The Unknowns Team Process

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Planet Earthmap
Surnames/tags: unknowns profiles
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Profile Improvement Project
Unknowns Team

Click to download the WikiTree Day 2022 Slideshow



To improve the integrity of WikiTree by identifying and updating profiles with either a sourced Last Name at Birth (LNAB) or Unknown as per the Name Field Guidelines for Last Name at Birth.

Task List

A. Select a profile from one of the lists below to work on. The object is to review and update all profiles not using an alias in a valid manner per Name Fields.

Unknowns Table

The Unknown Last Name at Birth (LNAB) count may never go down but it should contain only profiles which have been researched and proper names could not be found. We're going to try something new. These links are for WikiTree+ reports containing only open or public profiles that are unsourced and have the Last Name at Birth (LNAB) as Unknown. Please work in the time period where you have the most research experience. There are approximately 2,800 profiles for pre-16th Century that are not linked here.

Unknowns Unsourced Open or Public17 Mar 20225 Oct 2022Jul 2023
16th Century 1500-15991,3251,4621594
17th Century 1600-16993,1133,2623465
18th Century 1700-17996,7737,0477294
19th Century 1800-18997,6447,7137594
20th Century 1900-19991,6282,2231791
21st Century 2000-2999222
Total 20,48321,70921,720

Historic numbers, including profiles with privacy levels above open & public:

Alias 28 Sep 2016 3 Feb 2018 25 Nov 2019 10 Oct 2020 8 Jun 2021 7 Jan 2022 5 Oct 2022 Jul 2023
Unknown 246,758 276,976 308,578 315,805 323,599 334,095 351,030 358,805
Growth % 12.25% 11.41% 2.34% 2.47% 3.24% 4.9% 2.21%|

B. Search for possible duplicates. Only merge if the two profiles were intended to represent the same person. 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 Last Names at Birth (LNAB) are not used?
    1. If Yes, skip the following steps. Unknown as a Last Name at Birth (LNAB) 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 is unlikely that 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 of what work has been done so it will not be duplicated. You might verify that her husband's surname is listed in the Current or Other Last Name fields.
    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 a comment to Possible Profiles for Deletion with a link to the profile, include an explanation of what you have looked for and/or discovered

Best Practices

No. Profile Type How to Manage
1 Completely blank, orphaned, no information except an alias in both the first and last name fields. Add comment to Possible Profiles for Deletion
2 Completely blank, no information except an alias in both the first and last name, has a profile manager. Add comment to Possible Profiles for Deletion
3 Limited with no connections – Orphaned, 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 comment to Possible Profiles for Deletion
4 Unknown with connections – a valid use of an alias, example: maiden name unknown, family members connected. Research to find a correct name or connected duplicate with the correct name for merging. If nothing is found, no further action is required.
5 Unknown that will not be known - example, the unknown father of a child born out of wedlock. Be aware that, at one time, creating profiles for siblings with no parent would create an Unknown father profile automatically. Such profiles are to be left intact and attached to the siblings in order for them to be linked as a family. If only one child, add comment to Possible Profiles for Deletion
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 Last Names at Birth (LNAB) are not used. As of now, it is a valid usage for some Projects. No action required.
8 Other Ask in Discord or the GoogleGroup on unusual profiles that do not fall into the above profile types

Notes on research and Redirects

By Steve Harris, posted on G2G March 2023

Corrections are always good for the tree. We just need to be cognizant of the history of the profile, the current state of the profile, and what the future changes to the profile might look like. We have to remember that every change made on a wiki has a "cost".

In the case of this specific profile, Unkown-1098, I would say the change to LNAB is fine to make, since "Unknown" may unfortunately be her legacy here on WikiTree.

History: No merges and/or LNAB changes to date (meaning no existing redirects).

Current State: Correct (sourced) LNAB will be difficult to find, and many people have apparently already tried.

Future: LNAB may never be found.

Based on the above, we only talking about one redirect now, and if we are lucky, a second redirect in the distant future to a correct (sourced) LNAB. This small number of redirects poses no issues.


Images: 1
Unknown 3D Man
Unknown 3D Man

  • Login to request to the join the Trusted List so that you can edit and add images.
  • Private Messages: Contact the Profile Managers privately: Robin Shaules, Debi Hoag, and Kay Knight. (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.)
  • Public Q&A: These will appear above and in the Genealogist-to-Genealogist (G2G) Forum. (Best for anything directed to the wider genealogy community.)
Comments: 202

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Hi Debi - just curious- do you know when this tech practice started and stopped?

5….Be aware that, at one time, creating profiles for siblings are created with no parent would create an Unknown father profile automatically.

posted by Elaine (Weatherall) Martzen
edited by Elaine (Weatherall) Martzen
Hi Elaine,

It was stopped sometime in 2021, probably at the same time that the change logs were revised to include all transactions. If you try to create a sibling with no common parent these days, a message pops up telling you to create a parent first. I don't know when it started; it worked that way when I joined WT in 2016.


posted by Debi (McGee) Hoag
Another code for unknown is FNU - I checked it because UK military use it for unknown in intelligence situations - FNU, forename Not Known, SNU for surname (there is one which might be that) and, not relevant here - ANK - Address Not Known. There are 240 FNUs!
posted on Unknowns (merged) by Madelaine (Bates) Kirke MA

Was not sure who to let know about this, this looked like the place to do it.

I was able to clear up most of the LNAB Unknowns by recycling them into some new profiles. All that's left are a small handful of 6 I can not do anything with as they either still have a profile manager listed (cant adopt them) or are locked for editing due to a 1500 date or both. If someone can free them up I will be happy to recycle them.

Diane (UNKNOWN) Unknown abt 1280 - Locked 1500

Ivanez (UNKNOWN) Unknown abt 1200 - Locked 1500

Unknown (UNKNOWN) Unknown - before 2000 - Still has a profile manager

Unknown Unknown aft 0010 - Locked 1500 and Still has a profile manager

Unknown Unknown 0815 - Locked 1500 and Still has a profile manager

Unknown Unknown 1870 - Still has a profile manager

- Mike G.

posted on Unknowns (merged) by Mike Guzzetta
edited by Mike Guzzetta
CAn't you request that the profile be opened using the "Open Profile " request?? not for the very recent one, but certainly for the old ones....
posted on Unknowns (merged) by Pam (Anderson) Smith
Hi Team

I added the following links to the page:

A Weekly Report of all Connected Orphaned Profiles with family Links

A Weekly Report of all Unconnected Orphaned Profiles with NO family Links

Hope this will make it easier to find profiles that needs LNAB researched.


posted on Unknowns (merged) by Esmé (Pieterse) van der Westhuizen
Hi all,

Please welcome Debi McGee Hoag and Cindy Lesure, Leaders of the Profile Improvement Project, as new Leaders of the Unknowns Project. Esmé van der Westhuizen has agreed to take on the position of Project Coordinator. Esmé has been an active participant in the goals of the Unknowns Project and will work very hard to continue our efforts.

I know you will all be pleased that the Unknowns Project will be able to continue its work to identify unknown profiles and reduce those pesky Unknowns, Unks, etc.

And thank you all for your work on this project. I have enjoyed being your Leader, but it is time to pass the baton to others.


posted on Unknowns (merged) by Shirley Ann (Strutton) Dalton (1943-2023)
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.


posted on Unknowns (merged) by Shirley Ann (Strutton) Dalton (1943-2023)
The page was missing some </div> where you had defined a background colour. I added those
posted on Unknowns (merged) by Richard Shelley
I have been going through profiles and adding the category: [ [ Category: Needs LNAB ] ] so that there are lots in the same place.
posted on Unknowns (merged) by Sherry Wells
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.
posted on Unknowns (merged) by Debra (Downs) Allison

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.


posted on Unknowns (merged) by Shirley Ann (Strutton) Dalton (1943-2023)
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.

posted on Unknowns (merged) by Astrid (Schellenberger) Spaargaren
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".


posted on Unknowns (merged) by Shirley Ann (Strutton) Dalton (1943-2023)
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?
posted on Unknowns (merged) by Denise Chiasson