Person entity suggested name: Nominal Record
What is a person? What elements does each person have that are mandatory? What are the optional elements? What elements may belong to a person or may be better defined elsewhere?
Definition and Issues
This is the entity type for an individual human being. There are two types of Person entity types sometimes discussed. The first is a Person entity type that records only the information about a person that can be taken from a single item of evidence. This usually includes the person's name and one or two (sometimes no) other information. This kind of Person entity is sometimes called an evidence entity since its information is derived from evidence. Some proposed names for this entity type include Person, Persona, Nominal. The second kind of Person entity holds all the information that can deduced about a person, at that stage. This may include name, vital information from whatever sources have been found, residence information that might come from census records, and so on, to produce an entity that is as complete as possible. This second kind of entity can be referred to as a conclusion entity, because it contains all a researcher has found out about the person. Note that "conclusion" may give a misleading impression of finality - the term "current working hypothesis person" has also been suggested. Some names that have been proposed for this type of entity are Person and Individual.
The evidence and conclusion / working hypothesis model is designed to support the process of Analysis, which uses Evidence as input to the Analysis process and outputs Conclusions (a.k.a. working hypotheses). This model enables the permanent recording of Evidence input and Conclusions output from each process of Analysis. Note further that the output
conclusions from one analysis process could form the input
evidence to a further
iteration of analysis, and that therefore one entity can be both evidence and conclusion, since they are evidence and conclusion to different iterations of analysis. (c.f. Elizabeth Shown Mills' statement, "SOURCES provide INFORMATION from which we select EVIDENCE for ANALYSIS. A sound conclusion may then be considered "PROOF" from "Evidence Analysis: A Research Process Map.")
Questions being considered about Person entities include:
- Which concept(s) of Person entity should the BetterGEDCOM model support? Most current data models and genealogy programs support a conclusion-only version, since this is the most obvious and meaningful for general users. It is difficult to envisage a conversion process that could split an existing conclusion (a.k.a. working hypothesis) only file into a file containing both evidence and working hypothesis persons, suggesting that the BetterGEDCOM data model must support, at least, working-hypothesis-only data. However the evidence and conclusion / working hypothesis version provides the kind of support a researcher needs into order to gather evidence and then infer the set of individuals mentioned. It is therefore suggested that the BetterGEDCOM model supports both evidence and conclusion / working hypothesis person concepts, while also allowing for working-hypothesis-only data.
- If the BetterGEDCOM model supports both evidence and conclusion / working hypothesis person concepts, can they both be based on the same Person entity type and can they both be used simultaneously? Or would there have to be two separate kinds of Person entities? Consideration of the real-world genealogical attributes and relationships for a working hypothesis person suggest that they have all come from an evidence person, and that therefore the attributes and relationships are identical on the two. Further, the iterative nature of analysis referred to above suggests that an entity can be, at the same time, a working hypothesis and an evidence entity. This suggests strongly that the entity type is the same for both uses. Note that some optional minor attributes and relationships might differ between the two uses.
Analysis of attributes and relationships
Attributes and relationships can be categorised in at least two ways. Firstly:
- Attributes and relationships derived from, and known to, the real-world, such as name(s), dates of birth, occupations, marriages, etc.
- Attributes and relationships used internally by the processes and software of genealogy / family history, such as UUIDs, Ahnentafel numbers, privacy flags, keys, etc. These are crucial to the processes and software but unlikely to be meaningful to the person in the street.
Another way to categorise is to split a person's attributes by type. This distinction is probably meaningful only to genealogists and software people but needs to be considered here. The original GEDCOM format split (most of) a person's real-world data into "events" and "attributes". Note that the GEDCOM use of the term "attribute" must not be confused with the use of the term attribute in data modelling. The distinction between "events" and "attributes" in GEDCOM was never, in the author's view, very clear, and some software using GEDCOM just referred to both as "facts". In the BetterGEDCOM model, there is an argument for extending the concept of "event" so that it may apply to more than one person. For instance, a birth event typically (but not always) involves three people - the child and two biological parents - but in GEDCOM applies only to the child, with the parents being implied by whatever the contemporary family is. A marriage can involve four people - bride, groom and two (sometimes) witnesses. A natural disaster can involve numerous people in the area. Residence can involve several people living as one household. In none of these cases, does the current GEDCOM structure allow easy, consistent and machine-readable recording of all participants in the event. If BetterGEDCOM does extend the "event" to allow participation by multiple persons, what about what GEDCOM refers to as "attributes"? The author can see no justification for extending "attributes", which I shall now call Characteristics, to apply to multiple people. A physical description only makes sense if it applies to one person only - the same words may be used elsewhere, but the phrase describes one person only. A name applies to one person only - again, the words may be used elsewhere, but the name applies only to one. Further, the difference between Characteristics and (multi-person) Events is not just one of number of people involved - but in the case of the Characteristics, if the Characteristic is entered, there is always
a value of the Characteristic, e.g. the name, the actual physical description, a list of possessions or the occupation. It may be useful
to have a descriptive text for an event but in many cases it is simply unnecessary as the event can be sufficiently "described" from its own attributes. The second way to categorise attributes and relationships of Persons is therefore:
- Characteristics - describe the current information known about a certain characteristic of a single person and, if present, require a mandatory value of some sort;
- Events - describe an event that may affect multiple people and need not have a mandatory value.
Questions to be asked about attributes of Person:
- Should Events in BetterGEDCOM apply to one or multiple persons (rather than always just one)? (An alternative could be to create a Group entity for this event and apply the Event to the single Group, then trace through the Group to the Persons concerned)
- Does the definition of a Characteristic make sense?
- Is the categorisation into Characteristics and Events useful? Or should both concepts simply be referred to as Facts? (If the answer to the first two questions is "yes", then referring to both as Facts will obscure the applicability of a Characteristic to a single Person only).
(Please respond to Questions on Discussion pages
See "Event entity
" for detailed consideration of Events.
See "Characteristic entity
" for detailed consideration of Characteristics.
Attributes of Person entity attached directly to that entity, i.e. not to Events or Characteristics:
An optional UUID (Universally Unique Identifier).
Flags for privacy and security
Potential facts about people to be stored as Characteristic entities (assuming it is part of the model)
Note that all of these Characteristics may occur multiple times - e.g. a Person may have several names over the course of their life, each to be recorded on one Characteristic entity.
All these are optional
Names (names should have date elements) - including nicknames, alternate names, married names, etc. Consider name templates: examples could include Western European, Patronymic, Matronymic, Medieval, geographical-titular noble [see below])
Title(s) - prefix/suffix; Nobility
Gender (male, female, unknown [intersex? should this element have a date sub-element?])
Award (e.g. medal, etc. Description is name of the award.)
Educational qualification (description is name of the qualification)
Military service (description is name of unit or service served in)
National ID number / SSN, etc
National or tribal origin
Occupation (entity to include further attribute for employers, etc.)
Patent or trademark (description is short description of patent / tradmark)
(Many of the above have been extracted from GEDCOM 5.5 and their exact meaning is not always clear. This may, or may not, be an issue
Potential facts about people to be stored as Event entities (assuming it is part of the model)
All these are optional
Annulment of marriage
Baptism / Christening
Divorce, divorce filing
Education (attendance at school, college, etc)
Graduation (but see Educational Qualification)
Marriage, marriage banns, marriage license, marriage contract / prenuptial agreement, marriage settlement, etc
Residence at a location
Will (making of)
(Many of the above have been extracted from GEDCOM 5.5 and their exact meaning is not always clear (e.g. the difference between baptism and christening). This may, or may not, be an issue
Question - Do we add the LDS events (e.g. sealing in a temple) that are listed in current GEDCOM
as standard BetterGEDCOM events, or do we specify that the software convert such facts as user defined extensions to BetterGEDCOM? (Respond on Discussion pages, please
The following sentences and phrases are text left over from a previous version of this page and not included above for one reason or another:
- "All records should also have a set of UUIDs for which it is known that this record represents" - the author is not clear on the meaning of this phrase;
- "Heraldry" This was a proposed event / characteristic - the author is unclear what is meant by this as it is a hugely complex topic;
- "Membership" This was a proposed event / characteristic - I suggest this belongs to the relationship between a Person and a Group.
- "Certification" This was a proposed event / characteristic - its meaning is not clear enough to decide whether it is an event or characteristic;
- "Surety / bonding" This was a proposed event / characteristic - its meaning is not wholly clear to me. I know of its use in marriage licences - what is the generic case?
- "Sample Media oriented Events: Likeness ..." This was a proposed event / characteristic - is this not simply the same as Physical Description but with added media?