Surname of Notcertain- I thought it should be Unknown?

+6 votes
There are currently four people on Wikitree with the surname Notcertain. (Some are Not Certain)

Shouldn't they all be Unknown? In one case, a wife with the surname Unknown was already added and a second wife of the same name was added with a surname of Notcertain.

I'm pretty sure that is not really a surname.
in Policy and Style by Pattie Plummer-Everett G2G6 Mach 1 (10.5k points)
Yes, it should be, but people have been very creative when a surname is unknown - there are people with “Inconnue,” and “Unbekannt” (French and German for unknown), “No surname”  and “NoSurname” for people who had no LNAB, “Woman,” “Wife,”  etc., etc.
"MNU" for "Maiden Name Unknown"...
Unk and Unk. are also quite popular names.
One of the first things I do with the few gedcoms I’ve downloaded from WikiTree is delete any “Unknown” surnames; the next thing is completely delete any people named “Unknown Unknown.” This solves the problem quite nicely. My software has no problem with blank data fields.

You are correct, Unknown should be used and only Unknown.

Per the help page on Name Fields ( : 

"If the last name is unknown, use Unknown in the field. Do not use Not SureNNWife of XAdopted, etc."

That said, I would not recommend changing the LNAB from "something creative" to Unknown unless you're pretty sure that there is no way of finding what the actual name was. Why? Because it's more effective to merge from "NotCertain" to the real name, for instance "Brown", than to rename from NotCertain to Unknown and then from Unknown to Brown. See the Multipe Redirects Problem.

On the other hand, if you're creating a new profile and could not find a maiden name after a reasonable attempt to discover it, then use Unknown, nothing else.

Thank you everyone. I didn't realize how big an issue until I posted the question.

1 Answer

+9 votes
Best answer

There have been numerous discussions about the variants of use by members for Unknown in all fields. Unknowns project has the following  List of Unknowns

The Help Page for Name fields has a section about this Special Rules for Required Fields, but people don't follow it.

The 'footnote' on the page has the following

"Using the same convention for unknown last names is important. In the long run, this clarifies things for everyone. It groups these profiles together in various alphabetical sorts. And we can program our systems to ignore profiles named Unknown in certain contexts."

by Linda Peterson G2G6 Pilot (447k points)
selected by Pattie Plummer-Everett

Linda, the provision that the footnote relates to is also important, listed under "Special Rules for Required Fields":

If the first name or last name is unknown, use Unknown in the field. Do not use Not SureNNWife of XAdopted, etc.

Edit:  Corrected wording.  Thanks, Linda.

Julie, that IS the section that I referred to with a link, it is called Special Rules, not Provisions.
OK, sorry I missed it.
Thanks for the star Patti

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