De Vere Exception to EuroAristo Naming Convention

+8 votes
According to  "de Vere" is an exception to the general rule of not using "de" in the LNAB for older English profiles.  Discussions have indicated that this is because the name continued to be used in full into modern times, and was never shortened to "Vere".

I have a (pre-1500) counter example.

In 1435 my ancestor, John Battiscombe, purchased the estate of Vere's Wotten from Walter de Vere.

Quoting "A History of the Battiscombe and Bascom Families of England and America" by Geoffrey Batticombe Barrow (Charles Tuttle Co.Inc Publishers, Rutland, Vermont) 1976:

" had been the home of the De Veres for some five generations or so.  This family concluded with John, son of Thomas De Vere".  His brother Walter, before he died without issue, "sould Veers Watton to Will'm Montfort of Bridport Marchant who sould the said land to John Battescomb."

So we already have "De Vere" mutating to "Vere" or "Veer" in the name of the estate.

Further more, the "History of Parliament" for William Montfort, , in 1414 "he acquired from a debtor, Walter Veer of the Isle of Wight, the manor of ‘Veres Wotton’ in Symondsbury."

So "Walter De Vere" has become "Walter Veer".

I am not really suggesting that the naming conventions need to be changed, but just pointing out that "de Vere never turned into Vere" just isn't true.
in Policy and Style by Janet Gunn G2G6 Pilot (102k points)

4 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer
Joe might be right about this case, but I do find the exception a little odd, or at least oddly explained.

Maybe the exception should be more simply explained in terms of modern names where it is being claimed that all recent De Veres use the "De". (Would it be true?)

OTOH I am not sure that it has really been proven that medieval De Veres or even early modern De Veres were more strict about sticking to the "De" than other families.

In any case the original LNAB rules which were so aggressive and illogical about avoiding two part surnames have tended to be relaxed in at least some parts of Wikitree, for example non English-speaking profiles, and maybe that trend will eventually make this strange exception less important.

Oddly enough though, because of Wikitree's history, the part of Wikitree with the most awkward avoidance of two part names tends to be among real medieval profiles who definitely did tend to use "De" or "Le". This is one of the many frequently-discussed ways in which Wikitree's strange LNAB-based system of naming articles has created profile names which are literally unrecognizable.

Concerning that recognizability problem I tend to think the least worst patch up would be an article name field, for a common-sense recognizable single name, such as the ones Wikipedia articles have. Our LNAB is a sort of database sorting field, but being inappropriately used for the public names of profiles.
by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Pilot (107k points)
selected by Kelsey Jackson Williams
+7 votes

I'm not sure this is a good example of a change in the naming convention of De Veer.  Primarily because this is an entirely separate family from the De Veer family for whom an exception was made.  He should be Walter Le Veer of the Le Veer family.

Visitations of Dorset

Another mentioning a deed where he is called Walter Le Veer

Walter Veer was also the last of his family and died leaving no descendants, so it is almost impossible to say if the name was most commonly Veer, De Veer, or Le Veer in this time period.

by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (224k points)
+5 votes
My grandson, my son, me, my grandfather, my great great grandfather, members of my Y proven Irish cadet line de Vere Hunt - and all members entirely used de Vere exclusively including those who won license to use it as their last name.

Hence the amusing poem by family relative Alfred, Lord Tennyson called Lady Clara Vere de Vere.

I would assume that they were following the tradition of our Oxford ancestors

It also helps distinguish from the Dutch variant of the name for which there is no relation

Also never De or without a space
by Lloyd de Vere Hunt G2G6 Mach 2 (27.4k points)
edited by Lloyd de Vere Hunt
I think all modern families should indeed be spelled as they are spelled, and Wikitree seems to accept that more or less. So in that sense it is not an exception. The problems are more in the medieval profiles where quite different rules still apply, creating names which are sometimes unrecognizable (except for the lucky de Veres).

But I do believe you can find Veres as well as de Veres in older records. On the whole, standard spellings did not exist, especially not in the vernacular. The "de" found in many surnames is a French word, which sometimes slipped into the Latin, and later into the English. Capitalization and spacing habits are similarly quite modern and have nothing to do with any ancient traditions. The Le Strange family for example all have to have an LNAB of Strange, even back to their first mentions, but in fact the most common early spelling I have seen is Lestraunge.
Thanks for your reply

I agree with you that the Veres are lucky  and the house held for 20 Earls and  their two precursors - although given the terrain it is possible that there were some unknown illegitimates


The Scottish Weir offshoot was part of the punning - the water dam more relevant to their Scottish river existence.

The other interesting thing is than Ver, Normandy has a very viable challenge from Verre, Zeeland according to castle historian, Jane Greatorix.  


I guess that might finally completely bury the mythical Milo from ever being wombed lol  

—- on the wider discussion, all the British lines are so much easier than the Baltic Nobles.  Since the 15th century, my ancestors of this ilk have been born in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, various “Germanies” Norway, Sweden and other points of call. So many different spellings - and even my von Buttlars of which I have many lines - of an Ulsterman- Syrian crusade marriage come from all the sub houses

but that is another topic

Thanks for adding the Le Strange example, Andrew. I was just going to.

I agree the LNAB policy is basically broken for pre-modern profiles. Even colonial era spellings are, in fact, inconsistent; and our attempts to enforce "simple" or "consistent" style policy is ahistorical, and as is evidenced right here in this comment discussion with de Vere and le Veer etc, can lead to conflations and spurious enforcement of misguided policy.

We could have a similar conversation about the various patronymics. Not handling them properly is, at the end of the day, some kind of -ist -ism. (Racist? Culturism? Modern-Anglo-centricism?) 

As genealogists on a global website, better we "use their conventions, not ours." Let alone, to paint with a crude policy-brush over the nuances of real history. 

It might be helpful to separate display-time/style design preferences, and search-time/technical concerns, from the more objective reality of what's actually in the WikiTree database. Broadly speaking, we need the historical truth in the database, regardless of what the style policies, design preferences, and technical concerns are "du jour" -- because there will be steady change on all the front end stuff over time. While the actual names (to include articles, placenames, bynames, titles, patronymics etc) from history are and should be enduring. They should be welcome into WikiTree, into the actual database, and ideally not forced into nicknames fields or glommed on as suffices etc.

At the end of the day, we need to fix our problems, or this site with fail in its mission to build a universal tree and connect us all in cousinhood... because the majority of the people alive on the planet today, and the majority of our ancestors over the last ~2000 years don't agree with our western-centric and over-simplified modern name-policy style choices. It's not like they are helping the site either. It's already largely impossible to search for specific people from pre-modern history from within the WikiTree interface(s). I quite literally search on Google to move between WikiTree pages if I can't click along connected relationships. This illustrates precisely the problem with distorted & contrived naming conventions here... because we're "spamming" the actual internet with nonsensical naming syntax and nicknames, titles and alternate AKAs and jammed into medieval profiles in ways that make our site look... bad. Which makes our work less accessible and less credible, both to professional genealogists but also to amateur enthusiasts.

It doesn't need to be that way. We can do better. 

Our ancestors deserve better, IMHO.

To Andrew's point above, 

"This is one of the many frequently-discussed ways in which Wikitree's strange LNAB-based system of naming articles has created profile names which are literally unrecognizable."

There is a related issue in which variant, legitimate spellings are themselves a kind of literally unrecognizable. Given the inconsistencies and switching between 2-4 languages in the primary source materials. This by itself is a reason to be more careful, more respectful, more true to "their conventions not ours" with the actual known-good names of medieval families we are currently maladministrating. 

Here is an example of true variance of contemporary name spelling, from an 1845 book on the de Gournay family, contemporaries of the de Veres:

In the several documents consulted we find the name of Gournay spelt in various ways as Gournay Gorney Gurnay Gurney and in Latin we have De Gornaco De Gornaio and Gornacencis and this variation in the spelling of the name applies to that of the town as well as of the family In fact the orthography of proper names as well as of all words of common use was wholly unsettled previously to the last century and a half. - North Runcton Jan 1845 


Ultimately, the solution to WikiTree's problem is within WikiTree. We should stop trying to force "tidyness" onto data, that's always a sin. (Always wrong, in any data-driven science.) We should also stop forcing un-look-at-able "uglyness" onto our readership, that's always a sin. (Always wrong, in any content-driven art.)  Inevitably, the actionable solution is for WikiTree staff (paid employees ie engineers and product team) to implement some kind of "Display Name" which is manually specified by qualified profile managers or project volunteers &  thus controlled by editorial policy (set by era-specific or name-specific projects etc) rather than automatically-wrongly concatenated from mere database fields filled -- inappropriately -- with information that doesn't belong there. 

+6 votes
There has always been a tension between WikiTree's principle that we should use the name which the person himself would have used, versus convenience in indexing and identifying a person.  This I think was the logic behind Euroaristo abandoning the "de" prefix in all the other names.  It was also a convenience at a time when anyone could edit pre-1500 profiles.  

This battle was fought several years ago for Welsh patronymics, and it was an achievement to have LNABs like "ap Iorwerth" or "ferch Gruffudd".  Those who prioritize historicity were happy and those who prioritized indexing were not.

Now that work on pre-1500 profiles has been limited to those who have gone through a certification process requiring greater familiarity with medieval sources, and now that the Euroaristo Project itself has morphed into country projects and the residual Medeival Project, I think it is time to re-examine that entire premise.

With respect to the family at hand, if the person went by Vere from birth, I say the LNAB should be Vere.  If the person went by de Vere from birth, I say the LNAB should be de Vere.  I may be a minority voice on this, but I'm glad the topic has been raised.  

Currently, medieval profiles for, say, de Saye, announce at the top that the person is named de Saye, formerly Saye, because Saye is the preferred LNAB.  This looks like nonsense to the reader who knows that the person was de Saye from birth, and there was no name change involved.

We've had the status quo for years now, so there's no need for a rush in changing it.  But I do want to say that sooner or later, in the interest of historicity and a credible site, it should be re-evaluated.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (364k points)
Couldn't agree more, Jack.

To your point about "those who prioritized indexing" preferring to actually publish factually-wrong Welsh names over historical and linguistic reality, let's help those WikiTree users get better technology from the WikiTree team (paid staff). That's a debate that shouldn't be forced upon us. There is no reason 'Vere' and 'de Vere' can't be indexed and displayed seamlessly within some search UX for logged-in users independently of how the actual website serves the general public and posterity for non-logged-in users.

But intentionally publishing objectively wrong names on our biographies and profile pages (indexed and stored at Google!), for the sake of mere data-handling policy standards is not a winning plan long term. It's actually contaminating reality with clumsy policy choices from the history of WikiTree-internal convention disputes, onto the future of the public internet. That's not OK. We should fix it.

These are all solvable problems, but we should consider the full range of solutions to include technical changes in how the site works (and the database under it) rather than just policy hacks and continued editorial styleguide tug-of-war.

Thank you and to Andrew for continued leadership on these topics, and of course your personal industry on historical profiles. It's greatly appreciated.

Isaac in California

It is urgent Jack, because right now it makes Wikitree the subject of frequent criticism among serious genealogists, and that needs to be fixed unless we give up on the project as a whole, or redefine its mission.

I think too much rushing is in any case the last thing Wikitree is in danger of, concerning this question, but it is obvious what MUST happen if Wikitree is to have a future: 

Fields made for the database should simply NOT be used as the public human-readable title of for our articles. 

(The standard Wiki software never demanded this mixing up of article names with sorting fields. I presume that we now suffer from a "psychology of sunk costs" issue because someone put effort into making it like this, and it has not helped anything. It is not easier to search on Wikitree than on Wikipedia for example.)

The compromise solutions which have evolved are often not improvements because they just create unreadable monstrosities. In areas like non English names we see how there is no problem created by simply giving up the old restrictions, so I think there is no reason not to loosen up the rules all over Wikitree.

As I said before, a more pro-active strategy would be to have an optional field for a human-readable article name, based simply on a common-sense human way of naming a person.

Just to be clear, people who are not used to working on Wikitree do not necessarily find this kind of name acceptable, recognizable, or something they would know how to search for. 

John "King of England, Lackland" of England formerly Plantagenet

(For example, how many people would think of the Royal family of England as having a family name let alone that it would be "Plantagenet"? And infamously, what are all the "formerlies" about?)

Andrew, your last example (John... etc.) is just one of many egregious names that become unsearchable due to trying to cram in all the possible names. And, for this reason I whole-wheat agree with he above post.

When did “King of England “ become a nickname? Wouldn’t it, with the proper name fields made available, better if John’s name could simply be John “Lackland” Plantagenet, King of England? I’m pretty sure Old John would have been pretty satisfied with this. It would certainly make finding him in WikiTree that much easier.

A difficulty here is the hard and fast rule of what the person used in his lifetime, not what he became known as to history. Could we not find a “work-around,” some flexibility here?

And this is true not only of English royalty and nobility, but also for much of the rest of Europe.
Each part of that example name has its own logic, that evolved as a compromise from a certain rule and I think making a better rule is NOT the solution.

I think all the fields, which are used different ways in different cases, are all being merged together into these names, and that will never create good profile names.

The way to get people to create good profile names is to create a profile name field and ask people to use that field to create a profile name, like on Wikipedia. That CAN work. But there will NEVER be an algorithm which will make a good profile name out of a bunch of database sorting fields.
Just to throw my 2 cents in... I completely agree Jack, Isaac and Andrew.  The naming conventions we use are broken and non-sensical.   We should change the way we do medieval names sooner rather later.  However, I have tried to make minor suggestions to improve naming on WikiTree, and for the most part these suggestions are just ignored.
@Joe (et al), who from the actual paid staff and management team of WikiTree "corporate" is responsible for prioritizing software engineering feature requests, and presides over product-management decisions about stuff like this?

It seems painfully self-evident that eventually, the website (and so the database beneath it) needs a Display Name field which can function as the title of the page etc, and so drive search engine indices and supplement the "searchability" problem we continue to have with internal tools for logged-in users. The relentless concatenation of variant names and basically-trivial mis-spellings into the notional name field at the top of our profiles is a problem. A big problem, for the site over time.

Of course "I get it" on how we got here. It's great that the community evolved workarounds over time, and editorial standards and policies that make the site work for its users. To a point. But at the end of the day, the real users of the site -- the beneficiaries of our collective work -- are the future readers. And we are (in my opinion) victimizing them, with some of the tortured profile names resulting from the earnest application of our current policies.

I volunteer to work with whomever at WikiTree proper manages stuff like this, for the software engineers, if asked. It's not that complicated. It just needs doing. Careful, doing.
Are you a programmer?

I believe Chris Whitten makes the ultimate decisions.
Nope, not a programmer.

I was once, 20 years ago, for a search engine startup-- and a database administrator. Natural-language search actually; so familiar with spelling gremlins and search-query chaos, and why our WikiTree search/interface tech is what it is.

Later as a manager and executive, I managed many software engineering and product-management projects and businesses for startups inside of Google; and digital modernization initiatives for Uncle Sam at DoD during the Obama and current Trump administrations. So, I have spent about 20 years "translating" between programmers and engineers, and the product/program managers who typically supervise them, and the customers; and negotiating arranged marriages between budget/resource limitations & enterprise priorities.

How about you, Joe?

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