Is it correct to split "famous" first name / middle name combinations over two name fields?

+4 votes
Just a question for pondering, in our copious free time.  My understanding of the style guidelines is that it is correct to split names.

In the regions where I'm tracking lines (U.S. South), there are lots of people who are named after famous or locally prominent people.

So you get individuals named "George Washington Smith" and "Thomas Jefferson Jones" for examples.  

You also see "John Wesley So-and-So"s and "Charles Pinckney Whatevers", children named after people who were prominent at the time but are not widely recognized today.

I also see people named after prominent people in the region who were never famous, but the names tell us something about where the family ways, and whom the family considered important (or to whom they owed a favor) at the time the child was born.

And, of course, we see children named after ancestors and other relatives -- very useful for connecting related family groups to each other.

I find myself hesitant to split these prominent names, because splitting them feels like breaking up their genealogical significance. One could drop a footnote in the bio about what the name appears to mean, but we are unlikely to find primary sources explicitly connecting the family's naming decision to the prominent person.  And we probably don't want footnotes explaining who "Thomas Jefferson" is glommed onto hundreds of profiles across WikiTree.

And the individual almost never was walking around being called "Thomas Jefferson".  He shows up in the census as "Thomas J. So-and-So", and is referred to by his friends as "Jeff".  And our system handles that kind of variation fairly well.

However, a "John Wesley" is probably from a Methodist family, which can be a significant lead in the absence of other records. For genealogy purposes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  And my sense is that there would be a way for the WikiTree database to structurally reflect that significance without having to include bios-within-bios to do it.

Does anybody else feel like this about name combos that convey information about the family?  It would be another reason for more flexibility in the given name fields, if that's possible to do while still keeping the search functional.
in Policy and Style by E. Compton G2G6 Pilot (150k points)

6 Answers

+8 votes
I feel that the restriction to one first name in the first name field does not fit the larger part of the world where dual names are quite common.  Ann Marie, Jo Ann, Jean Paul are all examples.    I also think the inability to use hyphens for a normally hyphenated name also does not fit the real world.  

I am sure at the time the style guide was written there were good reasons for the thinking.  But in the face of more international members and the changing times of appending a maiden name to a surname, I wonder if those guides should be reviewed.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (682k points)
+3 votes
The practice of naming children after a well known person that was apparently admired or respected by the family wasn't restricted to the U.S. South.  I have encountered a number of those cases in the mid-Atlantic region too.  But if by "split" the famous name, you mean show it as a first and middle name, it seems to me that would almost always be correct.  I have profiled, for example, Millard Fillmore Flook and his brother George Washington Flook, along with Winfield Scott Kefauver.  In each of those cases the subject actually used Fillmore, or Washington, or Scott as his middle name, as reflected in census and other records.  (In Scott's case, Scott was his preferred name.)  None of them actually went by the full moniker.  So I'm not sure exactly what you're asking for here.  If someone actually gave his child a first name of "Winfield-Scott" and called him that, I think the software would let you enter that as a first name.  I don't know how you could know the parents' motives, and I don't know what the error report would do with it, though.
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (437k points)
The error report does not report an error when there are several names in the first name box, provided they are separated by a space or hyphen. (other separators such as commas, semicolons or paretheses are not allowed). Fortunately. Lots of people use double names, like in Spain many, many girls are called Maria SomethingElse, and SomethingElse is not a middle name; same in France with Marie for girls and Jean for boys.

Also, the Dutch naming convention calls for putting patronymics  with the first name, which makes two words. It's not a problem.
+2 votes
This question needs to be addressed - together with "Display names"
by Sir William Arbuthnot of Kittybrewster G2G6 Pilot (172k points)
+4 votes
Nothing bad happens if you put more than one word in the first name box.  There are hundreds of thousands done that way.
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (568k points)
+2 votes
The concept of Middle Name, customarily abbreviated to an initial, is pretty Anglocentric, Many other countries deal with several given names differently. Even when immigrating to an English speaking country their second given name does not disappear or get turned into an initial only. Or do lots of people call George Frideric Handel George Handel or George F. Handel?
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (545k points)
+2 votes
In one of my families, there is George Washington nicknamed GW and William Henry Harrison  nicknamed Harry. Early renditions of my family tree referred to them as GW and WHH or Harry. It was later I discovered evidence of their full names. I also note that the way the tree was created in the 1930s there simply was no space to include the full names. So whether their full names were of import I really don't know, but I don't imagine it commonplace to name a child William Henry Harrison unless the child was born after the presidency of WHH as he was
by Susan Fitzmaurice G2G6 Mach 4 (43.1k points)

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