Priorities- Profile Cleanup - Removing Married Names

Started by <private> Preller on Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Profiles Mentioned:

Showing 31-60 of 135 posts
Private User
4/14/2011 at 1:33 AM

If it is historically accurate, and can be shown to have been historically accurate by means of sourcing, that a woman is known - by posterity - in other words at the end of her life - by her maiden name, I'll allow it. But if the name on the gravestone reads a married name, for the sake of historical accuracy, I will not allow removal of a married name in the section of tree I'm working in.

I understand some cultures (mostly ancient, but quite a few modern as well) do not use married names, and indeed some individuals within the cultures that do use married names elect not to use them. To retain accuracy in the tree, in those instances, I will defend the use of a birth name. But:
1. removal of married names where they were used is revisionist.
2. it "cleans up" (as in "removes") information pertinent to that person's life.
3. it creates additional work that takes away from research that could be applied in correcting other parts of the tree (fixing tangles, mis-merges, building out parts of tree that need building out).

Again, in areas of the tree that I follow, where I find that the person's name at the end of their life is by means of a married name, for the sake of historical accuracy, I will restore that married name. I took on this position to curate to preserve the accuracy of the tree. To do any less than that would in my mind be foresaking that mission.

<private> Preller
4/14/2011 at 1:50 AM

Ben I will follow this up with a communication, but from my perspective in South Africa historically correct at least up to about the 1900 would be not to use married names on our profiles.

<private> Preller
4/14/2011 at 1:57 AM

ps.. That's specifically for Huguenot decendents. I have no view or particular preference on the english contingent related to the 1820 settlers as this has not been a focus area for me ever, but I will do some more research to see what I can suggest and reccomend on those legs of our trees.

4/14/2011 at 2:05 AM

Why don't Geni simply remove the "Last Name"-space from the female edit form? It only creates doubt as to whether a woman's last name or her husband's last name has to be filled in that space. If she had successive marriages the problem increases. On the same edit form there already exists a space for the maiden name so that thereby the impression is enforced that the last name space has to be occupied by the husband's last name. There already exist a "Relationship"-form where all the marriages can be recorded.

4/14/2011 at 2:52 AM

Thank you Ben! From an historian's point of view culling data (especially for the sake of appearance) is nonsensical.

While Geni is relying on the person in the street to merge profiles, the more info they have to view, the less chance of mis-merging!

If a woman's profile view carries a married name (in an era & place when it was in use), it is much easier to spot when there has been a spousal mis-merge, than if you only rely on her position in the tree to tell you who her husband was.

Paper & Pen Genealogists make their money from having all-encompassing individual control to spot & fix errors immediately. Geni has gone well beyond this. To bend over backwards to the extent of removing existing historically accurate data just to pay lipservice to a model that is no longer the most logical application in the circumstances is truly a Dark Ages move.

4/14/2011 at 2:53 AM

On the point of married names as a SA convention from the 18th Century on - there is enough ambiguity (SA settlers came from the Netherlands, France, Britain & Germany) to make it illogical to use this as an argument to remove married names from SA profiles THEREAFTER, including modern times - which is what Mauritz wants done.

4/14/2011 at 3:32 AM

I concur, removing info is not wise, Use your view setting if it bothers you. It is better to see all info than to have censored info by some users. I agree by removing info you negate a lot of peoples hard work. For the hard line genealogist we understand that geni is not a historical correct db but a source of info that is populated by current day to day users who add valuable info for the diehard genealogist to keep up their historical correct databases seperately if required. We must keep the day to day not so genealogy correct users interested to add their data, this info is not always available through other sources.

Private User
4/14/2011 at 8:56 AM

Hi Mauritz:

On the South Africa part of the tree, I don't have any knowledge, and for that reason wouldn't be working there. I would fully support whatever use of last name that is in use by the culture and individuals. (To be honest, it kind of surprises me that birth name is the standard - it was a Dutch-based culture for many years, which in my mind suggests that the Dutch naming practice of hyphenating married women names would apply, but I've not looked it up, and haven't run into profiles first-hand there.)

I am aware of the French use of birth name. In everyday practice, the husband's last name is put to use, but for official records it is the birth name - since we are dealing with records here, I support the use of birth name in French-based cultures (all of my Huguenot ancestors that were based in the Old World, who hadn't moved to an English-based land and been subject to English naming customs, make use of birth name - as an aside, the same applies to those in my personal tree based in northern New Mexico - pre-Annexation names use the Spanish naming customs, as do any that can be shown by Census record, etc., to have retained this custom after 1848 - there weren't many as in most cases it wasn't an option).

But in the English-based portion of the tree, the practice of changing from birth name on a married woman has been in place since family names began to be put to use just after the Conquest, the most common exception being where the married woman's family has more to inherit than the husband's family, and in order to retain inherited lands the woman's name is retained by both (though oddly the husband merely hyphenates rather than removes his birth name, unlike women - at the risk of being called a "Lucy Stoner", I never would say that married names in English culture were a particularly fair practice, but they happened).

4/14/2011 at 9:52 AM

My objection is certainly not to the removal of married names in times where there would have been no such thing. But the Dutch, French, British & German settlers arrive in SA in the 18th Century! It is not at all a given that across & between these cultures married names were unheard of.

And moving forward it becomes increasingly a certainty (as with the rest of the Western world) that married names existed, until for present-day generations most SA women have identity books, passports and gravestones in their husband's surnames. This is what I am objecting to being deleted.

<private> Preller
4/15/2011 at 7:42 AM



There is now a proposal being presented to Geni for changes to the name fields which I believe will solve many of the issues we experience and may help us with resolution for everyone's perspective and preferences on setting up profiles. I believe I will be forgiven if I share the bare bones of the proposal for everyone's information as this is such a contentious issue for many and having caused this fracas I would like to keep everyone appropriately informed.

As basis for the proposal the following points are raised as basis for the suggested changes:

(1) at baseline, we need to follow genealogical standards and provide a birth/original surname for each person.

(2) Additional names (married names, other name changes) that appear in records --and especially the names by which a person is known for most of his or her life--are all *essential* information that must be included and never deleted as we compile information on historical persons.

(3) The above facts are true regardless of gender, and therefore there should be no distinction of gender between what fields are revealed or hidden nor in using terms which only apply to one gender (such as "maiden name").

(4) Any Geni user should be able to select viewing preferences for the way he or she would like to see names displayed.

The request that will be refined to the engineering team will be to:

(A) Remove the gender distinction between revealing the "maiden name" field (Not so important and relevant for us in South Africa, but certainly elsewhere).

(B) Change the label of Maiden Name field to Birth/Original Name; also, moving it into the spot where Last Name currently would give it the priority it deserves, since it is chronologically a person's original name

(c) Change the label of Last Name field to Additional Surname(s) [and eventually create the ability to add as many of these as needed, so that women like Elizabeth Taylor can have each of their husband's names listed in a separate data box rather than listing all of them in the same box

(d) Rename the Nickname field to "Also Known As" and restore it to the Basic Profile Information.

(e) Make sure that each of these fields is searchable in the basic Geni search, so that Elizabeth Taylor can be found using any combination of her married and/or maiden names.

<private> Preller
4/15/2011 at 9:23 AM

While we wait for any further feedback on these changes I want to take the opportunity to interpret how I see ‘Married names’ being used in the context of this field changing to ‘Alternate names’ (if indeed that will happen) and I want to use this thread to explore this concept of Married names further to advance our common understanding. It will be helpful if we can in the process agree a few things so that we can move forward with confidence.

I would like to highlight, the key words in the proposal above: “that appear in records”. So if I interpret this correctly and certainly from a genealogical perspective:

In defense of this initiative (and in reply to some of the previous posts that I did not get a moment to respond to and also since I’ve now even been accused of vandalizing the tree, the current use of ‘Married name’ in ‘Last name’ has been prevalent often just based on preference.

I remain convinced that in line with genealogy the only correct approach, if that is indeed so and the fields don't get changed will be to use ‘Birth name’ in both ‘Last name’ and ‘Maiden name’ fields. I would like to ask for everyone to please keep this in consideration when loading new profiles going forward.

Whilst doing a little research over the last few days to try and understand when we started using married names in South Africa (Let me qualify – only in relation to the ‘Afrikaans’ part of our tree) I could find no use of married names pre 1850, although there are sure to be some. The use of married names seems to have become more commonly used for woman only in the middle to late 1800’s. Certainly this I think is the case in documents such as with Sterfkennisse and wills that I have consulted but also from experience over time.

I have no view on our English lines and particularly the 1820 settlers and the Germans, but it does seem from feedback they may have been using it from earlier and I do wonder if they did not in fact have an influence on the introduction under the ‘Afrikaners’.

To this end I have a few documents now all telling the same story. I will highlight the Sterfkennis of one Magteld Susanna Petronella van den Berg
dated 10 November 1869:

1- Naam van overledene (Name of deceased): Magteld Susanna Petronella van den Berg
2- Geboorteplaats van den Overledene (Birth Place): Pothchefstroom
3- Namen van Ouders: (Names of parents): Johannes Jacobus van den Berg, Anna Johanna Helena Catharina Olivier.
4- Ouderdom (Age): 31 Jaren (31 Years)
5- Beroep (Occupation): -
6- Getroud of ongetroud / Weduwnaar of weduwee (Married or unmarried/ Widower or widow): Getroud (Married)
7- Datum van Overlyden (Date of death): 17 February 1872
8- Waar gestovern (Where died): Plaats Rietfontein (Area Rietfontein)
9-.... gonna skip these, but point 9, 10 and 11 are on whether a will is available and if she left assets.
12- Namen van kinderen (Names of childern): Anna Johanna Helena Catharina, Susanna Jacoba Petronella

Signatures: A signature of one DR Botha a magistrate and her husbands signature JL/B Stijn
Subscript to her husbands name: Widower of MJP van den Berg.

Also in her will which I cannot make out the date she signed and user only her 'birth' name.

Based on these document I will conclude the following:
-Her name is represented as her birth name "van den Berg." only in the documents.
-Her mothers name is presented as her birth name "Olivier" only
-The subscript to her husbands name in the writing of the magistrate is her birth name only.
-Her name appears only as her birthname in her will.

Certainly also in other documentation that I currently have access to from roughly the same period (most of my geneaological documents are in storage) there is no convention to use married name for woman by1869.

Maybe I’m completely wrong on this and would appreciate if anyone has any examples to present pre 1869 where married names are used in documents.

Gravestones seem to tell a similar story, but it does seem that at least on gravestones married names have been more prevalent than in the papers. Certainly on the english ones.

From a grave stone perspective, [6000000001790875836], you’ve done more work than most of us and I would appreciate your input?

Just to point out one of the main reasons I bring this up, is that it would make it easier if we can say pre 1850 for instance, be extra careful to add a married name and just maybe we could in time agree that for that period it does indeed warrant for us to do a cleanup.

4/16/2011 at 2:33 AM

Socio-polical changes have all played a big roll in namegiving over the ages . Regime changes even cause maps to change. Today it is happening before our very eyes as is people's ways of addressing each other ("mrs" vs "me") and placenames ("Potchefstroom" vs "Thlokwe").

It seems the democratic thing to do today to give a woman a rightful place in the sun and then I ask myself : "WHY SHOULD HER BIRTHNAME BE HIDDEN BEHIND HER HUSBAND'S NAME"? This is 2011 people!I We can record on computer all historical facts without losing any old data.

Recording knowledge in a practical and modern way will also give posterity a clue as to how we reasoned in 2011. If we can show them that we were capable of moving the paradigms away from misogynist namegiving it will be a feather in out caps.

I am fully aware that this is a global progamme trying to incorporate people from all races over the world to take part in one big global "Babelonian familytree-Tower". I pray that our various differences and belief-systems is not going to cause this lovely and towering familytree to come tumbling down.

4/16/2011 at 3:58 AM

Can we begin the process of re-inputting the married name data that has been lost post 1850?

<private> Preller
4/16/2011 at 5:05 AM

Please NOT from my perspective Sharon, unless it is in your family group or a living profile.

These fields have not been changes yet and I am not aware of any committment from Geni to do so.

I would also like to see this honoured at t not until Geni has provided us with a clear view on future direction so that we can make relevant and informed decisions that we can agree on and that will not cost us time and create merge wars going forward.

From my side I will spend some time by the end of this weekend and try put all this in context in respect of geneaology and the different peoples perspective on the use of the name fields and to also come with a proposal for discussion and agreement.

I would also again like to clarify some of the key points why we have over time come to some of the conclusions and recommendations to follow genealogical principle as we have and how and why the suggestions on SV/PROG are on the name fields as they are. I would have liked to have done so by today but unfortunately I have other committments. Apologies for any delay or frustration to anyone.

4/16/2011 at 9:00 AM

I agree with most of Pam Wilson's proposal as well. We're going to discuss it internally and try to work out the implementation details. I'm most concerned with how to get from here to there, but I'm sure we can figure it out.

A couple of points regarding naming conventions on the South African tree.
1. I don't see where using maiden name only, in the maiden and last name fields, is discussed and agreed upon for the SA tree. It may be somewhere, I just haven't seen it.
2. As much as possible, the current fields should be used as they are set-up. Maiden name should be maiden name and last name should be last name. In cases where a married woman kept her maiden name, that should be her last name as well. In cases where she legally changed her name to a different last name, that should be used in the last name field.
3. Perhaps a better recommendation for this part of the tree would be for each user to change their name preferences to show maiden instead of last name.

4/16/2011 at 9:01 AM

One more point - because of our revision system, none of this data is actually lost! Users can revert the revisions that removed the last name or replaced it with the maiden name.

4/16/2011 at 12:30 PM

Thanks for responding, Noah Tutak. Perhaps we can begin the process of reconciliation & moving forward now.

4/19/2011 at 12:41 AM

I hope so as well Sharon. Please do spend some time with our revision tools. You'll find that reviewing and reverting changes to profile data is pretty easy to do.

That said, I want to emphasize one part of what I said:

"In cases where a married woman kept her maiden name, that should be her last name as well."

Just because a woman marries does not mean that she takes her husbands last name. We all need to be aware of the prevailing standards when working in various parts of the tree. This, of course, varies across cultures and time.

Clearly, we have emphasized last name over maiden name for far too long. We spent some time discussing maiden and last name today, and are working on both an interim solution to emphasize the "maiden name" over "last name", as well as some longer terms plans that will provide a simpler and more robust solution for names.

4/19/2011 at 1:15 AM

Noah, I agree completely. I myself am a case in point of a woman who didn't. As you know, I have long and loudly requested that Maiden names be made the default surname on Geni. (And I've just painstakingly put all the useful research data offered up in the Curator discussion in a new discussion to establish a place for deciding which women would definitely not have used married names. I don't think I could signal my commitment to historical accuracy more loudly than that!)

But modern South African women traditionally all legally taken their husband's surnames. That is the convention that I buck in everyday life - so I should know how entrenched it is!
It is the deletion of this accurate data that I've been so worried about - and that has resulted in such indignation not just on my part.
Thank heavens for revisions - but it is no small task to now restore it one profile at a time, and I'm not prepared to start that until I know it won't happen again.

4/19/2011 at 1:17 AM When did South Africans Begin to use Married Names? - Help us research

4/19/2011 at 1:26 AM

Noah Tutak If I must be honest, I feel pretty despondent that I had to spend 2 sleepless days watching that no more accurate data was deleted from the profiles that, as a curator, I see as my responsibility,
and all I find myself doing is defending the fact that I'm not some conservative believer that married names should be used everywhere.
No-one apparantly even sees the need to reassure the SA Geni managers that their info is safe from deletion again.

4/19/2011 at 5:50 AM

At school all South African kids learn about the first Dutch government of this country and our first governor Jan van Riebeeck and his wife Maria de la Quellerie. His wife never got mentioned by any other name.

It seems it was the Dutch influence which resulted in many South African woman up to the 1800- 1806's being put on records under their maiden names. Way back then the Dutch would be concidered advanced in their emancipation of women. In the 1500's in Netherland, married women were allowed to run businesses and buy land in their own names.. Many of them had husbands who were often away for months or years on seafaring trips to the East. Married couples were concidered partners in the proper sense of the word (not owned by the husbands such as property or slaves). Somebody had to keep the pot boiling and see to business at home during the husband's absence. Anything could happen on those dangerous trips and husbands sometimes never returned. In those uncertain times it only made sense for a woman to hang on to her maiden name. If she worked hard and conducted business deals in his absence in her husband's name, what happens if he died on one of these trips? All assets in his name could be frozen or confiscated by debtcollectors and in the end she could be left penniless and destitute.

Likewise today it would really makes sense for women to hang on to their maiden names with the divorce-rates on the rising. Imagine all the beaurocratic paperwork involved in changing a name?

One of my early Dutch female ancestors, Maijken van den Berg x Tielman Hendriks, was banished from the Cape and sent to Mauritius for illegally trading livestock with the Hottentot at a time when the Dutch East Indian Company claimed the monopoly on trading with the natives. She was known by her maiden name mainly but sometimes referred to as Mayken Hendriks VAN DEN BERG. Whether the Hendriks-part of her name was attributed to her husband or her father,is debatable.

A friend of mine from the Netherlands told me that nowadays they usually do a combination of names when getting married: If Ms De Boer marries Mr. De Vries, they normally register her as "Mrs. De Vries - De Boer".

4/19/2011 at 8:21 AM

Thanks for that uplifting response, Esther. Yes, I'm a strong believer in history not just being his-story. (as To Jan & Marie - what I didn't realise from the school stories is how little they left behind in the Cape in terms of their own descendents, though - which is why I haven't gone to town about their stories in my travel blog. They just seem to have up & left afterwards. Although if you have any good stories about her, please put them there. )
Please also add the great story about your cattle trading granny. I love her!

I definitely prefer the idea of women retaining their identity in their names. My children have a combination of their father & my surnames: so they are Doubell-Robins. (We're still figuring out what will happen with their children, though ;-)

Your point about about women standing in for husbands is so true, and applies also to Macbeth's Scotland - where the females were left to conduct the ruling while the males were fighting or on pilgrimages to Rome. I've often been disappointed, though, to find out that certain cultures' supposedly enlightened attitudes to retaining the birth names for women sometimes has more to do with the fact that she is considered to remain her father's property and only on 'loan' to her husband. I think that it is connected to endogamous vs exogamous marital arrangements (who moves into whose family village). Fascinating stuff. We could talk forever.

Can I ask you to repost your maiden name examples in the - then we can have all the research in one place to refer back to. I'm thinking if we get it all together we will see the trends and be able to apply them even to those profiles we don't have sources for.

Sorry for sounding so despondent before.

4/19/2011 at 8:36 AM

The Dutch point is an especially important one to have there, I think.

<private> Preller
4/19/2011 at 12:44 PM

The name guidelines as I have them are then as follows:

1) Maiden name should be maiden name and last name should be last name.

2) In cases where a married woman kept her maiden name, that should be her last name as well.

3) In cases where she legally changed her name to a different last name, that should be used in the last name field.

4) In cases where a married woman kept her maiden name, that should be her last name as well.

5) Just because a woman marries does not mean that she takes her husbands last name.

I would like to suggest/submit the following additional guideline in consideration of genealogical approach:

6) If you do not have a source and clear proof - (document or gravestone) that clearly refers to a woman by her married name, her maiden name is also her last name. Do not invent a married name simply because you think it was convention or likely that she had a married name.

Could we agree on point 6?

4/19/2011 at 12:55 PM

I agree with point 6, except the gravestone, that isn't legal proof !
The fact that a married wife usually is called by the surname of her husband doesn't give her legally the husbands name !

4/19/2011 at 1:53 PM

Under common law, any document (including a gravestone) IS legal prove of a name change. There need be no document to support it. Sinply saying you are married under common law (many states no longer accept it) is all that is needed to bind you legaly in marrage. A tombstone is in fact stating that your name has changed legaly. A court or church record is not needed.

4/19/2011 at 2:32 PM

Perhaps else in the world but not in the Netherlands ! Don't forget that descendants of a deceased persons can choice any text or name on the grave what they want but what the deceased never should have done, so this has nothing to do with legacy !

4/19/2011 at 2:34 PM

So the point to bear in mind is that a woman may have been referenced by a number of possible names in her lifetime - not all of which she might have chosen to call herself. There are many instances when a person's own choice of name and the name the state or the church or their mother in law might reference them by could be different. But they could be searched and (mis)matched on either of them.
A name on a gravestone, or on a will etc may be different over a woman's life.
So one or other document may prove nothing more than that was a name she was known by on that occasion.

In my opinion we need to use research to decide when women were definitely not being called by their married names under any circumstances. Documentation across the same context of women might prove what one instance doesn't.

It has been said before that it is not possible to attach identity documents for all the 19th and 20th Century profiles of married women in SA, but no South African would argue that the likelihood of a married woman never having her husband's name apply to her in this period is virtually zero.

4/19/2011 at 2:47 PM

That being said, possibly we should first establish which era is ambiguous in SA - and then put together as many documents/ references from individual cases as we can from across that period.

It may take a couple of weeks, but it should then be possible to use that to establish when sources never ever used married names, and back this up with what we know about historical naming trends

Justin alerted us to this use of extrapolating a trend analysis in studying naming when you don't have documentation in every single incidence- as being part of the discipline of prosopography. (It takes at least 30 times to be able to pronounce it, I know!)

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