Reproposing the usage of "No Last Name"

+24 votes

After reading those two post:


I´d like to propose a change to the "Special rules for required fields".

The fifth paragraph is:

My proposal is the addition of the following text to this paragraph:

If after carefully searching on the naming guidelines none of them is appliable to the profile you are adding use No last Name.

I think this would be a much better approach than trying to create a last name when/where a last name didn't exist and "Unknown" doesn't mean that there was no last name.

Welcome any opinions and comments.

If you like the idea, feel free to post editions/amendments/changes/corrections to the text to be added.


in Policy and Style by Rubén Hernández G2G6 Pilot (750k points)
While the use of "Unknown" is, of course, a poor solution to the problem of creating profiles for individuals from non-surname cultures, replacing "Unknown" with "No_Last_Name" does not seem to be an improvement.

Or did I misinterpret the end result of your proposal, Rubén?

Until WikiTree's software program can accommodate a surname-less profile, is there any reason to make this change?

Thank you for taking part in this topic Lindy.

"Unknown" suggests that more research could lead to find the "Unknown" last name as Helmut says in his answer below.

On the other hand, here is an example of how it would work:


(Prop Fst name and Pref name)

Queen Redwing


A more accurate representation is this:


(Prop Fst name and Pref name)
Queen Redwing No Last Name


Also "No Last Name" is a good altermative in the meantime a way to accommodate surname-less profiles is developed or if the developmemt of such feature is not considered.

Please add any other concerns you may have.

I wasn't aware that No_Last_Name was currently an option (I didn't notice the option when I skimmed the special rules).

Obviously then, it should be applied to ALL cases for individuals from surname-less cultures.


Or maybe not!

See my comments under Helmut's answer.

4 Answers

+15 votes
Best answer
I often feel like a lot of the style rules go back to the early days of WikiTree with a primarily American or English audience.  With the move to more international inclusion I think it is time to rethink some of the earlier decisions.  I do not like Anonymous when nothing is filled in.  I would prefer something more internationally understandable like  No Surname then in the bio it can be explained if there is No Surname because

a.  it is unknown

b.  the time period is before surnames were really in use

c.  the person is known by conflicting last names because the ancestry is in debate  (these are those OR situations)

So I am not opposed to what you are saying.  I just wonder if No Surname would cover it and the other instances.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (709k points)
selected by Living Guthrie

Thanks for participating in this topic Laura.

Case "a", LNAB = "Unknown" because in fact the surname is not known.

Case "b", LNAB = "No Last Name" because in fact surname doesn't exist.

Case "c", using the "uncertain" indicator for the "Current Last Name" (There is no such indicator for LNAB). This way the name is displayed

  • John Doe [uncertain]


Please add any other concerns you might have.


So you want to change the style guide to have 3 different choices when there is no LNAB?   Just want to make sure that is what you are saying.

It would make querying for it easier if you knew which reason was in use.  

But if you want to see all 3 you would have to do 3 different surname queries.


The three choices are already ruled and in use, including "No Last Name". My proposal is to extend the use of "No Last Name" to cover those profiles, which in fact, have no last name.

By the way, there already are about 49 "No Last Name" profiles.

If you have no first name is that field allowed to be left blank?

Style Rules address this:

Special rules for required fields

Our system requires the basic first name and last name fields. They cannot be blank. This necessitates a few special case rules.

  • If the first name or last name is unknown, use Unknown in the field.
+12 votes
Perhaps if there is no project yet, one should be created.
by James Applegate G2G6 Mach 5 (54.3k points)
+11 votes
I agree with this proposal. The existing rule is not inclusive of all peoples and cultures. People like the indigenous people who inhabited Australia when the colonists came have been left out of history too much already. I would like to include them without putting them under the label "unknown" or "anonymous" which robs them of their dignity IMO.
by Living Turner G2G6 Mach 3 (38.6k points)
Well said Anne.

"Unknown" or "anonymous" sounds like qualifiers. "No Last Name" just describes a charasteristic.
+7 votes
In addition, there are cultures where "Last names" or "Surnames" do not exist and using "unknown" is patently wrong since their surnames are not unknown which implies that some further research could potentially find them.

I would, however, advocate against the use of "Last Name" since most East-Asian cultures and the Hungarians put the "Last Name" first and alternatives exist.

Addendum: Come to think of it perhaps it should be "No Given Name" and the mononym should be used in the rechristened "Surname" field.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (549k points)
edited by Helmut Jungschaffer
Maybe it should just be symbols of some sort to bypass any translation or cultural issues. Something like *****. Whatever symbols are available that the code can process as 'not unknown, non existent'.

The village idea is great in theory but in reality, 99%+ of the time you are not going to know that or have any way to find out in cultures that relied on oral tradition or were not keen on paperwork.
Given name is synonymous to First Name and Middle Name, Helmut. One of your given names would be Helmut; one of mine would be Lindy.

Surname is what many of we Western cultures also call Last Name; for many Eastern cultures, the surname comes first, but it is still the surname, or family name, if the culture uses them. Your surname is Jungschaffer; mine is Jones; Yoko Ono's is Ono.

At least, those are my (simplified) opinions and interpretations of the various terms!!
I'm aware of these definitions, my proposal for mononyms aims at making them easier to find. Many people with just one name are quite well known and it makes more sense to me to search for Hirohito than for No Last Name and then scroll through the list to find him. Since WikiTree uses the LNAB field for identification it makes more sense to me to put Hirohito there and No Given Name in the First Name field. Since mononyms by definition are neither surnames nor first or middle names who is to say these names should be in the First Name field and not in the field used as ID on WikiTree?

I see what you mean, Helmut. I think you and I agree that we need a software solution for mononyms, rather than the temporary patches that we've been using. Alas, I don't see a permanent solution on the horizon!

As for our current temporary patches, the question is which is better:

  1. using the mononym as the LNAB (seems simpler for searching)
  2. using No_Last_Name as LNAB (somewhat accurate, yet somewhat irrelevant for mononymous cultures)

Whichever style we choose (or should both be included?), we should clarify the situations in which we use the chosen style(s).

WikiTree search function works fine if you only enter a "First Name" and leave blank the "Last Name" field.

Please make a try searching for "First Name" = Hirohito and leaving blank the field destined to the "Last Name".

Yes, but if you create a profile with Hirohito in the first name field and leave the LNAB field blank the system puts "unknown" there. Since his last name is not unknown because he has none we are trying to figure a way to avoid that designation.


That's exactly what it is about.

Hirohito's LNAB entered is Michi-No-miya = Prince Michi (his childhood title)


"If last names weren't used in the person's time, one needs to be created."

Clearly what is in the profiles's LNAB field is a "Title". My proposal is to allow the use of "No Last Name" in the LNAB field.


I'm with you in wishing the name issue could be changed. Where we differ is which one of the names. When we refer to people from cultures with a given and a family name we usually use the family name. We talk about Washington or Jefferson, or Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Gandhi, Mandela. Following this convention I'd like to see mononymic names in the LNAB field and "No First Name" in the first name field. That way Hirohito becomes Hirohito-1 and not No_Last_Name-1234567.


I have to admit that your example No_Last_Name-1234567 sounds really funny and made me laugh.

The WikiTree IDs are not relevant with respect to the profile's content: Relationships, dates, biography, etc.

María was a very usual indigenous female name in Hispanic America. At this time those profiles are Unknown-nnnnnn: María Unknown. A much better aproach is María No Last Name.

There wouldn't be any special relevance in having ID = María-1 born in Lima, Viceroyalty of Peru on 1560 and María-2 born in Mexico City, Viceroyalty of New Spain on 1675.

Emperor Hirohito's profile is the same if the profile representing him is Michi-No-Miya-1, Hirohito-1 or No_Last_Name-1234567.

Related questions

+7 votes
3 answers
+5 votes
1 answer
+19 votes
4 answers
+6 votes
1 answer
187 views asked Jan 12, 2016 in Policy and Style by Carolyn Martin G2G6 Pilot (220k points)
+12 votes
6 answers
+16 votes
5 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright