Why do so many genealogists add parts of surname into given name?

+11 votes
French, Spanish, Italiian, German, and Dutch surnames often have surname prefixes--de, di, von, and van--which are separated by a space from the rest of the surname.  The prefix means "of" or "from/"  I've seenso many family trees drawn up by Americans that attach the surname prefix to the given name.  e.g. Lady Helen de Winter gets listed as "Helen de" given anem and "Winter" surname instead of "Helen" given name and "de Winter" surname.
in Genealogy Help by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
This may also have been done to facilitate sorting names in some genealogical software programs, partciularly early programs and/pr early users of programs.

3 Answers

+5 votes
It could be because we are a younger country and a melting pot of all races and cultures.  We have made a shambles of the English language and all of us in every state speak a different dialect.  We've changed the names  we originated with and created new ones and sometimes the spelling of the names were changed when the ancestors came to this country.  There are many reasons why we do what we do.  It is not to insult other European countries, it is just a sign of independence.
by Mary H. G2G6 Mach 7 (78.6k points)
+4 votes
In some cases I feel it is just ignorance of the traditional naming conventions.
by Rosemary Jones G2G6 Pilot (232k points)

Is it ignorance or abandonment. Public schools no longer teach cursive writing, many young adults no longer use capital letters or punctuation when keyboarding, and the range of their vocabulary inhibits constructive dialogue. Traditions that are not practiced and handed down to successive generations wither and die.

P.S. Cells die from the inside out...
+4 votes
In line with the comment on sorting - I think it has to do more with the interfaces we use (and have inherited), than ignorance.   The English language had been a blend of languages well before reaching the new world.  

We should ask:  How would we prefer our interfaces and thereby our databases to handle these structures?  

This is blue sky dreaming on my part - but - rather than say these particles belong in the "last name/surname" slot rather than affixed to the "first name" slot ... it might be that in some cases we'd want the particle to have it's own (optional) space.  Just a dream.  Maybe a genealogical software designer will read this.

These devices are at once part of the name and not part of the name- with varying senses of distance - partly by the orthographic convention, partly interpreted by the audience in question.

As noted - the linguistic devices in question are often a particle equivalent to "of" or "from" -- these indicate a distances from the name portion and more so when it's separated by a space and more so again when it is "downcase".  In English I can note examples where the particle is dropped in circumstances when it would be ungrammatical - such as when used in isolation or at the beginning of sentence - yet retained in other situations, such as formal documents.
by Michael Maranda G2G6 Mach 6 (66.3k points)

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