View Full Version : Rules on how to write a person name correctly?

30-01-04, 12:32
1. How should a calling name be distinguished in christian name?

2. What is the suggested family name order e.g. maiden name, first marriage, second marriage?

Are there any standard on how a person name should be written in genealogy software and sources. The problem is arised by the genealogy software searching, indexing and sorting functions.
The problems are perhaps mainly programmatic.

In the first case I have an example from my own family and Brothers Keeper. My grandfathers first name was ”Frans ALFRED”, i.e. calling name was Alfred, but BK called him Frans in those reports where the first name only was used.

I have seen printouts, where the calling name is underlined. Perhaps there are other ways denoting the calling name and other sw handling this correctly?

I have in BK typed the calling name with capitals, but it certainly not change anything in the reports.

The second case is probably more complicated:

In the area I work with there could be males with name ”Sten Harald” or ”Harald Sten”, similar to ”John Thomas” or Thomas John”. In some sources the family name is capitalized. Are you using capitals for family names (see question 1)?

Very close to the question above is the order of a persons surnames:

Johan Hansson Saari, born on Saari farm,
married first time to Greta Johansdr Lillkåla.

This Johan Saari is also called with family/farm names Pulkkis and Store, i.e. Johan Hansson Saari-Pulkkis-Store.
His wife could be called Greta Johansdr Pulkkis-Lillkåla-Saari-Store.
If Greta was born on Lillkåla farm, this farm name could be last in her family name list or would it be better to write the family/farm names in chronological order:
Greta Johansdr Lillkåla-Saari-Store-Pulkkis? Born at Lillkåla farm and died at Pulkkis farm. Is it possible from the family name order to find out anything from the history or marriages of the person?

Genealogy software(BK) search routine seems to find the first of the christian names and the last of the family names, ”Johan Store” when all names are delimited with space. This means that searching on ”Johan Store” wouldn’t hit ”Johan Hansson Saari-Pulkkis-Store”, but would find him if written ”Johan Hansson SAARI PULKKIS STORE”.
It _would_ be possible to make a search function to find all of the family names used if only the denoting of the family names is uniformly defined. Have you seen any gene-software being able to do that?

Any comments...

Håkan Björkström

30-01-04, 13:31
1. Some - but not all - genealogy programs use * to denote the calling name, i.e. Jan Anders* means that I'm called Anders although my first name is Jan. I have looked through the GEDCOM standard, but there are no ways to say which name is the calling name. At least MinSläkt and Släktprogrammet 2000 uses * for this purpose.

2a I personally dislike capitalized surnames. Capital letters are like SCREAMING...

2b The Pulkkis-Lillkåla-Saari-Store is a bit problematic. My sisters name is Enges-Kettu. According to this she is born Enges and later moved to the Kettu farm. If you use that method, a name can mean different things if it’s a ‘modern’ name or if it’s a ‘old’ name. Searches and sorting is more difficult with names in this form.

I personally uses the name/farm that they where born with - and only that surname. If they move or otherwise changes names, I put those names as comments or use the Residence field in my genealogic program. If I search for ‘Store’ I may not find Johan Hansson Saari, but I will find his children - if they are born at the Store farm. From them I can find their parents. I think my database is much cleaner this way.

I used to teach databases at university level, and one of the most important rules about databases is that fields have to be ‘atomic’, i.e. a field must not contain multiple pieces of information. Even if it seems like a good idea at first, the Pilkkis.Lillkåla...’ naming brakes the rules for the first normal form of databases - the field contains a name, but also other information. Among database professionals, this is the most serious error that can exist in a database. One problem is that genealogy software has to follow the GEDCOM-standard to be able to export and import data, an that standard is not so well planned (Version 6 looks promising, but no programs support that version - they all use the older 5.5 version)


30-01-04, 14:50
I agree with Anders. As a software developer, I find that no matter how hard we try to remain "pure", users of our systems will always try to do things that they shouldn't or we don't recommend. The system continues but it isn't ideal. Sometimes it can cause problems.

As for naming conventions, I don't believe there are any "rules". All of the software that I've tried allows me to enter names in any fashion I desire. FTM has an "AKA" (also known as) field for entering nicknames, etc. FTM doesn't capitalize surnmames by default but it may be a setting. RootsMagic does, but may be an option to turn off.

I usually bow to the experts like June and Hans Krokfors, both of whom have provided me with lots of data. I personally prefer to begin with the birth farm name and use a hyphenated form to include the farm names the person assumed. Sometimes I run into problems when the person lived on many farms: too many characters.

I know June and Hans both use hyphenated names though I'm not sure they follow the same pattern as I do. It makes it difficult at times to find the same person. It can be difficult, as Håkan mentioned, to find all people with the same family name in an index. I've just accepted it and work around that problem. Having the names in different order also prevents the software from catching duplicate individuals.

I think the best answer to your question is to choose one method and stick to it. Knowing your system will allow you to more easily adapt when you run across people who use a different system than yourself.

Not sure any of this helps, but..... :confused:

Gita Wiklund
30-01-04, 15:09
2. What is the suggested family name order e.g. maiden name, first marriage, second marriage?

I would also like to know how to do this. I use "Min Släkt".
I have done it like this:

Olivia Lovisa Kåhlman g. Feodoroff, Tanninen

Kåhlman is her maiden name Feodoroff is her first marital name and Tanninen her second marital name.

I prefer to put the maiden name first, but I´ve noticed that others put the marital name first. Is there any standars rules for this? I should probably put og. Kåhlman instead of g. Feodoroff anyway?

I registered both marital names, but that´s probably unnecessary when I think about it. It would probably be better to only register the last marital name since she could easily be found through either the ex husband or her child.

Any comments?


30-01-04, 15:24

Would you personally prefer ”screaming” ANDERS Enges or to be called Jan Enges if Anders* is not available?

Thank you anyway, I’ll take a look at MinSläkt.

I completely agree with you regarding database rules. Nevertheless, there are out on the net (not only on the net) a lot of sources where the surnames have been written the long way, delimited with hyphens – and I am sure the source locates in some genealogy database! When you see them, you don’t know what is the maiden name etc.
I’ve more than once found a source, where the person name is written as – in my example – Johan Pulkkis, and not been able to find it in the database, because it is saved as Johan Saari-Pulkkis-Store. This is one of the cases when you get duplicates in your database!

If you make gene programming you could implement a relationally clean way, by creating a table of ”Also known as” table and include it in the search routine ;)

By the way, BK is far from relationally clean, because there is only one field reserved for first name + lastname!!

I don’t think that the ’modern’ surname notation is much different to the ’old’ farm related notation from the genealogy programming point. Additionally, if I wish it or not, soon we have to be able to store families of male-male and female-female...

Have a good weekend, Anders...


30-01-04, 15:52
The main problem with genealogy software is that they must be able to import and export gedcom-files. Legacy 5 has 'AKA' fields that can handle alternate names, but cannot export them to a standardized gedgom.

Even if a program can handle alternate names, the problem remains when you want to make reports, may it be paper or pdf. In the Caino-Torp book they had a lengthy explanation of how you should read the names. I guess the only way is to be consistent and explain to others how to read it all.

Almost all genealogists that I have spoken to have made the same mistake: they have imported data from other genealogists, without normalizing the data. Then they may have 'Jåfs g. Jåssis', 'Jåssis tidigare Jåfs', 'Jåssis-Jåfs', 'Jåfs-Jåssis', 'Jåssis (Jåfs)' and 'Jåfs (Jåssis)' in their database - all being the same person. In the beginning of their research the are eager to get data into their database. Later they have to try to eliminate thousands of duplicates. And that is the most boring work on the earth...

/screaming anders

30-01-04, 16:47
2. What is the suggested family name order e.g. maiden name, first marriage, second marriage?

[i]Originally posted by Gita Wiklund
I would also like to know how to do this.

I didn't specify in my earlier message but I don't include the married "surname" for females. I will, however, include multiple farm names for the females if the case warrants.

Again, I don't think there is a hard and fast rule. I believe it's personal preference.

Most programs I've seen handle alphabetizing similarly: i.e., if the name is hyphenated, the first letter of the first hyphenated name dictates the order. If multiple names are used but not hyphenated, the programs will order based on the 1st letter of the very last name. Big difference!

I think the key is consistency. If you're dealing with hundreds of names it's not as big of an issue as it is when dealing with tens of thousands of names. Makes finding related individuals a rather daunting task.

30-01-04, 17:05
[QUOTE]Originally posted by kpaavola
[B]I agree with Anders. As a software developer, I find that no matter how hard we try to remain "pure", users of our systems will always try to do things that they shouldn't or we don't recommend. The system continues but it isn't ideal. Sometimes it can cause problems.

I'm very familiar with this problem too - as a software developer. Question is however that we have the history we can not change but try to find the easiest way to document it - and as I am lazy I try to eliminate the problems where I'm still have opportunities to do.

Hopefully we can learn from our customers/users - not only teach them, ;)

Best Regards

Gita Wiklund
30-01-04, 17:37
Well, as it seems to work well for me I guess I´ll stick to the way I enter the surnames. I´m glad I don´t have farm names to enter.
Wouldn´t it be better to have a separate field for farm name anyway?


30-01-04, 18:12
I noticed that there are quite a lot of 'computer-nerds' in this discussion. I originally started my genealogy research as ‘something else than computers’ I work(ed) as a programming consultant and senior lecturer in computer sciences and tried to balance it with something that wasn’t even remotely connected to computers - genealogy.

You know - what does relatives from hundreds of years back have to do whit IT? Oh well, soon after I started developing my own genealogy software - luckily I found a good commercial genealogic software (MinSläkt + Legacy) before I pushed it too far. I managed to stay away from genealogic databases, but couldn’t resist developing my own software for genealogic reporting on the web. It originally started as a small project to sharpen my mind after a (too?) long vacation, but it’s now into it fifth major rebuild - now in PHP with my own database engine that uses a gedcom as indexed database file. It was the same when I bought a guitar - it didn’t take long before I had developed chord-analysis programs and midi-interfaces... I guess that I’m too geekish for my own good. What about you other IT-persons, can you separate work and life from genealogy?

/anders - the geek

June Pelo
30-01-04, 20:00
All very interesting. I'm not computer-savvy so I can't add any comments in that line. I think Kevin and I follow the same procedure basically. I record females with their maiden name first and if the family has moved to various farms, I include the farm names, too. I capitalize what I consider to be the last name/surname so that it will stand out from the other names that may be included. Hasse Krokfors and I follow the same pattern - he has over 500,000 names in his database and seems to have no problem finding people because he enters every known name the person used. Most of the data in the genealogy tables in the Caino-Torp book came from his database. I helped proof-read the data and became familiar with many of the names that way.

I am so familiar with most of the names in my database, that I can almost guess the names of the farms and parishes where they lived. I only have ca 56,000 names so it isn't a problem - yet.


30-01-04, 21:00
Maybe it runs in our veins but after getting familiar with a couple of genealogy software programs and seeing their deficiencies, I toyed with the idea of writing my own program. Then I began to do the research. Reading the gedcom standards, etc, etc. Needless to say I haven't pursued it yet.

There are some features I'd still like to have that don't seem to be out there. Like, I wish I could search all the people in my files from a parish. That way I'd have a comprehensive list of people to check and verify who I needed to work on. This would be a tremendous help when ordering films from the FHC.

We also work with xml at my company and it seems a natural fit for storing relational data. Still would like to play around with that notion for a while. Maybe one of these days.

In the meantime, I've begun a new hobby which has taken up most of my free time. Even genealogy has taken a back seat for now.

30-01-04, 21:04
Do you start with the birth farm name first then add on as warrants or is the 1st last name in the hyphenated list the most recent used?

For some reason I thought you and Krokfors did it the same way and I had already started my method which was different. Maybe it was just Krokfors that was "backwards" order (at least to me) :)

June Pelo
30-01-04, 21:25

Yes, I start with the birth farm name first..

Hasse K usually adds the husband's family name to the wife's family name: Ingeborg Ström-Silakka (Silakka is her family name). I don't include the husband's name with the wife's name. I didn't start out that way many eons ago, and it's too late to change now... When I got my first computer, there were very few genealogy programs (and very few computers, too), so I had to invent a method and have followed it ever since. I guess I'm too old to make a change! :p


30-01-04, 23:31
Thanks for the clarification. It's one of those questions I've always meant to ask but never did. It'll make it easier when I go back and "review" my data.

By the way, thanks for all you do to help me and all of the countless others! :)

15-02-04, 05:40
I think June and Gita have it right. For me that suggests the woman's name ought to move in chronological order so for my much married mother, it would be:

Laura Wilhelmina Kujansuu, m. Mäki, Harju, Peterson, Kelly

m.=married in English.

I see some churchbook lists showing the woman as:

Mathilda Löfström .f Hellman
and if her husband David is listed:
Matilda f. Hellman

The church secretary did well when the woman married. She was originally:
"Anna Paulina Valin" which filled the whole space. After marriage the secretary put a carat between Paulina and Valin and wrote just above the carat " Malmberg, f." so here we see an elegant 1903 tech solution.

As usual, always easier for the men

Chuck :D

Gita Wiklund
15-02-04, 12:06
I used to work at a public registration office in Sweden, so I am quite familiar with the legislation of names in Sweden.
If a woman or a man get married she or he can nowadays choose to either take the husbands/ wifes surname, keep the surname she/he has when she enters the marriage, and she/he can if so wish take either her/his own or the spouses surname as a middlename.
The middlename has not status of a surname, it´s placed inbetween the forename/s and the surname. The children will not automatically inherite the middlename. If the parents have different surnames the children may have one parents surname and the other parents surname as a middlename. The middlename can be removed whenever you want to, and then you can apply for it again later on if you like.
In the swedish public registration, there is a special field used for the middlename.
If you want to you can give your child a patronymic or matronymic name like f.i. Andersson (if fathers forename is Anders) or Kajsasdotter (if mothers forename is Kajsa). This name is then placed among the forenames. Also if you have a strong connection to a farm, you can register the farms name by the forename/-s.

This is just an example that showes that it´s getting even more complicated in the 1900 and forth genealogy, especially since different countries have different name regulations. I think it will be necessary to make notes on when and how a name was received. Since it´s no longer all that obvious, and can change many times during life. At least here in Sweden.


15-02-04, 21:31
Hi Gita,
After reading your post, it brought to mind that things here are becoming complicated again. My own family is an example.

Our son John got married to Donna in Colorado.

Colorado allows people to in effect marry themselves so no need for clergy, just a civil marriage permit.
So they chose to do what Colorado allows. Also they had 2 ceremonies!
The first ceremony was done the day of the wedding at 8 am for family members and held at the base of a small waterfall they had discovered.

Not an easy trek to that place but a grand setting and reminiescent of Colorado gold mining days of the 1880s.

Then the big ceremony was held in a fantastic log building located on the lake in Evergreen, Colorado - people from there will know the place.

Donna, instead adopting John's last name, kept hers as it is. I believe they do this in Russia.