Name entry for a wife with an unknown name
In Family Tree, you sometimes have the situation where the name of the wife of an ancestor is unknown, i.e., no known given name and no known maiden surname. For LDS members, temple work was always possible for these women. Past name submission standards would have you insert "Mrs." in front of the husband's name to produce the name of the wife, e.g., "Mrs. John Smith", which is why it is possible to find so many records from the past like that in Family Tree.
Of course, current name entry instructions in Help do not cover this situation. The only instructions that appear to exist are found in the Family Tree User Guide that is now almost 10 years old. See page 44 here: https://broadcast.lds.org/eLearning/fhd/Community/en/FamilySearch/FamilyTree/pdf/FamilyTreeUserGuide.pdf
It specifically says "If you do not know a mother’s or wife’s name, enter the husband’s last name. Do not enter a first name. Do not enter 'Miss' or 'Mrs' in any of the name fields." So, that would mean just entering "Smith" not "Mrs. John Smith".
As the only written instructions addressing this situation, that is exactly what I have done. The misery ensues.
I have shared these instructions with others who wanted to debate the issue. In one case, I have had the name modified 60 times over 5 years to change it to the husband's name with the addition of "Mrs.", to change it to just a period to make it unfindable, to change it to my user name, to change it to add inappropriate commentary in the name field itself, and to repeatedly unlink it altogether.
In another case, over a period of years another user would unlink the wife. It seemed to happen annually. When I shared the instruction, the response was that "it was a stupid rule" and that when they removed a relationship link that they "did so for good reason".
In the most recent case, the other user insists that use of the husband's name prefaced with "Mrs." is the official way it is done, but of course she cannot direct me to any instructions that say that.
So, is the original instruction in the 2013 manual still valid? If not, why is the obsolete manual still posted? If not, where is the replacement instruction? If it is still valid, why was it not picked for inclusion in the current Help related to how to enter names?
If this is another case of do it whatever way you want, as in most situations, that is completely unworkable because people will want to handle it differently resulting in edit after edit after edit after edit...
First, a disclaimer: I'm not a member of the LDS church, so their requirements do not influence or inform my ideas in any way.
My general thinking is that if you do not know any part of a person's name, then you don't know enough about her to create a profile. What little you know can be entered on her husband's profile instead, either in the Other Information section, or on the collaboration tab, or both.
Regarding the instructions from that PDF (which I have no idea how/where to find): I would interpret "Do not enter 'Miss' or 'Mrs' in any of the name fields" to mean "Please put titles in the title field". But the difficulty in interpretation of such instructions is doubtless one of the many reasons that FamilySearch does not issue a manual for Family Tree. Instead, they give us access to lots of short help files, such as https://www.familysearch.org/en/help/helpcenter/article/how-to-enter-names-in-family-tree -- which avoids ambiguity by simply not saying anything much.
I'm afraid that your desire for An Authority To Cite just ...ain't gonna happen. :-/ That's not how Family Tree has been set up.1
From the genealogical standpoint, in a database you sometimes need to add an unnamed wife as a placeholder because she is the mother of the children rather than another wife whose name is known. Omitting the unnamed wife in that case often results in the named wife incorrectly ending up as the mother of the children as a result of other users' editing. The placeholder makes it a little clearer.
I have also had a few cases where a burial reads "the widow of ..." so that I know the unnamed wife's burial date, but still don't know her own name. Entering that on her own record rather than the husband's record seems better. So, I think there are reasons for adding an unnamed wife/mother to Family Tree aside from LDS concerns.
My perspective is that Help is fairly difficult to use since searching anything like "names", "dates", and "places" results in hundreds/thousands of hits. The instructions such as in the known "how-to-enter-names-in-family-tree" instruction are purposely vague by design exactly as you point out, and that has been the approach in order to presumably make things easy. But, that ambiguity is what leads to conflicts and time wasted in editing and re-editing on the part of everyone. That approach ought to be reconsidered to put people onto the same page. Over the past 10 years, I have seen many competent researchers drop off Family Tree due to the constant assault on the data they have tried to maintain. A lot of that has to do the lack of standards, and this issue related to names is just one example.0
This is one of the very few areas in which the two overall purposes of Family Tree conflict. These purposes are 1) To serve as a worldwide repository of the best possible information of every identifiable person that has ever lived following generally recognized best practices in genealogy and 2) To provide the process for church members to complete temple work for their own ancestors and relatives.
Purpose 1 would say don't go making up names just to fill in a line on a form. Purpose 2 requires something for the wife or mother's name. Regarding that something, here is the article you are looking for that sets out the current requirements: https://www.familysearch.org/en/help/helpcenter/article/how-do-i-format-names-to-avoid-the-needs-more-information-error-when-reserving-ordinances It's one you need to be signed in with a member account to read.
It does state that one puts Title: Mrs., First Name: husband's first name, Last name: husband's last name. It specifically states that leaving out the husband's first name does not work. I assume this is because that is what clarifies that this is an old style married name and that the last name is not her maiden name.
Regarding what to do about conflicts about an unknown wife or mother, since the majority of users of Family Tree are not members of the church, it is probably best to follow genealogical conventions and leave the mother's name blank. But to complete ordinances, I would say it is perfectly fine to do the following:
- Enter the wife/mother's name as required.
- Reserve, print, and complete ordinances as soon as possible, ideally the same day.
- Delete the wife/mother from Family Tree.
- Put in a note that all the temple work is completed and does not need to be repeated but that to follow current genealogical practice you removed the wife/mother.
Family Tree is not the official temple record. That is a completely separate database and the ordinances you do will be maintained and show as completely valid there no matter what shows in Family Tree. You will see in Family Tree on the ordinance page of any of the children by the date for sealing to parents a blue box with the notice that the sealing is valid even though the parents do not show in Family Tree.
I think some of the conflict in Family Tree on this issue stems from the annoyance generated when people run across long lines of clearly made up names and information such as: Mr. Smith, who was the son of Mr. Smith, who was the son of Mr. Smith, who was the son of Mr. Smith, with all other information being "about" so the the person can complete generations of temple work for people that are completely unknown. That practice is just silly and should be strongly criticized.
To move on to the second topic here, however, what is best when there is information about a woman but her name is not known? You cannot create a profile in Family Tree without a name so you have to do something if there is information that should be added about her. A couple of years ago, I ran into a Norwegian parish register from the late 1700s in which there were several years of marriage records in which only the husband's name and the date were recorded. For some reason that priest saw no need to enter the wife's name. In Family Tree you cannot enter a marriage event without both spouses being there so it would be impossible to enter a marriage date for one of the men in that parish record without putting in some kind of place holder for the wife. I agree that it would be nice in such situations to have a generally accepted standard of what to enter.2
Thank you for the reference, that is the very piece of information I was looking for. But, the link I previously cited for the decade old Family Tree User Guide has a conflicting instruction. That document really ought to be taken offline.0
I handle this situation very often by entering Mrs and a husband's surname. At the very least, this signals to all contributors that the name is a placeholder. I then scour the children's sources for clues. Census records that give the mother's birthplace are a great help. I give her an "about" birth year based on her husband's birth year and the number and birth years of her children. Very often, these clues are enough for the hints system to find additional sources giving her maiden name, sometimes even her parents' names.
The entire process often takes no more than a minute or two.
But then there are the hard cases, the brick walls. @Robert V. Bremer are you struggling with a hard case?0
I adopt a totally different approach! Unless I am very sure an individual was born / died, say, +/- 5 years of a particular year I would always leave the field blank. I certainly wouldn't base a wife's unknown birth year on that of her husband. I have couples where the gap in ages is between 10 and 20 years - in a few cases, the wife being the older of the two by that sort of margin. I particularly dislike entries showing "after 1910" for a death, just because the user has not found any records for an individual post the 1910 census. In one case a found the death to have been in 1948, so what help is an entry that links in any way to 1910?
Inputting "guesstimates" has often only served to throw me off a trail, so I adopt the motto, "If in doubt, leave it out". On a number of occasions I have viewed a family from the Landscape view and gained the impression that a birth or death year had been established (no ""before", "after" or "about" is carried over to the Landscape view from the Details pages).
The other thing I would never do is, say, add John Smith's wife as "Mrs Smith". I do not find any way in which this might prove helpful. Again, this might be likely to confuse matters - maybe there never was a "Mrs Smith", so there would be no marriage to be found.
I cannot deny that your methods appear to work for you, but (however "useful") I could never advise other users to make inputs that have no evidence, or (if the case of "after" conclusions) are often totally meaningless.0
I particularly dislike entries showing "after 1910"
I did lots of tests and found "before" and "after" dates to be not helpful, except to list children and spouses in the correct order. Years ago I entered "before" and "after" death dates; now I delete same.
However, even if a person's estimated birth year is off by decades, I find the estimate still helpful. It rules out historical records of persons with the same name, in the same place, but in different centuries. Very often there is indirect evidence, and entering the approximate birth information is enough to generate good hints.
It is important here to explain that an approximate birth date and place is NOT a guess; I approximate based on at least some evidence.
Mrs. If a man has children then there was a woman. I don't care if a marriage happened or not. In Hungary, where married women kept their maiden surnames, I rarely use Mrs. In North America, I often use Mrs and the surname of the father of her children; very often, that gets me additional records with her maiden name. Or at least her given name. If I have her given name, I use that alone. So Mrs Smith becomes Anne and Alternate Name Anne Smith.0
Sometimes, a "before" or "after" date for a death is helpful: if you know that the person was still living in 1943, when he appears as a mourner on his sister's funeral notice, then you know that the guy with the same name who died in 1929 is definitely not him. This is so whether he turns out to have died in 1945 or 1988.
(In Hungary, a married woman didn't partially change names: she acquired a full new name in addition to her old one. That is, if Bokor Julia married Nagy Samu, she became Nagy Samuné, not Nagy Julia. If the clerk recording her in the register was in a hurry or short of space, he'd stick with just Bokor Julia, since Nagy Samu was already entered as her husband, so anyone with basic sense could tack the -né onto it. In the earlier long-form civil registrations, on the other hand, she'd most likely be either Bokor Julia [férjezett] Nagy Samuné, or Nagy Samuné [született] Bokor Julia, since there was plenty of room.)0
As long as there is no indication on the pedigree view pages that a person died "after" a certain date I stand by my point of not entering such detail when there is no evidence of a date. I work from Landscape view quite a lot and use this a a guide as to what birth years and death years have already been established. I would not give priority to looking for, say, a death date if it appears on the chart. I would assume there is evidence for it having being found (by me or another user).
I have long requested that about / before / after inputs should be carried over to the pedigree views. Currently I, and other users, are being tricked into believing a person really did die in (say) 1943, when the only conclusion that a user actually came to was that they died (sometimes many years) after 1943.
Obviously, I do (later) get around to checking each Details page to confirm the vitals inputs, but it would be really helpful for me (in prioritising my tasks) if users refrained from adding these prefixes to dates. I would then be confident at being able to see, in one view, the missing vitals of individuals in a particular branch - extended over several generations.
By there not being any estimated dates, I know, over a number of generations of a family branch, what I need to find. Had an estimated date been given for Robert Coote's (buried 1711) birth, that would not have gone on my "ptiority checks" list - as I would have assumed it had been identified. Likewise, if an approximate date of death been entered for Charles Coote (bapt 1696). I have thousands of IDs in Family Tree on which my work is ongoing - this method of checking for missing vitals has proved to be of great help in prioritising those for whom there are (clearly) missing vitals. Other users adding approximate dates (especially "after" ones) is not helpful to me.0
Many apologies for my secondary issues taking your original post so far "off topic".0