Proposal for Scotland Project Naming Policy for Lairds, Clan Chiefs and Aristocrats

+23 votes

There has been a great deal of trial and tribulation over the best way to display the names, titles and territorial designations of Scottish Lairds, Clan Chiefs and members of the aristocracy. There are two principal problems: -

1)      Displaying the designation appropriate to the individual and 2) in such a way as to enable him/her to appear in name searches

There have been numerous discussions on the G-2-G forum.

The following is the solution I am recommending should apply ONLY across the Scotland project.  

Lairds, Tacksmen and Clan Chiefs:

The LNAB will be the surname at birth.

The CLN will be the territorial designation with his or her number designated by a Roman numeral. It is her/her place in the succession of Lairds, Tacksmen or Clan Chiefs.

Example 1

John Mackenzie 1st Laird of Gruinard (MacKenzie-4677) has first name “John”, LNAB “MacKenzie” and CLN “Mackenzie Ist of Gruinard”. Using the Roman Letter “I” for the number “1” which would otherwise create an error message and although the policy is to register “Mac” surnames with a capital letter, the Mackenzie family spells its name Mackenzie not MacKenzie .

Example 2

Robert Munro, 15th Baron of Foulis and 17th Chief of Clan Munro (Munro-210) has first name “Robert”, preferred name “Robert Mor” because that is how he was known, LNAB “Munro” and CLN “Munro XVIIth of Foulis” because it is place in the list of Chiefs which matters most. Later on his descendants secured a Baronetcy and for those chiefs, it is the layout for a Baronet which will apply. In recent generations the Baronetcy and Chief of the Clan have separated so once more it is the numerical place in the list of Chiefs which matters most.


The LNAB will be the surname the individual had at birth.

Example 3

The CLN will be the name of the Baronetcy and on this occasion the suffix box will display the holder’s position with e.g. “2nd Bt”.

Sir John Sinclair, 6th Baronet of Canisbay and 8th Laird of Mey (Sinclair-4252) has the prefix “Sir”, first name “John”, LNAB “Sinclair”, CLN “Sinclair of Canisbay” and suffix “6th Bt”. The fact that he is also the 8th Laird of Mey is noted in his biography.

Peers and other Nobles:

The LNAB will be the surname the individual had at birth. Peers are known by and addressed using their most senior title not the family surname.

The CLN will be his/her most senior title written entirely as words.

Example 4

Captain James Sutherland, 5th Lord Duffus (Sutherland-1206) has the prefix “Capt.”, first name “James”, LNAB “Sutherland” and CLN “Fifth Lord Duffus”.

Senior Clergy and Others:

As Scotland’s principal religion does not have elevated ranks within its clergy, there are few profiles this affects. However both the Roman Catholic and Scottish Episcopal churches have bishops, archbishops and cardinals.

The LNAB will be the surname the individual had at birth.

The CLN will be his/her most senior title written entirely as words.

Example 5

David Bethune (Bethune-14) rose to become Archbishop of St. Andrews and a Cardinal. He was known as David Beaton. He has the prefix “Cardinal” first name “David”, LNAB “Bethune” and CLN “Beaton Archbishop of St Andrews”.

So now why don’t you try? Search “John Mackenzie”, “Robert Munro”, “John Sinclair”, “James Sutherland” and search either “David Bethune” or “David Beaton” and click earliest date you will spot them.

Married women, especially if from a noble family:

This has long been a bone of contention and for the purposes of nobility, except where it is shown a married woman chose to be known by her husband’s family surname, she will keep her own surname because that generally was what was done. However married women in the nobility tended to be known by their husband’s title. If a Peer, she was simply the female version of his rank of peer e.g. Earl’s wife was a Countess. If her husband was a Baronet, she would generally be styled “Lady” followed by her husband’s title not family name. If she was a Baronetess in her own right, she would not be styled “Lady” but more often “Dame” or “Madam” followed by her title. If her husband was a Scot’s Baron or even a Tacksman, she would generally be known as “Lady” followed by the name of his estate.

Examples 6 

Margaret Sutherland of Kinminitie (Sutherland-3463) was the daughter of James Sutherland, 1st Laird of Kinminitie. She went on to marry James Irvine, 3rd Laird of Artamford. After her marriage, as she also came from a noble family she was not referred to as “Margaret Irvine”. She continued to be known as Margaret Sutherland. However she was addressed as “Lady Artamford” as was typical of the time. She took her husband’s Baronial title. In a family feud with her nephew, in the Court of Session papers she is referred to as “Margaret Sutherland, Lady Artamford “ or “Margaret, Lady Artamford”. So for her profile she has first and preferred name “Margaret”, LNAB “Sutherland”, CLN “Sutherland Lady Artamford”. If you do a plain search for “Margaret Sutherland” and then click earliest date you find her quite easily.

So that no-one has to try and work out the transformation from modern numbers to Roman numerals, I have done a table covering from 1-60.

This policy WILL NOT affect the profiles of non-Scots or the vast majority of Scots post 1700

In order to hopefully bring this matter to a conclusion, I would appreciate if you would indicate your preference to the following 2 propositions:

Yes, I Support this change or No, I do not support this change 

in Policy and Style by Mark Sutherland-Fisher G2G6 Mach 2 (26.5k points)
retagged ago by Steve Harris
I cannot include the table which provides the Roman numerals from 1-60 because the system wont allow it but it will be included on the Scottish Nobility page within the Scotland project in due course and I am happy to email it to anyone who would find it useful.
I would like to see a change in the Wikitree method of displaying the designation of Scottish lairds which currently used the "nickname" but I am not at all comfortable with this proposal which produces duplication of the surname. The designation is equivalent to a title it is not the subjects name. Just as a title such as Sir can be added as a prefix the designation is something which was added during the life of the subject and if anything is a suffix. If Wikitree cannot increase the characters in the Suffix box to accommodate the same as Nickname then I am prepared to retain the the present situation for the time being and put the designation in the Nickname box. After all we Scots can accept designation  nicknames  - we all know Tam'o Shanter by Burns and maybe too Jock o' Hazeldean by Sir Walter Scott. Designation is NOT a surname and this proposal makes for a clumsy presentation of naming. I do not give my support to this.

In the Scots Peerage there are many examples where the subject is named without his designation. e.g Sir David Ogilvy of Inchmartine is succeeded by his son James Ogilvy who is followed by his son Patrick Ogilvy who is followed by William Ogilvy of Inchmartine. Furthermore none of these  carry a number going back to their progenitor Sir Andrew Ogilvy of Inchmartine.

This leads to numbering which I accept some wish to use as an means of identification. But for non-peerage folk that was not the custom.The eminent Sir James Balfour Paul, Lord Lyon King of Arms  for whom we have to thank for his volumes of The Scots Peerage did not adopt that  as in the example described above for the lairds of Inchmartine.My objection does not apply where it was part of the title such as James third Earl of Findlater. and that is obviously accepted.

I prefer to use the generational system to locate my ancestors as they can be searched by birthdate order and this does not bypass ancestors who did not survive to inherit the title.They are equally important in my heritage.

Periods in which they lived is a good enough identifier, and after all the majority of Scots did not carry a title or designation in the first place so that system gives a common method of identification.

I admire the work that Mark and his team have put into this but cannot support the proposal .
Yes. I support this change.

Roman numerals are easy.

I=1, V=5, X=10, L=50, C=100, D=500, and M=1,000. 

The tricky part is you never see more than 3 of the same letter together and if the letter to the left is smaller, you minus it from the letter to the right.

LXXXVII is 50+10+10+10+5+1+1=87

XVIL is -(10+5+1)+50 or 50-16=34 Although technically correct you will usually see 34 as XXXIV however 10+10+10+(-1+5). Basically if you can't add with triple letters, then you minus as low as possible. Commonly your 5 grouping of letters only appear once. Thus XXXVIII is 38 while XXXIX is 39. XL is 40. FUN.

17 Answers

+17 votes
Best answer
Well done, Mark!  Thank you for the time and energy you have invested in this.  I'm pleased to see that it addresses the vast majority of difficulties Scotland naming presents under the current system.

I support this change.
by Amy Gilpin G2G6 Mach 8 (80.1k points)
selected by Lady Arbuthnot of Kittybrewster
+15 votes
Yes. I support this change
by Sir William Arbuthnot of Kittybrewster G2G6 Pilot (163k points)
+3 votes
I believe British Royals and Aristocrats uses Other Nicknames for titles and that field does not seem to require one to resort to Ist rather than 1st.  So, no, I do not support the change as stated.
by Thom Anderson G2G6 Mach 4 (41.3k points)
Indeed it does use the nickname field Thom. Sadly that has led to thousands of duplicate profiles being created because a title in the nickname field does not show up in a search or new profile creation hint. It also makes the name look disjointed. Scottish aristocratic profiles are no longer part of the Euro Aristo Project so we have the chance to create a policy which suits us without expecting others to change the policy which works for them.
+10 votes

Thanks Mark, I do appreciate the time and effort you and the Scotland Project team have gone into to develop this naming policy.

I can also appreciate that searching for James Stewart, comes up with 2289 possible matches and having something extra in the Current Last Name (CLN) field would assist in identifying which noble/royal James Stewart is which.

I also fully support having women of the nobility retaining their birth name and not automatically assuming they would take their husband's name, and I think that should be the standard for all European nobility, unless there is evidence to prove otherwise.

However with the Current Last Name field, I would push to have a change so that numerals can be accepted as part of the CLN rather than use roman numerals or writing the number in full.  There are times when roman numerals might be appropriate, but I think overall it doesn't really reflect what is the accepted format for titles.

Lastly I'm concerned that if Scotland adopt this system where the title is in the CLN rather than in the Nickname field, then that creates confusion for people.  Though I do recognise that at the moment we do have quite a wide range of naming field guidelines and perhaps this is just one more to get used to?

Consequently there are aspects of this I like, but I don't support it fully.

by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (415k points)


The Wales project also has variations for Welsh Royals and Aristocrats that require one to recognize differences, so I don't see this being a lot different. One just needs to pay attention to which project's rules they're working with.

Thanks John, I really appreciate your slightly qualified support. Obviously if the day arrives when we can persuade Chris and Ales that a new field which is searchable should be available, the problem goes away. I would prefer not to use the Roman Numerals but they have the advantage of not creating an error message which then confuses our colleagues in the Data Doctor teams. As all of Western Europe plus Japan, some Asian and African countries have concepts of noble and royal families, maybe we will get that extra field one day. For the present I just think the Roman numerals option is the best I can offer and as you say, it does make profiles jump out in searches.
Hello, Mark,

I have noticed that the "dit" in Scandinavian names engenders an error, but I believe that the data doctors know not to make corrections. I know this was the case about a year ago and may have changed. The reason I bring this up is that IF members, including data doctors know not to make a correction, I see no reason to not use an Arabic numeral in the CLN field.
+14 votes
I very much appreciate all the time, effort and study you've put into this proposal. Having this laid out clearly for our membership is priceless and takes us a long way towards providing several improvements to our Scottish profiles without having to request additional name fields from WikiTree. What I see is that it will lower the chance of duplicates being created, and it will display the names properly for the members of the Scottish Aristocracy.

Excellent work. And yes, I support this change.
by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (148k points)
This may be acceptable for the Scottish Aristocracy but it does no suit the normal lairds where the current system may not be perfect but their designation is not their name.

For example let's say Patrick Hay of ABC had six children they were not Son1 Hay of ABC, Son2 Hay of ABC .....Daug1 Hay of ABC they were all surname Hay so definitely as far as lairds go the designation is not a name.
+7 votes
I support this well thought out proposal, even though it requires a bit of thought when recording alternative spellings also in the CLN field (use "aka" and commas for separators).

At least until we get more searchable fields.
by Chris Little G2G6 Mach 2 (28.6k points)
+10 votes
If he purpose of WikiTree is to bring everyone together under one tree (as stated), then anything that promotes finding a person already on the tree (searchability) it preferred.  This will lead to less duplicates and better overall genealogy.  So I support this.   If the admins of WikiTree decide it makes more sense to add a field for titles, then I am sure the Project will make the necessary changes but working within the system we have, this seems to be the best answer.   Thanks to everyone who contributed to the well thought out naming convention.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (615k points)
+9 votes
Yes, I support this change.  Thanks for the time spent on this, trying to avoid the suggestions that occur.
by Linda Peterson G2G6 Pilot (285k points)
+8 votes
Yes. I support this change. Thanks.
by Marty Acks G2G6 Pilot (102k points)
+10 votes
Yes, I definitely support this change. Actual Scottish naming protocols have never fit easily within WikiTree euroaristo conventions, and this is a brilliant way of making the names appear as they would have historically while still remaining within the limitations imposed by the current naming fields. And it will be much easier to conduct searches! This is a winning proposition no matter which way you look at it. As Bobbie pointed out, other projects such as Wales have long had their own naming conventions, so the Scotland Project's doing so would not break with WikiTree tradition. Thank you so much, Mark, for all the time spent coming up with this workable solution for the Scotland Project.
by Jen Hutton G2G6 (7.6k points)
I do not understand your comment that the name appears as it did in documents the shows a clumsy double version of the surname.
Jack I respectfully disagree I think "James (Sutherland) Fifth Lord Duffus" looks much better than "James "5th Lord Duffus" Sutherland" on the profile.

As regards your reference to numbering, the great thing about this policy proposal is that if you don't want to add the numbers of lairds in succession you don't have to. If the sons weren't known by the territorial designations, you don't have to show them. For the vast majority of Highland families they were shown. Just look at an OPR baptism register and they are there by the bucketful. My policy respects the right of a Profile Manager to display the profile of an ancestor in any way which complies with the use of the naming boxes. As for your comment about searching by dates. When there are thousands of suggested merges on Wikitree on any one day where the two individuals lived centuries apart, relying on people to check for dates is, I am sorry to say, a little naïve on your part. However if you want to be faced with merging lots of unnecessarily duplicated profiles in the future, you are welcome to them. I just want to prevent the majority of us having to waste many hours every month doing so.
I appreciate your efforts to improve the identification but I totally disagree that designation is part of the name. I am very familiar with Scottish Registers of Birth in the OPR's and the designations are often there to identify the father as " of place owned" or "in place where tenant" and " at where inhabited" or "indweller of townname" or burgess of townname".  I assume that your proposal does not cover these designations although they could equally help identify the subject, not that I am suggesting this - the point is designation is not part of a surname.
Thanks Mark for explaining that but most of the problems I encounter are from imported genealogies "borrowed" too often  from unreliable sources with no meaningful sources without attempt to check. I try to incorporate sources contemporary with the subject if anyone cares to check them. You say the Profile Manager can display an ancestor in any way which complies with the use of the naming boxes. My deep concern is that some of the subjects for which I am PM (and have profiled with a great deal of good source references) have already been changed to your proposed format and I do not like the resulting clumsy looking "name"  . Especially so as currently designation in Wikitree is in the "nickname box" and should remain so until otherwise agreed. Although not totally happy with the form of using "nickname box"  as indeed designation is a suffix, I am prepared for the time being to accept the current standard for lairds  but content to see your proposal apply to Peers if  and when agreed. Tam'o Shanter and Jock o' Hazeldean are nicknames  not their surnames.
+8 votes
Yes, excellent suggestion which I support.
by Colin Thomson G2G2 (2.8k points)
+8 votes
Mark, I fully support this! Great job! This will help immensely in searches and preventing all the duplicates that can occur. You've laid it out brilliantly and I can see the immense amount of thought and work you have put into solving this! Thank you so much for all the work you do for the Scotland Project!
by Sarah Mason G2G6 Mach 3 (36.7k points)
+8 votes
Mark, in your answer #2 above, would the move up to a baronetcy make a break in the numeration of clan chiefs. Say one is 3rd chief of such and such a clan, and his son becomes a baronet, a 1st, and later the titles of chief and baronet diverge, won't the clan chief numeration jump from 3rd, say, to 10th, and no chief 4th through 9th?
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
Hi Pip, If using your example the 4th chief becomes a Baronet then he would be described as 1st Bt in his name and suffix but in his profile it would be noted he was also 4th chief. If he then had a two sons, the elder would be 2nd Bt and 5th chief. If he died leaving only a daughter but his younger brother was still alive, his daughter would be 6th chief and his younger brother would be 3rd Bt. That is exactly what has happened in Clan Munro where the Baronetcy could only pass through the male line so the Clan chief line remained with the eldest daughter who succeeded her father as clan chief and her uncle succeeded her father as Baronet. There will always be a Chief using your example but where s/he holds a higher title, it appears in the naming field and the narrative of the biography explains that s/he is also Xth in the line of Chiefs.
Thanks, Mark. Good example and explanation.
+6 votes
Great Work Mark! Yes, I support this proposal, especially as regards duplication and searching.
by David Urquhart G2G6 Pilot (141k points)
+6 votes

Support the proposal, and also the pleas for a Title field! Many inhabitants of the American continent are descended from Europeans, and before a certain date records of Europeans are largely restricted to those with titles.

A very small quibble, though. In the Roman Catholic church and its Anglican successor churches, I don't think offices are normally a Prefix. A male priest may be prefixed Reverend or Father (in modern practice) but if promoted to an office, which is not necessarily for life, doesn't that just become his suffixed title? As in the case of David Bethune (Bethune-14), who was among other posts Abbot of Arbroath, Bishop of Mirepoix, Archbishop of St Andrews, and Cardinal of St Stephen in the Caelian Hill?

by Stanley Flower G2G3 (3.4k points)
In Scotland  before the Reformation priests carried the prefix Master if they were graduates and if not they were given the polite address of Sir. Those familiar with reading old documents will notice that knights were distinguished from these as follows Sir John Smith Kt.

In the Reformed Church of Scotland ministers were required to hold a degree and thus are shown with the prefix Master. It was not until around the 19th century that this gave way to Reverend shown as Rev.

Cardinal David Beaton was Cardinal of Scotland. I am puzzled that he is given in Wkitree the name Bethune. He was always named David Beaton and his father and grandfather were both known as John Beaton of Balfour going back to the mid-15th century often shown Betoun (an earlier spelling of Beaton) but never Bethune. See Register of the Great Seal of Scotland Vol.ii and iii. which only give Beitoun and Bettoun as other examples found.If you are interested in him I recommend Margaret Sanderson's book Cardinal of Scotland David Beaton c1494-1546.


The question of how last names of old Scots are recorded on WikiTree may, I would suggest, be additional to rather than integral to Mark's proposal. Rather than here, would you perhaps like to start a new thread?

As well as Bethune/Beaton, off the top of my head I can offer you Lindsay/Lindsey/Lindesay/Lyndsay, Allardyce/Allardice/Allerdice/Allerdyce, Ury/Urie/Ure, Broun/Brown/Browne, Aitchison/Acheson/Atchison. Who is to say which is right, and on what grounds? The more deviant spellings there are, the harder it is to see the links in the one great human family?

I take your point Stanley but your examples can be extended for almost all names - for example early versions of my Blair name were Blar and Blare but there is no point in using these versions when Blair is the regularly used version. All your examples are pronounced the same though spelling varies sometimes in the same document. Bethune however is not pronounced Beaton and was never used by the Cardinal. I think Wikitree already groups many of the variations satisfactorily in searches If anyone wants to start a new thread I may join in but it is not a hot topic.

To answer you, Jack, would take a longish essay, to add examples and sources would lengthen it further. In a sentence, Bethune and Beaton were the same name and were pronounced the same. The first spelling is French, and was adopted by the gentry families in Fife and Forfar during the 1500s, while the other and older spelling is Scots phonetic. The pronunciation Be-thewn is, I think, a modern phenomenon.

I am well aware of the family location in Fife and Angus. My sister was born just over a mile from Ethie Castle, a cousin farmed the Mains of Melgund and other cousins own and operate Ethiebeaton Quarry. However to be brief Bethune is an old Anglo-Norman form of the name which was NOT used by my gtx14 grandfather, the Cardinal. Why would one want to put in all the old spellings into the name in Wikitree especially when it was not used by the individual. . We could really go to town with that and make things even more cumbersome than the current proposal.

If one hankers after Anglo-Norman connections it would suffice to give the earlier version by saying within the profile that his family came from an Anglo Norman lot who may even have come over with the Conqueror.

Minor point. The town of Béthune (in French, or Betun in Dutch) during the eleventh century was part of the county of Flanders and never was part of the duchy of Normandy. I suggest that knights and clerics from there who settled in England and Scotland could more accurately be referred to as Anglo-Flemish.

+3 votes
Mark, the proposal has my support and thank you for the time and thought that has gone into this effort.
by T Stanton G2G6 Pilot (133k points)
+8 votes
This is a personal view Mark (I'm not speaking as an England Leader) but I like these proposals very much. I find having a Title in the nickname field for English titled people makes the name look very odd and in no way anything like it would be either said or written in real life.

This will be something that we will discuss in the England Project.

by Jo Fitz-Henry G2G6 Mach 5 (55.7k points)
Mark, you considered my remarks above as somewhat naive. You are entitled to your opinion but I was speaking from experience as I hold a Diploma in Scottish Family History Studies from the University of Stirling and have had over twenty books published on Scottish families all from my home area of Tayside and Fife. (I can provide the ISBN nos. and the Library of Congress no.)

I consider the main problem in Wikitree is that it is far too easy to import "borrowed" genealogies from other internet trees without doing any checking to see if it is a duplicate and worse still all too often repeating errors - repetition does not make it true no matter how many times it is written. I have encountered this time and again where the Profile offers nothing other than links to or Burke's Peerage  or Landed Gentry etc and thus repeating errors and adding nothing to assist. I make the point of giving contemporary references and where possible a direct link to the source document if it exists on-line.  e.g see Ogilvy-374.Andrew Ogilvy ( born c1395)

I am prepared to live with the present Wikitree system of using Nickname for the designation until a better system is found to incorporate designation as a suffix.  Designation is not a name. However I notice that already some for which I am Profile Manage have been altered to your system. Do I understand that this is no longer just a proposal but "fait accompli" ?

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