Multiple middle names

+5 votes
I've just been mailed about one of my profiles by a "data doctor" telling me that "having multiple middle names in the Middle Name field is not appropriate for WT"

Surely not?

It's not rare for people to have multiple middle names. I find the data doctor's advice to pick one and record the rest in the bio very odd.

How can you pick one ahead of the others? Surely all of the known middle names should be recorded in the same place, rather than putting one in one field and the rest in another?

In case I've missed anything, I thought I'd check here about what WT regards as "appropriate" before replying to the mail.
in Policy and Style by Anonymous Hutchings G2G2 (2.1k points)
My father has two "middle" names.  I would NOT ever remove one and stick the other in the bio.  That would name him as someone he was not.

The same with my daughter and my son.
Multiple given names are quite common.

4 Answers

+14 votes
Best answer

The Help for Middle Names allows for multiple middle names:  "This should be the full middle name(s)."  I think the data doctor was mistaken.

by Herbert Tardy G2G6 Pilot (569k points)
selected by Amy Gilpin

Thanks for the star, Gurney!  smiley

(and to everyone else for their input as well)

I suspect this is yet another case of someone trying to score points in a challenge, so doing anything that let's them claim they've done something that makes WT "better".

Thanks for the star, Amy!

I suspect this is yet another case of someone trying to score points in a challenge, so doing anything that let's them claim they've done something that makes WT "better".

Steve --

It might be time to take another look at the Honor Code, especially these two points:

III. We know mistakes are inevitable. We don't want to be afraid to make them. We assume that mistakes are unintentional when others make them and ask for the same understanding.

IV. We know misunderstandings are inevitable. We try to minimize them by being courteous to everyone, even those who don't act accordingly.

+4 votes
I have always put multiple middle names into the middle name box and noone has ever told me otherwise!!

Even if they did try and tell me to not do it, I would continue to do it becauase they are all still middle names!!!!
by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (833k points)
+1 vote
Hello, I am the Data Doctor in question.  I am not part of any Challenge.

To clarify the issue: There were two middle names listed in the field separated by OR.  Of course a middle name can have multiple WORDS....  The issue is the OR separator.

This is different from the use of the Last Names and Nicknames fields which allow different last names and nicknames to be separated by commas.  

by Teresa Downey G2G3 (3.5k points)


You are being a little disingenious at this point.

Your original assertion was:
"Having multiple names in the Middle Name field is not appropriate for Wikitree. " Which is patently false.

You're now trying to qualify it by saying that the use of "or" is the problem.

Why did you not say that in the first place...

And what other words would you like to disallow as not "appropriate" in the middle name? 

Here's something for you to think about.

Just because a WT report says something is "wrong" doesn't mean it is wrong.

I'm regularly plagued by "data doctors" who don't think, because a report tells them so, that "Major" is an acceptable middle name. It "must be", so I'm told, a prefix.

Except, of course, if you were one of the many:

first name - Major as a middle name - surname people in the area I know about.

Data doctors blindly following reports and insisting they know best do not do WT any favours.


Thanks for clarifying, Teresa.  Can you link us to the policy that forbids OR?  I searched the Name Fields help and couldn't find a rule against it.  For the record, personally I don't think OR belongs in a name field.  If you need OR, it means the name is uncertain or changed during the person's life, and should be explained in the bio.
I have seen cases in census records where the middle initial has changed, and for clearly the same person. So I can see cases where an "or" might be appropriate.

I have also seen cases with multiple "middle" names written in a different order. An "or" might be appropriate in those cases as well.

My reasoning comes from two sources:

1) When I read the help (what is behind the field's question mark) on the Edit page for the fields that allow multiple names the comma is noted as the allowed separator. Given that the Middle name help says nothing about the comma being allowed I assume that the Middle Name field doesn't allow more than one middle name. 

2) OR is specifically called out as a problem in the error reports for Middle Names. Error: or - Wrong Not a name

Thanks, Teresa.  I'll have to side with Steve.  Suggestions, fka Error Reports, are not mandatory.  If they were, we would all be matching our profiles to FindAGrave.  The Help file certainly allows multiple middle names, although it's silent about separators.  As noted, multiple middle names are not uncommon.  Maybe the Help file needs help.

Teresa, I do believe you are misinterpreting the help section for name fields. Multiple surnames and/or nicknames would not all be used at once, hence the commas separators. However, multiple middle names are part of an individual's formal name and most certainly all belong in the middle name field. On the other hand, the only reason I can think of for separator of "or" in the middle name field is that someone is uncertain of the middle name. In that instance, no middle name should be used and a research note should be placed in the bio section explaining the middle name issue. I can think of no valid reason for the use of "or" in the middle name field.
The Middle Name field says nothing about using the comma as a separator because you are not supposed to use it.  It is not needed.

Example: John Peter David Doe
First Name: John
Middle Name: Peter David

You don't need a comma.  You don't need OR. You don't need anything.
+2 votes
Everyone: It is hard to understand the issue through these short emails. Please see the profile to see what I was commenting on:
by Teresa Downey G2G3 (3.5k points)
If I were creating or managing a profile that had the situation as it is showing on the profile right now, I would probably put it as Fanny (certain) E (uncertain) Bell in the data fields and then mention the uncertainty in the biography.

I do agree that having it show as Fanny Ellen or Elizabeth Bell isn't how it's meant to be.  The "or" is NOT a name.
I agree that the issue in this profile is not multiple middle names, but an uncertain middle name.  I would enter it as Melanie described.

I think the Help (not the Suggestions) needs to clarify what belongs and doesn't belong in the field.  Something like 'Enter only names or initials in the name field,' or 'When the correct name is in doubt, leave the field blank or enter the best documented information, and explain in the biography.'  We all need to resist the temptation to pack too much information into the header fields.
Perhaps a primary source would clarify the issue.

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