Genealogy Tips

How abbreviations can cause confusion

Today, I came across the post Surname Saturday – LNU (England > New England, wife of Francis Hamant) on Randy Seaver’s Genea-musings blog.

In it, he featured his ancestor Sarah LNU, who had married Francis Hamant, and this got me thinking – LNU doesn’t look like a surname, it looks like an abbreviation.

So I decided to have a look to see how many family trees online have someone with the surname LNU in their family tree. There were quite a few.  And not just family trees – there’s also entries in books with this surname.

And I kept thinking – what would LNU stand for?  Oh, that’s right Last Name Unknown.

When I first started using a family tree program, if I didn’t know the surname, I would use “Unknown”.  Then later, I started to use a question mark “?”

But somewhere along the line I read an article that said, if you don’t know a name (either a given name or a last name), leave it blank – then there’s no room for confusion. If new researchers (and those not so new to family history research!) come across LNU, FNU, SNU, GNU, CNU, UNK, (or even Unknown) they can think these are the actual names, and not realize they are abbreviations.

So, what about if you know there’s a child or children to a man by a different mother, but you don’t know her name yet?  In RootsMagic, you can right click on the father, select add child, and then choose <<John Smith (or whatever his name is) and another spouse>>, and then continue to add the child (or children).

In Legacy, the process is a little trickier.  You need to select Add from the menu and then in the Add Unlinked there’s the option to add a Male or a Female.  Then when you Click to add father to this person, choose Link to an existing person, rather than Add a New person, and then select the father from the name list.  Then you can add any other children to this family group.