Website problem with "Before"

+8 votes
With just the baptism and burial dates for a person, one might be tempted to set the birth and death dates to "before" the parish register dates, rather than just the year with an "about" status.

This is fine where the website displays the full date "Born before 15 Apr 1759" and "Died before 27 May 1759".

However the person then shows up as "Thomas Press (bef. 1759 - bef. 1759)"   [see Press-391].

Not sure what the site can do about this but he clearly died during 1759.

So while the "before" status is more accurate, just the year and the "about" status may provide a better appearance.
WikiTree profile: Thomas Press
asked in WikiTree Tech by Trevor Ellis G2G1 (1.3k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Since Thomas clearly died in May 1759 (since he was buried on 27 May), you could change the death date to May 1759 and mark it as exact.

3 Answers

+5 votes
I have noticed the same problem. Using the full date rather just the year when choosing Before would be a significant improvement.
answered by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (619k points)
It will always be a problem. Unless the child died in birth it is unlikely that the baptism date is the actual birth date. So before it is. This is especially a problem where it is a public baptism rather than a private one. Hence why so many children are shown as born before  Easter and Xmas day. These dates could be months wrong. Which makes a mockery of the warning that comes up about there not being 8 month difference in a birth date. There will be no other written record available so the only option is before. The problem isn't with the profile it's with the translation of the profile! Same with burials. Luckily a few priests bothered to earn their keep by adding the actual birth date but it wasn't required.. On the same subject in the UK after 1837 the churches lost the franchise and the state took over. In most cases the only accessible free records are the indexes to the nearest quarter so do we put say for the first quarter Jan-Feb-Mar 1887 before Mar 1887 or before Apr 1887 or perhaps after  Dec 1886 or About Feb 1887.. People were notoriously slow in recording the registration in the early days so the before date has to be the best. It would be a lot easier if there was a way of entering the quarter.

As an aside there is another similar problem Family Search does the maths wrong when calculating from the Census Someone on the census say aged  23 in 1881 because the census is taken at the start of the second quarter has a better chance of being born in 1857 than the taking away of 23 from 1881 and getting 1858 as they do. So in 3 out of 4 dates taken from the UK census are the wrong year about 1858 is most cases is the wrong.

To be honest anything with the about before or after tagged should always be treated with caution.
I considered this suggestion to be different to the previous discussions on whether we need extra date fields. In the case described the elimination of day and month is introducing an actual error in some profiles rather than just an uncertainty. If the baptism is later in the year then the birth date can be earlier in the same year. It is wrong to show it as before that year.
+4 votes

On these dates which come from a time period where the exact birth date can never be known I think the term about or even exact should be used.  In the biography then I note that the date is actually a baptism or burial.  'Before' to me implies a much broader time period, - potentially years before.

This bothers some peoples sensibilities who think the person was obviously born before they were baptized or died before they were buried.  However, by using the term exact you are saying that you have a record with exactly that date, and there is no way the date can be improved.

answered by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (166k points)
For baptism, it is, 'an even broader time field'. It could be months or even years. Certainly as long as the gap between when the religious leader deems it suitable to hold a public ceremony. That gap would be as big as possible to ensure the more lucrative private ceremonies happen.  Even in those 'priest' fearing times it was not uncommon for some families to wait years before they formally named their children often enmass when someone is getting married so they do a job lot.. The only thing you can be sure of is that the child was born before it's baptism. About implies he could have been born after as well ;-) .A sort of preemptive baptism I guess. I think before indicates the date is a baptism rather than a birth its the only way to do it in the profile. Burials don't have this problem in such big way.

I wonder at times why the automatic biography is there in the first place it is often completely different from the final biography where a date has been found later, the profile is altered and people forget it's there. That goes for incorrect parents links as well.. Perhaps an ability to indicate its a naming ceremony rather than a birth would be good. A full naming ceremony date is really needed before 1837 in the UK as it really aids searches but it does not imply an accurate birth date only exact does that. A naming ceremony or registration is after all probably the first written document that can or will ever be located. Before or after is a one side range, About both sides.

To be clear I am talking about the Church of England in the 16th and 17th centuries.  First (I believe) in 1549, The Common Book of Prayer published under the authority of parliament stated:

  • “The Pastors and Curates shall oft admonish the people, that they defer not the baptism of infants any longer than the Sunday or other holyday next after the child be born, unless upon a great and reasonable cause, declared to the Curate and by him approved.”

Essentially, it was the law of the church and the law of the land that infants were baptized ASAP.  From a practical standpoint, the vast majority of baptisms occurred within two weeks of birth.  Yes, I know you can find many examples of baptisms in older individuals, especially in the 18th century.  Yes, I know this does not apply to all countries or all religions.  From a practical standpoint, baptism records are very nearly birth records in the early English parish records, and since we can never hope to do better we as genealogists might as well treat them as such.

+2 votes
This has been a "frequently asked" topic in G2G. I finally found the posting where Chris Whitten addressed this topic and offered his reasons for not changing the wording in the title. See (from October 2015) and scroll down to the 6th (last) answer.

(But some time after that discussion, bold font was added to the "before" and "after" and "about" words in data fields. See for that discussion.)
answered by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (910k points)

Related questions

+10 votes
1 answer
+5 votes
1 answer
+6 votes
3 answers
+8 votes
3 answers
141 views asked Sep 21, 2017 in WikiTree Help by Bob Jewett G2G Astronaut (1m points)
+12 votes
2 answers
198 views asked Jun 9, 2017 in Policy and Style by Steve Bartlett G2G6 Mach 1 (13.6k points)
+5 votes
1 answer
82 views asked Oct 3, 2018 in WikiTree Tech by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (910k points)
+4 votes
1 answer
+3 votes
1 answer

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

disclaimer - terms - copyright