System won't accept "Unknown" for LNAB. Is that intentional?

+13 votes

I actually think this is a tech problem. It's happened at least 4 times, adding wife or mother with LNAB not known. I encountered it twice yesterday, and two others have posted in G2G about it this morning. Until it's fixed, I'll be using "Temporary" when there's someone whose LNAB isn't known yet (like happens regularly at graveyards and on Census forms or when the Widow Johnson gets married.)

Possible sources of the problem:

  1. Intentional change. But I can't believe that. Makes no sense.
  2. All the possible numbers for "Unknown" have been used up. Like the Y2K problem which never amounted to much. Possible but unlikely.
  3. Some sort of irregularity or file corruption causing problems in assigning the proper next number. I think this might be it, and it will require tech or admin attention for a fix.
  4. Something else I didn't think of. Sunspots or something magical or nefarious or unintended or random.

I hope it gets sorted out. In the meantime, every time I get that error, I'll be using "Temporary" for LNAB instead. I just did it, and got assigned Temporary-17. Haven't investigated the previous 16. But at least this way, the profiles in question won't be hard to find once this problem is fixed.

WikiTree profile: Maria Christensdatter
in Policy and Style by Living Winter G2G6 Mach 7 (73.7k points)
retagged by Julie Ricketts

This problem is so basic, it's hard to figure out what G2G tags to use. There's no overlapping tags on these G2G entries on the same topic in the last day or so:

I've never seen this error message before

Problem entering ancestor

Why can't I enter a mother for Sam Walter Foss?

Error creating ID



You could click help categories from the drop-down menu, click the categories hot-link, click the Maintenance Categories, click Recycle Unknowns and take an Unknown profile from there.  :)  ...also Happy Easter!

I had the exactly the same problem yesterday, using "Unknown" for LNAB when I had a known wife and children to add. Ended up entering her married name as LNAB. with a note saying why.

HOWEVER - this has worked well  - her profile now shows married name only, with no mention of "Unknown" birth name - so maybe the system has been geared for this circumstance to reduce the list of "Unknown" profiles

Her edit page shows Millson as her birth name but this can be edited when that birth name is found.

ps : if anyone wonders why I am not managing these Millson profiles, they were entered in an effort to find some way to connect √Čamon De Valera to Wikitree - still can't do it!

pps : have now found the appropriate marriage & Sarah's birth name "Cullum" so benefit of making the initial entry proven.


I was getting that same message yesterday when I tried to create an "Unknown" profile. After a few tries, I gave up and came to the forum and found Elizabeth's question and Vincent's comment. I took Vincent's advice and recycled a profile from the Unknowns category!

Before I read Vincent's comment, I had no idea where to find the "Unknown" profiles. A more direct route - plus some "advertising," perhaps? - might help us put a dent in all those lonely profiles!

Lindy --

The Recycle Unknowns category is a Maintenance Category and part of the Unknowns Project. Shirley, the project leader, posts updates to the project periodically on G2G using the Unknowns tag. 

There are many Maintenance Categories where members of the Profile Improvement project work to clean up issues on Wikitree.

Take a look and see if anything interests you!! :-)


But please, please look first and make sure that they are not simply one or two in a family otherwise identified.

Seeing this series of comments,  it seems urgent to fill in families where the lister has left "unknowns" to come back to and then abandoned the profiles.

Working on Heuston at the moment and hope I can fill them in before they get merged away.
I just did some checking, and there was a profile with the last name "Unknown" created about 15 mins ago or so.

Either the problem was fixed, or this is an anomaly only a few are experiencing.
Valerie --

I wasn't sure if you were referring to the list of Recycle Unknowns profiles, but I wanted to mention that those profiles are not connected to anyone else (or shouldn't be) and have been intentionally placed in this category for the purpose of reusing them.

Usually, they've been put there by members of the Unknowns project or the Profile Improvement project.

Sorry if I misunderstood your intent! :-)

OK - They're not my profiles but I have spotted "Unknown Unknown" added as spouses etc and think I can help but not to worry, Heustons where there a load of merges needed, will keep me quiet for a while.
I wonder if the site could be coded to "force feed" PMs the profiles from the "Recycle Unknowns" category whenever we create a new profile.

Alternatively, a large banner, linked to that category, could be prominently placed on every PM's home page to remind/notify us to re-use those profiles.

Is a badge connected to recycling the profiles? If not, create one - we really like our badges!!
@Lindy: I think the goal is to eventually eliminate that category as the tree gets cleaned up. Many (most?) of those profiles were imported several years ago. The processes in place now are more likely to eliminate them going forward. You could post a separate question asking about that, though. Just make sure to tag it with Improvements and Unknowns.

@Valerie: I've run across them, too. I, personally, don't add a profile unless I have a full name. I'll usually just add a note in the bio of the spouse if I don't have enough information. I just wanted to make sure you knew the category I was referring to was set up specifically for "Unknown" profiles that aren't connected to any other family members. I have to apologize if I'm not making myself clear -- I'm not functioning at full power this evening. :-)
you are doing fine - I did understand that the profiles referred to & up for re use had been vetted - had followed the recent discussion re setting up this new venture
Excellent!  And good night!! ;-)
Thank you, all, for being on top of this.

Elizabeth, I'm impressed with your assessment of likely causes. I'd assume it was #3: "Some sort of irregularity or file corruption causing problems in assigning the proper next number. I think this might be it, and it will require tech or admin attention for a fix."

I didn't clear it, but it seems to be working now, as Julie noted.

I changed the LNAB of Temporary-17 to Unknown-314106.

We'll continue to investigate.

3 Answers

+9 votes
Best answer
Thanks - I've passed this on to the WikiTree team info@ e-mail.   Not sure who is around today.    Thanks for your patience till this is fixed.
by Maria Maxwell G2G6 Pilot (175k points)
selected by Keith Hathaway
+6 votes

I had one today as well, giving an "Internal error." forwarded to

by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (288k points)
It's fixed.
+4 votes
It would be helpful to have some explanation or theory as to why "Unknown" as an LNAB isn't being accepted in some cases.

Yes, we need to minimize them and certainly if you don't know ANYTHING about someone, don't create a profile!  George had a kid and there was probably a woman involved, but if that's all you know, a profile named Mrs. Unknown Unknown-3724678 adds nothing.  

Where I've encounted the most legitimate need for an Unknown is in some of the colonial Maryland profiles where George marries Susan.  When he marries her, she is Susan Smith.  Upon research you realize she used to be married to Henry Smith, and when he married her she was Susan Ricketts.  But then you discover she also prevoiusly been married to Ricketts, and you have no clue where she came from before that.  You really need Unknown for her LNAB at that point, because all the other names were acquired through marriage, and using any of them for the LNAB is entering and communicating false information.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (415k points)
Here's how/why I created a profile "Unknown Unknown." (It was unsourced, too.)

Through US Census records, I had a wife/mother with an unknown LNAB. We've all seen that in Census records. Later in life, a widow, she lived with her sister, also a widow. The system automatically generates a profile for the father of siblings, and since we don't know their LNAB, we get Unknown Unknown as father. No dates and no sources either. And yet, because of the two daughters, we do actually know something about him.

As to Unknown for LNAB, apparently it is now being accepted again. I've not had occasion to try, but I presume it will now work for me, too.
Yep, I knew of two siblings once, it did that to me, too!  I'd forgotten.

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