Power-Up SIG Notes: Data Standards for Names

This month, Ellen Burd led the discussion.  She put together 2 very nice handouts with many graphics and charts, which didn’t transfer to this page well at all, so I’m just going to attach them for you to download and provide a rough summary of the discussion here.

In general, we were discussing how to record names.  We identified several issues:

  • Different spellings (Langel, Langle, Lengel, etc)
  • Unknown first or last names
  • Maiden vs married names
  • Name changes — adoption, Americanization, whim, AKA
  • Suffixes — Jr., III
  • Conflicting data — one source says the middle initial is J while another source says the middle name was Fred
  • Names that don’t fit the American “standard” of first middle last — royalty, Scandinavian patronymics, Spanish last y last

We also discussed why we care about these issues:

  • Entering in your genealogy database
  • Consistent, comprehensible and accurate reports
  • Ease in searching

Ellen’s first handout provides a useful chart for recording your thinking about how to handle a person’s many name variations so you can be consistent in your data entry.  Then she covers the implications of several ways of handling unknown first and last names for both searching within FamilyTreeMaker and for indexes.  Her second handout provides FTM screenshots of several concrete examples.

Julia highly recommends looking at the handouts, then, if you don’t use FTM, dive into the user guide for your own software to see how it handles things.  Don’t forget to check in the Options menus and the Options menus to see if you can enter things one way and decide later how you want to report them.  (For example, in TMG you can leave an unknown name blank in the data entry, then choose how you want it to display in a report: <–?–>, or UNK, or whatever)