Should this become the official WikiTree policy on Korean Names?

+14 votes

Korean names use only a family name and given name.   The family name is written first, followed by the given name.  

The few profiles that exist use different naming conventions that make it difficult to find the names in searches and category listings.   A consistent naming policy for Korean names would encourage more Wikitree Korean participation.  

I created a Draft Korean Naming Convention, located on the following Space page:

[[Space:Korean Naming Convention in Wikitree]]

Request your comments on this naming convention in answers or comments on this G2G post.

The family name would have to be changed for a few profiles.   The advantage of using this convention now would be starting while there are only a few names in Wikitree.   This would only apply to Korean name profiles written in English.  It could also be used for Hangul or Hanja versions of Korean profiles with some minor modifications and translation. This draft could serve as a model for other languages that might have similar naming problems.  

in Policy and Style by G. Moore G2G6 Mach 3 (39.5k points)
edited by G. Moore
(I wrote this same comment on your other thread, before I noticed this one.)

When you write in the chart on the freespace page "the hyphen is important to avoid database errors", are you talking about the "are you sure?" message that comes up if there's a space between elements in the "Proper First Name" box? If so, that's not a database error, that's just WikiTree trying to enforce its US-centric world-view. You can safely tell it to save anyway. However, using a hyphen does avoid this particular annoyance, so perhaps re-word the statement: "Using a hyphen instead of a space avoids an annoying "are you sure?" message."
It is a common transliteration convention to put the hypen in the name for two character names.
Are you advocating for universal hyphen use so that searches will be more reliable? That's not a database error, either.
I think South Korea is a beautiful traditional country.  Leave things alone when it's not broke!  Updating things are a way of life for everyone but much needs to be left alone, especially a family's name. I mean this with true kindness.

4 Answers

+12 votes
I think a change in the way the name is displayed on the profile page is needed. If there were a check box on the data entry screen for “display surname first,” and necessary program to display the name surname first, then the name would be properly displayed.

This would seem to be a minor change as there is no change to the surname and given name fields.

Right now the display has the name one way, and the text another.

I have used genealogy programs where the different name convention are handled properly, so it can be done.
by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (682k points)
There is a language field for profiles.  I have no idea what it does but maybe it could be linked to make the profile display the Surname and Given name in the right order for Korean.
+10 votes
I glanced over the page, but I am not sure I see a difference in the Name Convention you have proposed, to the General Naming Conventions that are already in place.

Can you help by pointing out the differences, or where you elaborate on or extend on the general conventions as it relates to Korean names?
by Steven Harris G2G6 Pilot (774k points)
The difference is that the Family Name and Given name are reversed the order they appear in Korean.  For "Kim Il-sung", his last name is Kim not Il-sung.  It will only appear correctly in the text and not the Profile title.
As already mentioned, the change needed is not to how the fields are used, but how they are displayed. So in this instance, the policy you are suggesting (and the page you are linking to) are already in place and approved policies. There is no need to duplicate the current policy just to show formatting for another language group.
I agree with Steven. It's not a policy issue, only a display issue.

The display issue should be addressed by WikiTree.

I think the basic problem that this "policy" (really a guide) is trying to address is the disconnect between the intent and the labeling on WikiTree. Apparently there have been Korean profiles entered which take the "first" and "last" labels literally. This makes the display name look correct, but results in an utter mess otherwise, so the practice does need to be strongly discouraged. Some sort of language-specific guideline page could certainly help with that. The question I can't answer is where to put the guide and how to label it so that people who need it know that it exists and can find it.

I think the first thing on the guide page needs to be a prominent statement that in WikiTree's current setup, you cannot get the display name to be correct for surname-first languages. There is no way around this basic failing of the software. The best you can do is to write things correctly in the bio, enter names into the fields according to the programmer's intentions and not according to the labeling, and hope that WikiTree will someday fix its name-entry-and-display problems.

If we don't need a policy for this, is it just another naming convention or guideline like the Dutch Roots, Czech, etc. that are mentioned in the Help:Name Field Guidelines?  The developers can take on the task of figuring out whether the Surname and Given name can be reversed for Korean.
We shouldn't have a policy that is basically a workaround. If I recall correctly, there are other threads on here that discuss this very issue: the fact that WikiTree labels the data fields as "Last Name" (Last Name at Birth) and "First Name".

There have been previous suggestions to change this to something like "Family Name" or "Surname" for exactly this same reason. I would think that that is the real solution here, and WikiTree needs to address it.
I think this is really much less of an issue than what is being described here. Last Name (western convention) has the same meaning as family name, surname, etc. and really should be used as such.

The only real issue that anyone has described so far is the display of the name on the profile. I would be fully in support of allowing a variance (per profile) on how the name is displayed, but that would be a large undertaking with a bunch of moving parts that no one has tried to tackle so far. To date, I have only seen questions or suggestions aimed at very specific groups, such as the thread we are in now.

Just to reiterate, the policy that currently exists is fine for every situation that I have seen discussed so far and the attached space page only creates a duplicate space that could ultimately lead to confusion.

The best approach in this case would be to work on how the applicable Help pages are worded (expanding the clarification of LNAB for different people or groups) and recommending a proposal to how the names are displayed (such as adding a feature to move the placement of fields, ultimately changing how the fields are displayed on the profile). As an example, this could be implemented much in the same way that badge orders are changed for members.
G., yes, I think this is exactly like the guidelines for Dutch etc.: a set of agreed-upon standards, and workarounds for the faults of WikiTree, as they apply to a specific language or culture.

I think we can all agree on the proposed field uses for Korean, although I still have a quibble with the stated reason for the hyphen ("database error" is not it). A short discussion of Korean names (like what you have) is also appropriate, as a quick reference. The only thing I'd add is a more explicit statement, prominently featured right at the beginning, about WikiTree's current inability to display surname-first names correctly.


Fixing WikiTree's name-entry-and-display problems is a different topic. It has been brought up on G2G many times, including in my very first post here ( The most comprehensive proposed solution is a highly free-form schema that could handle every conceivable name structure ( This is apparently "on the suggestions list", but I have no idea what that means in terms of implementation.
+13 votes

I may need to read the page better, but it doesn't look like you're using Korean characters in the LNAB. Unless the people were born somewhere other than Korea, it would seem that should be what we should use.

The hyphen shouldn't be necessary, either. Plenty of people have two names/syllables that need placed in the given name field. You just need to push the "save anyway"button. If it throws a data doctors suggestion, those can be marked as false errors, too. Unless they're using hyphens, we shouldn't be.

Karen discussed entering Japanese names here a bit which might give some direction:
by Abby Glann G2G6 Pilot (770k points)
+10 votes
The proposed Naming policy seems well thought out.  I would add these comments:

1.  I wish the policy could be re-written to include all east Asian names, which follow the pattern family name, given name.  (I learned something from you -- generational names, which my father obviously knew -- when our family moved to China in 1947 we were given Chinese names;  mine could be transliterated Dai Wan Kwang and my sister Dai Wan Sieu).

2.  Eventually, WikiTree will HAVE to either give up the "Last Name, First Name" myth, or give up wanting to be a global tree.  I think the global tree idea being more important, will force the change, and then the computers can be re-rigged so that the profile manager can choose whether to display the surname first or last.  Surname as last name can still be the default position, but being able to alter the display would solve the problem without at all messing up WikiTree's filing system.  

3.  When I had the chance, I adopted the profile for Mao Zedung in order to have some skin in this game.  Notice how the convention there seems to be to make the given name two syllables rather than displaying Ze Dung or Ze-dung.  

4.  I strongly recommend a subsection ===Name=== in profiles where there is any discussion appropriate for name, and that's almost mandatory for east Asian names.  You allude to this in your chart under "text" but calling for a specific subsection where the name can be displayed in its proper order and characters along with any explanations would be good.

5.  Abby brings up an important point on the use of Korean language characters.  That's consistent with the policy of using the name as they would have used it.  WikiTree's computers will apparently accomodate the characters;  if the characters are used for the surname and given name, then the English transliteration should be used at least as a nickname.    That solves one problem -- persons who only understand the Roman letters of west European languages will then be able to tell who the profile is -- but I don't think the WikiTree search functions includes nicknames (does it?)  So if you are searching for "Kim", will the profile show up if the LNAB is the character for Kim, not the roman letters?
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (478k points)
There are a surprising number of languages -- not all of them Asian, never mind east Asian -- where surnames can or do come first. (The major European example is Hungarian.) So if the guide/policy is revised to include other surname-first languages, then the name of the page needs to be culture-neutral: something like "Guidelines for Surname-first Names on WikiTree". But given that the language-specific parts of the page, such as generational names, are also an important part of its usefulness, I think it would be better to have separate pages for separate languages. There could of course be links between guides for languages that share certain features, such as putting surnames before given names, or being written in non-Roman characters.

I agree wholeheartedly with your point 2. In its current setup, WikiTree is an American site pretending to be international.

There are entire branches (category trees) of WikiTree in other languages. Go explore. 

Profiles in categories in other languages use that language, including using that language's character set in the name and other data fields and in the bio.

I have only looked at a few of these profiles and wonder if there are data entry pages on WikiTree in those other languages (field labels in that language). If so, what do they call our LNAB field that is part of the database unique key for the profile. Does it translate as family name in those other languages?

This is a multi-national, multi-cultural, all-volunteer project. If you want to display different labels for fields based on the user's language, then find a volunteer to code it. If you want to display family name first for profiles whose cultures use family first style for full names, then find a volunteer to code it. There are plenty of programmers who come from these cultures. Many are multi-lingual. Find one who wants to volunteer his time. It will happen eventually. Until then we continue to use the software as is and we continue to strive for a global family tree.

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