South Africa 'Middle' Names

+1 vote
A senior Wikiteer told me that in South Africa we do not recognise middle names as ALL names are to be treated as first names?
in WikiTree Help by Hermanus Wessels G2G Crew (380 points)
edited by Steve Harris

Do we presume you mean South Africa, rather than South America (or any other SA locations)?

just being helpful!!wink

That appears to be the name-field guideline for South African Roots.

There is one issue with the South African naming guidelines, in which they reject Middle Names in their entirety. The South African government however does recognize the middle names, especially in recent years, as mentioned in their statistical releases.

Note: Added tags for more attention, and edited post for clarity.

3 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer

Hi Hermanus

The South African Project members had a very lengthy discussion about the First and middle names when we started the project,

The duplication of names within a family are a huge problem and we are not allowed to use the Pama and de Villiers  codes :Ie: a1b2c3e4 etc. in the data fields 

Let us take Helena Susanna Magdalena Olivier as example

I have changed  the names in the data field to the middle name convention for this example  

in WikiTree if you enter Helena Susanna  in the first name field and Magdalena in the middle name field all the referring pages (except categories)  and the automatic name adding in the bios will also only show Helena Susanna Olivier 

Magdalena is only seen in the data section and as the main name at the top of the profile and not on any other referring page or link for that profile.

If you use Roots search to look for sources in Family Search you will find that the detail in the "Familysearch" search field also only show Helena Susanna 

You will be amazed at what a difference one more name could make in limiting searches when there are thousands of profiles with the same name and surname

Also in the same family one could find both Helena Susanna Magdalena and Helena Susanna. This problem is also solved by using full names in the First name fields to ensure all the names are shown in referring pages.  

The outcome was that we will use the names  as they appear on official documents and church records because this is where we will be looking for sources.

Projects are only there to oversee Profiles of historically-significant people and widely-shared ancestors, once you move out of that range (time period for the project) you can add middle names should you feel more comfortable in doing so. 

by Ronel Olivier G2G6 Mach 6 (61.1k points)
edited by Ronel Olivier

Good answer Ronel. As applied to Wikitree's surname lists (and we complained about this years ago but apparently it can't be fixed), when you only use the middle name field for the rest of the first names, the list is sorted randomly according to the first name only.

But the main consideration is that middle names were invented by the Americans see

Harvardiana was a periodical published in CambridgeMassachusettsUnited States by James Munroe and Co. from 1835 to 1838. It was a literary journal managed by Harvard University undergraduates. It contains the first recorded use (1835) of the phrase "middle name" referring to a second forename.

That standard was never applied in South Africa who followed the Dutch and English who didn't use middle names. If however this standard has changed in recent years, please provide a source and of course it will only apply to those recent profiles. Last time I checked ID documents, birth records etc. still don't use middle names.

+3 votes

I suppose you could test this by entering all the names in "first name" and see if the Computer balks at it.  You don't have to, but it won't hurt to test it. 

 If the Wikitree computer system later balks, it will appear in your Suggestions file (published each Sunday) asking about this matter. 

In some countries there are folk with two "first names" and when that was questioned by the Computer they clicked on "False Suggestion" and updated the status of the profile 

And if none of this is familiar information it will become familiar later, after you test with all the "first names" to see what will occur. 

by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (175k points)
To be abundantly clear, the suggestion that will inevitably pop up is intended to get people to check to make sure that they didn't accidentally put a middle name in a first name field. The system is not "balking" at the entry, just saying "Hey, did you mean to do this? If so, mark me as false!"
I have anthropomorphized the Computer, Steve, so that its behavior is sentient and therefore is capable of balking and other life-form behaviors.

However Steve is correct, the initial response is to question if indeed you intended to have two or more "first names" -- and if that was your intent, whether in creating the profile, or in later editing the profile (when it will again remind you about this) say yes or select Save Anyway, etc.

In Suggestions you mark "false suggestion" and update the status of the profile.
+5 votes

To declare that ALL middle names are not recognized would be a serious misrepresentation. Typically, naming conventions follow specific standards for different areas and cultures, but even these will evolve over time.

So without any additional details to go on, you will have determine if the name(s) have evolved to be in GIVEN + MIDDLE + FAMILY format, or in GIVEN + FAMILY format alone. You will also have to consider that in the same lineage, names may migrate from one format to another (Francis Edward + Smith could become Francis + Edward + Smith in later generations).

For the utmost clarification, any projects wishing to publish special naming conventions / guidelines should have their information notated on the Name Field Guidelines page (which is referenced from the Help:Name Fields page).

by Steve Harris G2G6 Pilot (337k points)
edited by Steve Harris

I believe that  whether  there is a de facto middle name or not  should be determined by  culture, not country . South Africa has a mix of cultures.

 The middle name(Baunton) of my living brother in law, born in South Africa was only ever a middle name( it's his ggg grandmother's maiden  surname though he didn't know it until I told him). There are others  in his family with the middle name of Dugdale , Shrewsbury,  Binfield and Stanford all born in South Africa. These names  were very much middle names as introduced into British culture in the late 18th- early nineteenth C.  However,  the South Africa project guidelines say " Please do not use middle names"

(perhaps the answer is just to have a box for given names, this would get rid of all these controversies).

Edited for grammar

You raise some great points Helen, and it reflects the same sentiment I expressed. As I partially mentioned in a response to Lindy, I think the guidelines provided by the project are too strict, and possibly not conforming to "Use their conventions".
I did not explain my question very well. I should have asked what is the covention in South Africa as I have had this advice that in SA we only have first names (all of them). But some of my other friends balk at this.
Hermanus, see some of the other comments on this thread, such as Helen's above. While typically South African names are provided in GIVEN + FAMILY name format, it would not be uncommon for someone to have a true "middle name".
Use of middle names for the compilation of statistics does not mean that the primary documents for Identification or Birth denotes same.

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