When can a patronymic be used as a middle name?

+8 votes

In reading the material in the category Name Fields for European Aristocrats, http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Name_Fields_for_European_Aristocrats I find statements such as "PATRONYMICS: Patronymics are middle names (unless nothing else is available)." This might be appropriate for European Aristocrats but, in general, this leads to confusion.  My understanding is that a patronymic is a last name.  In Swedish (and some Finnish) birth records only a first (and maybe other) name is given.  It is left to interpretation as to what last name is eventually used.  In working with [[Lindquist-45|Helena Lindqvist]] sometimes the last name was Mickelsson and sometimes Törnqvist.  My feeling is that a patronymic is never a middle name, it should be listed as a LNAB or an other last name.

WikiTree profile: Helena Catharina Törnqvist
in Policy and Style by Norm Lindquist G2G6 Mach 5 (58.2k points)
retagged by C S

Norm - You were reading the guidelines for the EuroAristo project, which tweak WikiTree's Name Fields guidance to provide the best option to standardize the names used for profiles of people under the EuroAristo project. Other projects do the same thing. Dutch Roots & New Netherland Settlers projects (see the Dutch Roots naming guidelines and New Netherland Settlers Naming Convention page) clarify that the patronymic should be in the LNAB field & that "surname prepositions, particles, and prefixes", which EuroAristo calls for omitting from LNAB, *should* be included in the LNAB field. Likewise, Cymru project naming guidelines call for ferch and ap (or ab) to be included in the LNAB field.

See this page for a collection of links to projects' naming guidelines (let me know if I missed any!).


3 Answers

+6 votes

I agree: patronymics should be considered as part or all of a surname. I think the fixation on "middle names" here at wikitree is a waste of space. All genealogy software that I have seen simply use "given names". Why separate them?

Excellent article on Swedish naming customs by Ingela Martenius:


by Gerry Hagberg G2G6 Mach 1 (15.9k points)
Yes.  But a patronymic should never be sloughed off as a middle name

Of course not!

I suppose I should have simply answered - Never!

There are many cases, e.g. Stockhaus, when there is a real family name and a patronymic. The question is then rather where to put the patronymic, because Stockhaus is the LNAB. I favour, and have used, the Middle name because it works out nicer in presentation than if Other last name is used. Not only, but if the person remarries, it is possible that the Other last name will then be used. I am really opposed to putting double names in LNAB in this Swedish case.
But sometimes the 'real' family name changes or only the sons carry it forward.  The patronymic was more likely used as an alternate last name.  It is often a crap shoot as to use the family name or the patronymic.  I usually use the family name and add the patronymic as an alternate.

Now in Finland, they often will add in a farm name.  There I try to follow Hiski.  I had one family with seven different combinations of names of mother and father.
+2 votes
I always wonder what we're supposed to do with people like Elizabeth verch John Powell, or William Jackson de Beckwith of Clint.  The middle bit isn't a baptismal name, and I wouldn't call it a surname either.

The basic principle of a search system has to be that you shouldn't need to know the info that you're trying to find out.  Many PMs think it's fine if it works for them, but they already know all about the person.
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (568k points)
+3 votes
While the name in question is Swedish or Finnish, the discussion of patronymics goes farther, and one respondent uses a Welsh name as an example.  The Cymru project has established naming guides for Welsh patronymics which incorporate the patronymic as LNAB.  (http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Name_Fields_Welsh_Aristocrats)  Note also that "ferch" (daughter of) is the correct Welsh spelling, although it is pronounced "verch."  Given the pronunciation, the Engl/ish were prone to spell it that way -- verch.  But my understanding is that verch is an anglicization.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (367k points)
But if "verch John" is the LNAB, what do we do with the Powell?

"Ferch John" would be mixing languages.

Actually they were an anglicized family.  As far as I know, all the records are in English with English spellings, like Owen and John (except Humffrey).  The Quaker records were in English both in Wales and in the Welsh Tract of Pennsylvania.  I don't know of any evidence that the family even spoke Welsh.

They were gentry, who I suppose were pretty anglicized by 1650.  But by that time there are lots of records of Welsh people who weren't aristos by any stretch.
OK, so we have an anglicized family of Welsh extraction and we have a record that shows "Elizabeth verch John Powell."  I recall a parallel naming format in the English Visitations of the early 1600's where you'd often have a Latin rendering of "Elizabeth, daughter of John Powell."  So if I were wondering what to put for Elizabeth's LNAB, the first thing I'd do is see what the entry was for Elizabeth's father.  If he were "John ap Powell" I'd figure the family was using Welsh naming conventions and list Elizabeth as Elizabeth ferch John, with "ferch John" as the LNAB.  But I'd bet he was listed as John Powell, with Powell being the LNAB.  If the latter, I'd make Powell Elizabeth's LNAB.

The one thing I believe everyone would agree on in this conversation is that "verch" is not a middle name.

In the Biography narrative section, a subsection on ===Name=== can be very useful in listing all the alternative names the person used or was known by.  Then if one has erred in the data field, the sourced information is there with which someone else can correct the data field.

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