[WikiEN-l] Getting smarter about surnames

charles matthews charles.r.matthews at ntlworld.com
Fri May 5 13:39:51 UTC 2006

"Phil Boswell" wrote

> My known family tree stretches back 27 generations, and the
> surname is spelt in very nearly that many ways. Originally "de Bossuille",
> it has been "Bosvil" and "Boswil" at various times. Only in recent
> generations has the spelling settled down, and even so the variant 
> "Boswall"
> is still around: there's a famous TV producer of that name who's a distant
> cousin.

In a sense though that discussion , valid for anyone pre-1600, is as much 
about redirects.  Any medieval-type person is quite likely to have six or 
more synonymous names (Latin versions and vernacular, nicknames ...) and it 
is our duty to the reader to create redirects.  Variant surname orthography 
is just part of that.  On the whole I prefer one page per name ([[Millar]] 
separate from [[Miller]]) unless tiny.

> There is a discussion on Meta as to whether a genealogy project should be
> adopted under the Wikimedia Foundation umbrella: this kind of data would 
> be
> invaluable for the kind of page Charles is describing. Imagine not simply
> having to say "This John Smith is the one born in 1710" but also being 
> able
> to say "This John Smith is in our genealogy wiki [[here]]" with a proper
> link!

This might be a way in to thinking what it is we do want out of surname 
pages (etymology of the name ... origins if geographically or otherwise 
precise ... dynastic sweep for example as at [[Uys family]] ... ).  I mainly 
want to have the names listed in an easy-reference format.  I'm not sure 
about always adding dates, as per the MoS.  It would definitely help in 
deciding which John Smith out of many was the relevant one; otherwise it 
duplicates article content and is just time-consuming to add.

There is a notability point here: dab pages don't need to assert notability, 
because that is implicitly assumed from the existence of an article.  The 
MoS gets that right, in effect, in saying you don't write a short essay, 
just the essentials.  A genealogical project is interested in people who 
procreate, which is not WP's criterion at all outside a few royal or 
aristocratic or plutocratic contexts.


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