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Royalty- Surname encoding

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Forums: Index > Watercooler > Royalty- Surname encoding

Surveying Genealogy sites, general practice seems to be that when searching for a Royal, the country name is used in place of surname. EG- familysearch you put Louis for first name, France for last, and you get the Kings listed.

  • I propose we follow this tradition, using the domain of the title of the greatest magnitude as the last name. The En.wikipedia will be the authority on article name for the base article. So for example, the french article on William the conquerer might list Guillaume I de Normandie in the infobox header, but the article name would be William I, King of England (1027-1087)/fr and the Surname (mostly invisible but for catting and search purposes) would be "England".


The rationale for kingdom of greatest magnitude is that for example, you won't find William the conquerer like you can find the Louis's due to non uniform application. Knowlegable folks would know to put Guillaume for first name, and Normandie for last. But though william was a duke of normandie his greater title was King of England. Similarly, though everyone knew William as Guillaume, the only authority we have for likelihood of searchers using a name is how en WP names the figure. So we use that as the authority.

Can anyone propose alternate ways we should consider for doing this, or is everyone ok with this?

~ Phlox 00:03, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
I disagree. If they don't really have surnames, don't make it look as if they do. People will put these are surnames because they want to fill in that missing field. We have categories categorizing different monarchs, such as Category:English monarchs. Also, if we start adding "England" as the surname of William I and family, I wouldn't like them getting mixed up with my 4th great grandmother, Sarah England's family. (Even though she is a distant descendent of him) -AMK152(TalkContributions 00:39, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
I don't think anyone at Family search or any of the genealogy sites are under the misunderstanding that they have surnames.
When you look at the Gedcom files and use the search facilities on these sites, they use the surname field in this way.
Say you want to find all the counts and countesses of Flanders. EG Baudouin III of Flanders, Bertha of Flanders, Arnoul I of Flanders etc etc. If they had surnames, we would tell folks to look at the category for that surname. What do we do in the case of nobility- tell folks that they just can't look up nobles because they have no surnames? Ancestry.com doesn't do that. Family search doesn't do that. When we export a Gedcom file, should we leave the surname field blank? The input file didn't look like that. Everyone uses the SURNM field this way. When we input a Gedcom file, do we have to do a special lookup to verify that this is not a member of the nobility? Because by your rule, we should ignore what the Surname field says for nobility.
Your suggestion may be fine for various monarchies, but what do we do about the myriad fiefdoms of the thousands of nobles? Do we have some mirror of the surname scheme that maps out the various dukedoms, earldoms, Foos of Anjou, Bars of Artois, Toulouse, Hainhault, etc etc etc? It sounds so simple when you talk about kings, but when you talk about the nobles, it gets real icky real fast.
If you have a counterproposal, I am all ears, but unless you can suggest something better, I think we should stick with what the genealogy community is doing.


This will affect thousands of persons to be inputed via Bot, so it's not an idle topic for discussion. Your response? ~ Phlox 02:13, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
I did some thinking about the Name pollution problem (Kings of England getting mixed with folks with the England surname eg: Sarah England.
We could workaround this by placing such pseudo surnames in ALLCAPS eg: Baudouin III of Flanders (c933) -> Category:FLANDERS surname .
  • Alternate: OF FLANDERS
  • Note this is not just for nobility, but might be a convention we could extend to other non surname situations. (eg- SON OF ISHMAEL)
How does that sound? ~ Phlox 17:11, 14 November 2007 (UTC)


By 2009, more than one contributor has been using surname categories starting with "of". Seems sensible to me. I get the impression that their placement in the surnames category ignores the "of". The same should possibly apply to surnames that start with "de", "van", "von", etc. Comment from people who are using those? — Robin Patterson (Talk) 11:47, 26 June 2009 (UTC)


By 2010, with the new forms-and-facts pages, there's still no clear rule. The form "James II, King of Scotland (dates)" seems to be established, along with "John Lee, 4th Baronet of Lee". But there are still exceptions, which can lead to regrettable duplication. And there's no standard of categorization: "of" and "de" etc are sometimes being chopped off, with a person's short name and surname (in the appropriate boxes) making no mention of them. So "de Beaumont" is treated as if it were "Beaumont". I don't think it's helpful. A two-word expression a man has in his name and in the names of all of his children does not deserve to be truncated like that. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 05:18, March 6, 2010 (UTC)

This discussion is not just about royalty. I think we should leave the job out of someone's name. We don't do "John Lee, Plumber in Reading (dates)" so why do "John Lee, Baronet"? Besides, many had a number of job titles at the same time. We cannot list them all, so we'd have to make an arbitrary choice as to which one is more important. The sort-of-agreed standard is that someone's short name is "Mary of Main Property", with a long name of "Mary Surname of Main Property and a Few Minor Properties". rtol 07:01, March 6, 2010 (UTC)

I think rtol is downgrading titles too far. Baronetcy is not a job. It's less of a job than "King". But for most of the people being discussed here, we follow Wikipedia (of whichever language seems appropriate) where WP has a page for the person, and we add the date(s). This discussion is about how we encode surnames, particularly for people who did not have a simple single-word surname; to discuss the page name (for cases where Wikipedia doesn't set it), we should go to another forum. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 12:05, March 6, 2010 (UTC)

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