The UNKNOWNS project

Privacy Level: Open (White)

Location: Planet Earthmap
Surnames/tags: unknown anonymous n
Last profile change on 18 Oct 2019
17:55: Shirley (Strutton) Dalton posted a message on the page for Unknowns. [Thank Shirley for this]
This page has been accessed 4,812 times.



To improve the integrity of WikiTree by identifying and managing profiles without valid names.

Task List

A. Select an alias from the list below to work on. The object is to merge, remove, recycle all profiles not using an alias in a valid manner per Name Fields.

B. Search for possible duplicates which profile can be merged into. It is not advisable to simply merge one Unknown into another Unknown. This can create too many redirects. If the profile is linked to another profile, such as a spouse or child, it can sometimes be helpful to look for duplicates for the other profile in order to identify a duplicate for the Unknown.

C. If an alias, e. g., Unknown/UNKNOWN, is used for the Last Name at Birth (LNAB):

  1. Is the profile from a time, place or culture where surnames are not used?
    1. If Yes, skip the following steps. Unknown as a surname in this case is a valid usage; no further action is required.
    2. If No, go to the next step.
  2. On the surnames list is a profile marked Active?
    1. If Yes, skip the following steps. An alias in this case is being used by an active member of WikiTree and is a valid usage; no further action is required.
    2. If No, go to the next step.
  3. Does the profile have a privacy status other than Open (white), that is, Public (green) or Private (yellow or red)?
    1. If Yes, you may need to contact the Profile Manager. Only Open privacy level profiles can be edited by any WikiTree Genealogist.
    2. If No (profile is Open and can be edited), go to the next step.
  4. Does the profile have a Profile Manager? Or someone on the Trusted List who is not Profile Manager? Always be sure to check the Privacy tab for Trusted List.
    1. If Yes, contact the Profile Manager or Trusted List member to see if a corrected LNAB is known or can be discovered.
    2. If No, go to the next step.
  5. Is the profile a married woman with an alias as her LNAB in a time/culture where a wife normally takes her husband's name at marriage?
    1. If Yes, consider adding the profile to Needs LNAB only if future research is likely to discover her LNAB. If research has been done and it us unlikely future research will find her LNAB, no further action is required. This is a valid usage. If you have exhausted all possible means of determining her LNAB, consider adding a Research Notes section to the biography outlining your results. This will notify other researchers what work has been done so it will not be duplicated. You might verify that her husband's surname is listed in the Current Last Name field.
    2. If No, go to the next step.
  6. Does the profile have identifiable data? Are there birth/death dates? Is there information in the biography such as a narrative bio, sources, etc.?
    1. If Yes, skip the following steps. No further action is required.
    2. If No, go to the next step.
  7. Is the profile connected to one or more other profiles? For example: spouse, child(ren), parents.
    1. If Yes, no further action is required.
    2. If No, add the profile to Category:Recycle Unknowns

Best Practices

# Profile Type How to Manage
1 Completely blank, orphaned, no information except an alias in both the first and last name fields. Add to Category: Recycle Unknowns
2 Completely blank, no information except an alias in both the first and last name, has a profile manager. Contact profile manager with a message (to be figured out later – possibly an invite to the project, or info on how to merge)
3 Limited with no connections – not connected to any other profile, has either first or last name with an alias. Has no dates/locations which would enable researcher to identify profile. Add to Category: Recycle Unknowns
4 Unknown with connections – a valid use of an alias, example: maiden name unknown, family members connected. Research to find correct name or find duplicate with correct name for merging. If nothing found, no further action is required.
5 Unknown that will not be known - example, unknown father of a child born out of wedlock. Be aware that when profiles for siblings are created with no parent added, WikiTree software automatically creates an Unknown father profile. This profile is to be left intact and attached to the siblings in order for them to be linked as a family. Unlink then Add to Category: Recycle Unknowns
6 Unnamed Infant– This is the recommended Proper First Name/Preferred First Name convention in English language profiles for an infant who died before she/he could be named or was stillborn. Other countries/languages may use an appropriate term that expresses the same meaning. No action required.
7 None– This naming practice is being used for individuals born in a time/culture/place where surnames are not used. As of now, it is a valid usage. No action required.
8 Other Check with the team on unusual profiles that do not fall into the above profile types


Project Unknowns Unknowns Project home page.

Name Fields

Guidelines for using name fields.

Recycle Unknowns

This is a temporary place to keep profiles that have no useful information that should be converted to a real profile with sources.

The most common uses of Recycle Unknowns are:

1) Select one that most closely meets your needs. For example you have a John Smith to enter. There is a profile in this category that has first name unknown, last name Smith and no other information - take it and use it, remembering to remove this category name.

2) You need a profile with an Unknown surname: select one and add your information, remembering to remove the category name.

Find Unknown Orphans

A search form for all Unknown Orphans

Examples and counts

Examples of alias last names and counts
(this isn't a complete list, just a sample - there are others) See also this page for a lot of Unknown-"something" https://www.wikitree.com/indexes/person/U/8.html

Alias as of 9/28/2016 as of 2/3/2018 as of 4/24/2019
Uncertain 303 259 305
Uknown 516 324 325
Unknow 401 285 298
Unknowen 98 79 83
Unknown 246758 276976 298134
Unknownsurname 71 40 35
Unnamed 41 29 29
Unsure 267 194 200
Ukn 157 128 126
Unk 3122 1968 1939
Unkn 442 189 196
X 5818 5655 5034
XX 131
XXX 155
XXXXXX (6) 9
LNU [last name unknown] 275 365 364
NN 1885 1378 1258
Wife 214 112 105
Not Known 619 458 429
Not sure 200 86 107
Someone 10 20 12
Somebody 8 4 5
Something 11 5 5
last name 51 26 22
Total Count 263,870 288,784 309,412

Examples of alias last names and counts for languages other than English

Alias as of 9/28/2016 as of 2/3/2018 as of 4/24/2019
inconnu - French 17
unbekannt - German 62
Okänd- Swedish 17

  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Contact the Profile Managers privately: Shirley Dalton and Kelly Metzler. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)

On 18 Oct 2019 at 17:55 GMT Shirley (Strutton) Dalton wrote:

I'm sorry to have to post this message. I have stepped down from Leader of the Unknowns Project, which leaves it currently with no Leader. I will still be around on WikiTree and working on the Project, just not as Leader.

If anyone is interested in stepping in as either Leader or Project Coordinator, please let me know.


On 3 Sep 2019 at 23:34 GMT Richard Shelley wrote:

The page was missing some </div> where you had defined a background colour. I added those

On 19 Jul 2018 at 23:03 GMT Sherry Wells wrote:

I have been going through profiles and adding the category: [ [ Category: Needs LNAB ] ] so that there are lots in the same place.

On 2 Jul 2018 at 02:22 GMT Debra (Downs) Allison wrote:

There are many, many generations of UNKNOWN UNKNOWN married to UNKNOWN UNKNOWN going back from UNKNOWN-81099. I would attempt to help on this project, but I feel it is way over my level of expertise.

On 5 Oct 2017 at 16:40 GMT Shirley (Strutton) Dalton wrote:


Have spent a couple of days talking with other leaders on the subject. General consensus seems to be that if the individual is from a place and time with a language other than English, then an appropriate name/descriptor can be used in that language.

There appears to be no valid reason for dropping "Infant" from the term used in English. So pending any notification from the Admin Team that this is changed, we will continue to use "Unnamed Infant" for English-language profiles.


On 4 Oct 2017 at 00:11 GMT Astrid (Schellenberger) Spaargaren wrote:

Shirley that is a discussion point. My leader at the Dutch Roots told me, although it is still said at WikiTree Help as Unnamed infant it should be now just Unnamed. Hope you can discuss this at leaders and make it clear. Thank you!

Sweet regards, A.

On 3 Oct 2017 at 14:34 GMT Shirley (Strutton) Dalton wrote:

Michelle, would be very happy to have you work on sourcing the many unknown profiles we have on WikiTree. They do need a lot of help.

Denise, if you will take a look at the naming conventions you will see that the preferred name for an infant who was stillborn or died without being named is "Unnamed Infant".


On 3 Oct 2017 at 12:36 GMT Denise Chiasson wrote:

I've been struggling with how to identify infants who have died before being baptized and so had no name and are listed as "Unknown". Do you think it would work to name them "Deceased infant" or something similar?

On 3 Oct 2017 at 06:55 GMT Michelle (Curnick) Wilkes wrote:

having just sourced and identified the LNAB of a mother with surname "NK" and another with surname "Unknown", I would like to help out on UK ones, now that we have the UK GRO Dove project giving mother's maiden names for post 1837.

On 14 Aug 2017 at 14:10 GMT Shirley (Strutton) Dalton wrote:

Nan, thanks for pointing out that the profile has a profile manager. Obviously we do not add the recycle category to any profile that has an active manager. If there were no manager, I would still advise that research be done on this profile because it has not only name but a date that could be looked at.


more comments

Categories: Unknowns | Recycle Unknowns