Is it Okay to leave Death Date blank if unknown?

+6 votes
Is it a problem for the "data doctors" if the Death Date is left blank when it is unknown? Is it better to enter a reasonable estimate and make a note in the bio?

Thanks, Jim
in Policy and Style by Jim LaBossiere G2G6 Mach 2 (21k points)
recategorized by Jillaine Smith

3 Answers

+16 votes
Best answer
If you don't have a death date, and have no way to estimate something that could be reasonably close (such as a burial or probate date or a record that shows a widowed spouse, etc.), there's a good reason for leaving it blank. An estimate that's too far off may not be matched by the system when creating profiles, and can cause duplicates to be created. I recommend putting an explanation in the profile if the date can't be estimated to something within reason, say less than about 10 years.
by Joyce Rivette G2G6 Mach 8 (83.1k points)
selected by Esmé van der Westhuizen

I also recommend leaving it blank. Bad date estimates, whether made by the profile creator or by a data doctor, can lead to mistakes and problems for other other users -- such as failing to discover an existing profile due to an erroneous death date, or refusing a merge proposal due to a serious discrepancy in death dates.

The worst date estimates are the ones created by people who have one documented date (maybe a marriage date) and estimate the other dates around that one date. For exmample, if the marriage was in 1745, they might estimate the birth date as before 1745 and the death date as after 1745. Strictly speaking, that is true, but people do not get married in the first year of life, and if the marriage produced multiple children, it is safe to assume it did not end in the first year. Realistic estimates are far better than these kinds of strictly constructed date vales.

I agree, Ellen. There was one profile I worked on that a DD added an estimated death date. Off by 60 years. It was actually detrimental since others started copying the date into Ancestry trees. I find estimated dates useful in my research notes but never when writing profiles.
Thanks for the star, Esmé!
While I will add explanations about estimated birth dates, I would tend to not do that for death dates as they are frequently unknown.
+6 votes
I say leave it blank.

Also, I would like to see WikiTree add a status that says "unknown" ... for both Birth and Death Date fields.
by Tommy Buch G2G6 Mach 6 (64.7k points)

Look at the death date field.  Underneath is a set of radio buttons, the first of which says 'estimated/uncertain but non-living'...

What does unknown mean to me?

It means I have no date. I either looked for one and didn’t find one, or I didn’t look for one yet.

What does uncertain mean to me?

It means I have a date, but I haven’t proved that it is correct or not? I don’t even know if it is an estimated date or not.

What does estimated mean to me?

It means I have a date that is made up. It’s my best guessestimate, and I know that it is an estimated date.

Note: WikiTree should NEVER have combined these two separate conditions with one radio button. How am I supposed to distinguish between the two conditions? Except by tracking down a research note.

What does calculated mean to me?

It means I have a birth or death date only and the number of years, months and days lived, The two were used to calculate the birth or death date.

What does after this date mean to me?

It means I have a reliable source that states that the person was alive on a particular date. So, I can then use after as a reasonable delimiter with the date because of this source.

What does before this date mean to me?

It means I have a reliable source with a date that states the person has died prior to this date. So, I can then use before as a reasonable delimiter with the date because of this source.

What does certain mean to me?

It means I have a date and I have examined enough reliable sources and believe this date is correct.

What does eyewitness/exact mean to me?

It means I was present or I have first hand knowledge that the date is exact/correct.


Edited: Edited the last two questions to remove ambiguity.

Edited: reordered the first three questions.

Edited: added questions for "after this date" and "before this date" as they pertain to death

If you do not know, but it is a profile of someone who has a birth date or year of over 150 years ago, could not one “guess” that the person is not living, as Ros mentioned. So people could, at least, select that “not living” radio button?

I realize that there are a lot of profiles where the person was born in the last 100 years, but if they disappear off the grid in a particular year, could we not put that year where they are no longer found and then click the radio button “after this date?”
+11 votes
If you leave it blank one of us  data doctors will eventually come back and research it and add an estimated date.  So if you already have an estimate, it's better to add it now and explain the details in the biography.
by Loretta Morrison G2G6 Mach 8 (84.2k points)

When doing the above, there are templates that can be put on the profile that say the date is estimated.

I may not have a clue when the individual died.  If I find, for example, a John Doe (whose birthdate I know), how am I going to know if he lived to 4 months, 4 years, or 40? Or 92? Supposing I know he's dead, but not when.  I can hardly estimate a death date, can I?

Note underneath the death date field where there are several radio buttons, the first of which says 'estimated/uncertain but non-living'.  What's wrong with leaving the field blank and clicking on this button?

Absolutely nothing wrong, but often based on the date of some record, census, tax, marriage child's birthday something you might know if it's after or before a date. If you can not find any record then probably a data doc won't either.
Yes good idea to use the template.
Estimated to me means you have an estimated date, but you didn’t enter it. So, I will send you a private message saying that you forgot to enter the estimated date for your edited profile.

Uncertain to me means you have a date, but you didn’t enter it. So, I will send you a private message saying that you forgot to enter the date for your edited profile.

Related questions

+9 votes
2 answers
+3 votes
2 answers
79 views asked Nov 22, 2017 in WikiTree Tech by anonymous
+2 votes
1 answer
112 views asked Jan 27, 2017 in Policy and Style by Jo Gill G2G6 Mach 9 (91.7k points)
+3 votes
2 answers
202 views asked Apr 29, 2017 in Policy and Style by C. A. Sheckels G2G1 (1.5k points)
+5 votes
3 answers
+6 votes
1 answer
61 views asked Nov 29, 2015 in WikiTree Tech by Gerald Baraboo G2G6 Pilot (940k points)
+10 votes
0 answers
125 views asked Apr 28, 2018 in The Tree House by Tim Perry G2G6 Mach 3 (30.3k points)
+2 votes
1 answer
+6 votes
1 answer

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright