Sunday, April 16, 2017

Did my ancestor really have a middle name in 1608?

One of the issues that cause people to fail in getting a AncestryDNA leaf hint or record hint at Ancestry is the "middle name problem."

Right now I'm in the middle of writing my weekly genealogy column, part of my syndicated genealogy newspaper series, on consistent data entry into our genealogy databases and online trees.

While putting words on the computer screen, I reminded myself of one of my genealogy my pet peeves -- middle names in the 17th and 18th centuries. This is just one of the parameters that will cause a computerized match not to occur. I see a middle name in a 17th or 18th century person and I will move

But don't just trust my words on this subject, one of my cousins Bob W. Baird, wrote a great article on middle name usage on his website at

Here is an excerpt from cousin Bob's Genealogy Cabinet genealogy website.

"The use of two given names – a first name and a middle name – was essentially unknown in Europe until the late Middle Ages, and even then the practice was limited to a few distinct cultural groups.

"Middle names among English-speakers were essentially nonexistent until the mid-1600s, remained quite rare for another century or so, and did not become common until well after the American Revolution.

"Among the British stock of the southern colonies middle names were rarely bestowed on children until after the Revolution and did not become customary until the mid-1800s."

You can read Bob's full article on the subject at the link above.

So the next time you see someone with a middle name in an online tree or genealogy who lived in the 17th and 18th centuries I hope Bob's words on this subject will give you pause before you click that information blindly into your online tree or genealogy project.