What makes someone a Notable

+10 votes

This has probably been discussed before but I came across a profile that was for one of those school shooting gunmen, and I found it really absurd that a profile like that should have anything on it that mentioned they were notable. Should the person not have done something notable that doesn't involve mass-murder if they should be categorized as such? It is not like these people are well known historical figures, like well known dictators or Ghengis or something along those lines. I removed the Notables tag on the school shooter, I don't want victims and their families to stumble across the profile and see it. But in this case it is a 19th century murderer but still, when should a line be drawn in tagging someone as notable. Shouldn't the black Sheep project take these profiles instead or do they also not want them? cool

WikiTree profile: William Burke
in Policy and Style by Antonia Reuvers G2G6 Mach 1 (17.3k points)

There should be a sticker for INFAMY, just to separate the bad from the good. I know "notable" can be used two ways .. good, or evil .. but most people seem to automatically think the "good/famous" way, rather than the "evil/INfamous" way. (And seemingly very few people actually use infamous nowadays .. everyone is "famous".)

Good point, Melanie! Especially in the example Antonia uses, there needs to be a "bad" designation for the notables.
We really need to distinguish between notable and notorious.  I find it horribly offensive to have someone notorious labeled as notable.
I think that the word notable it to broad of a subject.  The word infamous is a category that murders could be listed under.  This way although they are notable this would inform people that they are notable because of a horrendous murder or act.  These people are part of history and need to be added but we must first make sure that others are not hurt during the process of history.  Maybe we could not put infamous with the people who are notable.

5 Answers

+13 votes
Best answer
While Jillaine is correct about the use of notable on WikiTree, I think perhaps a more appropriate sticker could be created for use on the profiles of the infamous or notorious. Notable really isn't a term generally applied to those who have committed crimes. The sticker could be used by the notables project and place the person in the appropriate category it would say "infamous" or "notorious" instead of "notable" and perhaps use less "cheery" colors.
by Deb Durham G2G Astronaut (1m points)
selected by Antonia Reuvers
Personally, I think most stickers on Wikitree add no value to profiles, and would love to see most of them disappear.

I think stickers help breakup walls of texts and can make profiles look quite nice. If we only use Categories it's useful to an extent, but formatting wise just kind of sink into the background. I'm with Deb on this one. Wikipedia in itself is neutral, but Wikipedia doesn't put little keywords on the articles like Wikitree does with stickers. If we are going to use stickers, I think we should make it work for all situations/profiles. No?

Maybe we should simply have a separate project for it all together? Being a mass-murderer is after all more than just being a Black Sheep. Also its not like the Notables project can't do with loosing a few.


I wouldn't want to volunteer to lead that project, William Burke is the stuff of nightmares. surprise

Maybe that's what the project/team should be called: Nightmare Notables.  Working on these profiles will give you nightmares.

Kidding. Sorta.
Your comment made me chuckle. ;)
Yes, this would be a Black Sheep profile. The subproject within Black Sheep would be "Outlaw" since the subject acted outside the law. Under Outlaw are several projects to note the time in which the subject lived or the type crime. The one from the original question would be classified under "Murderer".
I did not know BS pr. was a sub pr. of Notables, makes sense though. I was adding polygamist profiles (LDS profiles) to the Black sheep, not all notable people so i guess the project isn't only sub-notable but stand on its own sometimes, if u know what i mean..

I don't think you should be adding LDS profiles to the Black Sheep project. While I do understand that polygamy is not a common practice in the United States and the LDS had to give up the practice to achieve statehood for Utah, I think you'd find more than a few people offended by including them as Black Sheep. Polygamy isn't exclusive to LDS. It has been practiced for centuries in many parts of the world. Black Sheep implies criminal activity of some sort. I don't think that applies here.

By that standard, you could add anyone to Black Sheep whose religious practices you do not agree with or condone. 

Please read the project page for which profiles should be included. You will see that it very specifically excludes LDS polygamists.

Black Sheep Project

Deb, my dear ;)

I was adding polygamist families when I was approached by the project, not the other way around. This was a couple of years ago I am sure the standards for the projects has changed since. Now there's an LDS project too i think.. but I am not sure they would want to be associated with polygamists.
Well, I am a member of the LDS Project and I can assure you polygamists are not ignored or swept under the carpet by the project or by church members. Most of them fall within the Early LDS and LDS Pioneer sub-groups/projects. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many other very prominent LDS leaders practiced polygamy. Whether the project requested they be added or not it was a very bad idea.
I think there's a vast difference between a true bigamist who is marrying multiple women and in most cases without their knowledge or consent of the other wives, and a well-known religion like LDS that at one time had as a standard practice the act of marrying multiple wives where they were all aware of each other and consented at least in principle to the marriages and understood that it was a part of their everyday life.

A bigamist practicing true illegal behavior could easily fall into a Black Sheep profile. An everyday LDS pioneer in my estimation wouldn't. Just my 2 cents.
I have a couple of bigamists, the religion was Catholic, so definitely not permissible.  They are tagged with Blach Sheep project.  The second marriages were annulled, needless to say, and the men were prosecuted.  One fled the country, the other stayed.  I forget what the sentences were.
+8 votes
You'll find the answer here:


Note that the word "notable" in this context is value-neutral.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (757k points)
I know that but I wouldn't want to stumble across my child's murderer and see the sticker "This person was notable".

What i am saying is should there not be exemptions, and if the Black Sheep project is specifically taking these kind of profiles under their wings then does the Notables project really have to have their tag on them?

If my great granddad was murdered by someone like William Burke then yeah maybe I would not be so concerned by it because it is further back in time, I still don't think it's very suitable for the same reasons Melanie Paul mentions. If you're just going to have a small tag then you have to either accept it doesn't look equally correct on all sorts of profiles or have a bigger sort of tag as the Black Sheep has: "William Burke is a black sheep because they were outcast, outlawed, or outlandish."

If you follow the link over to Wikipedia, they have an entire section of their Notability criteria devoted to this topic:


It says:

Crime victims and perpetrators

A person who is known only in connection with a criminal event or trial should not normally be the subject of a separate Wikipedia article if there is an existing article that could incorporate the available encyclopedic material relating to that person.

Where there is such an existing article, it may be appropriate to create a sub-article, but only if this is necessitated by considerations of article size.

Where there are no appropriate existing articles, the criminal or victim in question should be the subject of a Wikipedia article only if one of the following applies:

For victims, and those wrongly accused or wrongly convicted of crime

  1. The victim or person wrongly convicted, consistent with Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons#Subjects notable only for one event, had a large role within a well-documented historic event. The historic significance is indicated by persistent coverage of the event in reliable secondary sources that devote significant attention to the individual's role.[9]

For perpetrators

  1. The victim of the crime is a renowned national or international figure, including, but not limited to, politicians or celebrities.[10]
  2. The motivation for the crime or the execution of the crime is unusual—or has otherwise been considered noteworthy—such that it is a well-documented historic event. Generally, historic significance is indicated by sustained coverage of the event in reliable secondary sources which persists beyond contemporaneous news coverage and devotes significant attention to the individual's role.[11]
    • Note: A living person accused of a crime is presumed not guilty unless and until the contrary is decided by a court of law. Editors must give serious consideration to notcreating an article on an alleged perpetrator when no conviction is yet secured.
So technically, unless we want to begin picking and choosing who "we" do and do not want as Notable, we really "should" put the Notable sticker on profiles that meet the Wikipedia standard. I do get that it can get a bit awkward to find someone we either don't respect, dislike, or even out and out hate to be considered "Notable", but as the standards show, there are situations where someone has been determined to be well enough known for their crimes that they become Notorious in a way that makes them Notable.

And there's a gray line where there's no Wikipedia article on the individual, but as they state above, a reasonable article on the crime itself. In those cases, I don't necessarily think they always qualify as Notable, so there can be some wiggle room in those situations.

Thanks for this very useful information Scott! yes

+3 votes
err, I think the notable sticker should come off there personally.  Black sheep tag is already on there, which is where he belongs, although bio needs expansion to show it is warranted.

While Wikipedia has an article about the story, it doesn't actually name them as ''notable'', so trying to use their criteria on WikiTree for notability seems moot.

Maybe Black Sheep should have some stickers additional to the project logo, for use to emphasize in text.  And Notables project could have a redirect to Black Sheep for the infamous people.
by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (306k points)
Just to point out that Wikipedia does not "name" people as notable. It simply allows a biography article to persist on the site, if the person IS notable.

If  a person is NOT notable, then Wikipedia standards do not allow a dedicated biographical article for the person.
took a look at the article, it isn't so much about the single individual but about the whole context, there are 2 men named as killers in there.
Well, Wikipedia subject articles will name people who were involved in the topic. That is usually fine.

But the notability standard applies only to the persistence of a dedicated bio article.

So X shooting event was in the news, and becomes a Wikipedia article. The shooter will be named, victims named, and family members etc who gave comments to media, or were investigated, etc.

But the notability standard applies only to whether a dedicated biography article will survive for any one of those people. In most cases, it will not, because the people named are known only for that one event, and are not otherwise of wide significance.

So the end result is that any single person who survives as a dedicated biography on Wikipedia is clearly notable, because he has passed that site's rigorous deletion review standard. And those bio police are tough.
Wikipedia has its standards about which person can get a personal article. I read my way through the whole article when I wanted to know, if a person on WT can get a Notable sticker. The simple answer was: "If s/he has a wikipedia article, then yes." But what makes a person eligible to get a wikipedia article? The answer to that is linked in the "Notable standards on Wikitree". (Beware, it's a long read, but it's worth it.)
As I see it, the beauty of Wikitree is that it fills in where Wikipedia fails.

WikiTree is a wiki dedicated to a single profile for every REAL person who ever lived. Wikipedia, on the other hand, outlaws the vast majority of such bio articles.

But then also, Wikipedia is awash in pseudo-bios of countless FICTIONAL characters, which are disallowed on WikiTree.

So I like to allow a generous recognition of ANY importance of any individual on WikiTree, to help them stand out against the vast majority of profiles that are not much more than individuals who lived and died, and who sometimes got a name that was known to somebody somewhere, and hopefully with dates and places, instead of blanks and guesses.

So in that context, notability on Wikitree should really be a much lower bar to cross, than it is on Wikipedia. If we can do that with generous stickers, categories, etc., so much the better.

For Wikitree profiles to really be meaningful to a wider public audience, notability should really be treated as a range, rather than a yes / no decision.

For example, many people will be of interest to me, who did not reach the Wikipedia standard. I care about the family roots of men and women who built things in my town. Or who gave their names to my streets. Or who wrote letters publisihed in my favorite old magazines. Or who were sailors that went down with the ship.

I want a range of tools to give them all a bit more recognition they deserve than the average profile. They should stand out, for members of the public who will find their area of involvement to be of interest. That is where WikiTree will succeed in being much more than just a bland directory of names.

my point was that he should be under Black Sheep as infamous rather than under Notables as famous.  Maybe we should have a sticker for the infamous people so this is reflected in their profiles.  

There are all sorts of people who were considered criminals for one reason or another who fit under Black Sheep.  Think of Jesse James for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_James he has become almost a legend.  Or take Marie Josephe Corriveau https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Josephte_Corriveau   https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Corriveau-173  She is a figure of legend in this province, the debate still goes on as to whether she was guilty or not.

I would put neither of them under Notables category.  Despite their having a Wikipedia article.  They belong under Black Sheep, or else why do we even have the Black sheep project, distinct from the Notables project?

Although I agree with you, Steven, that Wikitree can (should?) be the place where every human is acknowledged for any achievement she brought, great or small, I disagree that this should be done in the form of categories, flags, famous or infamous, etc.

Just tell the story, and let everyone appreciate its value. You don't need flags for that.
Those are not necessarily flags, I see categories more like files. All who were born there, all who have achieved this (received that)  all who were musicians of that instrument etc.pp
Jelena, I agree, what you mention are "property-value" pairs which could be used as filters in a "SELECT" query, just as in Wikidata, and they are useful (provided they can be used in queries).

What I meant by "flag" was a posteriori categories such as "good", "evil", "great", "famous", "infamous", "black sheep", "terrorist", "hero", unameit.

Bernard, if we don't present extra goodies to highlight more accomplished profiles, then we just leave people to suffer through reading countless mundane bios, to find any matter of importance to anything, beyond just somebody's ancestor of interest.

How would that be a good thing, to downplay all things of wider public interest? WikiTree is supposed to be of public interest. Not just a phone book.
If every profile is downgraded to "just tell the story" regardless of public interest, I can't picture anything more utterly boring to have to wade through, to find anything interesting.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a phone book, as an index of people. But we have space and tools to add interesting value. I don't see any good argument to discourage use of them.

That's why they have Yellow Pages.  wink  People advertise their services.  But you are correct Steven that a lot of people do look for the outstanding in their tree.  Some would rather not see the bad eggs.  

I have a couple of bigamists in my tree, as well as one ancestor convicted and executed for murder, and Marie Josephe Corriveau whom I mentioned above is among my cousins at far remove.  I also have some nobility, and if EuroAristo has done their job right, I seem to trace one line all the way back to Charlemagne and before.  I go, hmm, are you sure?  Always skeptical of such claims.

To me these are points of mild interest, what interests me are the day to day things I can glean to make them come alive in my mind.  But some love the glamorous.

Steven, I get your point. Please forgive my newbie ignorance of the implicit rationale of WikiTree. Actually, as Danielle says in other words, people have interest in genealogy for quite different reasons, and certainly a good marketing policy of Wikitree is to provide different kinds of food for thought. My own main interest is to discover and build links, but I understand we can differ on this. smiley

+3 votes

Antonia, and all

I've stumbled upon this notability issue again and again since the early days of Wikipedia, and after almost twenty years munching on it, come to the following conclusions.

Notability is defined in WP rules from an apparently technical and non-moral viewpoint. Someone or something is notable if it has been noted (so to speak) in some reliable sources, preferably several independent ones. Wikipedia editors don't judge why someone or something is notable, they simply take notice that it has been documented somewhere, and this documentation is gathered in an article. Notability and NPOV (neutral point of view) are the two pillars of Wikipedia deontology.

If you accept that Wikipedia is the master of notability in Wikitree (as seems the rule if I'm not misled by what I read), you have to bind by its rules, with all its consequences, including mass murderers being notable. Notability Wikipedia-style is totally amoral.

Or so they say. If you look carefully, there are a lot of known biases (gender, social, ethnic, political ...), on which WP line of defence will be usually  "non guilty" because they say they just copy the biases of available documents. 

If you ask me today, I would say a base like Wikitree should get rid of all this notability categorization altogether. Notability makes sense for WP, despite known biases, because you have to set limits on who is allowed to have an article in WP or not. Notability there is a question of who's in and who's out. 

Here in Wikitree there is no problem of the sort. Every human is welcome, as I understand. Hopefully we are no more in those aristocratic families where the "infamous" for any reason are kicked out of the family, and of the tree. The criteria of inclusion is being a human, and we all have saints and criminals in our ancestors. 

This kind of affair should lead us to the conclusion to get rid of notability altogether, both good and evil. Having a link to a Wikidata article when there is one is OK, or to the Wikidata identifier, or whatever external identifier leading to external data bases for complements of information. 

For what it's worth ...

by Bernard Vatant G2G6 Mach 3 (36.4k points)
edited by Bernard Vatant
+2 votes
Let's separate the notables, i.e., those who are WORTHY of note, from those who do not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath.  If a criminal then categorise the profile as a criminal.  As far as Black Sheep, they may or may not have actually broken a law.  Being a Black Sheep makes them a Black Sheep, not a Notable or a criminal.  And surely no member is seeking to even create profiles for schoolyard murderers.  That's a problem for our grandchildren to address.  I do apologise if this answer has come over as being abrupt. That is not what I meant.  But let us leave Notables as those worthy of note, whether or not they are also famous.
by Kenneth Evans G2G6 Pilot (146k points)
Yeah, well, somebody's Black Sheep is somebody else's revered ancient Warlord, or Mein Fuhrer, or whichever grossly hated but fairly elected representative.

Notables are simply those people who have made the news enough to be publicly noted. Value judgements are simply opinions about their value as noted persons.

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