Why should women be refiled by the name of their spouse?

+1 vote
I'm unhappy to find several of my profiles have been edited by others to change a woman's displayed surname to that of her spouse.  These women were born into a family name and ought to remain with them for index purposes.  Turning Mary Wilcox into Mary Sherman only compounds the likelihood that she will become confused with a woman named Mary who was born a Sherman.
in Genealogy Help by Brian McCullough G2G2 (2.0k points)
recategorized by Chris Whitten
It's hard to get used to, especially after indexing females by their maiden names for over 4 decades, and that includes hard copy notes and genealogy software. However, there's so much good about WikiTree, I can't complain too much. I don't suppose a person could ever be completely satisfied with a program someone else designed and since I have no technical expertise in the field, I'm glad the WikiTree team has come up with something very close to what I'd create if I knew how.
Thank you, Debby.  I appreciate the response. I guess I can adapt.  It won't be the first time I've ever had to say: "I'm not crazy about it, but it is what it is."
Yes, I get annoyed, too. and I haven't figured out yet how to "undo" this. When I try to space out the "Current Last Name" field, it gets filled with "Annoymous".

However, you can find them in the WikiTree person search under both names.

Also, I personally haven't used my maiden name since I got married, so when I look at my own profile, I glad to see the name I actually use.

So, this is a mixed feeling comment.

Becky's last comment explains the origin of this decision: WikiTree is made to work for modern family members as well as deep ancestors. Everyone has to exist on the same tree.

If you want the Current Last Name to be the same as the Last Name at Birth, don't leave it blank (it's a required field so as Becky discovered it will be autofilled with "Anonymous" if you try to blank it out). Just make it the same. You won't see the name duplicated anywhere (e.g. "Debby (Black) Black"). The display will recognize it's the same.

As for whether the married name of an ancestor should be used, this is a community decision. The conclusions we've come to are at  http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Name_Fields

Got to agree with the folks that don't particularly care for the way this is done on WikiTree. It doesn't really do any harm or cause any functional problems that I can see, but the whole genealogical world has done it one way for decades (centuries?) and WikiTree has just decided to change it? Really?
I agree with Fred, I don't like it!  A women's surname at birth should be the default aalso know as the married name or names!
Hi M,

You might have noticed that this thread is from 2012.  Later, in another thread, I came around to Wikitree's way of thinking and handling this, and said so.

Using a woman's last name at birth made sense when genealogy was all done on paper, but with computer genealogy long established as the dominant force in the field, things have changed a bit.

If researcher #1 finds Mary Jones as a child with her parents, that person would search Mary Jones on Wikitree.  If researcher #2 find Mary Smith with a husband and children, they may or may not know that the married woman, Mary Smith, is the same person as the little girl Mary Jones.

The way Wikitree does this allows her to be found under either name.

By the way, I know I wondered about this question before, but don't remember if I ever asked here, or saw an answer - Does the person search also find "Other Last Names"?  That field is probably most frequently used for alternate spellings that may appear in various records.  But it can also be used for multiple married names when a woman married more than once.  I hope that also results in hits on the person search.
Thank you for your answer, after I posted and found other similar questions, I did realize that it was an old thread from 2012!  While I see your point, I still think the default should be the maiden name!!  Just My Opinion!


Missing maiden names are the bane of genealogy!  If the only records you can find show that John Smith had a wife Mary, how on Earth can you ever find her parents, her ancestors?  Sad to say, but there are a lot of our ancestors (mine included) who have this problem.  Sometimes you can find circumstantial evidence that lets you guess who her parents were and the name she was born with.  But that is hard to raise above the level of an educated guess.

And one more comment on this: Maiden name is the default!  In my fictitious example of Mary (Jones) Smith, you'll find that her Wikitree ID is Jones-123456, not Smith-123456.


1 Answer

0 votes

Hi Brian,

See http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Name_Fields for background on this.


by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
Concur with others. It's one thing to make the use of a married name optional for certain displays, but to default to its use is contrary to genealogical conventions, and does a disservice to WikiTree's being taken seriously among genealogists. While I am enjoying learning to use and contribute to this service, and impressed with much that I see here, this one little aspect of WikiTree has seriously dinged my impression of it.

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