What is a Notable?

+18 votes
As Notables Leader, I am often asked "what is a Notable" and "how can I tell"? This will be intended more to start a conversation than to dictate rules as to what we do and don't accept as a valid Notable on the project, as there are many flavors of Notables as well as many ways to identify them.

So What is a Notable? A Notable is by definition someone who has achieved notability. Notability by definition is the property of being worthy of notice, having fame, or being considered to be of a high degree of interest, significance or distinction. Notables are considered to have a public profile - in other words, what they do or did to achieve fame is reasonably known to a larger audience and within the public knowledge. Wikipedia utilizes these guidelines for determining whether or not someone should be considered for a page on their site, and is the same standard that we use at WikiTree to determine if someone meets the criteria for notability.

I've often been asked why Wikipedia? The reasoning is that they have an established standard and an established process for determining whether or not a profile would meet certain standards, and it's intended to be a objective measurement to determine if they do or do not meet the established criteria.

Can we blanket list other sites other than Wikipedia to find Notables? Possibly. However, it has to be proven that they have a clear and unbiased approach towards weighing any new profiles and that there's appropriate input from all reasonable sources before a decision is made. Typically, most of these types of sites have already been recognized by Wikipedia as meeting their standards and profiles are being created (or have been created) for those individuals.

So hopefully this provides a starting place for discussion. I can't claim to be an expert in every area, nor can I claim to be without errors in judgment when it comes to determining notability, but I do try to be fair and unbiased as much as I can when making recommendations towards whether or not someone should be a Notable. And I'm fine with someone disagreeing with me, as I can and will seek other opinions in order to determine if I need to take a second look. So please ask away if you have questions and I'm sure as a group we'll all pitch in to help us all understand things a bit better.
in The Tree House by Scott Fulkerson G2G6 Pilot (916k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

Thanks for starting this discussion, Scott.   yes

If I could move my latest posts to here, I would.

I would think that anyone who served in the legislature or senate would be notable, but I have created a profile for one who served in the Iowa legislature from 1878-1880 who is not listed in Wikipedia; however he is listed under Iowa Legislature.gov.  Any thoughts? The name is Lore Alford.

The best source for guidelines is here:


It does state that:

The following are presumed to be notable:

  • Politicians and judges who have held international, national, or sub-national (e.g., province- or state-wide) office, or have been members of legislative bodies at those levels.[12] This also applies to people who have been elected to such offices but have not yet assumed them.
  • Major local political figures who have received significant press coverage.[8]

Just being an elected local official, or an unelected candidate for political office, does not guarantee notability, although such people can still be notable if they meet the general notability guideline.

Thank you for making it clearer.

8 Answers

+7 votes

I've only put the notables tag on one profile that I manage, and now I am wondering if the guy "makes the cut."  Daniel Grass (1774-1836), founder of Rockport Indiana, does not have his own Wikipedia page.  There is a township named after him, and there is a reconstruction of his store/home at the Lincoln Pioneer Village (Grass was a contemporary of Lincoln's and loaned books to the young Abraham).  Would he qualify as notable?

by Michael Schell G2G6 Mach 2 (20.6k points)
Well, the best thing to do is to typically break down what it is you feel they were most famous for. It can be several things, but you need to keep in mind that when compared to others of their contemporary group, what is it that separates them from the others.

In his case, he was:

An early settler - not entirely unique, as normally any fame or recognition goes more to those who were "first"

"First" legal landowner - could be interesting, but if we figure there were hundreds of thousands of places you could have been the "first" legal landowner, then it's not totally unique, but it is a good start

Acquaintance of Lincoln - knowing someone famous is relatively low on the list, as there's always someone who knows someone famous. My Mom was personally raised by James Dean (well, he pushed the baby carriage for my grandmother while she and my grandfather met with James' Uncle and Aunt, who were their landlords at the time. But there are a lot of people who know people, so not hugely unique.

The Township is named after him - which is typical of the first person in the area, but it's an interesting bit of history.

Justice of the Peace/Circuit Judge - just a job - not unique, but interesting

So you then might take down all the elements that truly make him unique (first settler, township named after him) and look at others like him who could be considered Notable. The other characteristics add flavor to him, but I'd want to look at any other Notables who were considered "first settlers" in an area and what made them Notable, if any exist. Getting a bit late for me tonight, so I'll hunt for some comparable profiles tomorrow and see if I can find any. But at least you have a good start towards understanding his potential from this type of analysis.
Doesn't a Judge automatically qualify for a Wikipedia profile?  I seem to recall someone telling me that some months ago.

They did .. back here, last November:

What exactly makes a notable Aussie notable?

Whether this person is classified as a notable is irrelevant to me. I only wish to comply to the criteria of those involved in Notables.  He seems notable to me compared to those in his contemporary group, and there is the Lincoln connection.  Perhaps he inspired Lincoln by providing boarding (documented) and information (books, documented). To some, that would be notable.  I will  remove the tag from his profile.  Regardless, I think he is an interesting case relevant to whatever is deemed "notable."
I wouldn't assume that he's not Notable - just presenting discussion material more than any specific decision. I've got to run to church, but I'll post a bit more when I get a chance.
The Wikipedia reference in that G2G thread states that the judge would have had to held international, national, or state-wide office. None of those apply here.
Thanks for describing the process of defining a notable. There is quite a lot of info about this person on his Find a Grave page.  For example, he was the first state senator for his county.  I presume a US Senator would be considered notable--but perhaps not a state senator.  I will fill in more historical details into the profile then re-evaluate using your method.
I believe you are correct, Michael. The general guidelines are that those who hold "state-wide" offices would be "presumed" notable. However, county senators would not automatically be presumed, but again, it's another point in their favor.
I looked over his profile, and it appears that you have made some updates. Might I make one recommendation?

There's information in the profile that talks about his grandson that is somewhat confusing, as the first time I scanned through, I missed the reference and thought this was about him as well, only many years later. You might mark these by separating them somehow so that it's clear that certain key data is about him, and the other is not. Or better - you might just put the grandson information in the grandson's profile, which would make his profile much clearer.

However, I am beginning to see a clearer picture of him with your recent edits, and I think if you were to biographicize (is that a real word...?) instead of bullet out some of his information, I think it would help. I also find it helpful to line things up in order like a timeline, so that he got a job, got married, traveled, went to war, came back, had kids, started a business, etc. and it flows like his life. Others prefer the topical approach, where you discuss his occupations, his family, his awards, his political career - all as separate topics in the biography. Either way should clarify things. Just a suggestion, though. If biography writing is not your favorite thing, then I understand. My biographies tend to be pretty wooden and sort of a Dragnet approach ("just the facts").
And just a word of encouragement - the more you clarify his profile, the clearer he seems to point towards Notability in my book. I would much prefer additional input from others, but reading between the lines in a few places, it appears that he was quite an interesting person, did several things that put him easily into a gray area of notability, and to me that's enough to warrant responses from others who might support or even possibly not support his case for notability. I'd still have to think about it for my vote, but I'd be curious what others think.
+8 votes
Thank you for the explanation. I am fairly new here, so I am trying to absorb as much information as I can.
by Mike Hess G2G4 (4.6k points)
Feel free to just watch, or join in if you like. But welcome to the conversation.
+7 votes
From what I can tell, three types of people are automatically considered notable: Criminals, Politicians and Lawmakers. Especially since they tend to overlap.

Explorers and military people as well. Socialites are a fringe case, since these people are generally famous for being from a wealthy family and no other reason.
by Aaron Gullison G2G6 Mach 4 (49.7k points)

I would look over these guidelines as they help clarify the dividing line between those that are relatively "automatic" and those that require a case to be built.


+4 votes
Thanks, Scott, for raising this discussion. It is always worth the conversation and, dare I say it, to be reminded of the detail.  When writing a biography I specifically look for any notability credentials.  I've found several people whose notable acts or character are hidden or forgotten in the nether regions.
by Kenneth Evans G2G6 Pilot (146k points)
Thanks, Kenneth! I'm certain there are those who have stories to be told, and if we can bring out the right elements of their lives in such a way that they meet or even exceed the standards, then making a case for notability is fairly simple.
+3 votes
Did they change the Notable Sticker?  I notice it now just says ..is Notable rather than placing the person's name in the notable sticker.
by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 8 (81.5k points)
There's a glitch with the sticker and the project where when it is placed, it doesn't automatically pick up the name properly. However, if you edit the profile a second time, it seems to fix the issue. I've also seen it pick up my name too on first edit, which is weird. Second edit picks up their name.

Note that black privacy profiles won't pick up the name at all until they are something other than black privacy.
Thank you Scott for explaining that.  The profile I  just completed was for actress Lara Parker and she is still living and is a black privacy profile.
+3 votes
Hi Scott,

I want to add my thanks to you for generating this discussion on Notables. An earlier comment mentioned 'criminals, politicians and lawmakers.' I think it depends on the 'notability' of their contributions (or notoriety in the case of criminals). More importantly, I believe there are other categories of Notables that are being overlooked. Specifically, there are scientists (e.g., Benjamin Thomson-Count Rumford; Sir Humphry Davy; Marie Curie) authors (e.g., George Orwell; Harriet Beecher Stowe; AA Milne), artists (e.g., Picasso; da Vinci; van Gogh; Kahlo), musicians (e.g., JS Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Gillespie; Bowie) and military (e.g., Col. Loammi Baldwin; Col. Nathaniel Greene; Audie Murphy; Sgt. York) among others. The persons I have mentioned all made unique contributions to the specific field and most, if not all, are listed in Wikipedia or accessible e-site.                              

So, as to serving in a legislature or some sort of government position, I think that is wonderful; however, did s/he make a change in a law or policy that would make her/his work on the legislature notable? That I think should be a key to notability.                                                              

I was working on the Connect-a-thon last week and came across a scientist who I think might make the cut. Based on your recommendations for information and sourcing in the profile, I will be in touch with you, Scott, once the profile is done to see if he warrants a 'Notable.'
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (328k points)
Sounds good. I know there are contributors on the Notables Team who do almost exclusively musicians, and several who contribute (like yourself) towards some of these other areas. I would agree that they may not get the same level of attention as say, politicians or movie stars. I have started a niche "Science Fiction Awards" area (for example) to expand profiles in areas such as authors, and as a matter of fact am working to find a connection for Fritz Leiber even now. But please keep bringing this up as we need to increase awareness of all the areas of Notables out there, and continue to expand our horizons where it comes to neglected Notables.

And I look forward to seeing this profile. Thanks!
Thanks Scott. Love the Sci Fi Awards area! I have a paperback copy Fahrenheit 451 signed by Ray Bradbury in 1982. it was signed for 'Bernice'. The only person I can recall would be my Aunt Bernice and she must have given it to me because I dug sci fi a la Bradbury, Clarke, Asimov, Atwood and, of course, Mary Shelley. People often think science fiction is 'fiction', but it is so 'now'. Like the great Yogi (Berra) said, "I'll see it when I believe it."
+4 votes
Based on the discussion here, it appears that my third great-uncle, John Mathews [Matthews-11089] qualifies as a notable. As noted in his biography, he was both a representative and a senator in the Ohio legislature. His life and surveying work are mentioned in many of the various early Ohio histories as noted in the Sources. His journal, quoted by so many of these historians, and many of his business papers are contained in the John Mathews Collection at Marietta College.
by Diane Hildebrandt G2G6 Mach 6 (62.9k points)
Well, sort of yes sort of no. The Ohio legislature part would not be an automatic, as the representative is for their local community to the state, so they don't represent a "state-wide" position. I believe the intent with that criteria was positions like Governor would be considered "state-wide" as well as US Senator or US Congressperson who represent the state at a federal level. However, I'd have to spend more time looking at the references to him in published works, as this information will definitely help from a qualifications standpoint.
+2 votes
Maybe it is me, but when I search Wikitree help, there is no clear link to a page describing this sticker/project.

Is there one? If no, it would be helpful to put this info in a freespace/project page I think.
by Michel Vorenhout G2G6 Mach 9 (93.4k points)
This is the Notables Project Page


And this is the Notables G2G page which is updated (usually by me) every month.

This is the August 2020 G2G Page.

Thanks. So this is registered as a project.

I was expecting/looking here: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Help_Index#N

Strangely, the search box does not come up with a hit on 'Notables' (just some unrelated matches).
All Projects can be found in the FIND menu at the top right of any page - NOT the HELP menu.

There is a comprehensive list of projects!!!
If you want to go through the Help menu, you need to look a little further down under "P" for Projects. The Help menu is a higher level, so it wouldn't contain any project names. But under "P", you'll find a listing for "Projects" and under "Projects" you'll find a "list and links". Opening this page (which would be where you would be if you went to the Top menu and clicked Find - Projects) will take you to what Robynne described above.

All roads lead to Rome.

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