Monday, March 14, 2011

To MNU or NOT To MNU, That is the Question

Copyright 2011, CABS for Reflections From the Fence

Note to my readers, I wrote this piece several months ago, it has been sitting in the que since.  I must have been in a, mmm, interesting mood the day I wrote it.  Here is your warning:  be prepared for possible snide remarks, defensiveness on the part of the writer (mmm, that would be Moi) and a stab or two at subtle humor, which probably fail. I offer my apologies before you read it!


OK, I know this is REALLY controversial out there in genie research land.  It has been for years, so that's nothing new.  There are those that believe if you MNU, you are well, close to as dirt as you can get.

So, what is MNU for those that have NO clue as to what I am talking about.

MNU = Maiden Name Unknown.

It is an abbreviation, oh, the horror of it, especially for Moi, one who hates abbreviations with a passion.

Where do I use this abbreviation?  Well, in my data base.  (What is that loud sound, ohhhh, the gasps of my readers, horror gasps, loud gasps too!)

And, here is how I use MNU:

Mary Lashbrook(mnu) which means, a bride of a Lashbrook fellow, she has a given name of Mary.  We have NOT A CLUE in the world as to her maiden name.  So, we indicate she is a Lashbrook (maiden name unknown).

Oh, sure, I could use, oh, Mary Unknown.  I could use [-?-], or some other set of question marks or stars or just about anything in that surname field of my database.

So, why do I use MNU in my data base, when, I am fully aware that it is frowned upon by many genie researchers?

Simple, because it 'sorts' so darned nice.  Here is what it looks like in my data base, when I go looking for Lashbrooks:

Lashbrook, William M.
Lashbrook, William N.
Lashbrook, William Royal
Lashbrook(mnu), Ivonne
Lashbrook(mnu), Lena
Lashbrook(mnu), Lydia

Simply put it keeps all the Lashbrooks together alphabetically.  I know they are there and several times a year I have another detailed look at my MNU gals and see if I can figure out who they really are and give them back their maiden name.  Over the years I have done just that, lots less MNU gals now than 5 years ago.

For  the record, Mary Unknown and Lisa Unknown and Samantha Unknown, will all sort with the rest of the "Unknown" family.  Trouble is, Mary Unknown was married to a Mr. Jones, Lisa Unknown was married to a Mr. Gotyourselfinknots and Samantha Unknown was married to a Mr. Clearlyouhavethisallmessedup.  For me, I would rather Mary Unknown married to a Mr. Jones be sorted as Mary Jones(mnu) along with her hubby Mr. Jones and their children, Billy Jones, Christa Jones, John Jones, Marvin Jones, etc.  If you have "unusual" names, this works even better to your advantage, I mean, cause really, how many Gotyourselfinknots families do you have in your data base??

If I record my unknown brides as Mary [-?-], basically the same thing happens during sorting as does with the Unknown family.  All the brides with a surname of  '[-?-]'  sort together (and, in my case, with my data base, they sort at the top of the alphabet).  Again, for me, this is not optimal.

So, that is my story and I am stickin' to it (graphic of a sheepish grin would go nice about here, no NOT this sheep, just a funny looking grin).

MNU works for me, and has been working for me for about 20 years.  Tis my data base, she says just a little defensively, and I get to do stuff like this my way.  If it makes it somewhat easier for me and it works for me, why not??

Do you MNU??  If not, how do you handle your brides with no surnames?  I love to hear how others handle situations like this, and why.  I can always learn something, can't you??

* Graphic of lady in silhouette courtesy of, no she is not Mary Lashbrook(mnu), nor is she Mary Unknown, or Mary [-?-]  She is just a graphic for crying out loud.

** If you got past the snide and the defensive, I hope you found the humor, was it subtle enough??

***Graphic of sheep with sheepish grin, courtesy of cornerstone clublambs. Their sheep however, blinks his eyes, but since I have had trouble with Blogger in the past with moving graphics, I skipped the blinkers.


Russ said...


I enjoy reading your Blog, and the graphics you use.

I have a standard way that I handle Unknown Names, both Forenames and Surnames. After looking are Charts and Reports in my database and trying most of your examples, I have decided on using 5 Underscores. " _____ ".

Reason: if readers see that in a Chart or Report and they know the answer, they will help me "fill in the blanks".

Yup, I have a bunch of them, and I have a bunch of _____ _____ in my file. Usually, it is information from a Census Record where the Birth place is listed for a parent. I want to capture that bit of information.

I did find your use of MNU quite helpful and will have to try that out.

Thank you for your suggestion.


IrishEyesJG said...

Dear Carol,

How interesting that you should repost this today, when I just read your original of this post the other day. I don't currently use MNU, but may become a convert, because I definitely see the value in it when it comes to sorting. Above all, as you've said, it's your database, so you should work it as it works for you.

By the way, looking forward to hearing about the history of Mr. Gotyourselfinknots. Wonder if he's related to my Mr. Knickersinaknot?

Cheers :-) Jennifer

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

Holy cow...or..err..SHEEP! Wish I'd thought of this 16 or so years ago Carol! I think it's brilliant! I have, at last count, over a gazillion Mary UNKNOWNs in my database and well over a gazillion with 'other' first names, half of them being Elizabeth. I may have to adopt this "frowned upon" practice and be hanged right along with you!

Barbara Poole said...

I hate seeing a lot of "Unknowns" in the data base. It was interesting reading your method of dealing with them. My way is different, of course. I put Mary w/o John Reflection. That way, she says in the Reflection family and I know instantly her husband's name. Anything is better than just Unknown.

Carol said...

Russ, thank you for reading and sharing your way of dealing with this problem. I can see the value of the _____ in a printed version. Cleaver - -

Jennifer, it published earlier?? No surprise, I had a rash of fat fingered publications lately, cannot blame Blogger for my errors. SIGH. We shall have to compare lineages of our Knots gang, I'll just bet it is an example of one brother of three changing the spelling of his name so he is no longer confused with his uncle, eh??

Lisa, You are welcome. Your gazillion Marys and Elizabeths are welcome too. I refuse to count my MNU's, hopefully it is not a gazillion, btw, how many IS that??

Barbara, you have a Reflection family too?? Really, how cool is that?? (wink wink)

Carol said...

MMM, make that clever Russ, pass the coffee please, sans cleaver - -

Michelle Goodrum said...

I may have to lower myself to the dirt. One of the things that drives me crazy about my data base is the ? and blank last names that are sorted at the top. If only I had known way back when.

I'm going to get down and dirty and try MNU.

I see some real benefit's Russ's methodology too.

Carol said...

Michelle, will be happy to have you join me down in the dirt! LOL (By the way, is that Arizona dirt?? If so, watch out for rattlers and those chollas, eh?)

I like Russ's idea a lot too, especially for printouts, and have been thinking of ways to incorporate his _____ into my work, have some ideas. Will be playing with them, yes I will!

Nolichucky Roots said...

I use something similar, though not MNU, so that I can easily identify which Elizabeth I'm looking for in my database. "Elizabeth /wife of John ANCESTOR/" sorts as Ancestor/ and is immediately linked to a specific spouse. Not pretty, and not something I like in published information but very helpful in day to day work.

I do see real value in Russ's blanks for information other than names. Something to try going forward.

Jo said...

MNU - why didn't I think of that? Thanks Carol :-) We're lucky in Scotland that most documents provide maiden names, though not always. Those Unknowns fairly add up though.... Jo

hummer said...

Love the blog and the comments. Will be trying some of the suggestions.

Karen said...

Carol, I say if it works for you that is what matters. Judge not and all that stuff...

Apple said...

My file is full of LNU's and more than a few FNU's too. Wish I'd thought to put their married name in too! A list with 15 Mary LNU's is not helpful.

Becky said...

Carol - I don't use MNU, LNU, or underscores. I just leave the last name blank! They all show up together in the index listing of Legacy. However, I do use the alternate name field in Legacy and use their married name there. That way they show up in the list under their husband's surname when the "show alternate names" option is selected.

Linda McCauley said...

I'm a believer of using tools (including genealogy programs) to make things work better/easier for me. If something works for you, I say go with it.

I actually just leave the last name field blank when I don't know a maiden name. These ladies do all show up at the beginning of the index list but I have Legacy set to also display women in the index under their married name(s). There is an indicator on the index list so you can tell it's a married name and not a maiden name. It doesn't tell you that the maiden name is unknown like your setup does but I can create a list of all women with maiden name blank and married name equal to a specific name through Legacy's search feature in a matter of seconds.

Carol said...

Nolichucky, sounds like you are Barbara use a similar system, by the way, how many people in that Ancestor family?? (wink wink)

Jo, that is lucky, I have surname envy! :-)

hummer, thank you for the compliment, let us hear how your experimentation works out for you.

Karen, yes, it works for me, but, I am learning stuff from this exchange. Tis a good thing.

Apple, let's not start on FNU, GROAN.

Becky and Linda, AHHH HAAA, you both have similar methods and both use Legacy. I use RM. And, an older version at that. Someday I will upgrade that, course, I have been saying that for a couple of years too. SIGHHH. Anywho, that sounds like a neato little trick Legacy is doing. See I did learn something today.

And, to all, thanks for the comments. Great stuff here - - and, I am not talking about my stuff - - YOURS is great!

Southwest Arkie said...

The surname Mnu runs root deep in my family tree. I love each and every one, and have been known to adopt orphan Mnus just for the heck of it. ツ