Style guide for middle name changes?

+3 votes
I've read through the style guide on name fields but I'm not really finding a satisfactory solution to the problem of someone changing their middle name.  I'm not sure how common this is, but my mother, my half-sister (by my father), and my wife all changed not just their last name but also their middle name upon marriage, removing their given middle name and using their maiden name as their new middle name.  None of the current fields seem correct and I'm mostly resorting to just putting that detail into the Biography and leaving the Middle Name as the middle name at birth.

In addition, my mother presents another interesting issue in that she always went by her middle name anyway, and so she changed her first name as well upon marriage.  Basically, if her name at birth was Ann Beth Smith, then after marriage became Beth Smith Jones.  I've followed the guide as best I can and put her current first name as her Preferred Name, but the end result is all sorts of bizarre outputs in different context.  For example, the Formal View is now

Mrs. Ann Beth (Beth) Jones, formally Smith

and Abbreviated for Privacy looks more correct than Abbreviated for Space, which is odd (privacy gives Beth B. (Smith) Jones, which is mostly right, but space gives Ann Jones, which has never been her name) and other little oddities.

I think ultimately it would be nice to have a supported Current First Name and Current Middle Name field to go along with Current Last Name and the less formal Preferred First Name and Other Nicknames, but until then is there a better way to handle this than what I'm currently doing?

I put a wikitree ID in for my mother as an example, but it's a private profile (she's still living) so I doubt it will be much help; you'll see the nearly correct Abbreviated for Privacy view of Preferred First - Middle Initial (LNAB) - Current Last.
WikiTree profile: Wiegardt-1
in Genealogy Help by Stephen Haley G2G6 Mach 2 (24.3k points)

Hi Stephen.

What a good, well-composed question. I don't have an answer, but maybe others will have input.

We may want to clarify on whether the middle name is supposed to be the middle name at birth or the current middle name.

And I know it's awkward how we pair the preferred first name and middle initial in cases where the middle name is the preferred first name. I suppose we could run a check to see the preferred first name matches the middle name and if it does, skip the middle initial.


1 Answer

0 votes
Best answer
Stephen - I think you just have a tough situation.  The style guide is 'best case scenario'  and I'm inclined to say you should stick with "First name at Birth, Middle name at Birth, Preferred name currently (or at death in cases where the person is deceased)"  and letting the "maiden name / LNAB and Current Last Name" fields do what they are designed to do.

I think you might want to put some explanatory text in the biography section of the profile explaning the naming changes.  You should definitely do this if you choose NOT to follow the style guide using name at birth for the primary fields.  I know that part of your concern is aimed at searches and how people might show up for potential family members / cousins.

Currently, I think that's the way to go.

- Mike
by Michael Gabbard G2G6 Mach 1 (19.6k points)
selected by Stephen Haley
I think that's best given the tools we have - fortunately for searching, it's not too terrible as the people in question are all still living and the previous and current names are well known by all who would search.  And I'm of the opinion that as long as everything is explained in the bio section it's never that bad choice.

Mostly I think I was just looking for confirmation that I wasn't missing some other, simpler way of handling it - if someone else comes along with an idea, I'm always willing to listen!


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