How about switching the 'preferred first name' and 'middle name' fields around?

+8 votes
162 views
Let's put the middle-name field under the first-name field.  It just makes sense. Let's say we're creating a new profile for Mary Jane (Jones) Smith.  It should go Mary [Tab] Jane [Tab] Jones [Tab] Smith. Simple.  There's actually a box for 'preferred first name' in the position where the middle name should be. I think people are much more likely to have had a middle name than to have had a preferred first name different from their actual first name (at least one that we know of. If all the records say 'Mary', we'll probably never know that her family called her 'Polly'.)
in WikiTree Tech by Ian Beacall G2G6 Mach 9 (94.0k points)
Better idea: concatenate the first and middle name fields into one, and eliminate the middle name field altogether.

Yes.  Great idea.  I said that in my response to Helen below (when she kind of said the same thing). smiley

2 Answers

+7 votes
"Middle Name" is far from an universal concept. While WikiTree has a general appearance of being made for Americans, the placement of the middle name field out of the way fits nicely for most non-Americans.

BTW, this suggestion has been made several times before.
by Leif Biberg Kristensen G2G6 Pilot (113k points)
This is a good point.  But how about a user-specific layout?  I mean, I'm English and what I said up there is true in my experience, and I'm guessing it's true for most users in the Anglosphere.  So why not have different layouts of the same fields depending on the user's choice?  I was reading a very interesting post the other day about Indian naming conventions.  I had no idea it was so complicated, but there is clearly a need for a form designed specifically for people in the subcontinent. They would actually need different fields and their names would need to be integrated into the profile displays somehow, but I'm getting sidetracked... The data shows that a large majority of users of Wikitree are from English-speaking countries, so why not make a form that is easier to use for them/us?  Of course, everyone else should have forms that are easier for them to use, too.  I don't think this would be difficult to implement.
I'm all for a more internationalised handling of names here on WikiTree. But that is a hard programming matter which would require drastic extensions to the data model. Given WikiTree's limited resources, I frankly don't see it coming.

Well.... One step at a time...? I mean, make this change (for me wink) and then make changes to sort out your naming issues; then move on to the Indian issue. Slowly but surely...

Most requests about middle name is to have the field not be used/autofilled/visible at all. Moving it up, instead of preferred first name would be a large step back.

Ian, making an adjustment just for you is as much work as it is to make it for all. I have no access to the closed code of WikiTree, but it must be a lot of work if there is hardly any user preferences stored with regard to input fields.

I was kind of joking about doing it just for me, but... Am I really in the minority thinking this would be a good option?  From a coding viewpoint, I don't think it would be difficult to move the fields based on a user's preference.

I would be all for it. It would be wonderful to be able to choose a preferred layout, depending on the countries you work on. For me, that would disable the middle field, set the language (well, that only chooses the google location input now, but it's a start), auto add a sticker and auto fill that with year and province... so many options... which would all be different per country. And change the way the current users work with the page at this moment, so start a (very) large discussion on the changes, thus required a lot of Abbie time...

(I have professional experience as product owner... it is a lot of work).
Well, I think we're kind of agreed then.  This is a good idea.  Gradually adding layout options is a good idea, and one such option would include a choice regarding the position of the middle name field.  I know the team - including Chris - is working on improvements all the time, like the 'Copy ID' option that appeared the other day.  The problem that came up was that - at first - it was not an option, but a change.  Many people were upset by the change.  Fortunately, the team listened and made it an addition rather than a change. Anyway, it's good to have ideas and options.
+6 votes

I don't accept the premise ' people are more likely to have had a middle name than not.' Middle names are very much a recent concept in English speaking countries. (it's always a big red flag for me  signalling a high probability of error when I see them prior to the end of the 18th C.)

 In continental Europe more than one given name occurred earlier but was/ is  recorded as all one name. Legally this is also the case in the UK. It's only a a  modern, social convention that calls it a middle name. https://deedpolloffice.com/change-name/law/first-name

(I've changed my thinking about 'middle names'. I'm British but now think we should perhaps  follow some of our neigbouring countries on wikitree and write all the given names in the first name box but it's not an important issue for me to spend time arguing for)

As for the preferred name box, it is probably less often used on older profiles since, as you say, we often can't know what was used.  It can be important more for more recent profiles and for profiles of well documented individuals.

 My father in law's given name was Robert Andrew, his preferred name under which he was ordained,  which both his family  and parishioners used was Andrew. The UKs present Prime Minister uses his second name in his public life.

Elsewhere, in the world the order of names can be very different. We don't cater at all well for that on wikitree.

by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (344k points)
edited by Helen Ford

This is a good answer, and I've often thought the same about this - the middle name box is not really necessary, as (as you said) it's not a real thing. The PM's first name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel and his family name is Johnson.  When I'm 'creating' Mary Jane (Jones) Smith, I think it makes more sense to put Mary Jane in the first name box, but that's not allowed here.  Having said that, my premise was not "people are more likely to have had a middle name than not" but "people are (much) more likely to have had a middle name than to have had a preferred first name different from their actual first name (at least one that we know of. If all the records say 'Mary', we'll probably never know that her family called her 'Polly'.)  ... which is quite different.

It's totally allowed to enter multiple given names here. You may even stop the continual whining about "Unusual data" by going into your settings, scroll to the bottom and check the "Disable Middle Name Warning for First Name fields."

This is a fairly recent improvement, and it was a tremendous relief for those of us who don't have the concept of middle names in our cultures.

OK. I didn't know that. Problem solved. smiley

I want to mark Leif's comment as the best answer, but it's a comment...

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