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WeRelate Watercooler 2017 [15 March 2017]

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WeRelate Page Growth Statistics [2 April 2017]

For anyone who is interested, WeRelate has grown from 2,750,000 Person pages in early July 2016 to over 2,800,000 Person pages by early April 2017. This is at the same time that a few of us have been improving data quality by deleting thousands of pages for living persons and merging duplicates.

Image:WeRelate Stats.png

Due to the efforts of people working on improving the quality of data, the percentage of Person pages with first name Unknown has been reduced from 2.02% to 1.82% over the same time period.

Image:WeRelate First Name Unknown.png

As well, since Dec 2016, the percentage of Person pages with no birth country has been reduced from 36.99% to 36.38%.

Image:WeRelate No Birth Country.png

--DataAnalyst 01:15, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

Based on your statistic above, I'm guessing you and cos1776 are working in opposite directions regarding the use of "Unknown" as a first name, e.g., Person:Unknown Triggs (1), and Person talk:Unknown Seaver (18). --Jrich 16:38, 12 February 2017 (UTC)
I don't think so. As far as I am aware, the reduction in the name Unknown is due to finding names for pages. At least, that is what I have been doing.--DataAnalyst 22:09, 12 February 2017 (UTC)
He is converting many pages to have given name Unknown, so increasing the number. Your choice of it as a statistic to measure and report on suggests you don't believe that is a good thing, that it is a measure of bad quality. The pages are, in the two cases cited, and many other, names that were never given, so not precisely unknown. To truly reflect pages where the given name is unknown, meaning under-researched, as opposed to never-knowable, the latter case should be given a different value or else they will always remain "Unknown", inflating the count. There are various practices that have been employed on this website for this special case, I believe Unknown is not appropriate. --Jrich 22:51, 12 February 2017 (UTC)
Metrics need not be perfect to be useful - particular when used to show change over time or some other variable.
I would certainly like to know if there's a different custom for a first name that is unknown at the moment versus something that is asserted to never be knowable. I treat both as "Unknown" at present, and suspect that's what folks have done for years. I suppose the key question would be whether there's a generally accepted best practice for such given names in GEDCOM files - if so - we would presumably want to follow that.
More generally - I looked for some other common forms for an unknown first name (typically in the case of stillbirth or infant death). Searching in the first name field: "Child" - 673, "Female" - 641, "Male" - "580", "Infant" - 1302, "Baby" - 537, "Boy" - 266, "Girl" - 224, "Stillborn" - 155, and "Unknown" - 30,628. So there may be another 1/10th of a percent that neither measure accounted for - but I assume the defect was approximately the same in both numbers so the delta is still meaningful. --jrm03063 18:28, 13 February 2017 (UTC)
Daughter - 846; Son - 837. "so the delta is still meaningful": some of the alternate forms are being changed to unknown. So while one set of cleaners is reducing unknowns, another cleaner is add unknowns, so the delta understates how much cleanup was done. Besides the question this raises about the validity of the statistics, the use of alternate forms has been intentional on many pages specifically to distinguish from unknown, and changing it to unknown loses that information. --Jrich 19:00, 13 February 2017 (UTC)
I wasn't aware that other ambiguous forms were being substituted in preference to "Unknown". My memory is that we never distinguished between unknown at present and unknowable - and that the proper form in either case was simply "Unknown". But no matter - the question remains whether there's an accepted GEDCOM best practice on this. Also, does historical guidance here at WR suggest different variants of unknown? --jrm03063 19:27, 13 February 2017 (UTC)
Keep going... we also still have roughly
  • Dochter = 36
  • Zoon = 39
  • Levenloos = 152
  • Levenloze = 60
  • Doodgeboren kind = 14
  • Wife = now 61, but was abt 150 that have either been sourced with a name or changed to Unknown
  • Fru = 5
  • Frau = 5
  • Hustru = 2
  • Vrouw = 2
  • Miss = now abt 380, but was 432 that have either been sourced with a name or changed to Unknown
  • Husband = 62
  • Man = 5
  • Mann = abt 20 where it means "husband"
  • Første Mann = 2 (first husband)
  • Unk = now 0, but was abt 200 that have either been sourced with a name or changed to Unknown
  • FNU = now 0, but was 124 that have either been sourced with a name or changed to Unknown
  • GNU = 3
  • Unnamed or (Unnamed) = abt 225
  • Naamloos = 4
  • Not known = abt 50
  • Not used = 2
  • Not named = 9
  • NN or N.N. = abt 1249 (Nomen Nescio)
  • Anonyme = 19
  • Inconnu = 1
  • Unbekannt = 6
  • Onbekend = 7
  • Don't know = 2
  • Young = abt 25 that are suspect
  • and on it goes ...
There is no standard convention for this. Entry is based on user preference. Yes, I have cleaned a lot of this up and been mostly standardizing page titles to "Unknown xxx" when the given name is unknown for any reason as opposed to one of the words in the lists above. That is what our program defaults to when the field is left blank and the logical place to look for Unknowns in our wiki page lists. Most of these pages came in with old GEDCOMs, have zero sources, and haven't been touched since 2007-2009. For our site, the "quality" of a page is not only measured by the amount and type of genealogical proof attached to the data, but also by the ability of that data to function with our program and with other programs (if it leaves). Improving both of these is important.
Entering the simple word "Unknown" in the Given name field, as was pointed out, has been acceptable here since the beginning. Now, if you want to talk about that convention, I'd be glad to, because I would also like to see it changed. However, not in the way that is being discussed. In a nutshell, name fields are for names only! We should not be entering any placeholder words or made up names into any Given name or Surname fields for which we don't have a sourced name - not "Unknown" or "Unnamed" or "Stillborn Daughter" or "Levenloos kind" or anything else. When we do not know a particular name part, the corresponding field should remain blank. So, following this convention, the correct way to enter children with no given name, for any reason, is to enter just the complete surname they inherited from their parents in the Surname field and to leave the Given name field blank. Our software handles that just fine, as do other programs, and any confusion about what is being implied or in a different language, etc. is eliminated. There are other data fields on the page better suited to clarification when it is needed. --cos1776 01:26, 14 February 2017 (UTC)
Things like wife and husband should translate to unknown. Presumably if they lived long enough to marry, they had a name, and the poster didn't know it. This would seem to be exactly the definition of unknown. But that is different than the situation where a name was not believed to have been given, as in Unknown Seaver, female, formerly (female) Seaver who was born in 1865 with no name listed in the birth record and not listed with her family in the immediately following census in 1870 and had no gravestone in the cemetery where other family members are found on Find A Grave. Maybe there is no desire to distinguish between the two cases the result in having no name to post, but I am pretty sure distinguishing exactly that was the intent of the poster in using "(female)" as opposed to the unknown he uses on other pages.
Of course, there is no convention, and as will always be the case when there is no convention, that means everybody does something different. So the first step is to decide if this is significant, then, if it is, how to distinguish it from simply unknown. The fact that dataAnalyst was using Unknown as negatively correlated to data quality suggests it is significant. Maybe because users that are likely to be unaware of this rule can upload GEDCOMs, or because language variants provide too much variability, it is believed pointless to try. That is for the group to decide. Distinguishing data values don't have to be in the name field but that of course has the advantage of getting propagated to the infoboxes and erased automatically by the name if it ever gets discovered that a name was given. But there are other ways, one of them being the various title fields, or add a new fact type, or adding some template to the Narrative (a la nomerge}.
This is a relatively trivial matter, but for that reason, probably a good chance for the Overview Committee to start developing a process for developing such conventions and notifying the user community (is there one page everybody should be watching?) Date conventions are fairly detailed, but there are lots of other conventions that could use some serious discussion, like Married Name, like handling Intentions, like what data is best posted on the Person page and what data is best posted to the Family page. Wikipedia, as an example of a more mature wiki, has its usability is greatly enhanced by the fact that most town pages have similar outlines, most kings are presented in a similar style, etc. I believe similar attempts at standardization are needed here. --Jrich 02:35, 14 February 2017 (UTC)
Well, this is a case where a GEDCOM best practices document would help (for example, I'm pretty sure the GEDCOM spec is silent on the question of whether dates before 1000 should have a leading zero - and no one would want to write a GEDCOM interpreter that required a leading zero there - but a best practices document would give guidance on which form was preferred). So if GEDCOM proper doesn't dictate what Unknown ought to look like (I don't think so at least - unless their idea is that it should be empty). We should first make sure that guidance isn't lurking somewhere in that spec. If GEDCOM leaves specification of unknown up to the application/user - then we should probably look at conventions used by the more common Genealogy systems out there. Both web sites and desktop applications. This seems like a common enough situation that some practice will be found to be a little more prevalent than the others - and we should therefore follow whatever practice seems most common. Do GEDCOMs in the care of LDS follow a practice? If so, then, etc.... --jrm03063 18:54, 14 February 2017 (UTC)

I applaud the efforts of people working in the Data Quality Improvement project. This is the single best chance for WeRelate to make a difference in my opinion. Every time I investigate other sites, spoken highly of by various people, I continue to find inferior quality, and decide to stay right here at WeRelate. This particular project is the one that I think most adds value to WeRelate, and hope that at some time, the percentage of quality data might make this the site the one primary place where people will go to share new discoveries for review, to correct long-standing myths by providing evidence, and where we can build a culture that says what you know is not as important as how you know it. --Jrich 03:25, 21 December 2016 (UTC)
Thanks. I agree that quality has become somewhat of a focus of the collaboration efforts at WeRelate, and I'd like to see us fit that niche of where you go to find trustworthy data. We're still a long way from there for some of the old GEDCOM data, but where there is a high degree of interest in data (e.g., early New England and New Netherlands), I think we've got some pretty good quality. And where we're fixing up the old GEDCOMs, I know that we are ending up with parts of trees that are better researched than anywhere else available online.--DataAnalyst 13:11, 21 December 2016 (UTC)

Excellent ! Thx, Ron woepwoep 08:45, 21 December 2016 (UTC)


I also appreciate that there are folks willing to clean up whatever needs it. But when it comes to 'Unknown' I wonder about that as I use it a lot! And on occasion I've used terms such as Son or Daughter. Perhaps I've studied pre-1850 census records and know they had a son in the prior time but have not discovered the name of the child. At least Son or Daughter with est year period gives some info that I wouldn't want to lose by just saying Unknown. And to remove a page for a wife where the only name is Ann Unknown would really be destructive. Please tell me you are not removing that type of unknown page. On second thought that could be acceptable IF there were no children AND IF her first name is given on her husband's page. --janiejac 03:42, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

An aside: My computer says it is only 12 March 2017; 11:49PM --janiejac 03:50, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
I believe the UNKNOWN and multiple related usages of unknown names are an open discussion topic at this point. I think it is a maintenance issue which needs to be addressed because it strays from the WR standard. I'm not sure the use of "Unknown" is fully appropriate for all cases, but the list of unknown names above certainly shows that various usages need to be pared down to a more acceptable use standard.
Please consult this article about your off-topic aside relating to the use of UTC. --BobC 13:42, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
May I request that you move this discussion to a separate page, and offer a draft policy? I still do a lot of cleanup and would appreciate better guidance. --jrm03063 15:31, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

how to find template [24 December 2016]

I found a GEDCOM with what appears to be no sources, but I didn't know where/how to find a template to mark it 'needs sources'. Even if you tell me where to find it, I may not remember it. (Memory NOT improving with age!) So is there a way to easily locate this kind of thing? Where it is hiding? Maybe we need a link at the top of pages to an index of sorts. That might help lots of folks. --janiejac 02:20, 22 December 2016 (UTC)

Hi, Janie. I think the template you want is Template:Sources needed. You can find any template by searching the Template Namespace (Select Search from the top menu, then All, then Template). I entered "Sources" in the title and found the template, although I did have to look a bit because there are a few that are similar. Take your pick.
I agree about making it easier to find these things. I'm hoping that this is one of the things that will come out of Overview Committee work over the next year.--DataAnalyst 02:43, 22 December 2016 (UTC)
I believe {{Sources needed 1}} is better as it includes a message that encourages referencing contemporary documents and not just copying from other unsourced items (i.e., passing the buck). --Jrich 03:22, 22 December 2016 (UTC)

If there's one thing I have used more than any other this year on WeRelate, it's #redirect. It's absolutely vital in working on Places, but it would probably be just as useful for bringing together Templates and Sources that really ought to be together. Merry Christmas! --Goldenoldie 16:48, 24 December 2016 (UTC)


Seasons greetings from the Overview Committee [24 December 2016]

On behalf of the Overview Committee:

Seasons Greetings! The Overview Committee is back in action after a few bumps this year. Getting ourselves organized is taking a while, but in the meantime, 2 members (Cos1776 and DataAnalyst) have initiated a refresh of WeRelate Help.

We've put a considerable amount of thought into how to organize Help, but we need to do some more work before it is ready to share (hopefully by the end of January). In the meantime, I have requested further community discussion on a couple of date conventions so that they can be included in Help pages (and hopefully even automated). Bear with us. While this is a slow time for one of us (off work for 2 weeks), it is a busy time for the other (lots of Christmas activity and travel).

Best wishes for 2017 from the Overview Committee!--DataAnalyst 14:33, 24 December 2016 (UTC)


Ancestral File Number - perhaps not completely useless [13 April 2017]

Until this year, I had been preserving AFN numbers, even though I hadn't seen a use for them. I had changed that practice, but another contributor suggested that they have some worth. Digging in, I found that I was able to create the AFN template that turned the bare number into a (potentially) useful link. Examples of use include Person:Edward Gilman (1) and Person:Jacob Gates (17). If you're cleaning up a page, it's nice to at least use the template to make sure that a retained AFN actually corresponds to that person (I've found several incorrect AFNs). Valid AFNs seem to have a seven character syntax of the form "llll-ll". --jrm03063 21:28, 1 March 2017 (UTC)


Nice addition. Will you be adding usage and example to the Template page?--khaentlahn 21:39, 1 March 2017 (UTC)

Should...but won't prevent anyone else from doing so either... --jrm03063 22:02, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
As I've previously noted, I don't have a strong opinion on AFN. I formerly thought them utterly useless and dropped them when I had a Wikidata reference number to substitute. Another member of the community offered however, that they should be retained for the sake of folks familiar with LDS materials. That's ok by me, and seemed even more reasonable when I found that I could wrap them in a template, that turned them into a link to corresponding LDS legacy content.
Since then however, I've had a couple of such facts I wrapped deleted for reasons that seem arbitrary (not just the template, but the entire fact).
Honestly, I don't care a lot on this, but I want the community to weigh in. I don't want to waste time on them if they're worthless - but I'm not sure how worth is defined here. If the AFN maps to a corresponding name in the LDS world - that seems like it should be retained.  ??? --jrm03063 15:27, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
HEY - SOME HELP HERE? I'm trying to do "the right thing" regarding AFNs - but the community hasn't articulated what that might be. To my mind, that means keeping them when they point somewhere. One other person, is of some other mind. I'm only keeping them because other members of the community have expressed interest in their retention.
To look at pages where we have an AFN template, see this page
Unless something like a quorum chimes in - I'm going back to my old practice of blowing them away whenever I add anything substantive to a page where they exist. --jrm03063 17:43, 12 April 2017 (UTC)
The way AFNs work seems to have changed since most of the AFN references were posted, which may limit what can be done. But that said, given the way they work now, the template creates a useless citation. On Person:Roger Strange (1), the template gives you a search yielding "247 results for Ancestral File Number: 83TZ-QT". So the reader has no idea which of the 247 AFNs provided the data for this page. Undoubtedly the original poster had one AFN in mind, probably the first result listed. But wouldn't it be better then to unambiguously specify one item by using the URL that takes you right to it? Again that is assuming we have correctly identified which of the 247 items the poster meant.
That is all prior to considering whether it is worthwhile to even cite AFNs. Which has been hashed out before, but proper genealogical practices says if no sources are specified, then no, if yes, then it is better to inspect the sources and cite them, making the AFN superfluous.
I think it is wrong to delete an AFN before providing alternate sources for the information. There have been pages where it is necessary to locate the AFN in order to figure out what the intent of the poster was, i.e., the WeRelate page has little or no identifying information on it, and you need to find who the AFN says the person is related to, etc. But that is an immature page, and I think on a mature page, there should be no need for an AFN citation. --Jrich 18:34, 12 April 2017 (UTC)
I'm one of those WR users that would prefer keeping the existing references to the AFN. For the most part I look at the AFN as a "Finding Aid" for the individual referenced rather than a "Source" in itself, so why go to the extra work of deleting a finding aid for a person that may provide other users the ability to reference legitimate sources identified by using the AFN? So what if it points to 247 results. That tells me there may be 247 potential sources to add to the individual's record. The Wikidata number, of which you are taking tremendous time and effort in adding to WR person pages, in and of itself is not a source either, but it points to a compiled record of sources for that individual referenced in other places.
I say leave them be where they are unless they point to nothing. --BobC 19:20, 12 April 2017 (UTC)
The problem with this is the AFN is not a unique number identifying all instances of this person. For example 2CT3-857? only brings back 1 instance of Roger Strange as opposed to the above. I also think finding aids should be listed on various portals, but not listed on individual pages. If every finding aid was to be listed, one could devise a query of all worldconnect databases that mentions an a person, and call it a finding aid. They tend to be of as at least as reliable as AFNs. Virtually everybody is in AFN, so why do we need to put a finding aid on all the page? The value people can bring to WeRelate is to process this type of data, turning it into information by culling it down, vetting it, and presenting it with credible evidence to support it. Citing AFNs is simply passing all that work onto the reader, meaning they may as well skip WeRelate and simply go search familysearch.org. --Jrich 20:39, 12 April 2017 (UTC)
Here's my $0.02. If there are no other sources on the page, I support leaving AFNs alone temporarily. I am guilty of removing them in the past, because of their lack of uniqueness, but I will leave them alone going forward if others wish to retain the ability to use them as a potential path to true sources. I don't think the template adds much in this case, so I will probably not spend time adding it. Once sources are added, AFNs become no more useful than other online tree links, so I would support removing them at that point. --cos1776 20:17, 12 April 2017 (UTC)
I've seen lots of strings represented as AFNs. Not all of them are - or at least - they're not all AFNs defined by LDS. I'm for wrapping an AFN in a template reference to show that I've verified that the string actually goes to a corresponding LDS page (and to make it easy for someone following me to see what I saw). When AFN strings don't resolve to anything - I definitely throw them away. The template could also be useful in letting us systematically find our way back to pages that have limited documentation (if that's what we're going to call an AFN situation).
If we're going to have a rule that AFNs can go away, when a page is more substantially sourced (or the person identified - which seems the real purpose of AFNs), it would be helpful to at least define a few examples of things that rate as "more substantial"? Presumably, a Wikidata identifier is a better identifier than an AFN, so perhaps we would drop it then. A cite to Cawley or History of Parliament is probably better. Even Find A Grave if an image of a contemporary memorial is provided. --jrm03063 16:47, 13 April 2017 (UTC)

I didn't know it was good practice to cite rather than point, so i am glad i am doing the right thing.

I don't think one is exclusive of the other - depending on what you're working with. --jrm03063 16:47, 13 April 2017 (UTC)

Some time ago i asked my premier source, www.geldersarchief.nl, if they have something like a permanent link to each of their records. They said yes we do - more or less - and then told me how to retrieve it. Still some of the records are duplicate information registered in different records for some reason.

So i like to copy the info from one or more of those duplicate records and referring to the source that www.geldersarchief.nl is also referring to. The different info is for example the many ways Anthony was written (Antoni, Antonij, Antonius, Toone, etc).

Thx Ron woepwoep 07:08, 13 April 2017 (UTC)


Stranger Than Normal Pipe Redirect [12 March 2017]

To whomever is in charge of these types of situations, I had a very strange pipe redirection happen. I attempted to enter a cemetery name (Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Brilliant, Marion, Alabama, United States -- which at the time did not exist) into the Burial field of a Person page. I refreshed the Person page and went to create the cemetery. Imagine my surprise when I was met with the attempted creation of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Brilliant, Marion, Fort Rucker, Dale, Alabama, United States. I went back to the Person page to remove the pipe and test whether it was possibly user error that caused the fubar. No such luck. The pipe was created automatically by the system.--khaentlahn 03:17, 13 March 2017 (UTC)


FREE access this week to Irish records [16 March 2017]

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, Ancestry.com has free access to their Irish records until 11:59 p.m. EST on 19 Mar 2017.
Happy Hunting, --cos1776 21:09, 13 March 2017 (UTC)



Information about Edward Thornton born 1644 Richmond Co Va died Accomack Co VA 1703

married Patience unknown family/children: Yes Go to site of Eastern Shore Public Library : www.ESPL.org, then select genealogy, then Miles Files, then Surnames, click on Thornton and scroll down results to Edward. Interestingly, none of your early family information is recorded here but takes it forward from Edward to my paternal grandmother Beatrice Louise Thornton, who married John Walter Young, parents of 4 sons (to include my father Norris John Young). Enjoy capturing this lost information for the We Relate site's benefit.

Leigh Chase, Sanford FL--LeighChase 22:23, 15 March 2017 (UTC)

Follow up - comment copied over to Edward Thornton's talk page, Person talk:Edward Thornton (1). --cos1776 18:17, 16 March 2017 (UTC)

uploaded GEDCOM taking a long time [18 March 2017]

I must have been wrong when I assumed I had rights to get my GEDCOM accepted w/o admin review. It was always accepted so quickly before but today it is taking a long time. I uploaded it at 2:20 this afternoon and still is not accepted so that I can review it. I realize we're short handed or maybe my status has changed??? --janiejac 22:05, 16 March 2017 (UTC)

It looks like it may be stuck on Waiting for analysis. Normally I can review GEDCOMs just fine, but it's currently in a state where I can't do anything. It may need to be re-uploaded, but I'm really not sure.--khaentlahn 22:11, 16 March 2017 (UTC)
Janiejac - your admin rights have not changed. I put a request in to Dallan to take a look at that file, so hopefully we'll have an answer soon. He is still the go-to person for files that are stuck in the automated part of the process. In the meantime, can you re-create your GEDCOM under a new name name and try uploading again. If the 2nd version processes normally, please proceed with that one, and leave the 1st version as is. If the 2nd version gets stuck as well, please contact either Dallan or me and we'll go from there. Thanks, --cos1776 11:46, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
The system won't let me upload a renamed GEDCOM. I get this msg:

You have a GEDCOM already in process
Before importing a new GEDCOM you need to wait for your earlier GEDCOM to finish importing
I'll copy this exchange to Dallan's talk page. --janiejac 23:17, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Follow up - Issue resolved earlier today. Server needed a re-boot. --cos1776 01:00, 19 March 2017 (UTC)

FREE access until Apr 25th to probate records [20 April 2017]

fyi - AmericanAncestors.org is granting free access to their probate databases Apr 18-25 to those who register as a guest (no further obligation). Happy Hunting! --cos1776 11:53, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

I believe some of the probate records are free all the time because of various agreements that were made while getting access to the records, either with the government agency or the Mormon church who is a partner. Since I am a member of americanancestors, it is not obvious to me which records are restricted, so I cannot give any insight into which areas are particularly benefited by this special promotion. I know some counties in Massachusetts are always free.
Since I feel probates are one of the best tools of genealogical research, not just the wills but receipts and distributions, I will also add that many probate records are always free at familysearch.org. Go to catalog search, enter the place name and subject probate. Find the entries whose author is a government agency and browse the list of films. If the icon is a solid film reel it is viewable online by clicking the icon. If the icon is an empty film reel, you can still order it to be viewed at your local Family History Center. None of this requires any affiliation with the church, though ordering films will require creating a free account and a small rental fee per film.
The viewable probate records are rarely indexed so you have to search the old fashioned way. Use the film of the index to get a case number, then go to the film of the dockets and find where all the documents for that case are recorded. Then click on the film for each record volume and jump to the indicated page. Some counties do things slightly differently. If your county has files, you can probably find all the original documents in one place, instead of jumping through several films reading copies as recorded by the clerk. --Jrich 13:40, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
I will also add that typing a transcript or abstract of a will from a film is a big service to the entire genealogy community, not just WeRelate, as it makes something that is non-searchable into something that search engines can process. So if you read a will and it doesn't help you, it is still worthwhile to post the information on the appropriate person page. Include the link and future readers of the page can add their insights into the often challenging task of interpreting handwritten documents. --Jrich 13:46, 20 April 2017 (UTC)