Are the naming conventions for Portuguese names applicable to more modern times?

+6 votes

Are the naming conventions for Portuguese people applicable to more modern times?

Specifically the above convention on the LNAB (Last Name At Birth). The conventions says to use the 2 last names from the father: [Father Surname] [Father Surname], or the 2 last names from the mother and the 2 last names from the father: [Mother Surname] [Mother Surname] [Father Surname] [Father Surname]

The rationale behind it seems to stem from the old birth records just mentioning the given names, and the names of the parents. So being unsure of what the combination of last names chosen by the parents we can put all 4.

But in more modern times, there isn't such a problem, birth records show the exact full name, not just a given name. I am also Portuguese, my name has the following structure [Given Name] [Given Name] [Mother Surname] [Father Surname] [Father Surname]. This is on my birth record. What should be LNAB?

[Father Surname] [Father Surname]? or [Mother Surname] [Mother Surname] [Father Surname] [Father Surname]?

These are the conventions, but it's weird to use that since I know and have a document stating exactly what is my LNAB. This happens for me, for my parents and even my grandparents. Only for my great-grandparents and previous generations do the records only show the given name on the birth record.

So what's the correct way to apply the conventions?


in Policy and Style by Tiago Silva G2G Crew (360 points)
retagged by Tiago Silva
On a different note, if there are later documents with the person full name, can't we assume that was also his LNAB?

If it's clear that even after marriage she didn't adopt any of her husband's last name, than why should this be the standard?

Expanding on my comment, this suggestion to use: [Father Surname] [Father Surname] or [Mother Surname] [Mother Surname] [Father Surname] [Father Surname], is not natural for Portuguese people, the most obvious choice would be [Mother Surname] [Father Surname]. The proposed convention will definitely cause anyone who starts filling his tree and misses the Portuguese name conventions page to not follow it.

Spanish names, who are culturally similar to Portuguese ones, but in a different order, don't follow any similar conventions, but follow a more natural approach, of course always supporting the claims with documents.

I'd like to get the input from other Portuguese people, or the ones who wrote the convention, maybe the responsible for the Portugal Project if possible. I'll send PM's to this topic.

1 Answer

+4 votes
Best answer

Hi Tiago,

The Portuguese Naming Conventions page actually states that although a person may use all four surnames, it is more common to have one from the mother and then one from the father. The current naming standard was reached after lengthy conversations about the possibilities and difficulties. The 'old' records certainly do present the largest selection of records and therefore there is no surname recorded at birth for the majority of profiles. Rather than put 'unknown' in the Last Name At Birth field, it was decided to put the father's surname that was present on the baptism record. If the mother had a surname, instead of her two given names, you could choose to put that and then the father's surname(s) in the Last Name At Birth field. 

For a modern record you would certainly use the surnames listed on that record. In your case it would be [Mother Surname] [Father Surname] [Father Surname] as Last Name At Birth.

As for your question about names in later records, those would not prove Last Name At Birth (it is a literal field - what the name was at time of birth). The Spanish Naming Conventions are not that different. If there is a record that supplies the entire name, you use it. If there is no record of the full surname,  you can record either one or two surnames from the father and mother (father's first for Spanish names). Any other combinations go in the 'Other Last Names' field. Most women didn't take their husband's surname, so that is never used unless you find a record proving it. 

Here is a 1911 baptism record for Alba, the daughter of Joao Rodrigues Coelho and Vicencia de Jesus. Her First Name At Birth could be 'Rodrigues Coelho' or 'de Jesus Rodrigues Coelho.' As de Jesus is a devotional name I would personally use Rodrigues Coelho, and then use 'de Jesus Rodrigues Coelho' as 'Other Last Names.'  You wouldn't mark it as 'certain' but it helps when others are looking at the profile to see the possibilities. Additionally, if it would have been 'da Silva' I would put 'Silva' in Last Name At Birth and 'da Silva' in Other Last Names, as it can create search difficulties on WikiTree and cause duplicate profiles to be created. You wouldn't address someone as Mr da Silva, you would say Mr. Silva, so I am comfortable with that decision.

Going back to the question of assuming a later record matches the Last Name At Birth - that is not always the case. My Madeira ancestors may have been given one surname at birth, and chosen to use others when they came of age. I see more varieties in the surnames as opposed to the Azores ancestors that have kept the same surnames as their siblings. I'm not sure what the difference is on the mainland/Continent. You asked "If it's clear that even after marriage she didn't adopt any of her husband's last name, than why should this be the standard?" But it definitely is not the standard to use a husband's surname for the wife. If this or any of the other sections needs to be made clearer, let me know! We certainly try to make those 'Help' pages actually helpful.

And finally - welcome to WikiTree!! I've enjoyed the conversation and look forward to seeing more Silva contributions to our lovely global tree. If you are interested in joining the Portugal Project you can answer this post. New members are always welcome!

smiley  Mindy Silva

by Mindy Silva G2G6 Pilot (631k points)
selected by Tiago Silva
Thank you for your complete answer, it cleared my doubts and issues. I'm ready to start putting all my already found ancestors here on the tree.
Thank you for Best Answer Tiago. If you have any further questions or need help at any point don't hesitate to ask.


Hi! Sorry for unearthing this old post, but I need a clarification on the standard used and the example doesn't clear all my doubts. In the case of no devotional maternal surnames, what is the best course of action? Include both maternal and paternal surnames or just paternal?

Finally, in the case of wives taking the husbands names, where should that go, the "Current Last Name" field or the "Other Last Name(s)" field?

Hi Filipe. You have a choice to use (or not use) the maternal surnames and the paternal surnames in the 'Other Last Names' field, but it can help other researchers find the profile if you do. For Last name at birth, it would be just the father's surname unless you know that the family used maternal and paternal. If the woman took the husband's last name that would go in 'Current Last Name.' I hope this helped!  Mindy smiley

It did help a lot. Thank you very much and Merry Christmas!

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