Multiple Spellings Of A Name

Started by Private User on Thursday, December 30, 2010


Showing 1-30 of 37 posts
Private User
12/30/2010 at 6:59 AM

Is there a convention on how to deal with multiple spellings of a name? Currently, I tend to use the maiden name field for an alternate spelling - e.g. "Marie-Anne Perrault (Perrot)". Though I've seen people put both names in the last name field, divided by a slash or an "or". "Perrault/Perrot" or "Perrault or Perrot". What do people prefer?

12/30/2010 at 8:20 AM

Whenever I see a name in brackets, anywhere not just on Geni, I assume its that persons maiden name. And thanks for letting us know about your particular way of doing things. I wonder how many other people do it your way. :)

Private User
12/30/2010 at 8:44 AM

Whenever there is a dominant version of the name, I'll use that and place the alternate name in the nickname box. If no version of the name is dominant, I've tended to use the slash. For the second case, though, I might not have been consistent - sometimes I would use the "or" instead. Mostly I just try for readability.

1/4/2011 at 7:43 PM

I hate multiple names in a name field: it looks sloppy and like we're stupid and can't figure out how to search for variant spellings.

I believe the nickname (also known as) field covers alternates and that the text of the "about me" should list out AKA's and variant spellings. They are all searchable on geni or will be soon.

Private User
1/4/2011 at 8:24 PM

If it's sloppy and stupid, then it's Geni's fault for not providing a *proper* way to provide alternate spellings of a name. An alternate spelling is not a nickname, and an AKA in the "about me" won't show up in a search or a hot-match. And in some cases, people might not know that there's an alternate spelling worth searching for.

1/4/2011 at 8:29 PM


A few changes on the horizon that I think will help this a lot.

- Geni seems willing to relabel the "nickname" field to "also known as."

- The next revision to the "profile" view will show nickname neatly under the name.

- Nickname *is* searchable by PRO users.

- Text search for "about me" will be introduced soon.

- I forgot to even mention the "surname" project which if you've used it at all, is a powerful search engine. It pulls up all available profiles for the last name. So if you populate the "surname" database with variant spellings, and / or creates surnames of the variant spellings, I believe the profiles will search / associate correctly.

Given all this, is it as necessary to do the /slash method?

1/4/2011 at 8:30 PM

P.S. They also seem willing to provide us with an "original name" field! PROGRESS!

1/5/2011 at 2:20 AM


Could you please supply the link to the 'surname' project. Thanks.

Private User
1/5/2011 at 6:23 AM

Erica - After adding info to the "also known as" field and alternate spellings to the surname project, would Geni be able recognize Marie-Josephte Michaud and Marie-Josette Micheault as the same person and hot-match them? Will the "also known as" fields be as prominent as the main name field?

If not, then yes, I'd say that the /slash method is still necessary. Geni seems to be able to match names that way (even if one is "Michaud/Micheault" and one is simply "Michaud")

Private User
1/5/2011 at 7:39 AM

I just looked at the surname project for a typical last name in my tree (Cyr - pronounced "seer")

What the surname page needs is a dedicated field for alternate spellings. (For example: "Sire" or "Serre"). It should be given prominence on the page, so directly under the heading "Cyr Surname", I should see "Alternate spellings: Sire, Serre" - and of course, that would be editable. And Geni should then provide an option for any search for "Cyr" to also include "Sire" and "Serre".

Plus it should work so that the page for the Sire surname would automatically have "Cyr" and "Serre" as alternate spellings. With links to the other surname pages.

Is that asking too much?

1/5/2011 at 10:17 AM


I like your idea. Can you be sure to raise it directly with Geni?


"Surnames" come up everywhere now --- and Geni asks that it be "crowd" sourced.

It does not seem to use "hot match" algorithms. In fact it seems much better matching.

"Surnames" associate profiles, projects, discussions AND documents with a match.

The entrance is here:

It's been subtle but wow it's good tech.

1/5/2011 at 10:19 AM

P.S. I am facing a similar challenge with Brassieur / Boshears ... and apparently there are two (or more) "progeniteur" Brassieurs, who may or may not have been brothers, but who are erroneously linked with Royal Brasseurs in France ... <rolls eyes> you French ....

1/5/2011 at 1:24 PM

Erica Howton
- Nickname *is* searchable by ALL users.

1/5/2011 at 10:03 PM

Oh good! I thought it was a PRO feature only.

The next version of Profile view brings the field, in smaller print, under the name ... and hopefully will move data input into the "Basics" tab. That will make it easier to enter, more displayed, and in general, far more useful.

2/22/2011 at 4:06 PM

I have an ancestor who was recorded as "Ann", "Anna", "Annie", and "Hanna" on various documents. Yes, it's all the same woman. Her maiden name is variously reported as "Connor", "O'Connor", "Connel", and "Connelly". Some of these differences are from census to census, so I think that what happened is that a census recorder was less than careful in writing a name down. How do I handle this in a way that makes it searchable?

2/22/2011 at 4:08 PM

Oh, and my paternal line would switch between "Maloney" and "Moloney" for a period of time, as well...

2/22/2011 at 4:18 PM

Bryan, at the moment Geni is not up to the task you ask for. In offline genealogical programs there usually is a tab called name where you can write down all the different names a person is found with in the different sources through his/her lifespan and beyond. It's too bad Geni doesn't have this possibility yet. Hopefully the time will come when this is possible and we all can use one main name for the person, which of course are the name at birth no matter which gender, and all other names labeled as alternative names with a lot of alernatives/variations, just like offline genealogical programs do it.

2/22/2011 at 4:22 PM

So, then, one must guess what an unknown number of other unknown people might or might not choose as The One Name (TM) for a person. That could be annoying.

2/22/2011 at 10:34 PM

Source the profile. :) Census reports are *not* good for official spelling of a profile for the reasons you note.

2/23/2011 at 12:13 AM

What Erica says, is correct. Baptizm, or other naming procedures around the time of birth, is the source for the official spelling of a persons name, or official namechanges later in life. A marriagerecord, censusrecord, or other records like them are not the right record you want for finding out how a name is spelled.

It is common that the names a person has is spelled differently in different sources through out a persons life, except now in modern day, although it can happen nowaday too.

2/23/2011 at 12:17 AM

The census recorders commonly asked what a persons name was, and wrote what it sounded like. They usually never asked a person to write down their names themselves. The same goes for immigration records. This is the main reason for all the different spellings of names.

9/22/2011 at 3:06 PM


It seems to me that this could mean we may have to change the name field when we find new information. I add persons to the tree based on a marriage record. Sometimes I will find a birth certificate later on with a different spelling of the name.

I also am not sure how to use the also know as field when there are variations in different parts of the name. Should I write out all the different combinations?

9/22/2011 at 3:50 PM

Yes, Job, I have several times changed a persons name that I first found in a burial or marriage record, to the name that was written on the birt certificate or baptizm record. I allways use the name at birth/baptizm as how I write a persons name.

Geni is still not as good as other offline genealogical software when it comes to alternate names, but as a rule I allways write down how a persons name is written in a source if it's written differently than the earliest source I have (birth/baptizm preferably)

On Geni I prefer to write the whole name in AKA if it differs from the main name in the profile. I usually separate the different names in AKA with ;

9/22/2011 at 4:25 PM


Changing the name will influence searching (within Geni and from search engines). It is something I do not like to do. It can make it very difficult for people to find information again (when they did not bookmark). Also when people duplicated information it will create different versions and because of the difficulty of finding the information it may not be noticed by the persons copying the information.

I think I get the use for AKA when a person has different names in only one part of the name, but when there are multiple spelling variations for different parts of the name this gets a bit complicated.

Sat there are 3 variations for the first name, 4 for the middle names and 2 for the last name and 2 for the sequence of the middle names and the birth and baptise names are not the same.

What should I put in the AKA field?

first name 2 + middle name 1 + lastname 1; first name 2, middle name 2 latsname 1; ....

or just:

firstname 2; firstname 3; middle name 2; middle name 3; ....

or ??

9/22/2011 at 5:24 PM

I know this is difficult as long as Geni doesn't have the capabilities of good offlline genealocal software, but I hope it will get there someday.

In my of offline program I have the main name and the option of 19 preprogrammed Alternate name labels, with the possibilty to add your own labels (which would not be exported in a gedcom). Geni isn't even close to that.

So for know, ther eis no good option for all of your various name variants. Hopefully Geni will get there.

I would recommend to use an offline genealogical software for your main genealogical research and database, and use inline genealogical software (like Geni) as a secondary and backup.

9/22/2011 at 5:32 PM


I go with what history says in the last name field and if there is a huge difference the earliest known in the birth name field, other variations in AKA, separated by commas. There is a limit on the max character string. You can also list them in the "about me."

I also try to research and find out what the name really was. For example, the English name "Reade" has evolved into Read and then Reed in the same family line, over the generations. Instead of stuffing all of that into the name fields, I did learn - and support with cited facts - which ancestor used which spelling flavor.

9/22/2011 at 5:35 PM

N.B. I think this will work with your search question, because searching on Reed will result in Reade up the tree.

First name variations I don't work with as much care, because hopefully everyone does know that Mary, Maria, and Marie are sometimes just different ways of writing out the same person.

9/22/2011 at 5:42 PM

Job, I agree with allmost everything Erica sais, except from writing the earliest name in the birth name field. I would like to have that name in the Last name / Surname field, since it then would allways be searchable no matter who or how many times the person got married later in life.

9/22/2011 at 5:50 PM

Language differences, Remi! Birth surname is first. :)

Job, you know best on Dutch names. I've been trying to learn a little for my New Amsterdam ancestors.

9/22/2011 at 6:07 PM

No, Erica, not language differences. I want a persons first surname allways in the field Last name and not in Birth Surname, a persons first surname belongs in the Last name field. Fields for later Surnames in life belongs in an Alternate name field.

Birth Surname is to me, and most genealogists, an unnecessary field, what is needed is Alternate options for Surnames later in life.

Showing 1-30 of 37 posts

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