Should the term "middle name" be altered?

+25 votes

We are repeatedly seeing complaints in G2G from people who don't like the Middle Name data field because their country (or language or culture) does not have "middle names." However, some of these countries do use more than two names for a person, such as a first name, a patronymic name, and a surname.

I wonder if this label could be altered to a term that would be more globally accepted and understood. For example, would "Second Name" (or "Second Name(s)") be more acceptable? Could the data field be relabeled as "Middle/Second Name(s)"?

in Policy and Style by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

Just some ramblings about the name fields: 

  • I think much of the problems with the Middle Name field come from the automatic conversion to initials on many displays. If John Henry doesn't go by John H. but by J. Henry he will be unhappy with the middle name field.
  • In cultures where it was common to name all males Johann plus something else and all women Maria plus something else and where the something else was really the name people were known as, the whole middle name field doesn't make sense, it's much more useful to put both names in the First Name field and then use the Preferred Name field for their day-to-day names.
  • I always wondered what WikiTree does to those people, mostly nobles but also rich commoners, that end up with a gazillion given names (Otto von Habsburg's birth given names are Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xaver Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius).
  • I'd rather see a name field for "Alternative Name" to accommodate all those people living in bilingual areas that do use their names in both languages depending on the circumstances (my grandfather used to carry birth certificates both in Czech and in German as Jan and as Johann).

After rethinking all this, I guess I would like to see the First Name field renamed Given Name and have all given names go there. The actually used first name would then go in the Preferred Name field. An Alternative Name field could accommodate bilingual situations or situations where somebody with a non-Roman script could put the Romanized version of the name.

Helmut, I am sort of in agreement with you last paragraph but I would like to see 3 name fields:

Full name(s) at Birth

Preferred Name


I am not sure that this will fit into all cultures.
Your suggested use of preferred name, is not, in my opinion, a usable solution. Preferred name, is not always related to a persons name, and not always a nickname. A case in point is John Welburn (Welburn-232)

His first name was John.  He preferred to be called Jack.  His Nickname was Pondy.

Just something else to think about.
Can't speak for the middle name problem in all cultures, but for one branch of my relations, it isn't what the that field is called, but what happens to the name inserted there.  How it is displayed at top of profile and on search result lists, makes the person unrecognizable if middle name field is used, so I place names where they will display and read as their name is.

5 Answers

+10 votes
I like "second name" but would also want field present for subsequent names as some cultures use give infants a string of names.
by Dorothy Coakley G2G6 Pilot (174k points)

I have no problem putting several names in the "Middle Name" field. For example, I recently created Henry Mackaness Traphagen Watson with two long names in the middle name field that are sure to be detected as a "unique spelling".

YEP, I've had the name "Oscar" flagged as unique! But no complaints, the Error Report really helps me catch things. Like 2 year old mothers, for instance. My favorite was Rogers King Weston who was flagged for using his title (King) as a middle name, although his middle name really was King!
+10 votes
Second name is a term sometimes used for last names so it might be confusing.


On some documents I have recently seen first given name and other given names
by A. C. Raper G2G6 Mach 4 (46.2k points)
+7 votes
Right now we have spaces for:

1- Proper first name

2- Prefered name

3- Other Nicknames

4- Middle name

My full name is Joseph Gerald Guy.

Joseph as all catholic boys at one time.

Gerald for my godfather

Guy for my ''real'' name.

I don't see how I can put those names in their proper spot to see my full name showing properly.
by Guy Constantineau G2G6 Pilot (350k points)
I find when I am doing french canadian catholic names, that I either leave the Joseph out or put that in the middle name field and the preferred name (or every day name) in the main name field.
+7 votes

Thanks for bringing this up, Ellen. 

I think that either "second name(s)" or "middle name(s)" would be a good idea. As it is, I usually add extra names to the middle.

I also like the idea of just one field for "given name(s)" for the following reasons:

  • People in England and America before around 1800 rarely had middle names.
  • GEDCOM imports (or at least mine from Ancestry) don't separate first and middle names, so both get lumped in the "first name" field.
  • People with names like Mary Ann are covered.
  • There isn't as much confusion as to where to put patronymics


by Carole Partridge G2G6 Mach 7 (70.8k points)
+2 votes
After adding hundreds of profiles to Wiki manually with countless technically redundant mouse clicks and scrolling, I can say with unequivocal clarity there should be a LNAB field, and a Preferred Name field, and no other. The first is what mom and dad call their progeny, the second is what they called themselves. Whatever else they were called and by whom are not relevant, but can be included in the biography.
by Bruce Codère G2G6 Mach 1 (17.1k points)

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