Portal talk:Surname


Portal Origins

This portal came into existence because of various discussions at the 2009 Watercooler (Topic #115) (immediately below) and at the Surname Research Pages topic (previously transferred from a WR user's talk page). Latter discussion centered around a shared research page, leading to a discussion about a Surname in Place example, then to discussions about a surname research page title standard, Articles_vs._Sources, and a sample surname page (template example). It continued with the topic of surname pages or surname category pages copied in detail further below.

Surname Page Usage [18 July 2009]

The Help for Surname pages is devilishly hard to locate but I have read it several times and still don't understand how I should be interacting with them. Help seems to tell me "how to" when I want to know "when to". Please help me understand any conventions in place for the use of these pages.

1) Are pages supposed to be created automatically for each surname?
This doesn't seem to be happening consistently. If I'm supposed to create the surname page, how can I get a list of people/surnames with missing surname pages?
2) Should there be a separate page for each spelling variation? or should all variations be on a single page?
It seems that the research content would be most effective if there is a single page, but then would merges be required if there are already multiple pages. And do we really expect to look here for research content?
3) Sources are asked for on alternate spellings. I know we like sources, but it seems impractical to find a cite for what is really a collective observation. One can observe spelling evolving over time in the same family and know that the surname is intended to be the same. Likewise one can observe common misspellings and want searches to include the variations. I'm inclined to use "spelling variant" or "common misspelling" where it says source. Is this acceptable usage?
4) The 'WR similar spelling' algorithm is not working very well for non-English names. The choices are nowhere near the same name, so I need to do some editing. Is any fallout created by removing obviously different names?
5) Are any alternates automatically recognized? or must every one be listed on the page? Example: Leblanc; LeBlanc; Le Blanc; le Blanc
6) How important is it that these pages be maintained? i.e. What bad stuff will happen if a surname is not contained on any surname page?

Some guidance would be appreciated. It appears that the surnames pages are what determines matches on searches so I definitely don't want to break anything. But I'm finding that some of my surnames don't seem to appear on any surname pages and alternate spellings are not on them. So it appears action is needed on my part. --Judy (jlanoux) 20:49, 30 June 2009 (EDT)

Surname pages is one of those ideas that was, say, not great :-). WeRelate started its life as a search engine for genealogical information on the Web. (The Web item in the Search menu is the vestiage of that beginning.) The Surname pages were intended to be places where people could write general histories about a surname or leave tips for researching a surname. They were also used to store "related" names for the search engine: if you searched on "Smith", the search engine would include all the variants of Smith listed on the Surname page.

We found that what people did on the surname pages was write about specific ancestors. So we added Person and Family pages and the surname pages have gotten very little use since then. The search engine for WeRelate still uses them:

  • If you search for a surname that has a surname page, the search engine includes the variants listed on the page. The 100K most-common surnames have pages created for them.
  • If you search for a surname that does not have a surname but appears as a related name on other surname pages, the search engine includes the primary names (names in the titles) of the pages on which it appears. I think roughly couple hundred thousand surnames appear on one or more surname pages.
  • "Rare" surnames that do not appear in any of the surname pages are picked up in searches by soundex (double-metaphone actually, which is similar to soundex).

In the long run I'm not sure that a set of surname wiki pages is the best approach to manage a set of related names for searching. We may get rid of the Surname pages someday and migrate the related name information to something more appropriate. In the meantime though, editing the Surname pages is how you modify what related names get included in searches at WeRelate.

To answer your questions.

1) There are millions of possible surnames. Too many to create pages for each one.
2) You don't have to create a surname page. If a surname doesn't have a page, it will use as its set of related names the titles of all of the surname pages on which it appears. (Search for the name as a keyword in the Surname namespace to get a list of the pages it appears on.) And no, I no longer expect that Surname pages will hold research content. It was a bad idea.
3) I agree.
4) Just that those names won't be included as related names in searches for the primary (title) name. But if they're nowhere near the same name, then please remove them.
5) Names are case and space-insensitive. Leblanc, LeBlanc, Le Blanc, and le Blanc are all the same to the search engine.
6) No, it just means that searches for that name will return other names with the same soundex code.

--Dallan 01:36, 4 July 2009 (EDT)

THANK YOU for taking the time to explain - especially the history. This clears up a lot of confusion.
I have names that may have 10 - 20 variations and do need them recognized as being the same. We don't want long lists of alternate names on the Person page so it makes sense to have an equivalence table of some sort. I will work on the pages for the ones I am concerned about.
I was hoping that one page could take care of all the alternates, but I'm afraid the second * above says "not so". If I search on a name that is listed as an alternate, it will match any instances of the primary name but not any of the other alternates? <bummer> Well something to think about for a future rewrite. I think creating two or three primaries will take care of most cases.
That's right. I'm not really wild about that either. It really should look up all of the alternatives on all pages. I need to fix that.--Dallan 11:06, 28 July 2009 (EDT)
Does anyone mind if I take the references to using the page for research content out of the help? It tends to confuse people when we also have categories and shared research pages. --Judy (jlanoux) 21:47, 7 July 2009 (EDT)
I don't have any objection. I cannot locate the help page anyway.--Beth 21:59, 7 July 2009 (EDT)
I said it was hard to find.<g> Help:Name pages --Judy (jlanoux) 22:39, 7 July 2009 (EDT)
Well, I believe I added a surname or two when I first started using WeRelate; but I don't remember ever viewing the given name pages. Not sure I knew they existed. --Beth 22:58, 7 July 2009 (EDT)

I have tried to move Dallan's notes on searching to Help:Name pages and remove indications that the pages are for discussing names. Please fix or notify me if you see a problem. Is there a better place to add the notes on how searching works? --Judy (jlanoux) 15:26, 18 July 2009 (EDT)

Help:Search?--Dallan 11:06, 28 July 2009 (EDT)

Surname Pages or Surname Category Pages? [1 September 2009]

After comparing some of the pages referenced above and perusing some of the comments made by Dallan elsewhere for the use of "Surname Pages," I would think that these excellent "One-Name Study" templates and examples would be perfect utilized on the associated "Surname Page" to the name, rather than as separate "Articles," thereby encorporating the automated linking features of Surname pages (as well as Category pages). I started that with my own Doering, Schönauer, Tritsch pages, and used Category pages for my Marquez and Villarreal names with those thought in mind. Just trying to see if we can standardize the process for people who want to expand on the One-Name Study aspect of the WeRelate community rather than let it go by the way-side or get used solely in individual research pages. Here are some other one-page study links (Collections, general information and specific examples):

--BobC 14:48, 10 August 2009 (EDT)

Bob, your suggestion is okay with me; but how do we make users aware that there is a study of their surname on the surname page? I doubt that many users ever peruse the surname pages. The surname in place pages certainly do not seem to be used very often. --Beth 19:30, 10 August 2009 (EDT)
Someone could start a "One-Name Study" Portal using the WR Portal template, although (I may be wrong) the portals don't seem to get that much activity either yet -- at least the ones I see and use infrequently. What do you think? --BobC 23:23, 10 August 2009 (EDT)
Why not make use of the existing Person Portal to promote such studies? (And yes, we need to better promote/make visible the Portals.) jillaine 11:19, 11 August 2009 (EDT)
Regarding your comment about "Surname in Place," I find that feature not always helpful when using multiple surnames with multiple places, because WR automatically assigns each place to each person, when in fact you may have Smith surname from Atlanta, Georgia (not from anywhere else); Jones surname from Charleston, South Carolina (not from Atlanta or elsewhere), etc. --BobC 23:23, 10 August 2009 (EDT)
I concur with BobC here; I use "Surname in Place" category pages for distinguishing/discussing a given surname in a given location. For example: Category:Carter in Massachusetts and even more complex: Category:Taylor_in_Massachusetts.
I like the Community Portals but I don't think that a new user will have a clue from the title Community Portal. I think most genealogists are familiar with the connotation One Name Study so it would be advantageous to categorize all of our one name studies under that name. Exactly where to place the introduction to one's study is not clear to me yet. --Beth 00:01, 11 August 2009 (EDT)
I like the idea of using the Surname pages (or the Surname Category?) for one-name studies. Similarly, using either Place pages or Place Category pages for one-town studies. jillaine 11:19, 11 August 2009 (EDT)
I haven't been sure what to do with surname pages. As Beth says, they don't get a lot of traffic. I'm not sure if surname pages or articles are the best place for one-name-studies. Having a portal list the one-name-studies seems like a good idea. I'll follow this idea with interest.--Dallan 00:13, 11 August 2009 (EDT)
Don't give up on it yet, Dallan. It may not have taken off yet, but I think the longer WeRelate is around, the more downloads and family histories are added, and the more people use this service, I think "Surname" pages will be used more and will assume a greater role. Whether the loftier sounding tag "One-Name Study" is used instead of the more basic, less romantic "Surname" page, I think the function is the same: grouping a collection of same or similar surnames (with no known or possibly yet unconneted origins from multiple users) at a single reference point or clearinghouse (or yes, even "portal"). --BobC 00:43, 11 August 2009 (EDT)
I really recommend NOT creating a new set of pages for one-name studies when we already have TWO options for this-- either the Surname page or the Surname Category. What we need to answer is WHICH? jillaine 11:19, 11 August 2009 (EDT)
As the related entry on Wikipedia states, a One-Name Study is "Researching all occurrences of a surname, as opposed to a particular pedigree or descendancy... A one-name study is not limited to persons who are related biologically. Studies of more common surnames may have a number of family trees which have no link with each other. Findings from a one-name study are useful to genealogists, who burrow deeper than indexes, consulting the historical sources so as to write pedigrees or descendancy charts of single families that are usually subsets of the surname group. Onomasticians, who study the etymology, meaning and geographic origin of names, also draw on the macro perspective provided by a one-name study." So yes, I think the "Surname" pages provide (or will provide) a useful function here. My dilemna is, should I be using the Surname page for collecting that information or the Category page related to that surname? --BobC 00:43, 11 August 2009 (EDT)
Yes, I think this IS the dilemma: WHICH to use: Surname page or Surname Category? I lean towards the Category because it combines two uses into one. I'm just not sure why we'd need both, and if we were to get rid of one, I'd prefer we KEEP Surname Category. jillaine 11:19, 11 August 2009 (EDT)

Actually, I realize upon further reflection that the Surname pages do have nice fields for the alternate spellings. Mmm... Less certain, now. jillaine 11:24, 11 August 2009 (EDT)

That's why I said I like features of both, and both would make good "One-Name Study" gateways for individual surnames. A Surname Portal (or One-Name Study Portal) could then identify those surname pages (to include surname category pages) that the community is expanding for that purpose. When I have more time maybe this weekend I'll try to work on a draft version to see what you think. --BobC 17:24, 11 August 2009 (EDT)
Okay, I've created the Surname Portal! It's still a bit rough and somewhat preliminary, but hopefully a start to those who think the Surname feature (as in Single-Name Studies) should be kept intact and expanded upon here at WeRelate. Please feel free to add to it or modify as you see it further benefitting the community. --BobC 17:32, 13 August 2009 (EDT)
I think I favor the category pages since you get a list of people with that surname at the bottom. But I don't have a strong feeling either way.--Dallan 15:09, 1 September 2009 (EDT)

Surname portal and one name study [17 August 2009]

This topic was copied from discussion originating at a user talk page, and rather than be hidden at a private talk page might be more beneficial to others utilizing this portal here.

Hi Bob, your surname portal looks great, and I have no disagreement with your official definition of a one-name study; particularly by which one gains access to a membership in an organization of various one name studies. However your solution does not seem to offer a linking mechanism of various trees and pages that do not fit this definition. I have numerous trees about the Coker family that I have researched but these families are not linked; either because they are unrelated or the evidence is not yet forthcoming. Primarily the families are from Georgia and Alabama and migrated from South Carolina and then left Alabama and Georgia and migrated to MS, LA, TX and beyond. What are your suggestions for linking these independent trees and pages? --Beth 21:43, 16 August 2009 (EDT)

Perhaps I can answer that question best by borrowing from the Wikipedia's commentary to the scope of a One-Name Study: "In most one-name studies, a united lineage will not be discovered, but a broad perspective can be achieved, giving clues to name origin and migrations. Many researchers are motivated to go beyond the one-name-study stage and to compile fully researched, single-family histories of some of the families they discover." While the linkage itself is probably the "best case scenario" or the most desirable result of a thorough one-name study, it is not really the purpose of it.
I've been exactly where you're at on a number of different lines, having information about various lines of the same surname, and the name (or its variations) being so unusual I knew in my gut they were related, but it took years of research to finally connect the lines. Had I concentrated on my own proven line and only branched outward from what I knew to be in my direct ancetral line I feel quite certain I would have never made the connections to the other lines, and if I had it would have been years later. Saying it the other way, if I had not collected information on and then researched all the instances of the name I found before I discovered the connections btween them, I may not have connected them at all. As the Wikipedia article points out, "One-name researchers often begin a study in the hope that obtaining a massive data set will give them sufficient perspective to break through a barrier in their own family history research."
Beth, go to WeRelate's Most Wanted Categories page and tell me the that the top 50 surnames on that page, each of whom have over 3000 members (with the surnames of Smith, Calkins and Williams each with over 10,000), have "linking mechanisms" to each and every other surname in the same surname category. For sure they don't. What a daunting task they have! The WeRelate Surname pages and Surname Categories are in themselves the real one-name studies, and may help some members and users make the connection between them that they would not have found otherwise. That where the real information is; the Portal, at it's minimal use, hopefully can be used in highlighting those pages at WeRelate that go beyond researching single-family surname histories, and at it's greatest use, may be considered a gateway for those interested in discovering a broader perspective to the surnames they are interested in. --BobC 22:49, 16 August 2009 (EDT)

Well, Bob I don't really know what the 10,000 pages for Smith, Calkins and Williams have in common. I did not randomly select the Coker families and yes I am working on compiling fully researched, single-family histories of the families that I have discovered. As the administrator of the Coker DNA site, I may or may not cease to research certain family lines that I am presently researching. All of this still begs an answer to my initial question. Thanks. --Beth 23:29, 16 August 2009 (EDT)

I guess that's my point. The vast majority probably have very little in common. But then again some may have one or more pieces of genealogical data in common without the contributors knowing about it until they research it (or until a WR volunteer merger makes the connection). That's specifically one of the purposes of a One-Name Study: collecting and compiling apparantly disparate genealogical information in one place to try and find a related connection or common origin (such as you are pursuing on your DNA study). If you could double or triple the contributions to your Coker site or to your DNA project, don't you think that would proportionately increase your chance of discovering related connections or common origins?
You have quite a few contributed pedigrees from fellow researchers of the Coker name on your Patriarchs page, so in answer to your question that I am apparently eluding, you may want to utilize a relational database program to assist you in discovering common attributes between these individual names and Coker lines. While you may already be using a genealogical software program to track these family lines, keeping data tables on an Excel spreadsheet may help further, because you're able to view hundreds of items on a single sheet and use sorting options to recognize detectable patterns within the data.
Good luck in your search for connections. --BobC 09:20, 17 August 2009 (EDT)

Heraldry on Surname pages [5 March 2011]

You may not be able to stop people from placing coats of arms (blazons) on Surname pages, but I believe there should be a policy discouraging it. European style arms do not belong to a family. They are presented to individuals as a privilege of rank, and are inherited only as part of a hereditary title. In the United States, you can create your own arms, but there is no official body in that country that recognizes them as official (unless you make it your trademark, which is a corporate mark). The children of peers in countries like England have special charges called differences or brisures (the system is called cadency) placed on the arms of their father. If a son inherits a peerage, then he generally bears the same arms as his father. The arms then go with the title, not the surname.

In addition, people with the same surname may have very different origins. The Varner surname for example may come from germanic Werner, or the Irish Vernor. There's certainly no guarantee that the surname came from one individual, and in any event, the majority of people never bore arms at all. You had to at least be a knight to bear arms.

The web sites selling surname crests and novelty items are just trying to make money. They are really no different than someone selling you a star in the sky. There is no authority in these sources whatsoever.--Parsa 15:03, 4 March 2011 (EST)

I appreciate you bringing that subject up and I agree with most of what you say about the applicability of European heraldry to specific family history. I'll admit I have added a few of these blazons to more than a couple Surname pages. But that's because they are Surname pages, not Family pages. Surname pages are designed to contain and collect historical information about individual surnames regardless of family connections, whereas Family pages are designed to contain information about a specific family (meaning a husband, wife, their children and their parents). A surname page by design can be a compilation of research on all occurrences of a surname regardless of family connection, and I feel it is appropriate to include any and all connections and historical references to that name, as opposed to a particular pedigree or descendancy which would be more relevant to a family page. The results of the latest U.S. census may tell a different story, but I believe it is still true that a majority of Americans can trace their blood ancestry to European roots, so why not include that possible heraldic heritage on their surname page -- I certainly understand it may have no relevance to their family and should not be on their family page unless they have inherited it as part of a heraldic title, as you correctly write. --BobC 23:45, 4 March 2011 (EST)