Middle Names

My sister and I were given middle names.  When I got into genealogy, I could find no middle names for my paternal grandmother or her daughter, my Aunt Barb.  It turns out that side of the family did not give girls middle names because girls, of course, would get married and use their maiden name as their middle name.

ruth kate john abt 1894

Ruth and Kate Bressler with brother John, about 1894.

So my grandmother is Ruth Bressler Claycomb – no need to jettison a middle name.  Her sisters, Kate, Maud, and Dorothy also had no middle names.

Barbara Claycomb, 1937

Barbara Claycomb, 1937

Her daughter became Barbara Claycomb Davis.

Taking one’s maiden name as a middle name is very common in our family.  My mother was born Harriet Lorraine Duncan, and took Duncan as her middle name.  Off hand, I can’t think of any women who kept their original middle name when they married.

Of course, underlying this is the assumption that all young women will get married or at least aspire to marry.  And that they will take their husband’s name.  Things have changed – women keep their original names or hyphenate them or go a more traditional route.  It just makes more possibilities for genealogists to sort out.

6 thoughts on “Middle Names

  1. My Mennonite ancestors all got their mom’s maiden name as their middle name at birth! Boys and girls both! I like that and wish I had known that custom before my own son was born! However, once a girl married, she
    would drop her middle name and substitute her own maiden name for her middle name. Consequently, I do not have many brick wall female ancestors among my Mennonite roots!


    • I like that too! And what a joy for genealogists. My brother was given my mother’s maiden name as a middle name – that was common in our family. It’s just the girls that got short-changed!


  2. In my Scottish line everyone is named after someone. They followed the naming pattern almost perfectly. When they named a child for someone, the child was given the whole name. So I have some girls named Elizabeth Wallace Buchanan, Mary Brown Young and so on. It makes tracing things much easier with these extra clues.


    • That’s great! My Scottish ancestors gave the boys the first name according to the expected naming pattern, except when there were too many Thomases. Sometimes the girls were named for their mothers, but often not. How wonderful to have a full middle name.


  3. It was common in my mother’s family to take one’s maiden name as your middle name upon marriage, which my mother did, and which I expected to do, but somehow the marriage certificate didn’t reflect that in 1971. The second time around I did it right (on at least several accounts) and made sure my maiden name was listed as my middle name. In my maternal great-grandmother’s family, EVERYONE got someone’s last name as their middle name. I wish that custom had been carried down to my generation. Bob’s brothers have family middle names, but he doesn’t, at least that we can tell.



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