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Unknowns Team - Aliases Tasks process

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: [unknown]
Surnames/tags: Unknowns Profiles Aliases
Profile manager: Pam Smith private message [send private message]
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Profile Improvement Project
Unknowns Team



To make all Unknown profiles appear in related searches.

NOTE - UPDATE September 19, 2022. This task is largely complete at this time. A few team members are finishing up, and Pam will check regularly to be sure profiles aren't created using these Aliases.

Wikitree has several thousand profiles which, instead of using the required “Unknown” surname when needed, have used what we call "aliases" – such as Uncertain, LNU, Not Known, or a host (60+) of other terms. A table of these occurrences, with stats as to how we are doing, is posted below.
These profiles are not searchable. Many are unconnected and unsourced. As posted on G2G recently,

"When profiles have the surname Unknown, they will show up in searches where a married name is searched, but there are profiles where the surname is not known. In other words, if you have "Elizabeth (Unknown) Martin," and you search for "Elizabeth Martin," profiles for Elizabeth Unknown are included in the search, whereas profiles for "Elizabeth X" or “Elizabeth Uncertain” are not."
We need to redirect and update as many of these profiles as possible. We focus on Open (looks like a clear bubble with a white lock) and Public (green lock) profiles. Sometimes the manager is no longer active, and we need to go through a slight variation of the Unresponsive Profile Manager (UPM) process. Then, once the profile is orphaned, we try to research for a correct surname, and if unsuccessful, we change the surname to Unknown WITH APPROPRIATE RESEARCH NOTES. Sometimes the manager will work with us to research and correct the surname to Unknown if the information is still not available.

Task List

Task 1 - Research the identified English aliases

Please Note: Certain Aliases are already being handled by specific Unknowns Team members. Check the table below. Please do not contact PMs about profiles with assigned surnames without collaborating with the specified Unknowns Team member...
Take responsibility for a list of profiles using a certain Alias (in consultation with Team Leader) and work through the list to update them using the following process:
  • FIRST, place a COMMENT on the profile. State the problem and OFFER TO ASSIST and to source and update the LNAB or correct to it unknown. Try to find the LNAB – if you are successful, place sources on the profile. If not, leave research notes telling where you searched. Here is a sample note:
"We are working hard to reduce the number of “[uncertain]” profiles on Wikitree. The standard usage on Wikitree is Unknown; see details below to clarify why this is important. The profile [uncertain-XXX] for (name) is an example.

This was [ posted recently on our G2G forum] by the Unknowns project: "When profiles have the surname Unknown, they will show up in searches where a married name is searched, but there are profiles where the surname is not known. In other words, if you have "Elizabeth (Unknown) Martin," and you search for "Elizabeth Martin," profiles for Elizabeth Unknown are included in the search, whereas profiles for "Elizabeth [uncertain]" are not."

I have checked for sources and not been able to find the last name at birth (LNAB). If you have learned the LNAB please add it to the profile. [or, I have added sources…]. Could you please take a moment and change the LNAB birth on this profile? If you manage multiple [Uncertain] profiles, I’m happy to work with you to find and update each one! Just let me know!

We would really appreciate this contribution to our collaborative WikiTree. If we can’t find the profile, we can’t work together to improve it!

Thank you.

Volunteer, the Unknowns Team
  • SECOND, after a few days, send a Trusted List request. (I usually wait two days unless the PM has been inactive for several years in which case I send immediately). Here is a sample note:
I sent you a message recently about the --- profile for . This is a trusted list request so that I can update the profile, at the very least to correct the last name at birth to the standard Unknown [sometimes – if it applies - I’ll say “to use the sources provided on the profile”], and increase the chances that other researchers will find the profile and provide additional information. Just click on the link in this email to approve. I promise I’ll remove myself from the profile when I’m finished.

I hope you will collaborate with me.

Volunteer, the Unknowns Team
  • THIRD -send a message to the Profile Manager. Here is a sample comment:
I posted a comment on the profile and sent a trusted list request about the -----profile for -----. I hope you will work with me to update the profile and strengthen our collaborative tree. If we do not hear from you in a week, we will file a request to have the profile orphaned. (Another option is to write "Please check ...profile for an update needed to make the profile searchable in the WikiTree database.")

Volunteer, the Unknowns team
NOTE: If the PM is active, it is a good idea at this point to also post a comment on the PM’s personal profile referencing the [uncertain] profile you’ve been working on.
NOTE: special guidelines for working on profiles that use the alias Anonymous, X or other single alphabet letters:
  • Does the profile (or a close relative) have birth or death dates?
  • If there’s reason to believe the person has no living descendants, was born before 1910, or is deceased, you can request a change (Hint - use the Descendants's genius!!).
  • If no dates on the profile or a close relative, can you determine whether 1) the profile is connected to the PM or 2) the person has living grandchildren? If so, do not request a change.

Unresponsive Profile Managers

Unknowns Team process.
  • Follow the established protocol of posting a comment, sending a trusted list request and sending a message. Then after 7 days….. send Pam a note at her email. Include the following
    • Profile number (a link to the profile is ideal)
    • Current name on profile
    • Name of PM
    • Date the PM was last active on Wikitree
    • Note if the PM has additional profiles with the same issue which can be addressed at the same time.
Here are two examples:
Pam will then submit the request and let you know when we have a response.
  • This is a special protocol just for the Unknowns Team. Thank you!

Task 2 - Research native language alias profiles

We also need volunteers who can work with non-English terms and profiles –Unbekannt (German) (and NN, also mostly German profiles), Okand (Swedish), and Onbekend (Afrikaans) and others still being identified. I am happy to show you exactly how to find these particular profiles
  • Native language words (ex: Unbekannt) should moved to the Other Last Name to make the profile searchable and, at the same time, easier for native speakers to find.
  • LNAB will be changed to Unknown so that the Wikitree database search routines will work with the alternate names
For guidelines on this, see:
Here's a PROCESS for working with a list of non-English Unknown (ex Okand, Unbekand, Inconnu, etc.) profiles:
  • If the profile has no dates, is not linked to other profiles, has no info at all, and the changes log indicates the profile has never had any info, send a note to Pam for addition to the list of possible profiles for deletion
  • If the profile appears to be pre-1500...sigh with exasperation (I will enthusiastically join you!!), leave it alone for now, and move on
  • Try to find a record for a proper Last Name at Birth (LNAB)
    • if found, add the source
      • If there is a Profile Manager write a brief "please update" comment to the PM on the profile asking that the Last Name at Birth (LNAB) be updated and offer to help.
      • If the profile is orphaned
        • adopt the profile and change the Last Name at Birth (LNAB) to the newly found name
        • orphan the profile by removing yourself as the manager on the Privacy tab
    • if not found
      • if there is a Profile Manager, write a brief "please update" comment to the PM on the profile with a link to the rules about using Unknown and the reasoning for it. See first sample above. Offer to help.
      • If the profile is orphaned
        • adopt the profile and change the Last Name at Birth (LNAB) to Unknown
        • move the non-English word into the "Other Last Name" field
        • orphan the profile by removing yourself as the manager on the Privacy tab
        • update birth and death locations to add at least the country
          • if there is a town name, use the pin icon next to it to open GoogleMaps for help with location details. Adding the location details might help someone going forward and it will show up on Unknown lists which will someday be categorized.
          • if there are no locations, check immediate family members for birth or death locations
            • if those profiles have locations, add that as an uncertain birth location to help future researchers
        • add a married surname to Current Last Name or to Other Last Name if possible (often available, but not picked up by GEDcom imports). Use the conventions of that country or project.

Task 3 - Monitor for new aliases

Find new aliases for Unknown:
  • Check the list of surnames beginning with U occasionally to see if aliases are in use that are not in the table
  • Use WikiTree+ to search for potential alias words such as Last, Know, None, Unknow, Name, etc. If you see an error message, click the OK box, then click the blue Get Profiles button in the left column. If you find a few, please fix them as above (and tell us about them). If you find a large group we haven't found yet, please contact the Team!!
    • The search routine will start with LastNameatBirth=Last in the left column. To try other words, change last to the word you want to search.

Unknown Aliases and Counts

The goal is to have the Unknown alias counts eventually reach zero. Identified aliases are below. This table shows only the number of Open and Public profiles using the Alias. When you click the link, most pages will open a WikiTree+ report for that surname. If you see an error message, click the OK box, then click the blue Get Profiles button in the left column. RESEARCHED profiles, where the real Last Name at Birth (LNAB) could not be found, should be renamed to Unknown.
Alias Team Member 22 Jan 2022 1 Mar 2022 28 May 2022 3 Aug 2022 12 Apr 2023
....Elaine Martzen5134158
Inconnu - FrenchAnne Guglik24222214
last namePam Smith 135865557#
LNU (Last Name Unknown)192170160
MNU (Maiden Name Unknown)68341 (done)12
DK (Don't Know)Terry Fillow0110
NK (Not Known)3463 (delete)1*
NN (No Name)Pam Smith96694241499#
Name Unknown
No Name Genealogy
NonePam Smith15864
Not Sure797851*
Not KnownElaine Martzen3512821558410
Okänd - Swedish2222217
Onbekend - misc69642929
Someone721 (delete)0
Something311 (Delete)0
Surname Genealogy
Unbekannt - GermanHeather Quinlan1831937949
UncertainJo Gill McHale2351681361290
UnkTerry Fillow McClintock1206118194849215
UnkownJo Gill McHale8508365241321
Unnamed13133 (delete)1*
X756597250 (Done)243#
XXXXX (5)31442
XXXXXX (6)0310
XXXXXXX (7)0400
Total Count4864388528991329

NOTE: (delete) means that profiles are on the list waiting to be approved for deletion. (Done) means that we have handled what we can on that alias and the rest will have to wait or are acceptable uses of that Alias)

NOTE on August 3 column - # means Remaining, probably not readily fixable, * means Pam is checking on potential new entries. We are still processing International, Not Known, Uncertain, Unk and Unkown....those numbers will continue to decline. None is a newly discovered alias - it's decreasing quickly...(WOW!!!)

Pre-2022 Aliases and Stats

Prior to 2022, the stats included profiles that had privacy which prevented us from working on them. These are being kept for historic purposes.

Alias 28 Sep 2016 3 Feb 2018 25 Nov 2019 10 Oct 2020 8 Jun 2021 7 Jan 2022 New Date
Anonymous 1177
Uncertain 303 259 322 338 342 319
Uknown 516 324 217 228 236 225
Unknow 401 285 230 249 255 264
Unknowen 98 79 83 65 57 43
Unkown 1,343 1,208
-UNKNOWN- 52 35
Unknownsurname 71 40 35 28 7 4
Unnamed 41 29 23 51 19 19
Unsure 267 194 220 231 210 219
Ukn 157 128 132 118 100 36
Unk 3,122 1,968 2,004 1,922 1,775 1,533
Unkn 442 189 200 199 189 150
.... 78 105 95
--- 28 40 40
-----(x5) 79 29 31
------(x6) 16 14 15
X 5,818 5,655 5,019 5,006 4,878 2,859
XX 147 155 158 154
XXX 157 153 164 164
XXXX 74 73 76 75
XXXXX 29 29 31 31
XXXXXX (6) 9 9 13 14
XXXXXXX (7) 4 5 7 7
DONTKNOW 213 194 84
DONOTKNOW 47 23 22
LNU (Last Name Unknown) 275 365 390 411 410 276
MNU (Maiden Name Unknown) 155 154 43
NN 1,885 1,378 1,298 1,338 1,422 1,446
NK 67 61 44
Wife 214 112 98 89 84 80
Not Known 619 458 464 488 486 451
Not sure 200 86 110 116 134 145
Someone 10 20 12 10 12 12
Somebody 8 4 4 2 4 4
Something 11 5 6 6 7 7
last name 51 26 22 20 20 19
Inconnu - French 20 22 28 34
Unbekannt - German 66 81 116 119
Okänd - Swedish 17 17 18 22
Onbekend - Afrikaans 76 79 87
Total Count 14,482 11,604 11,309 12,403 11,320 11,629
Reduction% -19.87% -2.54% 9.67%
-8.73% -7.67%

Comments: 4

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I stumbled upon this page today and wish that I had found it before. Earlier this year, I found and corrected some profiles with similar errors. You are doing great work as demonstrated by the numbers!
posted by Russell Butler