Germany, Deutschland, or Bundesrepublic Deutschland

+5 votes

I have been trying to figure out what country my 18th Century German Ancestors came from when they left Europe, so I created a Space for Predecessor Sovereign States of Germany.  It has been a great help to determine the country they migrated from.

The only problem that I had was trying to figure out the difference between the Categories Germany, Deutschland, and Bundesrepublik Deutschland that all exist in Wikitree.  I believe the current sovereign state Bundesrepublik Deutschland (German) or Federal Republic of Germany (English) is a continuation of the state established in 1949 but with added territories.  Why do we have Categories for both  "Bunesrepublik Deutschland" and "Deutschland"?   Why is the Category Germany and not "Federal Republic of Germany"?

Just want to figure this out, so Wikitree is consistent.

asked in Policy and Style by G. Moore G2G6 Mach 3 (33.5k points)
If they are 18th century ancestors, the odds are they lived in a small state that was part of the Holy Roman Empire (Heiliges Römisches Reich, in German). A county, or a bishopric, or an electorate, a principalty, a duchy... Bayern? Saxony? Hannover? You need to find this out.

And then, I'm not sure the structure for German historic administrative divisions is in place. You will need to talk with the German Roots project about this. The project does have a structure for current locations and perhaps they recommend using it even for pre-1800 profiles.

(I looked for the help page for German categorization, which I'm sure exists since I used it for a draft on French categories, but I can't find it. At all. I am very sorry).

2 Answers

+3 votes
I'm not sure I can find the place it is written, but either as written or unwritten WikiTree policy there are two principles operating here:

First, we keep category titles as simple as possible, within the bounds of accuracy, with respect to place names.  So we would say France rather than Republic of France.  

Second, unlike the place names in the data field, which should be entered in the language and location the person profiled himself or herself would have used, categories exist in single-language streams.  The default language stream on WikiTree is English.  Therefore [[Category: Germany]] is an appopriate category within the English language category hierarchy.  [[Category: Deutschland]] is an appropriate category within the German language category hierarchy, which is less developed.  For that reason I would consider [[Category:  Bundesrepublik Deutschland]] as an inappropriate and redundant category, but perhaps an appropriate project leader can persuade me otherwise!   

Often you will find that the location subcategories for local places are more highly developed in the local language category hierarchy.
answered by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (242k points)
I had a look at the free-space page G. has put together (thank you for this work, G.!) and I am surprised that all these categories exist for what is now Germany (Deutsches Reich, etc...). And I agree with you Jack, I do not think these categories are useful. Simple categories for "Germany" and the former sub-entities (Bayern, Prussia, Saxony) would probably be much more successful.
Jack, does your second point mean that my 19th century ancestors' profiles should be in both  [[Category: Prussia]] and [[Category: Preußen]]  (or a subcategory)?
If there is a move to have a developed German language hierarchy as well as English language hierarchy, then yes.

One advantage of the English language category hierarchy is that it contains no extra letters.
+1 vote
Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD) was West Germany after the division of World War II.  Deutsche Demokratice Republik (DDR) was East Germany after World War II.  Both of these no longer exist, after the Reunification.  The Wiedervereinigung. began in the fall of 1989 and was formalized in 1990.
answered by Bev Weston G2G2 (2.6k points)
Which is one reason that a simple Germany or Deutschland works much better than trying to use the more changeable official titles.
This is more complex than you think.   There was a German Empire, a German Confederation, a West Germany, an East Germany, a German Reich, allied occupied Germany, North German Confederation, etc. that existed in different times and encompassed different locations.  We can't just call them all Germany.  In order to tell where an ancestor came from, we need to know the name of the country they were living in and the location within the country as best we can.  A country is defined by a name, location and a time.  We spent a lot of time figuring out the names that should be used for US states as they went from being colonies and territories to states.   I think we have to spend some time figuring out the names and date ranges for other countries, as well,--probably in more than one language.
It is indeed complicated, which is why it is SO important to distinguish between the data field and categories -- and the biography.

First is the biography.  The biography is the primary place where we tell the truth.  The biography can tell the truth exactly as it was, and the biography has sources that tell us where the truth came from.  The biography is the first place to explain all the changes that happened to locations through history.  

Second is the data field.  The data field is derived from the biography.  The location information in the data field describes the place as the person profiled would have known it.  It is intended to be true, but it is derived.  If a profile has a location in the data field but no write-up in the biography, then it is essentially fiction.  The efforts you are describing to get things right belong first of all to the biography and then to the data field.

Third is the category.  The category is a convenience intended to group profiles in some helpful way.  In some ways categories are like the numbers on the back of a book in a library -- it doesn't matter what the numbers are so long as it helps you find the book.  Yes, we want categories to be truthful, but they don't carry the weight of truthfulness that the biography and data field do.  Categories are a convenience, and when they stop being convenient people will stop using them.
Good discussion.   The biography is the place to explain the facts with sourcing.  The data fields for birth and death and the categories should be supported by the biography and sources.  Wikitree is a Wiki, though.  The data fields are free form text (not structured data) and cannot easily be searched or browsed in a wiki.   Categories are the primary way to browse or search a Wiki.  They are structure data (should be input in a consistent way) and not free form.  Other Wikis, especially Wikipedia, have adopted a consistent set of Categories for sovereign states that is supported by sourcing and could be mirrored in Wikitree to make the Categories more accurate and easier to navigate.

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