Is there any way to have the name a person marries and dies with the name on the Tree rather than the birth name?

+1 vote
I don't know about anywhere else, but in Scotland, back in the day, many illegitimate children who were not acknowledged (i.e didnt have the father's signature on the birth certificate or an RCE applied through a paternity suit process) while registered under the mother's maiden name were known by the reputed father's surname, married with it, died with it and his descendents continue to use it. .but the Family Tree set up and profiles don't allow the preferred  surname to be used but insist on the birth surname, even if the only time it ever appears on an official document IS the birth certificate, How hard would it be to allow the preferred surname to be the one on the tree and the profile ID and not automatically assume that every child born continues to live under the surname on its birth certificate?
in WikiTree Tech by Anonymous Fraser G2G Crew (340 points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
LNAB is just that, regardless of what name they live under afterwards. It is wikitree policy to use LNAB as the name on the earliest record. Any name changes go in the boxes provided, ie current last name, other names.

4 Answers

+2 votes

You can input the surname they lived and died by under the current last name field.

See wikiTree name Fields help

by Becky Troth G2G6 Mach 4 (42.8k points)
Did that when I created  the profile, but it doesn't come up on the tree and doesn't change the profile ID. They still use the birth surname.
The profile ID won't change as it's the unique wikiTree ID and should always be the LNAB. So that anyone creating a profile shouldn't try to create a duplicate and so that the profile can be found in the search if someone only knows the LNAB.

The name on the profile should show up in the current surname with brackets around the LNAB
Is it sensitive information Nancy? If it's going to upset someone living then I would change the LNAB to how they were known x
I don't know how sensitive it is. In this day and age people are sensitive about the daftest things. But the tree does make the tree look as if it was my granny who was illegitimate and not her father with him having a different surname from her. Though I'm struggling to see how to put in a grandfather with a name for her anyway with absolutely no details bar the name. Don't have a problem with the illegitimacy per se...just with  an  idiotic system which has a male married to a female who has a different married name to the one he is sporting.
I think you have valid points about the surname displaying as LNAB and would change his LNAB to how it was when he married and always lived as, in his case if the only record of a different LNAB could be explained in his bio if you're not worried about the fact he was born before his parents married. It happens even more so now and no one bats an eyelid, so glad things have changed for the better, but I think if they lived as their fathers name then it's perfectly right to change the LNAB and put something in the bio under the Notes header. When you change the LNAB it will be like a merge, so technically I think it will show in the changes record as a merge
Becky, I disagree with your advice. The LNAB should stay as it is. The profile clearly shows the current name. On the tree, women appear as their LNAB too. Nancy, please don’t change it. My grandfather theoretically has the same issue as his father chose to go with his mother’s name around the time of his marriage not his father’s, and it’s never worried me at all.
One's Last Name at Birth is just that .. the last name AT BIRTH.
It doesn't worry me so much as irritate me.. I heartily dislike websites which dictate a specific format to the point of obduracy. Last name at birth is not necessarily the last name people are known by and it  is not rocket science to come up with either a way to put the name actually used on the tree...or warn new members that it doesn't matter what they think their family surnames are as WikiTree knows better than they do. If I had been aware of that before starting to input my tree, I would never have joined at all.
So then if a person is known to have been adopted, but their birth parents and birth name are unknown, their LNAB should be entered as Unknown, rather than the name they were called by all their lives?

Last name at birth is not necessarily the last name people are known by . . .

commented 5 hours ago by Nancy Whyte


This is why we have the LNAB and the Current Last Name fields. 

My great grandfather changed his name for whatever reason/s he had in his head.  When I created his profile I did so using the CLN, because that was what was known.  He had stated that he was born in Liverpool, England.  He gave his parents' names.  So this information went on his profile.  Some while ago I discovered none of that was true.

So he got a name change.  His LNAB is now correct . . and that is what now shows on the tree.  His CLN is still there, because that was the name by which he was known.  Having his LNAB being accurate helped me find the rest of his family (now goes back some 200-plus years, even f I have not yet added them all in), because someone else saw my update on the matter, jumped in and started adding information I had no idea how to find.  (Wave to Eva!)  With only his CLN being shown, I would not have his parents, his grandparents, or any of those other generations going back to the 1600s.

I have no problem with his LNAB showing (correctly) on the tree view.  If someone wants to know why that name is there, not the one by which he was known, they only need to click to view the profile.  On so doing, they will see both LNAB and CLN displayed: Ola Halley (Ole)  Williamson formerly Waldemarsson.

Wikitree works on accuracy, so as signatories to the Honor Code it behooves us to be as accurate as we know to be.  (And, yes, I said behooves.)



@ Stu — adoptions are a different case. There are ways to deal with those, which is why Wikitree has the Adoption Angels.

+8 votes

How is the Tree display to know which of the Last names provided is the one that the person was known as. That is why it goes by the last name at birth. To do anything else invites more confusion than what you have with your Grandmother & Great grandfather.

I have one female in my family that married four times and was buried with the name of husband number 3. She shows in the tree as her birth last name and that is how it should be. On her profile it is explained clearly when she used what name when. I also have males who decided to change their last name but in the Tree view their son has a different Last name at Birth than the fathers original last name of birth. 

For your great grandfather you need to put some explanation for the name change as well as a better source. Just putting Birth and Death certificate does not help others to find where those records are found. I have many relatives who have New Zealand death certificates yet they died overseas during the World wars. If people saw death certificate and a France location they could assume that they needed to look in French records when the actual certificate was created in New Zealand. 

by Darren Kellett G2G6 Pilot (168k points)
For women certainly, but if I were to go further back with my tree, I will come across exactly the same problem I am having now . as it wasn't just men who were called by the surnames of their "reputed" fathers. My problem isn't so much with the profile itself.....but with the tree....the surname on the tree for my great grandfather is not the maiden surname of my grandmother and not the married name of my great grand mother. or the surname on my great grandfather's death certificate. And, if I continue to be a member of Wiki Tree, I will be going back and putting in a bit more detail re certificates, but I wanted to see how it would deal with illegitimate children who have never used their birth name and how it would deal with a reputed father who is nothing more than a name from a death and marriage certificate, and I am coming to the conclusion that it is too proscriptive for any but the most basic nuclear families.
People do change their names and sometimes it means that the last names at birth don't match up. Just look at actors who are known by their stage name and used their Stage last name as the last name of birth for their children. Another example is those that immigrated and chose to use a variant of the last name in the new country. Even another example is the Royal Family which changed it's name in 1917 to Windsor. This is why Wikitree uses the Last name at Birth as the database name to ensure that it is accurate. It doesn't care if a person was considered illegitimate at the time of their birth.

Your great grandfather did use his birth name otherwise you wouldn't be able to find a birth certificate for him. You have a 22 year gap when he may have changed his last name with no sources as to when he decided to change the name.

I come back to my first question. How is the Wikitree database supposed to know what of the last names used it is supposed to display? It currently keeps it simple by using the Last name at birth.
No, neither he nor his mother ever used his birth surname. In censuses she appears as unmarried under her maiden name, but her son appears under the reputed father's surname. It was a blessing when FreeCen covered that area, because having spent two years off and on, and a  lot of money trying and failing to find a marriage certificate and death certificates for the parentage he had on his marriage certificate, I only found out he was illegitimate by looking for him in a census when he was a child under the name he was known by,  and then looking for his birth certificate under his mother's maiden name.

That was very early on in my Genealogy research...I know better now than to take anything on certificates  that relies on word of mouth information for granted.

Using the surname at birth is only simple if that is the surname used for the rest of your life...otherwise I wouldn't have had to post on here.
Nancy you are not making sense. First you say neither your great grandfather and his mother used the last name at birth then you say the last name at birth was the mothers maiden name which she used in censuses and is found on his birth certificate. So you have contradicted yourself there.

I provided many vague examples of people who changed their last name but Wikitree records them in the database as the original last name at birth with the other used names in the current or other last name fields.

The marriage certificate and census records and death certificate are are reliant on what your great grandfather chose to be called by so can be considered a word of mouth information. So can the birth certificate but that is the earliest record so that gets used for the last name at birth and is what is displayed on the tree view. Hovering over his name shows the name he chose to use and once you add some details people can see why the name changed.

If we take your last sentence as what we have to record people as then it will affect the majority of the female profiles on here as someone married at 18 who lived to 100 would have to be recorded under their married name as that was the name they used for the rest of their live. And all the changes would have to be done manually as some cultures have the wife keeping her name while others don't  and multiple marriages will have to be considered. Are you willing to do all those changes? I doubt that you would as it is ridiculous to even think about doing wholesale changes like that.

The fact is that your Great Grandfather was known at birth to be the name you entered when you made the profile which is supported by the birth certificate you found. So that becomes the basis for how he is recorded in the database. Any changes go in the fields available and explained in the biography.
No he wasn't  and I haven't.Which part of "the only place I can find that he has ever used his birth surname(or it has been used for him) was on his birth certificate are you not getting? I said his mother used her maiden names on censuses and was unmarried, his name on all the censuses I can find, (and I'm not convinced he completed census forms for himself when he was a child), his marriage certificate and his death certificate all bear the surname of his reputed father...and his mother's death certificate has her surname as her maiden name OR the surname her son was known by.

And it wouldn't affect female trees if there was an option NOT to use the birth surname but the preferred surname. if that is the surname the individdual used in all legal documents BAR his birth certificate. After all a family tree will have his birth surname on it somewhere unless an individual didn't know who his mother was.

I hope it is easier ro close an account on WikiTree than it is to complete MY family tree with MY family surnames and not the ones Wiki Tree chooses. .
A point of order is that you used the name that he has. You did it based off the birth certificate you found. Wikitree didn't choose that name. The name you used is one of your family names as it is your great great grandmother's name.

All Wikitree requires is that what is entered is accurate which by your own words you did by using the name on his earliest record (birth certificate) as his last name at birth and used the last name he was known by in the current last name field.

Please enlighten me as to how Wikitree is supposed to know that it has to display the changed name on the tree view. Because that is what has happened with your great grandfather. He was born one name and sometime after birth started to be called a different name.

 I personally have seen school records for my grandfather's half brothers where their last name was changed in the records yet that doesn't change their last name at birth. One of the brothers was recorded twice in the burial records under the assumed name then the real name. How they are displayed is by their birth name and guess what,  that is accurate which is what Wikitree aims for.

Have a look at Morrison-2413. He was known as John Wayne but going by your logic he would look illegitimate if we used his current last name as the display name compared to his parents. The only differences beside the obvious of them being different people between your great grandfather and John Wayne is the age when the name was changed .Using the current last name as the display name goes against accuracy and how most family trees are shown. It also invites confusion as you might have cousins who know your great grandfather by one name yet other cousins a different name and you having the names you entered. The accurate name is what he was called at birth with any changes sourced and documented in the biography.
We are going round in circles here.  Nobody is going to convince me that a birth name you never use is better on a family tree than the name you use and your children use.

I have changed the birth surname to the name he actually used and put a note on his profile, while I decide if I want to permanently delete my account, because it appears that deleting my profile does not delete my input, if I am reading the page on deletion correctly, even though I have done nothing to interfere with or add to any other tree on this site.  If this is the case, I won't delete my account, but I won't be adding any more to my family tree. (though I will give more detail for my sources)
+2 votes
This is not simply Wikitree Policy, it is considered 'best practice' and the standard for professional genealogy.
by Susan Dougherty G2G4 (4.8k points)
+1 vote
For what it's worth, I'm still trying to figure out how best to resolve a situation I created inadvertently. I had found the name of an apparent distant relative, did not find him on Wikitree, and so created a profile which included all the sources I found. I also created a profile for his wife, as well as ones for his children.

And then I found out that he had been born under an entirely different name, first and last, and had taken back that name at some point before he died. Another entire profile for him already existed under the birth name that I hadn't known about, as well as ones for his wife and their children.

I could not find any information as to the reason for the name change, and could only speculate that perhaps his birth parents had died and he was adopted by a family that gave him new first and last names, but later in his life he reclaimed his birth identity.

I put that dilemma aside for a while and have not gone back to it, but I think I contacted the manager for the other profiles to ask how she wanted to handle it and how best to merge the profiles while keeping all the information from the time when went by the different name, since she was there first, but I never heard back from her. One of these days I expect I should revisit that one.
by Carolyn Comings G2G6 Mach 2 (27.4k points)
You just propose a merge and put a detailed explanation regarding why it's appropriate. If they don't respond and the other profile isn't private, it will be automatically approved in 30 days. If they do respond--even if they disapprove the merge--that's a response and you can have a conversation. Moreover, you're proposal and reason are information for anyone who wants it.  Don't worry if they disapprove the match.  A lot of people are just busy and don't want to deal with something until they have time.  I've proposed matches that were disapproved at the time and years later I'd come across the profile again and it will have been merged.

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