Spanish naming conventions and carry-overs in America

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Ok, I’ve read the page on Spanish naming conventions, and it does allow for variations in the conventions. However, talking with my wife (born in Kentucky, raised in Mexico City) brought up some questions. Last names at birth can get very long, depending on the usage of a person or family.

For example, my wife knew some folks who not only used the normal convention (father’s surname (y) mother’s surname, with or without the “y”), but also included grandparents surnames (making a really long name!). 

In another case, my wife dated a guy whose surname was Leon de la Vega y Lagos, alphabetized under “Leon,” because Leon was a component part of the surname, not a personal name. (His prename was Federico.)

My wife’s Mexican documents have Patterson Farmer as the surname, alphabetized under “P.” No “y.” Alphabetized under “P.”

And, while the LNAB can be long, so can the entries of all of the other names used. When we got married, my wife had used her American surname for so long that she hyphenated her surname, Patterson coming first. That’s how the US government knows her, but in common usage she always signs her name without the hyphen. But since she has been known by so many different versions of names, the “other names” field could get long if I was going to be strict with this. 

One of the really nice things I like about the formal Mexican naming convention, when they are actually followed, is that genealogy becomes a little bit easier if the convention is followed. However, the convention is not always followed, so much of this becoming a personal choice.

The Spanish naming conventions page does allow for variation. What is not addressed, or I just missed it - a common probability for me! - is whether a Spanish name with a “de” is alphabetized under “de” or what follows. 

I guess this is not really a formal question, but a discussion of how we use the variations in Spanish surnames. Takers?

in The Tree House by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.2m points)

1 Answer

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Best answer

While there is a standardized naming convention, there are lots of times where it is not followed.

In colonial Mexico I have seen compound surnames among the upper classes, but there are lots of examples where they were not used. There are times when daughters used the mother’s surname, or a grandparent’s surname. Sometimes the surname changed in life, as well. This was less common among the men.

I have found a single surname more common in the ordinary folks, and the children simply took the father’s surname.

Something to keep in mind, women generally did not change their surname upon marriage. But there are exceptions. If a woman named Gonzalez married a man named Mendoza, she might use the name Gonzalez de Mendoza.

In some records i’ve seen the second part of the surname abbreviated with the first initial only, for example, Mendoza Gonzalez becomes Mendoza G.

Compound surnames are more universal in civil records today.

Things can get confusing when they come to the US. Some times the father’s part of the surname is used, sometime the mother’s. Sometimes the mother’s surname becomes a middle name. The women often follow the American custom, and use the husband’s surname.

Mexican genealogy is very interesting, and at times challenging!

One thing that annoys me, is that some people create these long compound surnames for people, but these elaborate names were never used in the contemporary records.

by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (392k points)
selected by Pip Sheppard
Last sentence: correct! My wife sat here a bit ago and gave me every exception to the rule with folks she knew en la cuidad de Mexico.

There used to be a law in some states that if a child was born to an unwed mother, the child was required to take her surname. Of course, this doesn’t apply anymore. Lots of hyphenated names to cover all contingencies, marriage or no.

An interesting story not quite on topic. My wife knew a couple, Anglo, living in Argentina who had a child there. They had to appear before some magistrate to be allowed to name their child a family prename. Apparently, the Argentine government, in order to stave off the use of made up or crazy spellings, mandated a long list of prename from which all children must be named. No Abduls, no Xaing, no Finlaechs, no Shaquandalaeifnfheidnfnej’s. They made an exception for this Anglo couple. They couldn’t do that for surnames: to many folks of German or Italian descent, and I don’t know if they included prename of those ethnicities. I don’t even know if the story is true; just the way it was told to me.

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