Language of names
I'm running across a lot of records with names given in Latin. Latin is not one of the dropdowns in the "language" box for names. I don't want to list "other" since I can be more specific. Can Latin be added as a language? Surely this situation comes up frequently.
There was a suggestion for this already in a previous forum system (https://community.familysearch.org/en/discussion/comment/257642#Comment_257642), from before they added many of the current language choices to the options. (So pre-2018, I think?) It also predates this current forum software and therefore doesn't have any upvotes. Maybe we should revive that thread and get everyone to upvote it.2
In my experience, using "other" in the name field usually means one of the following:
* The data was part of the initial import in 2012ish
* The data came from someone importing a GEDcom file
* Whoever entered the data didn't know what they were doing (this has lots of overlap with the previous one)
If upvoting a forum post is how to get suggestions noticed, I guess I can try that, but it seems terribly inefficient.1
@JD Cowell, in my experience, 99% of "other"-language names are due to a totally different cause:
* The correct language wasn't available when the name was entered.
I don't know when exactly the Ideas thread I referenced was created (besides "at some point before October 2019"), but at that time, there were 21 choices in the drop-down. Now there are 34. One of the added languages is Hungarian, which is a Very Good Thing from my perspective, but there's still no Latin.1
Is this Church Latin? I find the spellings so inconsistent that I do not even include them as Alternate Names, and if there were a Latin language option I would not use it; Other fits perfectly. I use the language field of the community.0
@dontiknowyou, yes, most Latin recordings of names are from church registers, although sometimes they're from government documents like letters patent or tax lists.
I'm curious about this inconsistency that you perceive. In my experience, there can be a little bit of variation overall -- for example, some clerks liked their 'h's and used Johannes and Katharina, while other clerks eschewed the 'h' and used Joannes and Katarina -- but within a document or even an entire register, it's mostly the same choices. There certainly tends to be a lot less variation in given name spellings than in surname spellings, and the latter has nothing to do with Latin. (In the genealogical timeframe, the usual practice was to translate given names but to leave surnames in their vernacular form.)
Hmm: I wonder if your perception of inconsistency is actually Latin grammar? Depending on the phrasing/formulation of the register entries, the parents' names may be in the genitive case, and the godparents or witnesses may be ablative? I think. One of the ones ending in -o, anyway. The grammar affects the endings of the given names, but leaves the surnames unchanged. Here's a guide from the (UK) National Archives with examples: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/latin/reference/how-to-decline-personal-names/.
In the broad view, the language of a name is a small detail that mostly doesn't show and makes little difference to searching. (FS's algorithms "know" all of the major equivalents, although they have loads of trouble with the more obscure ones, such as Emericus versus Imre.) Arguably, all of the Latin-alphabet surname-last languages could just be grouped together, because it makes no practical difference whether a particular name is English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, or Swedish -- or Latin. It's a detail that's only really relevant or important for languages that change how names are written -- either in a different alphabet (such as Russian), or in a different order (such as Hungarian), or both (such as Japanese). However, more information is better than less, and maybe there will be a future revision of the format that actually shows this detail at a glance. (Given current trends toward hiding everything behind extra clicks and mystery meat navigation, it'll be many years before such a change, but one can hope.)2
This might help:
FOREIGN VERSIONS VARIATIONS AND DIMINUTIVES OF ENGLISH NAMES FOREIGN EQUIVALENTS OF
UNITED STATES MILITARY AND CIVILIAN TITLES
Church Latin can be sketchy. It is most apparent in large families, where the mother's given and/or family name may get suffixes, and the suffix may be -in or -lin (German) or -am or -ae or some other depending on which declension was in use. This could vary by recorder and perhaps as a matter of taste. There also are substitutions of letters: Classical Latin did not have the letters K and Z but a "purist" could substitute the letter C. Or not. Also, equivalent names could be used. Hence a Karl may be Carl, Carol, Carolus, Caroli, etc.
To deal with this I use wildcards in searches, and I attach sources that others might hesitate to attach, not being sure they belong. But what I don't do is capture every variation as an Alternate Name. Trying to capture every variation in the profile just encourages bad hints.0
@dontiknowyou Yes, I agree that the Latin in the records is often inconsistent. This is most obvious when looking at records of multiple children born to the same couple when the parents' names are spelled differently depending on the record. It's possible this was a transcription error (I don't usually have access to the images to verify) but I'd bet it's more likely that whoever recorded the data didn't always know how to decline correctly.
Regardless, in cases where church records are the only records to have been found, a name still has to be entered, and I'd prefer to use the name as extant rather than guessing when possible, and it would be useful to indicate this.
Why even have a language field if we're not going to use it to its full extent, &c.
@Julia Szent-Györgyi I'll admit that the language being added later was a possibility that didn't occur to me, but the vast majority of names I've seen this happen with are (apparently) English and in the United States, and some of them had been edited as recently as 2019, and frequently later. Do we know when the language feature was added at all? Anyway, I try to assume good faith, but when that's not possible I settle for Hanlon's Razor.0
@dontiknowyou, of course one doesn't need to record every variation -- just the nominative case, in its most usual spelling. Of your examples, Carl is German, Carol I haven't encountered (but could be an abbreviation or "lazy way out"), Carolus is the Latin nominative, and Caroli is the Latin genitive -- and the choice of that was absolutely not a matter of taste, but of grammar (conveyance of the desired meaning).
(The declension of a noun is not a choice, but a classification. One has to learn it along with the spelling and meaning of the word. I think you may have meant "case", but again, that's not a random choice: it's determined by what one wants to say.)1
@JD Cowell, my memory for timing is mostly nonexistent, but based on various clues, I think the existence of a language drop-down dates to about mid-decade, at which time it had 21 choices, and the additional languages date to about 2018. I believe that data entered before the language drop-down was added had a default of "other" assigned to it.
There are still situations where the language drop-down is not available. For example, when adding a profile via Source Linker, you cannot change the language of the name. (It's not something I do often enough to have figured out any pattern or rule about what language it defaults to.)1
In Latin, case and declension form a 6x5 matrix. Latin common nouns have established declensions. Much later European personal names do not. Some of the usage in Church Latin records is amateurish.0
I feel that I run into this elemental issue year by year as Don Quijote... or Don Quixote ;)
The most of the matriculas written in Latin by the churches of the area where Roman script is used as an alphabetic writing system. Roman script = Latin script. Whatever we called ("amateurish" or "sketchy") it is still Latin. Not English nor "other" just Latin. I do not mind if a new language appears tomorrow even called "Church Latin" with a one-click option to convert ALL the record what I previously marked as "other". It is tens of thousand of mismarked language records in my case.0