Use of Middle Names

When did the use of giving a baby a ‘middle name’ begin? It may have started in ancient Rome (yet not universally across the Roman Empire) when males were given three names., There was the family name, a personal first name and then a nickname, one of which had been passed from father to son. This three-name practice was not used for women.

The use of three names became more common with the elite of Italy in the 1200s and then by the 1300s, many social classes adopted the practice. A Saint’s name was many times used as the middle name.

In France and Spain, the practice of a middle came became stronger in the 1800s. Unusual was more middle names were added in France and Spain approaching the 1900s.

In England and Scotland, using a middle name started in the late 1700s. By the 19th century (1800s), Europe was full of citizens with three names, and the concept had already made it across the seas to the United States thanks to colonists and immigrants who brought their customs with them.

An interesting note: just three of the first 17 American presidents (1780s-1860s) had middle names.

It was common to use a family name of an ancestor as a middle name in the 1870s to 1940s. The birth name might be Nancy Musselman Everhart, Musselman being the grandmother’s family name. It was a method of carrying on a family name. Also common for a middle name was the first name of a favorite ancestor, again a way to remember that person.

Many individuals in the early 1900s liked to just use the initials of the first and middle name, then their family name. If you were researching an ancestor it could be hard to learn the first and middle names since the initials were so common from 1890s to 1950s.

At present times, you will find many people like or prefer their middle name to their first name. They then make the first name an initial when writing their full name.

Photo: Middle Name

Related Blogs:

Getting Names Correct

Unusual Given Names

The Humor in Names

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