Foreseeing problems matching Latin American names to their Americanized versions?

+2 votes

As a first generation American of a father of Peruvian descent, I am foreseeing some huge problems in name search and matching capabilities within the system, unless the system is designed to allow for recognition in Latin American cultures as well.  I think it might be a good idea to include a button, within profile creation, that allows the new profile to be listed as a Latin American name, and/or as an "Americanized" version.  A second helpful feature may be to have a button indicating "Latin American birth" or something similar (I don't know what this type of naming is entitled, and I know it includes some Carribean Islands as well as other cultures, so that might not be the best name), that will trigger possible matches for Sanchez as well as Sanchez Vallejos.  Here are two examples of why:

My father's name, according to Peruvian records, is Luis A. Sanchez Vallejos (First, Middle, Father's, Mother's).  When he came to the U.S., he Americanized it to Luis A. Sanchez (First, Middle, Father's; dropping mother's name completely).  According to all American records, including my birth certificate, his social security, etc., it will say "Luis A. Sanchez.  So, he has two identities...that of the Latin American society, and that of U.S. society.  Why is this a problem?

Perhaps in Peru and other Latin American cultures, as WikiTree grows, they will search for, and input, Luis A. Sanchez Vallejos (with "Sanchez Vallejos" being the last name field within WikiTree).  They would do this because that IS his name down there.  I have input only Luis A. Sanchez.  They may not bother to match the name to mine, as there are 1000's of Luis A. Sanchez's in Latin America.

In the second example, he had an aunt that moved from Peru to Florida and married a Scottish man.  This makes her possible names as she was single:  Carlota P. Vallejos Ramirez (Peru), Carlota P. Vallejos (U.S.).  And once she was married: Carlota P. Vallejos Ramirez de Andrew (as recognized in Peru), Carlota P. Andrew (as recognized in the U.S.).

I do not claim to be an expert on the naming culture of Latin America, but from what I understand, this is how it works.  Can we put something in place that offers the Latino possibilties of a "Father Mother" last name, as well as a "Father Mother de Husband" last name?  Both to be created, and to be searchable? 

Anybody else see pros/cons from this?



in Genealogy Help by Damion Sanchez G2G Crew (970 points)
edited by Damion Sanchez

2 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer

Damion and Fred,

Check out if you haven't already and let me know if that answers these questions.

This was discussed at length in our European Aristocracy user group. That style page is the product of the discussion.


by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
selected by Damion Sanchez
Thanks for the link, Chris!  I did check that out yesterday when having issues with the "unnamed child" question.  Regarding the Last Name fields, it all makes total sense, and from now on, I will fill it out as such...a great clarification.  I still have one question though.  If I input my father's name as...

Last Name at Birth:  Sanchez Vallejos
Current Last Name:  Sanchez

Then his WikiTree ID is:  "Sanchez_Vallejos-1" and his last name shows up as "(Sanchez Vallejos) Sanchez" in a search for Sanchez.  That makes sense, and his relatives in Peru should recognize that this could be the same person.

But, if I input his aunt's name, from the first posting, as...

Last Name at Birth:  Vallejos Ramirez
Current Last Name:  Andrew

Then, her WikiTree ID is:  "Sanchez_Ramirez-1"
Despite her last name being displayed as "(Sanchez Ramirez) Andrew", her name/profile does NOT show up in a search for "Sanchez" or "Ramirez", but it DOES show up in a search for "Andrew".  Andrew was the recognized last name in the U.S., but in Peru, many will only know that she was a Sanchez (though the birth certificate will say Sanchez Ramirez).  If a relative from Peru were inputting Carlota P. Sanchez into WikiTree, not knowing that she was married (Andrew...or unsure of the husband's name), unsure of her mother's name (Ramirez), and further unaware that I had already input Carlota P. (Sanchez Ramirez) Andrew, then I'm afraid they would not be offered a match, and we would have a duplicate entry of "Carlota P. Sanchez".  

Also, if they were married in Peru (which I do not know), then the marriage certificate would probably say "Carlota P. Sanchez Ramirez de Andrew".  So, assuming this were true, and I input "Carlota P. Sanchez Ramirez de Andrew" under "Other Last Names", this would not come up in the search.  That is a guess, but if that possibility exists, then someone else in Peru who knew MORE information than I did, might input her current last name field as "Sanchez Ramirez de Andrew", or even just "Sanchez de Andrew".  Would these be matched upon creation?
Hi Damion.

You're right that the auto-matching on profile creation would miss these variations. I think all we can do is aim to improve that search function. Having it consider the Alternate Last Names is certainly possible.

For what it's worth, relatives are more likely to be searching Google than directly on WikiTree. Google would catch the variations.

Good point, I've sometimes found my own WikiTree from trying to google info on some ancestors that are impossible to track down.  These were just thoughts I had, so I appreciate that we can have discussions like this.  I'm a business analyst by trade, so forgive my techno-functional speak...haha.  OK...back to the tree!
+1 vote
The WikiTree gurus are going to have to give you a GOOD answer to your question, but I think it's a very worthwhile issue for discussion.  The problem is far fron exclusive to Latin American names.  I have people of non-hispanic European origin in my ancestry who pose similar problems with Americanized names.  I have Germans, for example, named Good and Cooker.  Neither is a German name and with Good I don't even know the original German name for certain.  I also have the Polish name Ospalski changed to Osden among my relatives.

On a quick check, it appears that a name given as "aka" doesn't come up on a surname search.

Good suggestion! Now, I'll get out of the way and let someone with a REAL answer respond. :-)
by Fred Remus G2G6 Mach 4 (40.8k points) goes beyond the "alternate last name" field, which IS totally useful for older ancestors that may have spelled it slightly differently, but not so useful when 4 or more variations might exist (often involving multiple combinations of father/mother/spouse names).  Haha...yeah, Good could have been a shortened version of Guttmann, Guttzeit, etc.  That will be a tough one.  Ospalski to Osden is not even close!  I also have a Polish friend here in Germany, that has a Polish passport with Łyczak (pronounced Wuhchock) on it, a German passport with Lyczak on it (which in German would sound more like Luke-tzahk), and I'm sure if he would have come to the U.S. with that name in the 1800's, it would be Wyczak.  We have quite a battle ahead...
Regarding the searches and appearance in surname indexes: It's true that the Alternate Last Names do not get indexed. The Current Last Name does, though. So that gives you two last names under which a person can be found.
Viel Spass in Deutschland!  I spent a lot of years there myself.  Oktoberfest in Munich is a one time must see,  I got tired of it about the third trip. :-)
Fred...vielen Dank!  Where were you living in Germany?'s a bit of a trip, definitely.  But, I've gone 5 times over the past two years (I believe that's considered a low number to many Bavarians...haha) and can't wait to go again!  I love it!
Mannheim/Heidelberg area, but I spent a lot of time in Bavaria.  You can't travel too much there.  There's so much to see, you'll never get it all in, but prioritize and make sure to hit the places that you REALLY want to see.  I was in about a dozen countries and still would like to get back there for the places I missed.
I think WikiTree has done a pretty good job on this, but it's still a tough nut to crack, as I'm discovering.  Part of my family came from Lithuania, where are there are three forms of each surname, one for males, one for wives, and one for unmarried daughters.  This confuses everyone - my father's own immigration papers incorrectly(?) used his mother's surname, which took some research for me to understand.  No wonder they "Canadianized" the name on arrival - creating a fourth variation, of course.  Even Google isn't smart enough (yet) to understand the variations of the same name, example: Miniotas, Miniotienė, Miniotaite.  Looking at the guidelines, I think I've been bending the rules in some cases, but I'm not sure I'm up to following them to the letter.  My grandmother was of Russian origin, and I've entered her birthname as "Saikowska".  However, I imagine I should really use "Саикожска" (or something - I don't even know for sure.)  On the other hand, she was born in Russian-occupied Turkey, so would they have used a Turkish form?  Her family has definitely given me some challenges:  Russian origin, born in Turkey, schooled in Georgia (pre USSR), married in Lithuania, naturalized in Canada, then later Brazil, with name shifts in almost every move.  Some of the family ended up with the Latin American form of multiple names, where one part is Russian, another Spanish, and another Portuguese.  I can imagine some official scratching their had about how to deal which modifications to use with such a name when naming a child!  So, I muddle through, sometimes discovering I had been using the wrong form of the name.  Searching for relatives with this scenario has been challenging, but as I've gotten closer to accuracy, and added more variations, I've started being contacted by unknown distant relatives in both Europe & Latin America, so I guess the effort pays off.  Like some others, I'm also a computer guy, and I know how challenging a perfect, generic system would be - if such were even possible.  I'm impressed with what Chris and WikiTree have done, ... and if I can think of anything specific to suggest, I will.  :)
PS. Just recalled a time years ago I implemented a Soundex algorithm for name matching that could deal with multiple spellings and transliterations.  See - I gather other genealogy sites have done something with this.  Contact me, Chris, if you want to know more - although you probably already do.  :)

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