Where to put first name spelling variations?

+7 votes
I'm entering an ancestor whose first name is sometimes given in source records as Phoebe and at other times Phebe.  Is the correct procedure to enter both names in the "Proper First Name" field, separated by a comma?
WikiTree profile: Phoebe Bayles
in WikiTree Help by Bill Feidt G2G6 Mach 5 (52.3k points)
reopened by Bill Feidt
It's not really needed for such a slight difference.  The citation will show there was a variation.  It you find it necessary, just mention it in the biography.  James could be Jim, Jimmie, Jimmy, Jimbo, Little Jimmy, Big Jimmy etc. but that makes for quite a messy data field.
Thanks, Vincent.  If it were a more significant difference would it then be appropriate to put both in the "Proper First Name" field?

Please do record all variant spellings in one of the first names fields. WikiTree name search cannot find "Phebe" if you search for "Phoebe" -- unless "Phebe" is in one of the first namve fields.

2 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer
My personal preference is to keep the name field as clean as possible, and then explain various name spellings in bio section.
by Rodney Long G2G6 Pilot (904k points)
selected by Joe Cochoit
Thanks, Rodney.  That makes sense.

Names often require an explanation because of variations in primary records, inconsistencies in records, changes made by individuals during their lives, language differences, etc.  This is best handled in the biography where I usually create a special === Name === section just for the explanation.  I personally can’t stand how wikitree guidelines make a complete mess out of something as basic as a person’s name.  I also agree that the display name should be as clean as possible without all of the inconsequential and rare spelling variations found in pre-1700 profiles.

Some examples are William Winslow who has 17 variations of his name in the primary records; it would be silly to try and add them all to the other last names field. Even modern profiles will commonly have variations found in the records.  Many of the Mayflower passengers and other puritans who fled to the Netherlands will be found in the primary records with very English names and with very Dutch names (e.g. Dorothy, Dorothea, Derreken (May, Maij) Bradford, Bretfort).  For medieval profiles, it is almost a necessity to explain spelling variations, titles, and the way a person is commonly known various languages.

+9 votes
Hi William,

The correct procedure is to put the alternate names in the Nicknames field.


by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
Thanks for the link to the full rules, Chris.  Most helpful.
That's fine if it is a trivial spelling variant but what we don't have is a way to display true name variants that have been used by people at different times during their life: Adalbert and Albert, Eva Rosina and Euphrosina, Rosina and Rosalia, not to mention name differences due to being in a bilingual country or region, this is particularly problematic in my Czech profiles: Laurenz and Vavřinec, Georg and Jiřy, Johann and Jan.

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