Can we please have "None" as an option for LNAB?

+29 votes
I've read through old discussions on this topic. Not everyone has a last name at birth, so "Unknown" is not a good option. But you have to put something. Native American project says that the name of the tribe should be used. That feels wrong and even a little creepy for those who lived in the 1800s or earlier. Like Geronimo, Sacajawea, Pocahontas and so on. But when it comes to someone who lived recently, whose parents are still living even, it is utterly and completely wrong. IMO.

I knew Lah-huh-bate-soot for his entire life. It was completely and entirely intentional that he came without any last name; only a traditional name, handed down through the family. I personally had some hassles trying to make a plane reservation for him when he was a little tyke. I don't see why we have to force a name onto him which his family never intended, and which never was his name. His birth was recorded with the tribe, and that was his legal name.

Please: May we have "None" as an LNAB option? Rather than imposing something that doesn't fit? That will never fit? We supposedly put priority on using the name as given at birth. Why are we forced to employ the disrespect that goes with imposing a name that never ever ever was his?
WikiTree profile: Lah-huh-bate-soot None
in Policy and Style by Anonymous Winter G2G6 Mach 7 (71.1k points)
edited by Anonymous Winter

4 Answers

+20 votes
Best answer

It seems clear there should be an option for "None".  In fact, it doesn't even seem debatable, but there are a few implementation details to work out.

Implementation Considerations:

  • While "None" seems an obvious choice, we've seen how inconsistent people can be with entering "Unknown" (UNKNOWN, Unknow, Unk, etc).  I think it would be better to have a 3 choice radio button control, "Last Name at Birth", "Unknown", and "None" (LNAB selected by default), with the input box grayed out if LNAB is not selected.  Internally, you can store special codes for Unknown and None, which would allow for entry of the hopefully very rare case of surname=None or Unknown (I'll bet it exists somewhere!).
  • Display - handled like "Unknown", no display whenever not needed, and a different font or italics elsewhere.
  • Sorting - probably like "Unknown"; I think I would prefer "None" entries to sort to the top and "Unknown" entries sort to the bottom
  • Searching - might need to add a check box for "None" no surname, to differentiate from the case where you just don't know what it is.  In this case you are specifically looking for an LNAB with a "None" entry.
  • Would be nice to say in associated help that a note in the bio is needed to explain the lack of surname
  • It should perhaps also be made clear this is NOT for cases where the last name is unknown and probably unknowable, such as some maiden names
  • Anything else?
by Rob Jacobson G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
selected by Anonymous Winter
That sounds like what I have in mind, Rob. Including the checkbox to differentiate from "unknown" and also "unknowable" - as in the example I've provided.
Very nicely thought out.
yes I have one "Bastard" line, and the father I have marked Unknown and put in the bio that he is indeed a bastard and father is not known. If by chance we could test a male descendant and trace.....
+11 votes

From the project page, the tribe name is used for those before the time that surnames were introduced/adopted/required. This would not technically apply to the profile in question. In any case, I've seen "No last name" used in profiles. You are right that "Unknown" is misleading, as it implies that there is a last name that has yet to be discovered.

by Emily Yaden G2G6 Mach 1 (11.4k points)
+13 votes

I just searched to find that many people are already using the surname None. Many of these people appear to be Arabic or Native American, but there are others, too. I have no idea whether this is a strict rule violation or not. If someone doesn't have a surname, using Unknown does not accurately reflect reality.

by Bill Vincent G2G6 Pilot (143k points)
Rob's idea of a radio button to standardize those entries would help a lot.

And that.guidance is for the Current Last Name field, not for LNAB. Discussion here has been focused on people who never had a last name.
+5 votes
I agree that it should be an option to have no last name.

If any words need to be added it could be an explanation in parentheses such as (no last name).

I think this is one of those subjects where the question is whether this website is trying to make something other people can read or use, or are people here only aiming to make an esoteric hobby which no one else needs to be able to understand.

All of the concerns about searching and sorting are purely internal, artificial concerns about the strange way Wikitree works internally. Normal search engines will find things in Wikitree more easily, so why make the Wikitree internal search a reason for making a mess of the actual genealogy?
by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Pilot (107k points)

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