Started by Private User on Sunday, August 21, 2011


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Private User
8/21/2011 at 12:21 PM

It seems as though there is still no universal agreement to the placement of ordinals in the names of medieval profiles. Placing them in the First Name field, following the given name, has been my method as it seems to me to be the more natural order, ex. Henry VIII, King of England. Could others share their thoughts?

8/21/2011 at 12:34 PM

I agree, but if we have to search I do that through Google because the search on Geni is to litterary !

Private User
8/21/2011 at 12:40 PM

In general you cannot use ordinals in the medieval Nordic royal lines in an international tree because the same king can have different ordinals depending if you look on Norwegian, Swedish and Norwegian history.

If you want to follow a rule you only use the ordinal in display name.

Private User
8/21/2011 at 12:44 PM

There will always be exceptions and special mitigating circumstances be we should first focus on a general guideline and then work from there.

8/21/2011 at 1:14 PM

I object to abuse of the database field, "first name.". If you're going to work around software limitations, use the display name field,

8/21/2011 at 1:15 PM

I've tended to attach it to the title in the suffix for the reasons Bjorn gives - that don't just appy to Nordic lines - if the person took over different territorial titles in his lifetime.
So, at the moment, I would probably put it as 'Henry' in the naming field and 'VIII King of England' in the suffix field. A bit unwieldy - and I would certainly call him Henry VIII in the display name - not least to help it become obvious on the tree view if he is going to be accidentally merged into another Henry.
I agree with the need for conformity and am happy to follow the general consensus

8/21/2011 at 1:24 PM

I have a lot of thoughts on this subject, and I'll write more about them later when I have some time to organize my thoughts.

For now, I'll just say that I prefer to be a good boy, follow EH as my database guru, not abuse the First Name field by inserting numbers, and not pretend the Suffix field is a freebie name / title field ;)

I have a lot of thoughts, but not many opinions. If I did have an opinion (which I don't), it would be to agree with Bjorn and not use ordinals except in the display name. In most cases, except for sovereigns and some modern folks, ordinals are a "genealogical convenience". In my book, that's code for fiction. Not being judgmental, just sayin'.

Private User
8/21/2011 at 1:43 PM

Sharon Lee Doubell, in my mind, there is a big diffidence between Henry VIII, King of England and Henry, VIII King of England. The ordinal in the suffix, before the title, to me implies that he was the 8th King of England but in fact, counting from Offa, he was the 49th King of England. Henry VIII, King of England denotes that he was the 8th King of England by the name of Henry.

Justin Swanström (taking a break), I have the same feeling when it comes to the use of House names as surnames; contrived history. Like everything though, it's a balancing act.

8/21/2011 at 1:47 PM

So where is the freebie Name/Title field? I need it!! :-)
What's the suffix field useful for then?

And aren't we talking about sovereigns and dukes here? - are you saying Henry would not have called himself Eighth in documentation (if not in the bedroom)?

8/21/2011 at 1:49 PM

True Victar. Hadn't thought of that at all. OK - then I'd put Henry VIII in the name field for sovereigns and their ilk - whose documented names became that. (I think? Justin?)

8/21/2011 at 1:54 PM

I have the same feeling when it comes to the use of House names as surnames; contrived history. Like everything though, it's a balancing act.

It's also an act that must take into account helping PRO users to quickly see where we want those profiles to remain positioned on the tree, relative to the others.

8/21/2011 at 1:57 PM

Victar I agree with the differences.

Therefore, i believe the best practices in English are to abuse the fields by

First name: always the first name, never anything but the first name

The reason for this is databasing. The match is made on the first name. If you have anything but that in the field you break search.

As I said, abuse the Display Name field. I also like to abuse the suffix field but until they make the little box bigger, it's hard to do.

8/21/2011 at 2:01 PM

I get mad at abuse of the middle name field too because it is needed for baptismal names and patronymics as well as contemporary middle names. But middle names seem to be ignored by search, so the matching is less crucial.

Remember the languages used by your data entry team. Adjust your naming conventions guidelines to what is easiest for them as well as most historically accurate.

8/21/2011 at 2:03 PM

Harald posted a link a few days ago to an interesting article on internationalizing names. Not directly related to using ordinals, but a nice intro to the problems of names in various cultures.


8/21/2011 at 2:06 PM

That's for the geni form design team, if they haven't seen it.

8/21/2011 at 2:17 PM

Henry VIII is one of my favorite examples for the problems of names and ordinals.

Wikipedia says (correctly, I think) that Henry originally used the style "Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Lord of Ireland". That's as close as we can get to a "name".

Ignoring the Display Name, he could be:

First Name: Henry VIII, Last Name: King of England. Nice, but King of England wasn't really his last name, and what about France? He didn't rule France, but it was part of his name / style.

First Name: Henry, Last Name: Tudor, Suffix: VIII. The problem is that he wasn't the 8th Henry Tudor. Also, by custom sovereigns have no last name. He belonged to the Tudor dynasty, but his last name was not Tudor.

First Name: Henry, Last Name: of England, Suffix: VIII. This is the best approximation in my opinion, but still not perfect. First, the ordinal wasn't part of his birth name. And, even if we ignore the birth name convention for titled people, we leave out the "and France" that was arguably part of his birth name.

There are many variations of the above examples, but this captures my main points.

As Victar said, it's a balancing act. Trying to find the solution that is only minimally wrong, and is easy for people to understand.

8/21/2011 at 2:28 PM

I don't know if we want to look at knights and simple nobles as part of this discussion.

As I work through merges I find many examples like this:

Henry IX de Percy.

In a case like this, I think - I could be wrong - that he probably never called himself Henry IX. I might even be a bit skeptical that he thought of himself as the 9th Henry de Percy. Probably, he would have taken into account all his uncles, cousins, great uncles, etc. with the same name and thought of himself as just Henry de Percy, of ____.

In these cases the ordinal is just a genealogical convention. The Victorian convention was to start the numbering with the ancestor who came with the Conqueror. Later, some researchers started a generation or two earlier in France. Then, it got to be confusing because some lines got disproved. So, many historians have dropped the ordinals entirely, even though genealogists still like them.

In these cases I don't feel any guilt when I change the name from Herny IX de Percy to Henry de Percy, IX. It wouldn't bother me a bit to follow Bjorn's suggestion and remove the ordinals entirely.

Private User
8/21/2011 at 2:40 PM

Justin Swanström (taking a break), what about his title though? Wouldn't it be Henry IX de Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland?

8/21/2011 at 2:56 PM

No, it isn't, according to Burke's Peerage.

8/21/2011 at 3:05 PM

I don't think he'd be Henry IX de Percy, even with the title. We can imagine that his ideal name name genealogically Henry de Percy IX, 2nd Earl of Northumberland.

We have to make compromises, because it won't all fit into the available fields.

I can see your argument, but my choice would be use Henry de Percy, IX in the name fields, but leave out the IX in the display name. Let him just be Henry de Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland.

I'd even venture to argue that this is a better solution, because it doesn't "misuse" either the First Name Field or the Suffix field.

(I wish I had a better word than misuse. I want to convey the idea that the use would be non-standard, would be contrary to the labeled purpose of the field, would offend the Lady EH and other purists. At the same time, I don't want to load my arguments with value judgements. Especially when I'm not at a point of making those value judgements myself.)

8/21/2011 at 3:08 PM

Burkes online requires subscription, here's grandaddy's page


Notice: no ordinals in names

8/21/2011 at 3:10 PM

Yeah you better not be giving my peeps numbers they did not have. I'm pretty sure that's reserved for Kings.

8/21/2011 at 3:23 PM

EH, I don't trust Burke's. I blame the early peerage and gentry books for giving us the idea that every head of an ancient family is entitled to have an ordinal as though he were the head of his own little principality. It's no use arguing with me that Burke's is innocent. I'm quite irrational on this point <grin>.

Seriously, I'm glad to hear that Burke's doesn't really do this (anymore?). For our friend Henry de Percy, I think he's sufficiently differentiated from all his kin by being 2nd Earl of Northumberland.

Maybe a better example to use for an average knight or noble would be William de Gascoigne, IX. Did he have a title? I don't think so. Or maybe Gullaume Paynel, VII. No sense putting the ordinal in the first name, but many people do it.

I'll same Guillaume IX of Aquitaine to make a different point - later.

8/21/2011 at 3:38 PM

Burke's, at least as quoted on thePeerage.com, does not use ordinals. I like Cracroft although it's not user friendly.

Private User
8/21/2011 at 3:42 PM

Henry de Percy IX, 2nd Earl of Northumberland just really looks backwards to me. The given-name-ordinal pattern isn't just reserved for kings; it's used throughout all nobility. Guillaume IX de Poitiers, using your example, which is rendered as William IX, Duke of Aquitaine on the English Wiki page.

As Justin points out, ordinals are often a modern fabrication but I do think them a necessarily evil for disambiguation. In my perfect world, I would only give them a first name and a title.

8/21/2011 at 4:09 PM

You need to give me an English page and cite an English genealogy source. If you notice: I am not arguing about ordinals in French or other languages. But for English nobility, it's not used that I can see, and I've looked in Vistiations, Burke's, Cracroft, and other sources from books.

8/21/2011 at 4:11 PM

Victar BTW I have tried ordinals in the suffix for disambiguation. It always fails because the numbering systems start over.

Historians tell me a better disambiguation tool, if there is no title, is a topographic. Low and behold; that's supported by even the older books.

8/21/2011 at 4:14 PM

The problem with bringing in Guillaume IX here is that the semi-autonomous counties and duchies create a more ambiguous question - whether they are sovereign "enough" to warrant ordinals, and whether they themselves (on a case-by-case basis) used ordinals in their lifetimes.

If you stick just with simple, untitled nobles, such as William de Gascogne, IX, it's hard to argue that we should stick the ordinal in the middle. Why would we?

If you look at English nobles created by letters patent, I think it's difficult to argue that they were on the same level as the great, autonomous nobles of France and Germany, and that they should have ordinals contrary to their own contemporary practice, and now contrary to our contemporary practice (Burke's).

I couldn't find an example of his signature, but I did find an example of his name written in a contemporary document:


(His signature, in accordance with peerage custom, was probably either Northumberland or H. Northumberland, so it would tell us nothing.)

I think the reason it Henry de Percy IX, 2nd Earl of Northumberland looks wrong to you is because the ordinal doesn't belong. (To me, both examples look like someone had a database and wanted to make sure all the fields were filled.) Take out the ordinal, and it looks fine.

Private User
8/21/2011 at 4:40 PM

I don't think titles belong in the suffix box. If you look at the drop-down menu for data entry, it gives you what it is looking for. In addition to Jr-Sr, I-X, etc., I WILL use suffix for common two or three letter designations, such as M.P., MD. Ph.D., etc. I use the Display Name or Also Known as for the royal titles, etc.

I hate numbers in the first name box. I hate dates in the first name box. If some one is using dates there while working in a branch, I tolerate it. If they want me to MP it, the date goes.

I hate titles in the first name box. I pull them out and put them in the display name box.

8/21/2011 at 4:43 PM

Another data entry purist!

Part of my issue is that everything in the database fields should be supported by source data.

I realize we have to workaround but hey that's why there's a display name.

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