Naming Conventions

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For the Big Tree it is important that we try to unite on one good naming practice, trying to use the best genealogical standard. 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.

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.

Main Principles

  • Name as close to original name as possible, language, geography and time period to be taken into consideration
  • Titles usually go in the Last Name field
  • Additional titles in Work with year frame
  • Maiden Names should only be used in periods and locations that such things existed. Do NOT force your present-day conventions on the past!
  • All names a person is known by in any source listed in Nicknames: bynames (especially in English), additional titles, variations.

Names in original languages

Even if Geni started out as an American website, the Big 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.

Examples:

  • Guillaume d'Aquitaine
  • Guillaume le Conquérant de Normandie, king of England
  • 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 do 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

No All Caps

Avoid choosing/editing names into All Caps. In the common historical tree we do not use capitalized surnames (or maiden names), even if some users prefer it for their closer relatives etc. All Caps is an expression of emphasis 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.

Settings

For all active mergers: 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, go to your Name Preferences here.

Non-Latin alphabets

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, Indian etc – profiles of people from cultural areas using a different alphabet, to make the profiles readable and searchable also to the English speaking world.

Examples:


Place Names and Particles

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")

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. For more information, read the Wikipedia article.

Alternative Names, Aliases and Nicknames

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

Area Specific Rules

Norman Naming Conventions:

  • Main principle: Name as close to original name as possible, language, geography and time period to be taken into consideration
    • French names for French people (thus: Richard I 'Sans-Peur' de Normandie, not Richard I 'the Fearless' of Normandy)
    • Titles usually go in the Last Name field
    • Additional titles in Work with year frame
    • Adjust First Name field to avoid misunderstandings or mistaken identity where necessary, by adding order/number or byname.
    • Patronymics in the Middle Name field if applicable
    • Maiden Names are normally avoided as there were none at the time
    • All names a person is known by in any source listed in Nicknames: bynames (especially in English), additional titles, variations.

Viking & Nordic Naming Conventions:

  • Main principles: Name as close to original name as possible, language, geography and time period to be taken into consideration
    • Nordic names for Nordic people
    • Titles usually go in the Last Name field
    • Patronymics in the Middle Name field
    • Adjust First Name field to avoid misunderstandings or mistaken identity where necessary, by adding order/number, byname, or patronymic if necessary
    • Maiden names are normally avoided as there were none at the time
    • All names a person is known by in any source listed in Nicknames: bynames, titles, variations

Anglo Saxon Naming Conventions:

  • Name as close to original name as possible, language, geography and time period to be taken into consideration
    • Anglo-Saxon names for Anglo-Saxon people (see the FMG-site listed above for info if unsure)
    • Titles usually go in the Last Name field
    • Additional titles in Work with year frame
    • Adjust First Name field to avoid misunderstandings or mistaken identity where necessary, by adding order/number or byname.
    • Maiden names are normally avoided as there were none at the time
    • All names a person is known by in any source listed in Nicknames: bynames (especially in English), additional titles, variations.

Irish Kings Naming Conventions:

{{#lst:Kings_of_Ireland_Merge|convention}}

Scottish Kings Naming Conventions:

  • Name as close to original name as possible, language, geography and time period to be taken into consideration
    • Gaelic names for Scottish/Gaelic speaking people as far as possible
    • Patronymics in the Middle Name field
    • Titles usually go in the Last Name field
    • Adjust First Name field to avoid misunderstandings or mistaken identity where necessary, by adding order/number or byname.
    • Maiden names are normally avoided as there were none at the time
    • All names a person is known by in any source listed in Nicknames: bynames (especially in English), additional titles, variations.

Biblical Naming Conventions:

  1. In the Biblical lines alternate names (spellings or actual names) are separated by / marks, the "English" spellings first and then the Hebrew and/or Arabic.
  2. The surname field is ALWAYS set to a single period ( . ), unless the person has a very specific title (mostly kings). This helps keep all of the records the same (especially after merges, which might otherwise mess up the name), and enables the name to be found, in the Go To tab at the bottom of the tree (which doesn't work for blank surnames).
  3. The maiden-name field is also ALWAYS set to a period. Leaving it blank would cause the various funky stuff that people put in the maiden-name field to be automatically accepted when doing merges (which we want to avoid).
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