/2013 at 9:46 AM

That is very helpful Tobias! Thank you so much.

I have a couple of emigrant ancestors I'm not sure I've named as "best possible." I'll look for their profiles and post as examples, and perhaps others can do the same.

11/19/2013 at 9:50 AM

For my profile I'm using the following convention:

First Name: first and middle name if not more than 2 (if you have large family trees it's very hard to get 10 and more matches for a Johann Rachor born 1812-1815) Most male names in Germany begin with "Johann" but offen a person is known by the middle name (female name mostly Maria or Anna)

Middle name: <blank>
Last name: family name
Suffix: if needed
Nickname: default (if Title or Prefix is known I edit this field)
Nickname: all known aka names

2 examples based on my viewing preferences:


First name: Anna Katharina
Middle name: <blank>
Last name: Fischer
Suffix: <blank>
Displayd name: <system default> Anna Katharina Fischer (Rachor)
Maiden name: Rachor
Nickname: Anna Catharina


First name: Karl Friedrich
Middle name: <blank>
Last name: Kerner
Suffix: <blank>
Display name: Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Kerner (edited by me)
Maiden name: Kerner
Nickname: <blank>

Here you can view this profile: Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Kerner

11/19/2013 at 10:03 AM

So for the three sons named (by American information) Hans Adam, Hans Jakob, and Hans Conrad, you would include the two given names in the first name field and not use the middle name field?

For a woman named Anna Catherina Maria, nicknamed "Katy," how would you parse it?

11/19/2013 at 11:50 AM

One concern I have -- users can turn off the display name. Those users would not see the title.

11/19/2013 at 12:02 PM

Justin, wouldn't that be in line with "traditional" pedigrees? Or are you thinking the suffix field instead as a work around to lack of a title field?

11/19/2013 at 12:21 PM

I user the suffix field for titles of nobility, but not everyone agrees or sees the point.

There are at least two different "standards" that come into play.

1. An encyclopedic standard, in which the "suffix" is for disambiguation. So, (Sir) Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.

2. An birth name standard, in which the suffix is omitted except where it forms part of the birth name (Jr., III). No, post-nominal initials. Thomas Howard (above) has to be plain Thomas Howard.

Set these against an older genealogical standard that was a blend of the two. In the old days, if I were typing a family group sheet for this Thomas Howard, his name would have been the same as the encyclopedic standard -- (Sir) Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Unfortunately, modern genealogy software has lost sight of the differences so many younger genealogists aren't aware there was ever a way of doing it other than the way the software does it.

Then, here in Geni many people use a "modified birth name standard". That is, they won't use the suffix for actual titles but they want to use the suffix for knighthoods, academic degrees, etc. Often, they also want to use Jr., Sr., and other numbers that were never part of the person's legal name.

11/19/2013 at 12:49 PM

@Erica Hawton
@ Justin Swanström


Yes that's right. If you you type the second name in the field "middle name" you'll get matches for all brothers as possible identical persons (a hard work to check all the resemblances)


Erica has proposed to use the possibility set a profile as Master Profile (yes, this option is only available for our curators) so a curator can look all name fields and only the "Nickname" (aka) field can be edited by a standard user.

A prefix field would be an alternative, but here we must cerate new rules again and we are facing the same problems:

What are the rules for this field?
What language (character) is allowed for this field?
What information can be incluted on this field?

It's a hard work for a programmer to find here a general solution!

We should make our work easier and prefer to listen to Erica's suggestion.

11/19/2013 at 1:39 PM

I'm glad I get included in that "younger genealogist" category. :):)

The suffix field on Geni is cumbersome to use unless very short - and Geni is built for usability. I try to use "suffix" for titles to please other people but honestly it's not easy for me & time consuming. So there's that factor also.

11/19/2013 at 2:01 PM

Tobias, I don't know if you'll find one rule that fits all situations. I would like it far better if we used the term "best practices" rather than "standards". On the surface it looks like names should be simple, but in reality their nature varies over time by region, and then we bring our modern preconceptions and the problem of intelligibility, and pretty soon any rule creates a mess.

In the early tree we have the additional problem of trying to accommodate surnames when none existed. If we have Arnoul, Bishop of Metz, some people will think he must be plain Arnoul with no surname, but others will think he must be Arnoul de Metz because the fields demand a surname even if he didn't have one. Was his surname "Bishop of Metz"? That seems a clumsy solution, although it has a parallel in modern German and Austrian practice for the nobility. (I stress parallel.) Some will think Bishop of Metz belongs in the suffix, and some will think it can go only in the display name and/or occupation.

Private User
11/19/2013 at 9:06 PM

I think we should stop the discussion on how to use the name fields and instead put a higher pressure on Geni to get a better solution.

Looking on a timeline a name is NEVER split up in fragments line prefix, first, middle, last, maiden and suffix because they are NEVER combined in an endless way.

What you always have is a complete name, - in a time period like a married name, when born, used in a source etc. A king is never born a king, neither do a doctor or president etc.
What we need is a dynamic list of complete names with a classification (married name etc), an optional time/time period and quoted sources.

I practice the rule "best known as", and this should be reflected in a display name, - also a complete field, and we should be able to enter multiple versions of that as well, - language dependent.

11/19/2013 at 10:25 PM

Bjørn I have no argument about the needs for enhancement of the application, and I like the way you talk about constructing a display name; I've seen the elegant results for myself.

But I have tree building to do, and I need assistance when it comes to my immigrant ancestors, and in earlier time periods.

Cannot we help each other?

Private User
11/19/2013 at 10:47 PM

As Remi have stated several times: The genealogical standard is using the birth name in the primary name fields.

All other names is other names - which cannot be combined.

11/19/2013 at 11:13 PM

This discussion is not the place for that comment.

It's a request of people familiar with how to construct naming elements from the frequently occurring "old counties."

We know the Anglicized version.

We know the Scandinavian names from other discussions & from the Wiki. I refer to them as need be.

It was my 1st opportunity for a clear explanation & guideline I can follow from a native German speaker, and I thank Tobias from deep in my heart for it.

11/19/2013 at 11:48 PM

I would like to give an example for a German emigrants to the United States (fictional person):

Charles Henry Miller died in 1858 in USA (Best know'n So what name Charles Henry Miller), this should also be in the name fields, because his ancestors are unlikely to search for him!

In the church records in Germany, he was baptized in 1785 when Carl Henricus Molitor (then common in Latin spelling)

In Germany he was known as Karl Heinrich Müller as well as to read in the church book at his marriage in 1825 in Germany.

With its entry into the United States, he is known as Carl Heinrich Mueller in the entry documents.

In the 1850 U.S. Census Carl Henry Muller

In the death certificate Charles Henry Miller, this family also bear his name still living descendants.

When immigrants from other parts of the world, this will probably be similar.

So we should use the Nickname field for all aka names

Private User
11/20/2013 at 12:09 AM

Even more important: Quote the source values as written when adding sources.
By looking in the Sources tab in a profile you will then see all name variants, referred in which source, with a date.

Unfortunately most people don't bother filling in the citation value field when adding a source.

11/20/2013 at 12:09 AM

So please check, I think this is how I would construct the names for this ancestor, keeping in mind the naming conventions and records available in 1858.

A tombstone would probably be my 1st knowledge & where I would be starting. My 2nd record would be the 1850 census. Then maybe I would get lucky & start to find emigration records.

In the US at that time middle names were used and very important as separate middle names.

First name: Carl
Middle name: Henry
Last name: Miller
Birth Surname: Müller
AKA: Karl Heinrich Müller, Carl Heinrich Mueller

I don't know that I would need a separate display name then. The result is clean and easy to read, and the records I purchased from MyHeritage will show very easily as RecordMatches and SmartMatches.

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