German saint names- two first names or a first and a middle name?

+16 votes
When working with German/German immigrant names, do the saint name and first name both go in the First Name field on WikiTree, or is the second name considered a middle name?  (The second name then definitely goes in the Preferred Name field since it was the one the person used in everyday life.)  For example, Johann George Marsh went by George.  But is George a middle name or part of his first name?  I tried to search the help files and couldn't find anything specifically for German names.
in Policy and Style by Lisa Hazard G2G6 Pilot (269k points)
retagged by Kylie Haese
I stick all the forenames in the first name field, the day-to-day usename in the preferred name field, and mark no middle name.
Thanks for asking a great question!
I understand your example. Johann George (Georg?) went by George.
When I have added profiles myself, I've followed Chris's example. Saint name as first name, second name as middle name and preferred name.
I don't think this question will get a perfect answer. There were a few people around that didn't like any of their names and called themselves something else.

4 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer
This is always a challenge in the German part of my tree... LOL!

For the most part, my ancestors that immigrated to the USA, I've typically seen the last part of the name used first.

For example, one of my ancestors was born in Germany as "Franz Gottlieb Schuler" and after Immigrating his name officially became "Gotlob Frank Schuler", but was also known as just "Frank Schuler".

Then there's "Friedrich Karl Johann Eduard Schuler" that immigrated to the USA and was known as "Edward Carl Schuler", but was also known as just "Carl Schuler".

I've seen this type of German renaming done about 80% +/- of the time, but not all of the time.

There wasn't any set of rules regarding this situation and I guess it depends upon the individual who's processing the American paperwork as to what they feel is the easiest way for naming them coming into the USA.

I hope I was able to explain this okay via text.

~Brian Kerr
by Living Kerr G2G6 Pilot (336k points)
selected by Living Kerr
Name variations should be documented in the biography and also in the Other Nicknames data field.

Use commas to separate the different names in Other Nicknames.
I believe I tried using a comma in several different name fields, but it came back in my Suggestions list with an error code. In which name fields can you use a comma  and which not?
Commas can be used in Other Nicknames and Other Last Names.

I don't know if they are also accepted in Prefix and Suffix, but I'm pretty sure they are not accepted in the main name fields.
+8 votes

I've been putting saint name in first name, and second name in middle names and preferred name. That doesn't means it's correct, though.

EDIT: This is no longer my approach - I've been educated. smiley

by Chris Willoughby G2G6 Mach 2 (24.8k points)
edited by Chris Willoughby
Not only is that approach inconsistent with German conventions, but it does not work out well from a practical perspective. When the boys in a family were baptized as Johann Adam, Johann Peter, Johann Heinrich, etc., and you put "Johann" in the proper first name field, some Wikitree data displays will show all of the brothers as "Johann."
By the same token, WikiTree will flag an error when there is more than one name in the First Name field. But it does not give an error if there are multiple "Middle Names".

WikiTree needs some updating when it comes to names in different cultures, and when to treat something as an error or not.
For Dutch profiles, there is now an error message if the profile has an entry in the middle name field.
My approach was based, as Eric points out, on the error produced if you have more than one name in the first name field.

That error message is intended to alert people to the possibility that they accidentally entered both a first name and a middle name in the first name field. Goodness knows that I have done that more than a few times! blush

Unfortunately, that message does impart the mistaken impression that WikiTree has some sort of policy against putting more than one name in the first name field. That is not the case -- the message is there to help us, not to chastise us. For those of us who often deal with people who should have more than one name entered in the first name field, there is now an option on our personal settings page to turn off that message. At the very bottom of the page, under Miscellaneous Settings, you will find a checkbox to Disable Middle Name Warning for First Name fields.

Well, I'm glad that there is a way to turn it off. I wasn't aware of that. But It's not right that it's a personal option setting.

What is really needed is a way to set a cultural or country naming standard, per profile, from a list of options. And then the fields and errors adjust accordingly to what has been set.

So, with a name such as:

Otto Herrman Louis Carl Graf von Schlippenbach

Do all forenames go into the first name field, the Graf into the prefix, and the von Schlippenbach into LNAB?
I do not often work with profiles for aristocrats, so I am not going to touch the questions of prefix and LNAB for Otto Herrman Louis Carl Graf von Schlippenbach!

My experience is more with plebeian names like Maria Elisabetha Braun, where I would put Maria Elisabetha in the Proper First Name field and Elisabetha or Elisabeth (depending on how she was recorded later in life) in the Preferred Name field.

Sorry Ellen, not trying to muddy the waters, just keen to get it right smiley. His is not my typical profile, either.

I'm typically dealing with the German migration to South Australia, and am now wondering when to stop following the suggestions above. I guess when the names stop being Johann Michael, Johann Christian, Johann Conrad etc, then they have become Anglicised enough to have middle names?

This would all be simpler if we had two fields: "given names" and LNAB.

I think, in Australia, with the immigrants who would normally interchange their forenames, it would take a generation or three before the practice ceased.  I know I have seen the switcheroo going on with the grandchildren of the original immigrant -- and that includes with the Irish immigrants, who also used Saint names, and (if Roman Catholic) also added Confirmation names (also, usually, that of a Saint).  Any one of these multiple forenames could, at any time, be the commonly used day-to-day name.

Then, too, because it's Australia, the day-to-day use-name might be none of the above, and, instead, be a nickname as given by workmates, or friends (or even non-friends).  Thusly, a person named by their parents/religious reasons as Patrick James Thomas Monahan O'Flaherty might be known as Pat, Paddy, Jimmy, Jim, Tommy, Thommo, Mono, Mondy, "Nathan", "Carrots", or "Blue" (usually for redheads), Chokka, "Jumbo", "Titch", or any number of other appellations.
With names in New Netherland families, how late do we keep putting the first two names in the first name space and at what point do the names start being split into first and middle names? I understand the 1600s and probably early to mid 1700s would be the former. But around what date did people start using middle names in Dutch families, especially when English families were intermarrying?
+18 votes
German culture does not have the concept of "Middle Name", all given names are treated equally and it is up to the bearer of the name (or their family) which one(s) they choose as their preferred name. Double, triple and multiple given names are not confined to "Saint Names" but are often those of godparents or ancestors. You can find on occasion German genealogies where the preferred names are capitalized or underlined as a consequence. All in all, Melanie's approach in her comment to the question is the best.

There is one exception: Patronymics for the Frisian minority are treated as middle names.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (617k points)

In addition to my earlier comment -- I have found that, even after emigrating, many of those from cultures that have no "middle name" are more than happy to be known by any of their given forenames.  Thusly Henri Leopold Francois might be Henri/Henry one day, Leopold another day, and Francois/Francis another.  Any of the given names might appear on the registrations of his children (giving an appearance that there were multiple fathers, when it was all just one man who never gave up his birth-country's way of thinking regards usenames). 

Sometimes I think we are wrong in deciding for our ancestors which name was their "preferred", when the documents show quite clearly there was no one "preferred" name, but that all were regarded as equally "preferred".

Thanks!  That's how I was leaning, so I'm glad to see that it seems to be the best approach.  Now to doublecheck all those profiles to see if they need updating...
+5 votes

In addition, other people might be interested in this resource (which I keep a link in my Scratch Pad):

18th Century PA German Naming Customs

by Eric Weddington G2G6 Pilot (531k points)

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