Is It OK to Use "Disproved" or "Unproven" in Other Last Names Field?

+17 votes
The Database Error is showing "Allerton (disproved), Sturman (unproven)" in the Other Last Names field as an error.

This has been a standard way for the PGM Project to indicate that a name does not have support.  It is helpful because it shows that the name has been considered, so others will be less likely to add it.  A note is always put in the Bio.

I believe that such use should be accepted and NOT an error.
WikiTree profile: Rose Newton
in Policy and Style by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (327k points)
retagged by Maggie N.
I agree with Vic and Jillaine in the comments below. If we don't acknowledge those unproven names in some manner, they will just be created again and again and again.....
I'm sorry, Vic, Jillaine, Anne, etc. I wish I had known about this sooner.

Parentheses are not allowed in our database fields, and the Other Last Names fields is intended to be used for last names, not for other information.

We have established the rule that project rules cannot conflict with general style rules.

If our status indicators for the field are insufficient, that's a separate issue that should be addressed separately, e.g. as Ros suggests.
Then before any db_error folks go deleting those markings, PLEASE hold off and let us make sure they're protected.

That said, I just tried to find all profiles with "disproven" in the Other Last Name fields and wikitree's search engine won't find them.
It looks like we should be able to find most of them by doing a google search with the following: +"(disproven)"

might be case-sensitive

Frankly, I don't think that additional radio buttons will help. We need something visual that shows up in search results.
And PLEASE PLESE PLEASE PLEASE do NOT select "uncertain" if "Disproven" is in the last name field.

That would be okay if it says "Unproven" but NOT disproven. THank you.
BTW, checking "uncertain" next to Other Last Names box displays nothing additional on the public display of the profile.
Jillaine, Unfortunately, your limited Google search finds all profiles in which the word "disproven" has been used in the Biography, not just profiles in which it is used in a name field.

Use Aleš search page its often the best way to search in WikiTree is my experience


    27 errors found
  2. First name

    4 profiles

Ps. Found this profile Warner-252 really odd formatted with ref inside refs that makes it unreadable see Source 1

Pss. Clark-13013 makes it even more advanced we have now disproven?  in the name field. This profile is also bad formatted see Clark-13013#_note-3

Typos fixed on both profiles.
Looks like clutter to me.  This is what biographies and research notes are for.
Even though we no longer routinely use (disproven) etc., I need to point out that even though we clearly have notes in biographies, headings that say disproven / disputed existence and research notes, people add back those incorrect wives and surnames etc. I don't think everyone reads the bio before making their "additions"

5 Answers

+28 votes
Best answer

A name field is a field to store names in not comments...

Vic it's easier if you motivate why you think you should store things in the name field that is not names and also why not checkboxes for certain/uncertain is not good enough....

Also a suggested solution is good


For me that some project has done it one or the other way is not enough argument to change a name field to contain more than names (exception unknown when no name is found and WikiTree require something in Last name at Birth....) 

Maybe WikiTree should change and have options if a name form is Unproven or Disproven....

by C S G2G6 Pilot (273k points)
selected by Edie Kohutek

Suggestion that we start use a Template to describe problems today things are moving around inside G2G and you never know the status of things and if its open or not.... 

see Google Calc

  1. Date reported:    
  2. DB Error Nr:    
  3. Profiles with error:    
  4. Description of problem:    
  5. Suggested change to DB_ERRORS:    
  6. Suggested change to WikiTree:    
  7. Suggested workaround:    
Couldn't agree more. Using fields for anything other than their intended purpose is a bad idea.
Magnus, "disproven" does not equal "uncertain" so selecting uncertain to replace use of disproven in the suffix field is inappropriate. Uncertain leaves room for the possibility of the name. Disproven is actually certainty that the surname is NOT a given name.

Vic, just mark these as false errors. Maybe we should have a PGM campaign to work thru this list. I'm happy to work on it.

The use of "disproven" in the suffix field has been necessary because too many people have ignored the explanations in the narrative.
I don't understand why changing a name field to "disproven" (which is certainly not a name) is better than using "Uncertain"  to include "disproven".  Sure lots of people don't look at the notes, but 1. that sounds like a educational opporturnity and 2. I thought PPP was created to solve that problem.  Aren't people supposed to collaborate with the project people before editing?  Maybe the best thing to do long-term is to get another button added for "disproven" in the other name field (and others if necessary).
Why have rules if we have multiple exceptions?  

Looking at the profile, it appears that conclusions have been made using some noted disputed and unproven sources... see:

Any suggestion how disproven could be done in Wikitree without using the name field.

Examples of profiles that have the problem?

I guess in a common tree with people uploading a lot of duplicates should have a way to explain things like this.... Maybe with a link to a comment/sources/video...
+20 votes
In my head, I hear Chris calling this a hack. :-)  

We all have ways we would prefer to enter information on the WikiTree, some even make sense for general use. But!. . . We can not create our own ways of doing things. I believe the non-name word is a problem, and the open and closed parenthesis.  Each of these non-name entries are errors and should be corrected.  Sorry, folks.
by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (530k points)

>>open and closed parenthesis

is a bug in the GEDCOM import that only Chris can fix....

Thanks, Kitty. You heard my voice correctly.

Parentheses are not allowed in our database fields. Magnus is correct that we should do a better job of stripping them out in GEDCOM imports.
Ugh. I'm starting to clean these up and am really really unhappy about it. Removing especially "(Disproven)" is going to open these profiles up to being messed up, increasing volunteer time required to return again and again to fight attempts to revert names to disproven names.

I realize that even "(Disproven)" won't stop this entirely, but it has radically slowed it down.

I think someone else is going to have to work on this because it just breaks my heart to take these profiles backwards.

@Jillaine why not wait to get some feedback from Chris if he understand the problem and what solutions he has....


A) Wait on feedback from Chris if he have a solution to the "disproven" problem ( be patient it's a slow and fuzzy process)

Today Chris has given the following feedback which I don't understand if it is a go for doing a change or doing nothing...

>> If our status indicators for the field are insufficient, that's a separate issue that should be addressed separately, e.g. as Ros suggests.

B) If no feedback/change in the next month from Chris

B-1) Take it away
B-2) Mark it as false errors.... ==> no one else find the "problem" ;-)

If you take it away document it on a Space page is my advice.... is it just 24 profiles or is it more?

The number of these is relatively small (but more than 24). So using a radial button shouldn't be called for. Also a radial button applies to an entire field. We've used "(Disproven)" after a specific surname in the "other last names" field. 90% of these hacks are used on profiles of women whose maiden name has been in dispute. We use "disproven" in those cases where research has ruled out the possibility of that surname. i can't think of a better way to flag this IN THE NAME FIELDS.


Ok then your point of view if I understand

  1. It's not a problem for the whole WikiTree community
  2. Number of profiles you think will have this problem is much less than 10000
  3. Best is to have text in the name fields....
==> your suggestion is 
  1. no change in WikiTree
  2. ok to use text in name fields 
  3. change in DB error project ==> no error 791 for words like (disproven)
    1. Or flag false error....


Correction to your #2: okay to use "(disproven)" in Other Last Names field.

Correction to your #3: change in DB error project - no error 791 for words like "(disproven)" in Other Last Names field.

-- Jillaine


While Other Last Names includes an "Uncertain" radial button; selecting this button appears to have no affect in display. Can this please be fixed? Thank you.
Jillaine, this is now fixed.
Thank you, Chris!
+10 votes
I cannot stress enough how much work and research went into these profiles that  resorted to using this "hack" as a way to draw attention to a problem.  Disallowing this project-based exception will be extremely disheartening to those of us who have spent COUNTLESS hours tracking down what is documented and not about often highly controversial profiles.  

IF the powers that be are going to insist that the PGM project disallow especially "disproven" from being used in Other Last Names field, please wait until we can ensure all such profiles are project protected. If we leave those profiles unprotected, we're screwed.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (757k points)


  1. I think no one question that the function is needed
  2. I guess a function like this in a World Wide common family tree is important when it grows bigger
  3. The use of the name field for warning people is as you say a hack

The question is please suggest a "better" solution that fulfill what you try to do and explain with examples profiles you used this on and how it should work plus if current "solution" using the name field has been successful or not.... 

My guess what you are trying to achieve

  1. Warn other people about wrong names that should not be merged
    1. Maybe use a template explaining
      1. Name yyy is not correct because of source xxxx
    2. Add another radio button next to uncertain
      1. associate a text field(s) were you add the names
      2. associate another textbox with text explaining why it was disapproved
    3. Or everyone agree that we also store other things in the name fields than names as we find no other solution and/or Chris don't think adding a field is the right direction



Yeah, template  {{Disproven LNAB}}
+9 votes
How about adding a couple of radio buttons?  As well as having 'uncertain' and 'certain', add 'unproven' and 'disproved'.  That would remove the need for these words to be in a name field which, I agree, should be just for a name.
by Anonymous Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

Maybe a template with arguments and the possibility to have a link to a Free space with everything documented....

  1. Names disproven
  2. Free space page were disproven names are explained why they don't work?



A section Disproven is generated with a link to a Free space page Disproven_Magnus

On Space:Disproven_Magnus sources and arguments are gathered explaining why not......



This is the same discussion we had earlier with the use of "Uncertain" for everything that is not certain.  It is completely inadequate. Genealogy is far from "black and white," certain and uncertain.

We now have "uncertain" and three other radio buttons, "non-biological," "confident," and "confirmed with DNA," none of which fit the needs of the community.  This article by Randol Schoenberg, "On Certainty in Genealogy" defines the problem. 

First of all, there is no such thing as "certain" in genealogy. "I think of every genealogical fact I put on Geni [WikiTree] as a hypothesis waiting to be tested by other genealogists."  It is all uncertain - to varying degrees, until/unless it is disproven.

The idea is to add as many primary documents, or pieces of evidence as possible.  "The ability to allow others to recreate an experiment and independently assess the evidence is at the heart of the scientific method.  The results of this type of scientific collaboration on a shared platform are clearly superior, leading to more discoveries and more correction of mistakes."

Uncertain can be everything from uninvestigated to disproven, and DNA is just another piece of evidence, not the be-all and end-all which "confirms" anything!  Please see Blaine Bettinger "The DNA Era of Genealogy."

The WikiTree team should support efforts to analyze evidence, and to publish conclusions.  If not that, then what are we doing here?  Any work-around is a "a plan or method to circumvent a problem," so let's solve the problem, especially since it is central to the mission.  Thanks!

+5 votes
This just showed up as if it were a current question, so here is a current answer:

We now have a template for {{Uncertain Existence}} that can be added by anyone to a profile and which produces a big announcement in a grey box that evidence suggests  the person may never have exiseted.

We also have a Disproven Existence Project with its own template, to be used when we've given up on researching this person and conclude he probably never existed.  This template is added after an announcement is made on G2G and a week is given for someone to come up with evidence -- even a whiff -- that the person ever existed.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (338k points)
ThankS for the update, Jack, but neither of these templates address the need that the use of "disproven" in the OLN field was trying to address.  The templates are about existence.  The "disproven" word in the OLN field was about a particular name. Ie it's been disproven that Susanna Wright of the Mayflower was born Fuller.

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