Standardising the name of the Royal House (Great Britain) of Hanover

+27 votes

A merge has been proposed of duplicate profiles of Queen Victoria. I have set these as an unmerged match until a definitive version of the spelling of the surname is decided on. 

Hanover (one N) is how this Royal House is spelled in Great Britain, where Victoria was Queen. All references to the monarchs of this House are spelled Hanover, as are the places named after them in Great Britain and the then Colonies. The London Gazette (the official organ of the British Government from 1665 to the present day) announced Queen Anne's death in the 3 August 1714 edition and that the succession was settled on "the most illustrious House of Hanover". 

Hannover (two Ns) is how the city in Germany is spelled. And although the British Royal House came from the Electors of Hannover, this two-N spelling didn't  continue when they came to be monarchs of Great Britain.

People looking for the monarchs of Great Britain from 1714 to 1901 on WikiTree will be looking for a surname of Hanover. 

The WT search engine does not pick up the two-N Hannover version unless the one-N version is given as an alternate spelling in the Other Last Names field (and vice versa). Hence a person looking for Queen Victoria (Hannover-14) will not find her with a search for Hanover.

It's also untidy and inconsistent having half the British branch of the family spelled one way and half the other.

The England Project would prefer to standardise the name to Hanover but we are up for a discussion why the Hannover version should be retained for the Royal House of Great Britain.

I note that there was a sidenote in another discussion in 2017 about this (see final comment), but nothing was decided at that time.

Jo, England Project Managed Profiles team coordinator

Edit: exchanged Royalty tag with Germany tag (had reached limit) 

WikiTree profile: Victoria Hanover
in Genealogy Help by Jo Fitz-Henry G2G6 Mach 8 (86.7k points)
edited by Jo Fitz-Henry

I'm in total agreement, Jo.  smiley

Update 2 December: While experimenting today with searches and entering details in the "Add a new person" page, I found that the details for Queen Victoria spelled Hanover or Hannover picked up both her two duplicate profiles. This didn't happen for me before I created this post and I am very appreciative of whatever was changed in the search software to make this happen.

6 Answers

+19 votes
Best answer
I think it should be Hanover.  Fifty years ago I was taught 'Hanover' at school and have never known any different.  As Joan says: I hadn't seen it as 'Hannover' until I came to WikiTree.

Scholarly texts, non-fiction and fiction alike all use 'Hanover' - so that is what people will look for.
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
selected by Steve Bartlett
+25 votes
We need to use Hanover, the spelling of the Royal House of Great Britain. WikiTree naming conventions state they are to be in their time, not ours. I believe this also applies to not before their time.

The England and the EuroAristo follow the same naming convention and use the name in their time, or at their time of birth. Many surnames went through spelling changes after moving into England and we use them as they were spelled at the time.

Since the spelling Hanover has historically and to date been used for the Royal House of Great Britain is only proper that we retain that spelling. Their ancestors in Germany would use the Hannover version because in their time that was the spelling that they used.
by Laura DeSpain G2G6 Pilot (318k points)
I'll just say it for perspective, but "House of Hannover" is a spelling you can find in the 18th century, in English, when these people lived and ruled. It might actually be the most common spelling in that period. But OTOH I understand that to some extent the main fields policies defer to projects when it comes to historical periods?

Actually I can't think of any period where we use the contemporary spellings, and I am certain it would be a bad idea to try.

To use the example which comes up very often on Wikitree William the conqueror and William the marshall would both be Willelm, or something like that, pronounced Wilyelm (not Guillaume). Similarly, the medieval Johns, like John of Gaunt, would be Jehan (not Jean).
Sorry only just come across this. Gui.. in the area where we live in SW France is pronounced like the Gwi.. of Welsh. In fact the G is even less emphasised. So the village of Laguiole on the southern edge of the Auvergne is pronounced locally as La- we- ole. In Brittany names like Gweltaz are pronounced with scarcely any G. Thus the often mistaken view that Guillaume is said with a hard G at the beginning is fundamentally wrong. At best it would be given as close to Gwilliam, or Gwilwm in Welsh. Gualtier is spoken as (g)Waltier round here.
It is partly correct to say John might have been Jehan, an adaptation of the French Jean, but equally will be found in English parish registers as Johan, sometimes incorrectly transcribed as Joan.
Not quite. John and Jean both derive from older French Jehan, which derives from Latin Johannes (pronounced Yohannes, which comes from a Biblical Greek spelling for a Middle Eastern name). The h was not always included in the spelling and was also typically not pronounced.

But the Latin version was always influencing the people writing official documents and you find Latin forms used until the 19th century in most countries in this region. It also led to independent versions such as Jan, Johan, Ian and Ewan, which do not show the typical French switch from Yo- to Jo-

Therefore Joan is not always a mistaken transcription, but was also one of the forms which ended up in modern languages. For example it is the typical spelling found in Catalan, which is closely related to southern French dialects.

Concerning Gw- and W- I think that there was been a thousand or more years where even within one dialect some people preferred to start words with something a bit harder than a W-. But in any case old French and old Welsh seem to have both had W- words, at least in some dialects. The Gw- evolved from the W- words. This happened early in southern Romance languages like Spanish and Italian, where people still seem to find it a bit odd to start a word with W-.

But none of this history means that we can call a French person "wrong" for saying "Guillaume" with a hard G. That is how that modern name is now pronounced in the standard language from the Paris region.

En passant. No idea about historical pronunciation but 20 years living nearby taught me that locals who used Aveyronese 'Occitan'  patois; pronounced Laguiole as something like Laiyeole  with the g pronounced as a y,  as here on this video (Not sure it is at all useful for Guillame.)

Well done for staying just on the right side of talking down to people.

I imagine that if I spent long enough on G2G to get to be a G2G6 Pilot I would be able to share the Wikitree high ground.

It is so difficult to not sound patronising sometimes.

If you are open to learning more about the 80% of geographical France who did not speak Île de France Parisian French, but their own languages, derided by the Parisians as "patois" I can direct him to a friend of mine who was caned across the back of his hands when he went to school. Why? Because he had never spoken Parisian and was asking his friends what was being said. The teacher, himself a Parisian, thought they were talking about him.

Ignorance of the languages of Europe is common. Humility in learning about them is not.
Steve, I'm not sure I follow completely, but my point was only that just as other French dialects or regional languages can not be "wrong", Parisian-derived standard French, which is what most people call "French", can not be "wrong" about how its speakers say their modern equivalent to the name which in standard English is William. They do not have a W sound in this name, and nor do they any longer have a Gw sound. It is simply a hard G.

As far as other related "Frankish" (northern French, and Belgian) Romance languages/dialects are concerned it is clear many of them have never had a problem with initial W sounds. Take for example Walloon in Belgium. In 1066, modern standard Parisian French did not yet even exist, and W sounds were still common in texts which have come to us.

The point was that Guillaume should not be seen as William the conqueror's real contemporary name.

The fact that the name originally had a W sound in the early middle ages is evident by the way. It is uncontroversially a Germanic name. Its two-component meaning can be seen most clearly in the modern German equivalent Willhelm (which is, it just so happens, also no longer normally pronounced with an initial W sound in standard modern German).
+23 votes
I feel that the majority of people looking at the English Royals would expect the spelling to be Hanover.  Until I came to WikiTree I had never seen it spelled Hannover is relation to the British Royal Family.  Perhaps it is because I am English and was educated in England. But i would always use the Hanover spelling.
by Joan Whitaker G2G6 Pilot (110k points)
I am not English and not educated in England, and I think "Hannover" for that name just looks ... odd.

And when people search for profiles and can't find them because the name is not what they expected, that can result in duplicates, which we don't want.
I think of the Plantagenets as Plantagenets, not "of England".  Maybe some of them by House (Edward Plantagenet Duke (or whatever) of York, etc), but they were still Plantagenets.  (They're all still Plantagenets .. or whatever William of Normandy's last name would have been, even Harry's kid.)

It just seems even more odd to not find members of the English House of Hanover under Hanover.
@Joan. To be honest, I think the majority of people who come to Wikitree, as opposed to G2G, don't tend to think in terms of dynasty names at all? In contrast, on G2G many of us have a history of discussions with fellow online genealogists, and we have our own internal traditions which are not necessarily always historically correct or well-known. We have to keep in mind that these are basically names of convenience, so we have to be open to balancing different ideas. I think very few dynasty names on Wikitree are un-contestable.

@Lois. I have no strong position on Hanover/Hannover, especially if a person was associated with both England and Germany (which would include most of the dynasty), but I think it is a bit extreme to say Hannover "just looks odd". It is still the actual place name this dynasty name is based upon. It is a major city (capital of a federal state) on world maps.

What's more, presumably this discussion is especially for a community of international genealogists studying an Anglo-German family who lived in a period when both English and German had lots of spelling variants. We are talking about one "n".
+14 votes

Whether it is House of Hanover or Haus Hannover depends on who you ask and what language they speak. Help:Name Fields for European Aristocrats says the Last Name at Birth (LNAB) field should be in the language of the person being profiled. For example, Help:Name Fields says William the Conqueror should be Guillaume on WikiTree because he himself spoke French.

Queen Victoria was born and lived in the British Isles. Her primary language was English, although she also spoke German, French and some Italian. She was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland—and unlike her predecessors, she didn't rule the Electorate or Kingdom of Hanover (Hannover) in northwestern Germany. (The title of King of Hanover passed to her uncle.)

So I think there is a good argument for her to be Hanover, not Hannover. I am less sure about some other members of the House of Hanover. George I, for example, was born in Hannover, lived part of his life there, and spoke German and French more fluently than English. Where would we draw the line? At the moment, most of the monarchs and aristocrats who ruled the Electorate or Kingdom of Hanover (or claimed to do so after its demise) have Hannover as their LNAB:

by I. Speed G2G6 Mach 4 (41.8k points)
edited by I. Speed

The English-born - particularly from Geo III down - should be English - Hanover.

Geo I and Geo II need to be evaluated, because right now their profiles say they were born in Hanover - single n.

Georg Ludwig (George I) "George Louis"  Hanover formerly Hannover aka of Great Britain
Born 7 Jun 1660 in Leineschloss, Osnabruck, Hanover, Germany

Georg August (George II) "George Augustus"  of Great Britain formerly Hannover
Born 9 Nov 1683 in Hanover, Hannoversche Landkreis, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany


If there was no "Germany" until, what, 1871,how can they be born in Germany?

There also was no Hannoverscher Landkreis or a state of Niedersachsen.

Georg Ludwig/George I was born in the Leineschloss, Hannover, Fürstentum Calenberg, Herzogtum Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Heiliges Römisches Reich; Georg August/George II was born in Herrenhausen, Kurfürstentum Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Heiliges Römisches Reich.
In Germany, Germany isn't "Germany"
@I. Speed for Name fields, especially for historical periods, you really need to look at the relevant project guidelines. Taken too literally, and on its own, the basic policy can lead to strange conclusions.

Just for example, William the conqueror probably would have found the name William more recognizable than the modern French name Guillaume. He did not speak modern French.

I think it is a bit similar for old dynasty and country names. You should look for discussion from people who know that field, or research it a bit.

For all such topics, looking not just at your post but at the whole discussion, I don't think we have to be careful not to be automatically against anything which we are not personally familiar with, or which we think the average American won't know about.
Guillaume is a spelling I see in the records of France long before modern French was used.  It is even in Latin records.  

William is not, It is modern English.  

German  is Wilhelm.

And in that time period spelling was anything but standardized.  On the same document you can often see more than one spelling of the same name.  To say use what they used makes modern sense but absolutely no sense for ancient records.  They did not have a specific spelling which is how Feisthauer is seen with Faisthauer, Feisthaver, and even Festor.  It is how the name sounded to a scribe is how it was written down.   I have literally thousands of copies of old French records (example I have every original record that still exists from 1719 to 1791 for Soucht, Meisenthal, Goetzenbruck and several other close by towns in my computer all saved electronically. One of my relatives lives in the town and took photos of every page of the old record books.  Names recorded jump from Latin to French to German to Alsatian, to Francaise Rhein (Rhineland French) sometimes within the same book or even in a single document.  

I would go with one N for all English members and in the other last name field the 2 N version.  That should make the profile searchable to everyone in the world.  Which really should be our goal... to have the profile found and not duplicated...   We can explain the variations in the naming in the Bio section.  

 Often names of families were changed to differentiate them from the town.  Feisthauer in my example above comes from Faistau in Austria.  My own current last name is of Hungarian origin  (I married it).  Bozzay is the family name and Bozzai is the name of the town.  The name was bestowed by King Stephen II in 1271.  We have a copy of the decree.  So changing to Hanover for the name is not unheard of..  Hannover is more the location name and when you say House of you are referencing the location  because land is what gave you standing.
Hi Laura. I should emphasize, that my comment was about how to interpret Wikitree field policy, and how that could go wrong. Very simply: Wikitree editors have never even attempted to come close to a supposed policy of trying to write names in languages of specific times and regions, and it would be a disaster if they really tried harder to do that.

The simplest solution would if that was to become the effective policy would actually be Latin names, because until a certain point this was the only standardized language in Western Europe.

Just concerning Guillaume, modern French has a different definition in terms of time than modern English which begins straight after the middle ages. So there is a big gap between modern French and 1066. The addition of a G- to an initial W- sound was common in many Romance dialects before 1066 as I understand it. In Italian and Spanish it is standard. But actually in northern France and southern Belgian initial W- remains possible in many dialects even today. Normans did not seem to feel any need for a Gw-. They just said Willelm.

The example of my post was concerning two specific Anglo-Norman Williams. Both of them were spelled out in contemporary and near-contemporary documents. They were not named Guillaume.
+21 votes
Hanover should be used for Great Britain starting with George III who was the first of his house born in England. His father Friedrich Ludwig/Frederick Louis was born in Hannover. Until William IV Hannover should be in the Other Last Name field as they were first electors of Braunschweig-Lüneburg then kings of Hannover in personal union.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (542k points)
Thanks for the German perspective on this Helmut - it is very much appreciated. While we Brits often think of the Hannovers/Hanovers as "our" monarchs, we forget that they also had territories back in Germany that were ruling at the same time (and continued to rule during the 19th century).
Very interesting discussion.  For me Helmut's suggestion may make the most sense to merge the profiles.  USA here, and I quickly learned in searching my Hon(N)over relatives to expect 1 "N" sometimes, and 2 "N's" other times.  I was corrected by a German researcher when I used Hannover.  For me, if I ever have the need, I will check both spellings, but when I enter an address on wikitree I suppose I will use an address that is recognized by today (I don't expect to do any royalty).
While I don't have a strong position, I would also tend to agree with Helmut's idea. The basic idea as I understand it is to use double n for people who are more German and single n for people who are more English. Where to draw that line might well be debatable, but that seems to be as it should be.
+4 votes
My thanks to Traci Thiessen for posting about this question to the Germany Project Google group.

This question seemed quite straightforward when I posted it, but I can see that this may not be easily resolved especially when the constraints of the Wikitree data fields don't easily allow for names and places in different languages. And that's before we get down to arranging the titles that these people held both in Great Britain and Germany.

We may even need a short term Han*over working group to straighten these profiles out.
by Jo Fitz-Henry G2G6 Mach 8 (86.7k points)

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