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Surname absence

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People who had no surnamesEdit

Most European people in recent centuries have surnames (as noted on Geer (surname)), but not every such person mentioned on the wiki has a known surname - particularly married women.

In earlier centuries, surnames were often non-existent. Some people on Familypedia have been given "surnames" based on their dynasties, but it could be argued that names such as "Carolingian" are no more true surnames than "Georgian" or "Hanoverian". See some of them at Familypedia:Surname statistics.

Our standard form for person-page creation is designed to produce an error message if we try to create a page with no given name or no surname or no short name. There are good practical reasons for that.

However, people whose surname is unknown or non-existent deserve a place in the wiki. What should be our method of dealing with them? Should we enter nothing or a hyphen or "Unknown" in the Surname field?

-- Robin Patterson (Talk) 03:37, July 20, 2016 (UTC)

I note that the text at Property:Surname carefully avoids defining the "surname" to be the "family name". It basically defines "surname" to be "primary sort key".
Another value that have been used for "blank" surnames is "(-)". Thurstan (talk) 04:12, July 20, 2016 (UTC)
Andrei very recently asked me not to use "-" in the surname field; fair comment; then he tweaked a template so that it wouldn't work. To simplify procedures, we should urge people not to use "-" or "(-)" or any other alternative to "Unknown" until we produce a better solution. Redirect that barely-populated category. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 23:14, August 2, 2016 (UTC)
If a person has no surname, as the case for earlier centuries, when surnames were not used I consider that the best solution would be to use a hyphen. This could also be done automatically if no surname is indicated. Afil (talk) 21:53, August 2, 2016 (UTC)

People with surnames that are unknownEdit

The solution is different in the case of when the name is unknown, meaning that the person would probably have a surname which is not known by the author. In this case unknown should be used as surname. I would have preferred NN which is generally used for these cases, but consider unknown an acceptable alternative.
I would however raise the question of last names of married women. In older generations, many married women were mostly known by their husband's last name and, except for aristocracy, in many cases the maiden names have been forgotten. Instead of including these persons with last name "Unknown", it not be preferable to include them with their married last name, which is actually the name they used for most of their life? I would however include a category which would indicate that the surname is not the maiden name of the person, for instance: Category: Maiden name not used as surname. Afil (talk) 21:53, August 2, 2016 (UTC)


How about this solution - Julia Farrell nee Unknown (c1830-bef1870)?
One related point is that some married women have so little known about them that the wiki's quality would be better if they did not get separate articles.
-- Robin Patterson (Talk) 23:14, August 2, 2016 (UTC)


I've noticed that Template:USurname was created by User:AMK152 about 8 years ago and is used on half a dozen pages. It's a short way of putting a page into Category:Unknown surname. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 23:45, August 2, 2016 (UTC)

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