Why create "Unknown" profiles & Why is being Anonymous ok on Wiki tree?

+38 votes
I am increasingly frustrated by seeing so many people listing themselves as "Anonymous" on WikiTree profiles and forums. Personally I would rather anyone who cannot proudly identify themself, to refrain from creating profiles or commenting on any of my G2G feeds or profiles period. As an historian and genealologist, I take my research very seriously, and stand behind everything I post with full documentation and sources. I identify myself fully for anyone to contact me for future research and assurance that the profile was created with proof and a purpose.  I think adding information or posting & creating WikiTree profiles, or commenting on them as "anonymous" is cowardly and very suspect, especially on profiles that are over 100 years old. If someone identifies themself as "Anonymous", I will not even consider their comments or information, and I don't think any serious historian would. If you can't own up to your research and stand behind it, please don't create it.  Also WHY are people allowed to create generation after generation of "Unknown" profiles???  Profiles that have literally NO information, no name(s), dates, locations??? This is a waste of everyone's time and just clogs up Wikitree with hundreds of "unknown" profiles. People need to understand that they should ONLY create profiles for people they can clearly and accurately document. Name(s), date(s) & location(s) being the absolute LEAST they should know.  Please allow others to come behind you and link up to your last known relatives, as they will have so much more information that you don't know about yet. If your last 5 generations are all listed with "unknown" profiles, what is the point???  Please WikiTree powers that be, stop this nonsense, eliminate "anonymous" postings and redundant generation after generation of "unknown" profiles!  Thank you!!  Sincerely, Yvette Bergeron
asked Jan 26, 2015 in Policy and Style by Yvette Bergeron G2G3 (3,430 points)
retagged May 28, 2015 by Keith Hathaway
I agree.  For living persons like Kitty mentions I understand, but for dead persons I don´t understand that at all.  Unknown I understand when the name is actually unknown, anonymous not.  Also, I like to further the development of the Wikitree and when I see anonymous ask a question about an ancestor that is not represented on the Wikitree with a profile I tend to not bother with that question.  But that also goes the same for people that claim to have hit a brick wall with let´s say their gg-grandparents but when you look at the profile of the person asking the question and then their family tree often their brick wall seems to start with themselves as often no information (or little information with no sources) is available for them, their parents or anybody really.  I still haven´t figured out the kindest, gentlest way to answer to these people and when I do I find I sound rude which I don´t mean to be but it is so, so I just refrain from responding in order to minimize ill feelings.
Anonymous: I can see some validity towards living people being listed as anonymous, although there has to be some sort of limitation when it comes to those no longer living. I wonder if we shouldn't have some sort of check in place for creating a profile with the name "Anonymous" while older than a certain time period, or if anything other than "still living" is checked. If folks are using anonymous incorrectly, then it's a training opportunity to correct that with them.

Unknown: I use "Unknown" frequently to list LNAB that can't be identified, or even to show first names that can't be identified if I can't find a proper name but have data for that person. This gets into more gray area where you have to determine how you list out people with some information. A good example might be: my g-g-g-g-grandmother could have been born in the New England area around the late 1700's, but if I don't know her name at all... how do you list her? Grandma for first name? I'd think you'd want to show Unknown First Name, Unknown LNAB, about 1790 as her birth date, USA as location, and list what sources or other info you have in the bio. I'm not so sure you can restrict Unknown without limiting the ability to store what limited info you do have and preventing people from putting in significant placeholders to use for collaborating and gathering further information. (note, that's not my Grandma's situation - just an example)

I tend to feel much the same about 'unlisted profiles', either the profile manager wishes to participate in what WikiTree is trying to achieve, or they do not, and if not, why bother to post at all ?

8 Answers

+16 votes
Best answer

"Anonymous" as used in people's names in their profiles is not the same as "anonymous" (lower case "a") used in G2G.

G2G is a public forum - anyone can post questions, answers, or comments here.  If a member who doesn't happen to be logged in (so that WikiTree can't identify the person) or a non-member makes a post in G2G, "anonymous" is used for their name.

In profiles, there are a variety of situations where a profile manager set the first or current last name to "Anonymous".  Although I can't think of any specific examples of these, in most of these, I tend to agree with you - I don't think it is appropriate.

Hopefully, someone else will post an answer describing a situation that makes us say "OK, that sounds reasonable".

"Unknown" for a first or last name is an entirely different case.  If you add someone's mother but don't know her LNAB (last name at birth) then the correct thing to do is to enter "Unknown" for that.  There are also a lot of profiles here that were entered by gedcom imports, where names could not be properly identified by the system as it imported the data, resulting in the system adding the person with first or LNAB or current last name as "Unknown".  Most of us are trying hard to identify these people when we come across their profiles ... but there are, unfortunately, a lot of these people here.  Our data is VERY imperfect, I'm afraid, but we are all trying to make it better.
answered Jan 26, 2015 by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (413,200 points)
selected Jun 26, 2017 by Jerry Dolman
I agree with you Gaile about the "Unknown" name being used. I have several family members that the last known last name is the Married name for the mothers of relitives. I have tried to find records that may show a last name before marrage, but alaise to no avail.

I also agree with you Yvette about the Anonymous tag being used. It does creat a headache for others to try and match posible relitives with the name Anonymous. I also see why someone might use this tag instead of a name. This is hypothetical, but If I had a person in my line that was a known bad criminal, like say Charles Manson, and I did not want to be associated with him for fear of what might come of it. Then I whould put Anonymous as one of his names to hide who he was,.

This is just my opinion.

See the related g2g posts below. This has been discussed recently in other topics. Bottom line:

* Anonymous in profiles is only allowed to protect the privacy of living people. It is not allowed for deceased individuals; if you find such profiles, please work with the profile manager(s) to identify the correct name. (I often find the names through the Changes tab; people often think they can "delete" a profile by changing the names to Anonymous. That's a no-no.)

* anonymous in g2g is currently allowed; there's a g2g topic in here somewhere (started by me) about "is it time to require people to log in to post to g2g" where sufficient case was made to continue to allow anonymous postings to g2g.

* Unknown is the preferred entry in profiles for either last name or first name when such name is not yet known. 

I am happy to read the use of "Unknown" being reinforced for cases where the LNAB is unknown. I run across too many profiles of women with their married name as their LNAB. There are less common cases where the woman's LNAB is actually the same as the man's LNAB, and the use of married names in this field makes it very confusing as to whether it is actually a case of same LNAB or just a married name erroneously put in this field. Please use "Unknown" for LNAB if it is - well, unknown.

One of the great things about Wikitree is that the data doesn't have to be complete - just as accurate and well-sourced as possible. Someone can (hopefully!) come along later with new information if they understand what is known and what is unknown, and what the strength is of the resources backing up both.

+7 votes
Thank you Yevette for bringing this point up!  I agree that numerous Anonymous or unknown profiles are un-desireable. I have a few but, not many instances where I do not or have not yet found the spouce of an ancestor. Are you suggesting that I just leave that space blank ? What I hope to see is someone else picking up the ball and filling in the blanks!  More power to them if they can, if not allow me the time to do it ! Our purpose is to create a collabritive tree. Everyone wins ! No information is insignificant, even from Anonymous! Just my 2 cents, John
answered Jan 26, 2015 by John Novak G2G6 (7,880 points)
edited Jan 26, 2015 by John Novak
+12 votes
I have a couple Anonymous profiles for living relatives.  Generally, these are for people that I want to display their DNA test information and their Family Tree tab (so WikiTree can make the DNA connections) but still make them unidentifiable. Many people will only do a DNA test for me if their identity is kept secret or anonymous.  It is imperative that I honor their wishes for complete privacy, so I create anonymous profiles for those living people for genetic geneaology reasons.  There are good reasons sometimes for Anonymous profiles.
answered Jan 26, 2015 by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (421,360 points)
+7 votes
Generally speaking, i can understand people's frustrations, but if everyone will bear with me, I will speak for the other side. Everyday at work I must maintain the confidentiality of our clients, for legal reasons. My department must maintain this silence even in the face of high profile cases involving media. Thus, there maybe very real dangers for a person on the internet. This can be due to an ex-husband or a dangerous boyfriend, etc. Another thought is for celebrities needing to maintain their anonymity. And there can be hundreds of other reasons. Please take this into consideration. Thank you.
answered Jan 26, 2015 by Lynden Rodriguez G2G6 Mach 1 (19,770 points)
Lynden, please see my comment above. Anonymous IS already acceptable for living individuals.
+3 votes
As for Anonymous for living persons, I haven't used it, but I can see why it would be used as added protection along with  the privacy set high. The Unknown as being used for LNAB's can be explained especially if you think about the number of records that were destroyed when towns were burned during the the wars from the Revolution thru the Civil War and indian attacks during the westward expansion. Not to mention the loss of 1890 U.S. Federal Census records and Military records due to fires. With that in mind, it is also difficult sometimes to find records on some even though you have the first name and the LNAB cause there is so many with the same name from the same area.
answered May 1, 2015 by Clarence Otis G2G1 (1,380 points)
+8 votes
Yes, It bugs me too. It is almost as if they are ashamed of their families. I think they should be made to state their name. Another thing that bugs me also is that a lot of people dont bother to put a country when asking a question. Do they all presume it is only for the U.S.A!
answered Jul 16, 2015 by Nola Moses G2G6 Mach 1 (11,390 points)
+6 votes
Around 1945, my grandparents inherited their home from Aunt Sally.  What I knew about Aunt Sally is she is related to my grandmother's mother. I believe that Aunt Sally is my grandmother's mother's cousin.  I created unknown profiles with estimated birth dates to connect Aunt Sally to my family.

Census records required Aunt Sally has unknown parents to attach her to her sister.

There are times I would link information in a bio but if they are siblings, I will make unknown parents.
answered Sep 17, 2015 by Maureen Rosenfeld G2G6 Pilot (178,530 points)
+5 votes
I find it strange that Unknown is annoying people. They are extremely important on the fringes of the forest. and I would hope that they exist in their thousands. Its a problem almost as irritating as the removal of USA without supplying a feasible alternative. Using an example I have my ancestor John Smith born circa 1500 who married Mary.in 1521 and is from Norfolk England. I enter the profile and get the huge drop down list. Due to USA being removed I have open a profile for a John Smith born circa 1500 in Norfolk. Oh lo and behold it just says Norfolk. I may be lucky now but someone doesn't like Unknown so they have not entered the wife. The very useful source for marriage is not a link s do I pop down the library to see if I can find the book or open the link that goes behind a paywall duh.

Now do I follow the family for a few generation to find out what part of the world Norfolk is or do I just give up. Yep give up it's not worth the effort. After all duplicates don't matter. All it needed was a wife say Rose (Unknown) Smith and Norfolk America and I wouldn't have wasted my time.We really do need to get as much information added to a profile not less.
answered Jun 26, 2017 by Chris Hoult G2G6 Mach 1 (14,190 points)
Related but not, if a person is on a device where they are not signed in, they come up as an anonymous...more related, I don't mind the unknowns...I have a few of them...the only ones that bug me are where there is NO information at all...no name, no surname, no NOTHING...how is anyone else suppose to know what the person's info might be to help look for it???

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