Acadian project not in accordance with WikiTree code of honor [closed]

+3 votes
I was recently told to change the name at birth on this profile to Brasseur. Since I was citing his baptism record, I'm pretty sure I got it right! The name on the baptism record is Brasseux and that's how it was set up. The current last name is where you put the standardized name. WikiTree was set up this way for a reason. Doing the opposite is damaging to to our SINGLE COLLABORATIVE WORLD TREE and is a violation of the honor code and the basic style rules. Brasseux was the man's legal name, that was his surname at birth. The Acadia project must comply with WikiTree's basic rules. You must allow users to use it as it was intended to be used. So who's right?
WikiTree profile: Joseph Brasseur
closed with the note: The process to suggest changes has been explained
in Policy and Style by Anonymous St Amand G2G1 (1.6k points)
closed by Eowyn Walker

I agree with you, Bud, that standardizing spellings for our own convenience goes against WikiTree's "their convention" naming policy.

As long as we are dealing with ORIGINAL (or digital images/hard photocopies of original records) birth/baptism records and can reasonably presume that the birth surname had not been standardized, we should use the documented spelling.

That's my opinion - our source documents, if available, should prevail!

edit: added highlighted text: "of original records" and ", if available,"

edit 2: strikeout of highlighted text: our

edit 3: link to general spelling guidelines:

Observing this closely - have New France Folk up my tree -  not necessarily Acaidian, but had similar name issues - and at one point a spelling change came about for one son - and he stuck with this spelling, and some of his offspring did as well, while my particular branch reverted back to the previous spelling and that went on for several generations - I go with the best I can find - hopefully primary - but I do not pay for subscriptions so must rely on others for some of the best sources for many ancestors
I totally understand your dilemma and agree that the name(s) on a birth certificate are the legitimate names to be used here on profiles! I have run into this problem with the Canadian/Acadian profiles! Just last month, a relative of one of my great grandparents changed the name in her profile using the name(s) derivatives used during his life. Ex.: My dad's birth name: Joseph Stanislaus - yet, he was known throughout his life as Stanley/Stan. I found out his name at birth was Joseph when he signed an insurance form when I was 15 years old! I have corrected quite a few names on Profiles here on WikiTree and elsewhere. Also, have found on a Canadian site that female married names are listed and the birth name is nowhere to be found so much research is required!
Wow, reading some of the comments on here I just have to say:

WikiTree isn't just about genealogy. It's a place where anyone in the world is invited to discover their family tree. Novice or expert, you should be able to look at a document and find the person it relates to. You are inviting duplicates. You can still add the standardized name so I don't see what the fuss is about. I also don't agree with eliminating nicknames, if a source has a nickname or family input reveals one, it should also be on the profile. Telling people to go away because they aren't genealogists isn't an option. Also this Steven White worship thing is pretty sickening. He does racially motivated,  selective genealogy and he has admitted that. That's definitely a no no.

6 Answers

+4 votes
Hi Bud, sorry you are having problems. Did you contact the person who made the edits, directly. I am sure that you could have had a private discussion to resolve this? If you can’t resolve it, the next step, I believe, would be to ask a mentor to help.
by Marion Poole G2G6 Pilot (976k points)
The person who shall remain nameless ( a project leader) told me to change it. I was doing it that way in the beginning but realized it was wrong. As I have recently added over 6,000 primary sources, I think I got my practice in lol.
+3 votes
Have you discussed your concerns with the project?  Or let them know you have posted this question?  Their project page states that their goals include standardized surnames of  Acadian First Families.  I would also be interested in learning how this policy works and whether it is consistent with overall WikiTree policy.
by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (303k points)
My response was ignored so I thought this would be a good way to get it settled. WikiTree is already set up for that, it requires you to put in the name at birth when creating a profile. The current last name is the place for the standardized name.
I checked my email and did not receive a private message from you.
+9 votes

I am the project leader in question. I did not see a response to what I posted on the Profile of Joseph Brasseur:

Please always check our family name index for assigning the surname. I realize that "Brasseux" shows up on the transcription cited, but long ago the Acadian Project adopted a standardized spelling for surnames. Also, the DOBR record, the name is spelled BRASSEUR. If there is PROOF that the person spelled their name a different way, that spelling can be put in the "current surname" field. Please change the surname to Brasseur. Thanks!

by Jacqueline Girouard G2G6 Mach 5 (58.1k points)

I don't know how any Wiki Genealogist could disagree with the concept that accessible, legible original birth records should prevail over a forced standardization. Guess I'm just stubborn!devil

edit: changed anyone to Wiki Genealogist

edit 2: added original

Regarding the profile in question, I believe that access to the original records is the main issue; both sides appear to be referencing transcribed records. Please correct me if that statement is incorrect.

Lindy the transcription was done by an archivist who worked for the government and he did it from the original documents when they were in much better shape than when they were microfilmed. This argument that the records are no good is a pile of hogwash....unless you want to make the statement that the files from Archives Canada are unreliable. That doesn't say much for our government now does it?
I do want to point out that in the cases of Acadians there are no "birth" records... we are referring to baptism records.  Although often treated as a primary source, a baptism record is a secondary source for the date of birth as the person recording it was not present at the time of birth and he is relying upon what he is told.   That doesn't make them worthless in any way because in fact they are all we have.  If this disagreement was regarding civil birth certificates generally not issued until the 20th century then I'd agree wholeheartedly that the spelling of the name is written in stone.
But they are still transcriptions, Bud, not original documents or images of the originals. Viewing the microfilm, if possible and if it is legible, would be preferable to transcriptions.
Of course, Donna, without actual birth records having been made or being available, our next choice is baptism/christening records. Again, legible originals or their microfilmed/digitized images should be preferred over transcriptions.
You should quit while you're ahead lol. This transcription is the only one Canada owns, is a certified true copy and is 100% legit.
Who is flagging? Bud is perfectly within his rights to say those things - we have been taught from the moment we set foot into Wikitree to use the names places and everything as they would have and LNAB is the index of where you find the profiles - why is it different in that project?  Birth or baptism - closest thing to birth record is what is best - over and over we are told that

Navarro, comments are flagged when they contain inflammatory attacks or rudeness. There are ways to disagree with a policy without being rude or going after individuals.

Lindy, you wrote: "I don't know how any Wiki Genealogist could disagree with the concept that accessible, legible original birth records should prevail over a forced standardization."

I used to repeat variations of this frequently myself; but others have pointed out the limitations of over-reliance on a single record when spelling varied considerably across records during the same time period. Hence we have that portion of the wikitree-wide guideline that says: "unless there are other documents from at or near the time of birth that inform us about a more common or correct spelling"

The Acadian project decided that when that happens, they follow Stephen White's book.

Again, if you disagree with the project's policy, start a separate G2G topic to propose a different policy.

The full text of that paragraph, and specifically that sentence:

"Nevertheless, if there are any contemporary written documents, the spelling from those documents should be used. In particular, the spelling that appears in a birth record should be used for the Last Name at Birth unless there are other documents from at or near the time of birth that inform us about a more common or correct spelling."

In my opinion, that guideline would be applied on an individual profile (and perhaps family unit) basis, not for all persons with a particular variable surname. That guideline doesn't, again in my opinion, support using a standardized surname over a different spelling that appears in original, legible, accessible birth/birth-related documentation/photocopies.

I see now, went and saw - but it is confusing as heck when it just seems like wiki way and that project's way seem to conflict so brazenly!  I can sure relate to Bud's distress over this - maybe not all the ways of expressing it, but I am sure she feels as if a rug has been pulled out from under her.
+8 votes
Thanks everyone for showing an interest in this G2G thread. I agree with Donna and do support the standardization of the names and also agree that surname spellings vary a great deal, even more so when some Acadians got to Louisiana and encountered Spanish and Italian priests and German and English officials. In volume 1a of the DOBR  which I own (and which is on sale now for $15 from the DOBR) and which contains the DOBR transcriptions of the Grand-Pré registers, the heading for the family includes several variations of the name spelling, including Brasseux ,but Joseph's name was spelled Brasseur. No one has made any edits to the profile in question--I posted a comment on the profile and made a polite request of an Acadian Project member who created the profile. There are many Acadian profiles with the wrong surname spelling so it's not something I would have forced anyone to do, nor taken it upon myself to do myself. The project tries to correct those when we see duplications or confusion or when there's a pending merge. And we try to nudge volunteers to work with the project's policies and procedures.

But the issue is now moot. I was alerted yesterday that Brasseux-8 is a duplicate of Brasseur-177. There may be other duplicates so we will be looking into that and proposing merges using the preferred surname for the Acadian Project.

I appreciate everyone taking the time to understand the issue here and giving your opinion.
by Jacqueline Girouard G2G6 Mach 5 (58.1k points)

To give everyone an idea of what we're dealing with in Acadian records, here are some baptism records from Diocese of Baton Rouge Acadian Records 1707-1749... the records that were carried in exile.  They say at the beginning on p. I-4 that "The spelling of surnames varies widely in the registers. Spellings used by the priest have been used in the abstracts even where they differ from signatures." I could have used the "actual" records that are available on familysearch and Canadiana but those are actually transcriptions/ copies made in 1895 and not the originals themselves. So this seemed the closest way.

Here are 5 baptism records for the family of Jean Breau and Anne Gautrot.

*Anne Bro (Jean Bro and Anne Gautrot) bn. 18 Feb. 1733, bt. 18 Feb. 1733 spo. Charle Heber (s) and Anne Grange (SGA-2, 123)

*Charle Braux (Jean Braux and [omitted] Gotrot) bn. 18 Oct. 1727, bt. 18 Oct. 1727 spo. Charle Grangé and Marie Flan (SGA-2, 79)

*Francoise Breaux (Jean Breaux and Anne Gautreau) bn. 18 April 1723, bt. 18 April 1723 spo. Charles Gautreau, grandfather, and Marguerite Landry (SGA-2, 38)

*Jean Pierre Breau (Jean Breau and Anne Gautrot) bn. 24 Dec. 1724, bt. 24 Dec. 1724 spo. Pierre Gautrot and Margueritte Hebert (SGA-2, 56)

*Joseph Brau (Jean Brau and Anne Gotrau) bn. 27 March 1726 bt. 27 March 1726 spo. Jean Dousette (s) and Marguerite Gotrau (SGA-2, 67)

So this one family would have children with different surnames: Bro, Braux, Breau, Breaux, and Brau.  That hardly seems reasonable There is no one spelling more common that the other and there is no one correct spelling.

The Acadian project via an open discussion on G2G discussed how and when to standardize and nobody at the time disagreed!  Most posters were grateful for the standardizing.  The discussion was held in the Policy and Style forum  and all steps as mandated by Wikitree in their directions as to proposals.  Here is the original proposal... but there were lots of threads at the time about issues with name spelling and this addressed them.

Thanks, Donna. Let me just step in here.  As Donna just explained this was something determined through the proper process six years ago. There are a few projects that have done similar things for various reasons.

If there is an issue with this then objectors can use to start a discussion about it.  Continuing to post here in this thread is not going to change the project's current standard.
I agree totally. Have spent many hours documenting the correct name(s) at birth, etc. and have found numerous times, even recently, that they have been changed. I personally do not appreciate this. There is an option to list a secondary name? Well then, it should be mandatory. The incident I had one month ago here on WikiTree was disconcerting to me when I found it! Spent a good deal of time checking and double-checking the facts and in the end, suggested a merge. I will check to see if that has happened yet! very time consuming and redundant to be sure.
See now I am used to the New Netherland Settlers project, and we have it the other way - that you stick to the baptismal record - we had enough problems with Patronymics with out the spelling changes but we hang with what is in the books - I have one batch that is quite as goofy as the example above and I have to find my reading glasses and double check every time when working in that branch - I had thought it was more on the lines of what some modern Genealogies do with the whole book spelling the last name the same - not showing the evolution that you can see in a branch that reaches back before "Americanization" and or other factors

Proud that I have a good instinct for guessing possible spellings that has helped me bridge gaps in my research - would have never got past the immediate grandparents without it!
So Navarro, when you have a case in NNS like the one Donna described above where in a single family, the spellings on each of the baptism records use a different spelling, you still use the different LNAB spellings within the same family?
Yes we do! Some lines kept with that spelling and some did not - each gets the LNAB from the birth record - in most cases that is the baptismal record of the Dutch Reformed Church that we luckily have a lot of records for.

While I've been recommending that Lindy and others start a separate thread following the Developing New Rules instructions, to propose a change, I'm also mindful of Eowyn's recent post that the Acadian project went through that very process (or a variation of it), which led to its current policy.

Do we then, every few years, submit an alternative policy, going back and forth?  That doesn't sound right.

I believe the New Netherland Settlers also changed theirs from the original - I have only been here about two years, or is it three now?  No two

Anyhow the pinning of this on one book seems like it might be something that needs review every now and then perhaps - no one is perfect - so White is not either
It's not about being perfect.  Nobody is saying that SAW chose the perfect spelling for each name. During the entire rule process, the questions came up in order 1) should we standardize (answer was yes); 2) what source should we use for the standard? 3) A suggestion was made to use DGFA by SAW 4) People agreed to this standard.

Of course if someone wants to follow the procedures for new rules and propose a new standard or propose no standardization they are free to do so.  That doesn't guarantee that those proposals will be successfully adopted though...
I am sure it is quite good or would not have been selected
+3 votes

Actually they changed the rule in 2016.  The original version included a paragraph which said

It's also common in cases of earlier ancestors that the spelling of a name was not standardized and that the person him or herself would have used more than one. In those cases, we recommend choosing the spelling that is most recognizable to modern descendants, e.g. "Winslow" rather than "Wynslow" or "Winslowe."

But it should have said something like "most familiar to modern eyes".  That word "descendants" was unfortunate.  It's a common problem in the help files - the assumption that profiles are only of interest to descendants, and the PM will be a descendant.  But in this case, it could be misunderstood to mean that if you call yourself Smythe you should call your ancestors Smythe all the way back, for that reason.

I think the rule was changed to avoid that misunderstanding.  But the effect of the change was much more far-reaching, since the new rule is widely understood as forbidding not just descendant-pull but also the filtering-out of random noise.

But so far as I know there was no consultation about conflict with established and implemented project policies, and the announcement of the change was buried where few people would see it.

by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (562k points)
I am not sure what ‘standarized’ is supposed to mean.  When we go back in our family, the name of our oldest noted ancestors was ‘Douaron’ and this is proved by documents on their profiles yet the name being used is more recent ‘Doiron’.    I feel that the determination made to fit White’s convention is not always the best. That’s my feeling.
+5 votes

I am not involved in this particular project, but I am a project leader, and have frequently dealt with LNAB challenges in other projects, especially when spellings around the time the profiled person was born, are different. I reviewed the Acadian Naming Help page.  This isn't about "convenience"; the project makes a good case [my emphasis]: 

Name spellings often vary so much in early Acadian documents that the general guidelines are often not enough to help us decide which spelling of a given surname should be used. For the sake of consistency not only within WikiTree but also with the academic world, it is proposed that for profiles where the surname has not yet stabilized to a contemporary spelling we follow the convention used by Stephen A. White on pages 1595-1614 in Part 1 of his Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes (DGFA) for the Last Name at Birth fields.

I also want to point out that creating intentional duplicates of profiles because you don't like or agree with another profile's content is not allowed. See Is it ever acceptable to intentionally create a duplicate? 

by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (758k points)

Standardization is about convenience. And that is fine if no original birth records are available and if the arguing parties have a chance to voice their opinions.

But to tell a fellow WikiTree to ignore his/her research and the records he/she has found is, in my opinion, not within the spirit of WikiTree guidelines.

If surnames for a given time frame have not stabilized, then why are we trying to stabilize them after the fact?

edit: fixed typo: change to chance

well said Lindy
Lindy, I don't see that anyone is telling another person to ignore their research. The comment posted to the profile requests that a change be made to align the profile with the project naming guidelines.

The surname Brasseur and Brasseux both show up in records for that time period. The Acadian naming guidelines explain the reasoning for choosing one over the other.
I stand by my interpretation that Bud is being told to ignore his research and to follow the project's standardization program.
Just my opinion, but ... Changing the names and facts on Profiles is like changing history and altering the facts! There are ways to show nicknames and alternate name spelling here and on every other ancestral web site. This is why I stopped using My Heritage - so  much of this it made me dizzy at times. And ... I certainly did not like it when others changed my research. Yikes!
FYI, Bud is female.

Nobody told Bud to change anything-- she was asked politely, as is evident early on in this thread. No changes were made to her managed profiles. She came out, guns blazing at the project leadership, as though her disagreement with a pre-existing policy was an intentional  personal injury, and in the process her choice of words exaggerated her charges. This is why we are all advised not to WikiTree angry. 

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