Begin Discussion on Project Denmark Guidelines for Entering Danish Names on Wikitree

+7 votes

To Project Denmark members and other interested people:

We  have had a discussion draft document concerning Danish names for quite a while. Its the space page linked to this message. Please read it before commenting on the suggestions in this message.

Recently, we've had a G2G question on how to enter parts of Danish names into Wikitree.  So its time we have a discussion and begin to reach some consensus on some guidelines.

Lets start with some suggestions for basic guidelines in common situations after the standardized church record forms were adopted between 1812 and 1814 and see if we can agree on them.

1. The first step is to  research a person thoroughly and hopefully find a baptismal / birth record and other family records as well.

2. Generally speaking,

*The middle name field will be reserved for real middle names as defined in Danish law and the Project Denmark Discussion Draft for Danish Names. If there is no real middle name, the button for no middle name should be marked.

*Last name fields will be reserved for slægtsnavn and patronymic names.

*Given names will be placed in the proper first name and preferred name fields.

*Tilnavn, when they used as tilnavn, will be placed in the nickname field. When it can be established that a tilnavn has been adopted as a person's official slægtsnavn, it will be placed in one of the last name fields, either Other Last Name or Current Last Name (if it was known to be the official slægtsnavn at death.)

3. Names at birth based on a baptismal / birth record on the standardized forms adopted between 1812 and 1814: These forms usually have a column for the child's full name and another column for the parents' names. 

A lot of the time, there are only two names in the child's name column and it is fairly clear the first one is a given name and the second one is either a slægtsnavn that goes in the last name at birth field or it is a true patronymn where no slægtsnavn yet existed under the law and it still goes in the last name at birth field.  Sometimes there are additional names.  Sometimes people did not follow the law in the church records (which will be addressed in another message.)

*1812 - 1828 (Before the general law requiring all Danish people to have slægtsnavn (inheritable family names)): Compare the child's full name to the father's full name on the baptismal record.

**If the child's name ends with the father's first name followed by -sen for a boy or -datter or -dr for a girl, assume that part of the name is a true patronymic name and put it in the LNAB field. Assume the rest of the names appearing in the child's name column are given names, and place them all in the First Name field.

**If the child's name ends with the same name as the father's name ends with and they do not have the same given name, assume the part of the child's name that matches the ending of the father's name is a slægtsnavn and put it in the LNAB field. Assume the rest of the names appearing in the child's name column are given names, and place them all in the First Name field.

1829 - 1903 (Required slægtsnavn in the form of a frozen patronymic period): Compare the child's full name to the father's full name on the baptismal record. Although this was the time period of the frozen male patronymic as slægtsnavn by law, the law was often ignored in church records in favor of true patronymic names especially in the early part of this period in rural areas. We will discuss the situation where the people and the church ignored the law in a separate message. For this message, we will discuss only the situation where the law was followed.

**If the child's name ends with the same name as the father's name ends with,

***assume the part of the child's name that matches the ending of the father's name is some sort of slægtsnavn (frozen male patronymic or an earlier type of slægtsnavn) and put it in the LNAB field.

***Next, if the child has more than two names, look to see if the name just before the slægtsnavn is a true patronym based on the father's first name. If so, put that name in the Other Last Name field.

***Assume the rest of the names appearing in the child's name column are given names, and place them all in the First Name field.


post 1904: During this period, it really helps to know the full names of all parents and grandparents, including both their slægtsnavn and tilnavn. Compare the child's full name to the full name of both parents, and all four grandparents including their tilnavn.

**If the child's name in the baptismal register ends with the same name as any parent's or grandparent's name ends with or with the same name which any parent or grandparent used as a tilnavn, assume that part of the name is the child's slægtsnavn and put it in the LNAB field.

**If the child has more than two names in the baptismal register, and the one before the slægtsnavn name appears to be a patronymic name, another type of slægtsnavn name shared with a parent or grandparent or other relative, or a tilnavn of a parent or grandparent or other relative, assume it is a true middle name reserved for possible future adoption as a slægtsnavn and put it in the middle name field.

**Put the rest of the child's names in the Proper First Name field.

Lets confine our discussion to just these situations on this message, so I can keep track of any consensus reached. After we have discussed these suggestions for these common situations, I will post another message to discuss the issue of the common refusal to follow the 1829 name decree especially in rural areas which caused the government to issue the 1856 name law. Then we will move on to more complex situations.

in Policy and Style by Mary Jensen G2G6 Pilot (112k points)
edited by Mary Jensen

I guess Wikitree will develop and get more fields in the future. One way to ”prepare” for that is in addition to what you suggest above add a template at the end for e.g. Patronymics {{Patronymic|Jensen}} —> when/if Wikitree get a field for patronymic  it will be easy to populate it from the template....

Gosh, I just looked up the Swedish article about Mellannamn on Wikipedia, and learned something new:

  • in legal terms a middle name is the term for an additional surname placed between the given names and the surname (family name). I think this could be either a maiden name or the surname of a partner. Perhaps the surname of the mother.
  • In the vernacular a middle name refers to those of your given names that aren't in daily usage as "first name".

That is: this was the situation from 1982 until 1 July 2017, when the law was changed to permit two last names, instead and stop calling the additional surname a middle name. Mostly to conform with "international" practices, I think.

Oh, and I should say: impressive work, Mary!

I've run into a question on the preferred name field.  I have a few ancestors that had multiple given names, yet as an adult they chose to use only one of the names for legal and general use purposes.  For instance, Carl Nicolaus Theodor Peterson, after his confirmation in 1841, always went by Theodor.  Should this then be placed in the preferred name field, or should it go into the nickname field?
Magnus, lets leave what else can be done with templates for a separate thread and stick to just these suggestions in this thread.

Gilbert, you understand the use of the Preferred Name field perfectly.  It is designed for two situations:

1) A person with multiple given names at birth who came to prefer one over the others and

2) A person even with only one given name at birth who later used a different given name most of the time.

So you put Carl Nicolaus Theodor in the Proper First Name Field and just Theodor in the Preferred Name Field.

I've been playing around with the proposed guidelines, and everything seems OK, but one thing concerns me.  It's that darned tilnavn.  When I put the tilnavn in the nickname field, especially when there are more than one, it just grates on me.  For my ancestor Soeren Christensen with the tilnavn Dalum and Suldrup, it yields a WikiTree display of Soeren "Dalum Suldrup" Christensen.  To anyone who doesn't know the guidelines, it would appear that my ancestor went by "Dalum Suldrup" as his everyday nickname.  While I know it isn't proper, putting the tilnavn in the other last name field yields "Soeren Christensen aka Dalum Suldrup", which would seem more understandable to someone who doesn't know what is going on.

I got an idea from looking at some of the original records.  In some of them, they set off the tilnavn in parentheses like (Dalum) or like :/Suldrup/: .  Might we denote tilnavn inside some sort of punctuation marks to bracket them in.  If so, and if we put the tilnavn in the other name field, WikiTree display yields "Soeren Christensen aka (Dalum) (Suldrup)".  I would hope that would be a dead giveaway to the casual observer that the "other names" are unusual, as well as that they are distinct and not used together or at the same time.  If the parens () are too confusing due to their use with maiden names, maybe we could use brackets [ ] or { } to denote a tilnavn.  Just brainstorming to try to find a way to make it more understandable to a non-Danish non-genealogist audience.

Gilbert, this  is exactly the kind of discussion we need to be having.  We all know the Wikitree name fields are far from perfect and that they result in displays that feel wierd.

I know a fair amount about using punctuation and parentheses in other areas, especially category names.  I also know there is some punctuation that is not allowed in name fields and will create constant errors, but I can't remember how parentheses are treated.

I will look into this issue and report back.

I think we need to seriously consider this suggestion because of the guideline of call things as they did in their time.  In my own lines that I'm researching, I have noted like you that in the church records when both the slægtsnavn or patronym and the tilnavn are present the tilnavn is often in parentheses behind the slægtsnavn or patronym.

If we were to put the tilnavn in the Other Last Name field instead of the nickname field, we would not out of step with other countries and their naming systems.  I believe that the French Canadians in the Quebecois Project decided to put their dit names, which have a lot in common with tilnavn, in the Other Last Name field.  I think they keep the dit in front which identifies the type of name. We can't do that because the tilnavn is not signaled by a preposition.  But if we won't break the error routines or the processing power or cripple the searching by putting in the parentheses, we should do it if it makes it closer to how they did it.  

And we should consider the fact that putting a tilnavn in the nickname field will probably have an effect on how searching for that name is.

I'm going to do some playing around with some in my family lines too and report what happens.

For those who want to watch my experiments, I'll be working with Niels Martinus Jensen (Rod) - Jensen-6410 and his father Jens Nielsen (Rod) - Jensen-5279.   The way they are right now does not follow the suggestions as I created these profiles long before I started learning about naming guides.


I think parentheses and brackets manually put into name fields aren't allowed by the system. Ah, yes a whole bunch of errors for separators in name fields in the 700 series.

5 Answers

+3 votes
Your proposal sounds very reasonable.  I'm trying it on some of my extant profiles and the only thing that I have encountered "gumming up the works" is issues that with name changes due to emigration during the periods in question.  But that is a whole other issue.  I'm very impressed.  I will try it out on some of my trickier ones and see how it goes.  So far, I see no reason not to adopt these guidelines as proposed.  Great work, Mary!
by Gilbert Nelson G2G6 Mach 1 (10.5k points)
Gilbert, we'll have plenty of tricky ones to get to later.  But if these basics work well, we have a place to start that works for a lot of them. Let us know how your trial goes.
+2 votes

Maybe the Tilnavn should have an answer sequence of its own.

The way Nicknames and Other Names are presented on the profile page makes me think Nicknames is intended as a first-name field and Other Names as a last-name field.

So I think the Other Name field would be the best place for Tilnavn. Comma separated when there is more than one - which is at least a slight indication that they are not used together.

My take on the nickname field is that it is best suited for things like Lizzie for an Elizabeth or Lottie for a Charlotte. Or Ginger for a red-haired person. Or even for a "One-eyed Jane" - which would be used without a last name, to talk about the person, rarely to address them.

by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (517k points)

I find the location-based Tilnavns used in Denmark and Norway interesting - I don't think we have them in Sweden, although we have lots of last names based on location names. Typically they're composites or derivatives, using only a part of the location names.

In the older days location-based nicknames got into the books quite a bit - I think they were in common usage later as well, but the book-keeping got more formal. Those would be a composition of the location and a person's first name, like Kedjebo-Lasse or Lasse i Gatan.

So if Søren Christensen were in the books as Søren i Dalum, I'd say that would go in the nickname field, but if it is Søren Dalum (or Søren Christensen Dalum), it's a case for the Other Last Names field. Because in the first case the location is treated as a location where Søren lives, while in the second case it is treated like a name.

As Wikitree has a simplified database model for names I feel we can just use fields so it is easier to read and  search ...

As stated above I think we should start have name templates. I would like to track patronymics and also tell who was the “father” that was the one this name relate to {{Name|Patronymic=Johansson|PatronymicID=Lindgren-175}}

My mother’s father was from Serbia and his surname was Petrović which indicates that this name is from some unknown Peter?!?!? I would to learn more about it....and document it ....

Names are a big part of genealogy and we should try to add them so we easy could use them to do more interesting research  Always when we add something to a field that is US specific as “first name” we add an error and lose information 

By caring about names we could make more advanced Genealogy

  • Find all people with surnames based on a specific location 
  • Find when patronymics stopped beeing used in a specific location or when women started to use the name of the husband....
Templates could be the tool until we get something better...

I've sent a message to Aleš to find out what we can use in the Other Last Name field to mark the tilnavn as a special kind of other last name without messing up the technical side of Wikitree.  I explained that unlike French dit names, tilnavn don't come with a prefix or preposition or other signal word to indicate that what follows is a special type of OLN but it was common to put parentheses around a tilnavn in Danish records.

Regardless of what the answer is, we can use a Name Note in the Biography section to clarify what we find about a person's names.

I had already started using a standard name note in my Danish and French (Canadian) profiles about given names which says something like the following:

Name Note: Until the 20th century, Danish naming conventions did not include the concept of middle names. Where there were multiple given names, all were considered equivalent and any could, and were, used for various events. Please do not put any of his given names in the middle name field.

I also frequently include a Name section in the biography.  For example, the Names section of  Jens Nielsen's biography explains 

In most records, Jens is listed as Jens Nielsen. In some records, his name is Jens Nielsen Rod to distinguish him from other men also named Jens Nielsen. Rod means red. His son Niels Martinus Jensen is sometimes call Niels Jensen Rod in some records. Since red hair occurs in only a small portion of the population even where it is most common, it may be that Jens and his son Niels were red heads and this was an easy way to distinguish them from other men of the same name.

We can, and should, include the names as they should be displayed near the top of the biography and explain which are tilnavn, which are true patronyms, and which are some form of family name or 

Eva, at first, I had the same impression you have about using the nickname field for personal or given names only and using other last names for surnames or family name variations.  But I did find documentation on the Help:Name_Fields page under Last Name at Birth that 

"Dit" names should not go in this field. They can go in the Current Last Name, Other Last Name, or Nickname field, as appropriate.

Since tilnavn are similar to dit names in many ways including definitely not being personal or given names, I read this statement in the help pages as indicating that Wikitree had made a decision to use a broader definition of Nickname for the Nickname field.

Also, both Czech Roots and European Aristocrats projects use the Nickname field for titles of various kinds. European Aristocrats also says that descriptive names like ‘The Younger’, ‘The Poor’, ‘Talvas’, ‘The Loyal’, ‘Copped Hat’ should be put in the Nickname field, which again is sort of like tilnavn in some ways.

Our problem is that a tilnavn is neither a personal name, a given name, a surname nor a family name.  It is not a last name at all.  It has the potential to become a surname or family name in the right circumstances, but when used as a tilnavn, it isn't yet.

I like your Idee of a name section

Names are extremely complex if you try to describe them correct. 

Compare a list of all the properties (same as a field in WikiTree) that Wikidata use for a persons name


Wikitree in its current design is not good for adding names correct it just add confusion for the readers....

+2 votes

The answer I got from Aleš is that if we use parentheses (or other punctuation) in a searchable name field, we won't be able to search by whatever is inside the parentheses.  That is the reason for prohibiting special characters in searchable name fields.

So for the present, we are stuck with choosing between putting the tilnavn in a) the nickname field or b) the other last name field and explaining the variation in name usage over the course of a  person's lifetime in the biography section.

So, I'm posting two additional answers so you can vote for which field you would prefer to put the tilnavn in.

Magnus, I know your preference for templates, but that is not what we are currently trying to reach a consensus on.

by Mary Jensen G2G6 Pilot (112k points)

Whatever you choose it’s confusing for the reader and best is a name section explaining  maybe create a space page that you include on a profile that this profile has a tillnavn xx that has been added to field xxx


This will include the text of Space page DanishTillnavn and if you in the Space page add {{{1}}} then the parameter number 1 = rød will be displayed....

I feel Eva and Gunnar has spent some man years in WikiTree with just correcting wrong Swedish Patronymics and my feeling from speaking to Gunnar is that is a mess... I also feel that Eva has started to do some interesting studies when and how patronymics “developeded” in Sweden. The difference in different part of the country.....


Maybe all Swedish patronymic profiles also should have a name section explaing for the reader that we have a patronymics. Another advantage of adding a Space page is that a Wiki has a function so that you easy can find profiles using it. 

Example were I explained the realt confusing  titles of The princes SigvardCarl Johan....  Lennart

and this space pages is used on 4 profiles. By using Wiki WhatLinksThere I can see were its used..,_Carl_Johan,_Lennart_Bernadotte

PS. This scenario with the princes and the titles I never tried to map to Wikitree name Fields  Lesson learned is that we loose so much information trying to add complex relations/facts to Wikitrees simplified US name model so we must explain what/Why we did something


+2 votes
Vote this answer up if you prefer to put the tilnavn in the Other Last Name field.
by Mary Jensen G2G6 Pilot (112k points)
+2 votes
Vote this answer up if you prefer to put the tilnavn in the Nickname field.
by Mary Jensen G2G6 Pilot (112k points)

Related questions

+4 votes
0 answers
+5 votes
0 answers
+6 votes
0 answers
+11 votes
2 answers
+6 votes
2 answers
+3 votes
0 answers
+12 votes
0 answers

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

disclaimer - terms - copyright