Going back in my genealogy, I find children who died in infancy. Some were given names, some weren't. How should I record those with no given names? Often there were multiple unnamed children in a single family. I usually know the gender of the child, but even then there are cases with two unnamed males or such.

  • How should I record this to make it clear at first glance (1) this child had no given name, and (2) this is not the same as the other unnamed child (if there is one in that family)?
  • Is there a standard convention?
  • 4
    The difficulty of framing this question highlights a key problem of G&FH -- the primacy that our social organisation (and our software) places on "names" and our total lack of agreement on what we mean by the term. The long (and unwieldy) form of the question is What should I use as the identifier (commonly coded as NAME) for a person apparently not assigned a name during his or her life?
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 23:49

6 Answers 6


The usual way to record stillborn children is with inherited name only, and identical birth and death dates. The inherited name is derived from the record in the same as is it for other children; if not explicitly stated, it is typically the last name of the father, the last name of the mother, a patronym or a matronym. If the gender is documented, it should be recorded. In the rare cases that a stillborn child has been given a name, you must use it.

You may wish all parents named their stillborn children, but it is not hard to understand that many would rather not do so.

Lack of a given name of is a historical fact you should respect. You should not make up names, use a phrase like "baby", "stillborn", "unnamed" or anything like that as a name, nor use numbers. Your software will "name" and number all children when you create a report, according to the conventions for that report.

Software that does not allow an empty given name field fails as genealogy software. Use of the abbreviation N.N. (Nomen Nescio, Latin: name, I don't know) may seem appropriate, but N.N. should not be used in lieu of a given name. You can use P.N. (Prenom Nescio, Latin: given name, I don't know) as a temporary workaround for the limitation, but the real solution is to upgrade to something better.

In case of stillborn multiples, the children should be entered just as they would be entered if they weren't stillborn; in order of record.

Identically named and unnamed children of the same parents are a fact of genealogy. Their different birth dates, death dates, and the different records these dates are based on, are how you tell them apart from each other.

  • In the case that a software doesn't accept the lack of name, "Unnamed" would be acceptable, IMHO. Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 12:03
  • @TamuraJones, I accept your desire to add a family name, or some other form of inherited name, even in cases where no given name has been assigned. However, in cases where there is no birth registration (e.g. stillborns) then that is technically a conclusion rather than something supported by evidence. It could be a sensitive subject so I won't pursue it further.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 12:48
  • @ACProctor, please explain your comment. How would you even know about a stillborn child in a family if there is no registration? Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 12:50
  • @LennartRegebro Good point. Updated answer to address it. Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 12:51
  • @TamuraJones, In a word, testimony. I have several cases in my own data
    – ACProctor
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 13:05

The question was for unnamed children, but the answer (the way I read it) makes the assumption that that these are stillborn children. It is only a "modern" practice to give names immediately at birth. I have aunts and uncles that went unnamed for weeks. From family letters written by my grandmother to my grandfather, he was working 20 miles from home, so he would only come home once a week or so. Maybe hard to imagine when most people commute that much every day. They debated on what to name the child.

I'm sure everyone has seen census records where children months old were listed by the enumerator as "unnamed," "not named," "no name," etc. Go to FamilySearch for the 1900 census https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1325221

and put in "unnamed" and there are 38,010 results. Put in "not named" and there are 347,109 results. "No name" has 389,371 results. Just on the first page of results for "not named" there was one person over 2 years old who was "not named."

I've seen Bible records where the father listed "daughter" born on a date and "died at 8 days old," etc.

Personally, I wouldn't use Latin abbreviations of N. N. or P. N., as those could (and most likely would) be interpreted by someone as being the known initials for given names (that were not known). I personally put "unnamed daughter" (or son or child) as in the case of the above Bible record I listed, or for church records which burials (but not baptisms) for "son/daughter/child of John Smith was buried on 6 May 1776, age 3 days." Yes, in the latter that's an assumption that the child was not named, but in some cultures a child was not given a name until they were baptized.


This question is related to (but not identical to) How should I distinguish siblings named identically?.

It is wrong to create a fake personal name, or to add annotation like a birth date or ordinal suffix to a personal name. If the child didn't have a personal name then none should be recorded.

However, the label or title field, or whatever your software product uses to represent a person in reports and charts, can and should be used for this purpose. I know of no specific standard or convention for what to put in that field in this situation so it's largely a matter of preference.

Technical Note added later:- A Personal name, or place of birth, or date of birth, etc., are data recorded for specific properties. These should be transportable if you plan to share your data. Special states such as 'none' or 'unknown' are usually represented by meta-data, or the absence of a value. Using a textual substitute such as "UNKNOWN" is locale-dependent (i.e. might not read well to a non-English speaker) and could cause ambiguity in a different language. This doesn't prevent your software displaying "UNKNOWN" for you, as an end-user, but that's different to what is stored in the data itself.

  • 3
    The assertion that "It is wrong to ..." is (as it stands) a completely unsupported opinion with which Humpty Dumpty (gutenberg.org/ebooks/12) would certainly disagree. You may argue that it is inconvenient, or potentially confusing, or even that it is deprecated by a named authority. But when an answer concludes (correctly) that the issue is largely a matter of preference, "it is wrong" is WRONG.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 0:00
  • @Fortiter, I stand by my assertion. A personal name is exactly that. You wouldn't fake an address simply because you didn't have one to hand. The "preference" is only in the detail of what goes in the title field, and "largely" because there are practical considerations like uniqueness and ordering to incorporate.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 12:40
  • It is wrong to use the title field for anything but titles. Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 12:53
  • @TamuraJones, What does that actually mean? An entity title, or label, is exactly what I suggested. Maybe you have a different concept in mind.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 13:08
  • 1
    Whether or not the author of a software tool had a definite purpose in mind for each named field, I reserve the right to "abuse it" for whatever purpose suits my needs. You may caution me against doing so. You may explain the risks to me. But don't tell me it is "wrong" to do it. Or is genealogy (or family history, we did not decide, did we) the most prescriptive activity known to humankind?
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 13:56

Others have commented about their approach to record entry.

Luke also asked, "Is there a standard convention?"

A good way of familiarizing yourself with standard practices is to read scholarly journals; examples from the United States are The Register, The Quarterly and The Record.

For the purpose of your question, I happened to pull a copy of The Register, v161 (January 2007). Skimming the issue quickly, I found two articles that remarked about unnamed children. In both cases, the given name space was simply "child"; references follow.

Example 1: Deborah Kimball Nowers, "Osmond Trask and his children of Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 161 (Jan 2007): 47-61, p. 59 for the two children, numbered and listed as:

ix. Child, d. 18 Jan 1730-31.

x. Child, d. 7 April 1731.

Both the above entries cite the Vital Records of Beverly; 2:580 and 2:583, respectively.

Register-style Child Lists, from which the entries above were extracted, omit the surname; so generally the given name only appears.

Example 2: This example is perhaps more interesting, given the lifespan information.

R. Andrew Pierce, "Joseph Daggett of Martha's Vineyard, his Native American wife, and their descendants," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 161: 5-21, see p. 19 for the Child List entry:

ii. child, b. by Oct. 1725; d. before 17 July 1747, the date of Edward Cottle's deed described above.

From the description, the existence of the child seems inferred from the will; I didn't further research.

  • Do the articles you consulted contain any explicit statement that the child was "not named" rather than "name not known"? It seems to me that this convention does not exclude that potential confusion.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 2:19
  • In the Beverly Vital Records, no name and unnamed are listed the similarly. See ma-vitalrecords.org/MA/Essex/Beverly/Images/Beverly_D583T.shtml
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 2:29
  • This answers highlights an existing report style. It does not answer the question how an unnamed child should be recorded. Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 13:07
  • 1
    @TamuraJones Please clarify. I don't see what I am missing. There were two parts (bulleted list) to Luke's question. In one part, Luke asked if there was a "standard convention." My answer acknowledges that others have responded about the different recording process they use; I'm responding about the "standard convention" used by The Register. Which software they use or don't use at The Register doesn't even seem relevant.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 13:58
  • @GeneJ, I think he means that what is recorded, in the database, is not necessarily the same as was listed in the report listing. I would certainly expect this to be the case if I were not an English speaker (i.e. I would expect to see something relevant to me). This twist is relevant to other comments but we'll never reach unanimous agreement :-(
    – ACProctor
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 14:09

In cases where the infant died unnamed I use simply "Baby Girl" or "Baby Boy" and the surname. If twins I put a number 1 or 2 after the sex. In case of unknown gender I use "Baby". That way I record the child in the tree whether if was stillborn or did not live very long. Sometimes the family had a name planned for the child which they may still use when referring to the infant. While it may not be on the BC or DC it was a family name. I use that too.

  • Your terrific answer highlights the potential conflict between the officially-valued names (recorded on certificates and given in christening ceremonies or the equivalent) and how a mother refers to her child, whether living or not. Very few are "unnamed" in the second sense. Perhaps acknowledging that is one of the differences between genealogy and family history.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 2:13

I had a similar dilemma some time ago in my own tree. The case I encountered was a set of twins that had died within a couple days of their birth. I had the bright idea that I would name them "Son (1) of Binkele" and "Son (2) of Binkele".

I haven't seen a standard conventional way of correcting the "infant-died at birth", that can separate them and to make it clear at first glance.

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