Monday, May 14, 2018
Its All in the Birth Name
This is a common sight in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. It used to be a lot more common, but it is still showing up regularly even after years of cleaning up entries. Ask yourself this question. Was this person actually given all those names at birth? Including a married name? Nice try by the parents for predicting who their daughter would marry. I also like the ones that have the birth name as Mrs. whatever.
Where did these names come from? They are relics of the past. They roughly indicate the number of times this person's name has been submitted to FamilySearch and its predecessors in the past. This long list of "Birth Name" entries graphically illustrates over 100 years of sloppy or incomplete research including typos, deliberate misspellings, and past genealogical standards.
Don't we need to preserve all these variations in the names of our ancestors? No and partially yes. The actual birth name or name found in the earliest record of the person should be what is recorded in the "Vital Information" section. Variations in the name should be recorded as Alternate names or Nicknames. If you click on the Add plus sign shown in the screenshot above, you will have a choice of adding these variations as "Other Information."
If you choose "Alternate Name" you get further choices:
An alternative name should be one that shows up in a specific source document, not just a misspelling or typographical error. Many people changed their names during their lifetime. The rule is that the Vital Information section should reflect the earliest known name. For example, if a person came from Europe and Anglicized their name, the name in the Vital Information section should be the original name from Europe (or other areas of the world) if it is known.
So what do you do with all the duplicate names? You delete them. When you click on the duplicate Birth Name you get the following:
In some cases, like the one shown above, you see a random name inserted. In this case, there is a birth name of Mrs. Robert Lockwood. There is an entry showing Mary Butler with a second husband named Robert Lockwood but there are no sources showing the children or the second spouse. If a strange or random name shows up, you need to carefully review the Merge History to see if there is a merger of an unrelated person.