• Important Update: Our New Email Domain

    Please note: We've updated our email domain to familyhistory.email. All our emails will be from this domain.

  • Do you love Genealogy? Why not write for us? we're looking for volunteers to write articles for Family history. Please contact us for further information.

Significance of middle names


Ok - this might be a strange one, but here goes...

I was wondering if anyone is conversant with the allocation of middle names for Anglicans (Church)? What I mean is - some religions/denominations have informal traditions that mean at least one middle name is/was traditional. My mum once told me, for example, that Catholics always ensure their children have middle names. (Her words not mine)

Why do I ask? That is the interesting bit! One of my ancestor family groups was C of E, and they had quite a few children. They appear to have been extremely particular about registering births, and even the children who died at birth have details recorded.

However the youngest 2 children were only given one name each and, unlike all of their siblings, their names bore no reference to well-used family names. Oral history (which may be wrong) has claimed that they were the husband's children by another woman, but were raised as part of the family. Someone pointed out that they may have been the sons of their eldest sister who was unmarried but old enough to be a mum. She married shortly after the youngest one was born, and her first 2 sons were given the very same names.

It is just something that I wonder about, if middle names did have any possible significance.:confused:


My great, great, great grandmother Clara Emma Auber was given her much older sisters first name as a middle name. Emma Auber was 22 years older than her. Their mum Elizabeth was 51 when Clara was born.

My great, great grandmother was Mary Ann Kate Roberts and had sisters called Maria Alice, Elizabeth Emily Goodacre, Maragret Minnie and Harriet Ada but were all known as Kate, Alice, Minnie and Ada even upon marriage. Elizabeth used her first name.

All the other sisters besides Elizabeth were known by their middle names. Their parents Thomas John and Mary Ann never used their middle names, Thomas never using his at all except on his 1813 baptism. If he had, it would make tracing him easier as he took a year to find. Thomas even put his daughters middle names down on the 1871 census and an 1878 poor law document instead of their full names.

The 1878 poor law document says Thomas Roberts aged 68, Mary aged 39, their children Kate, 15, Alice 14, Elizabeth, 13, Fred 9, Minnie, 8 and Ada 2. Only two were given their first names as opposed to middle ones.



Parts of my family tree have used the Mothers Maiden name as the middle name of the children so I have lots of people with Bilbe as there middle name one branch then appear to have hyphenated the name and become Bilbe-Robinson.

This tradition wasn't passed on to me as my father did not like having Hoy as a middle name!



I have instances where the fathers mothers maiden name is used as a middle name for children. Thomas Roberts had a son Frederick Goodacre Roberts born in 1860 and Elizabeth Emily Goodacre Roberts born in 1867. Goodacre was Thomas's mums maiden name.

I don't know that there would have been a particular reason for Catholics to give their children middle names. I am a Catholic from a Catholic mother and C of E father and my siblings and I have more than one fore-name each. However, it was traditional for Catholics to give their children saints' names although, these days, that seems to have gone by the board. However, my maternal g.grandfather had only one fore-name. Still, thank goodness for more than one fore-name as it makes research just that bit easier, especially if the names are a bit unusual.

It has been known for the middle name to be from even a great grandparent. On occasions the middle name may have been the surname of the local vicar, doctor, grocer, or godparent or even an uncle or auntys married name.

Thanks all - gives me lots to consider. The single, meaningless names compared to multiple traditonal names for their siblings seemed to just stand out for these 2 ancestors, as if it signifies that there was not the same level of commitment to naming them, or that they are somehow different.

If I find out anything about them I will post to let you know - paper based records can be so much more exciting when you discover unrecorded social traditions and meanings that fade as time passes.

Well I've been given 4 christian names , 1st name after a gt aunt the other 3
after my mums sister who died and a godmother. So they have a significance to my mum but I dont use them as they take up to much space when filling in forms.
for the last 150 years or so it has been a sort of tradition on my fathers side of the family that sons have their father or grandfathers name as a middle name, and the same names are repeated over and over again, so we have walter, who's son was harold walter, who's son was walter harold and so on and so on, I have my fathers name as a second name (and an uncle called walter), there are instances of this happening on the female side as well (no they weren't called harold or walter!).
a few generations further back it seems that any child who died young would have their name reused as the middle name of one of their siblings.

One that always brings a smile to my face is an ancestor on the Dyer side of the family whose full name was John Obed Dyer, I s'pose Obediah Dyer would have been too much of a mouthful.

Last edited:
Hi Michelle,
Yes, they used to be very significant, particularly in the Victorian era.Family names where continued down passed generations, usually from Grandfather to Grandson and Grandmother to Grandaughter.Middle names often contained the surname of the opposite line so the line could be traced back.I am lucky on the Davies family side as one of my Great Aunts registered all her four children with one of the family surnames as a middle name, absolutely priceless to a family history researcher.Also, sometimes a name might not mean anything to present generations, but go further back and you realise sometimes they are related to the family, but are unknown or forgotten about by the family for whatever reason. Best of luck in your searches :) kerrymac.
Thanks Kerry. If I ever find out anything concrete, about this family's reasons why the boys had only one name each, I will post. It has certainly made me realise that I should keep records of how our generations were named, and why we chose our childrens' names. That should save my g-g-g-g-grandkids some time and frustration!!:biggrin:
i have 5 siblings......im named after my aunt and i have a niece named after me.....my sis has mum's name as a middle name.....my eldest brother is named after both my dad and grandad.......next brother has grandads middle name as a middle name....next brother has my dads middle name as a middle name......next brother has out great grand dads name as a middle name.....
i also did the 'keep the family name' thing with my kids.....my eldest son has the middle name of william, as both my grandfathers were called william.....i made a slight alteration with my daughter.....her middle name is louise.....my nan was louisa......louise went better with my daughters first name.....louisa sounded to much.....especially as her name is hypenated......my middle son has 3 christian names.....but one of his middle names is after my brother and great grandfather james, as for the last son....it was difficult looking for a middle name to go with joshua......and his surname.....i only said the name joshua messing about as i knew my dad didnt like the name.....just usual banter that me and my father had.....we did like to torment each other.....to the point we'd end up rolling up laughing.....but ex hubby decided to stick to the name and wouldnt b shifted ...... no matter what anyone suggested after that......it werent gonna happen.....he had decided on Joshua and that was that

i have a friend who's partner of turkish.....his christian names r refat mehmet.....his father is mehmet refat.....grandfather refat mehmet....and so on going backward......for about 7 generations apparently......so i think that using names of ancestors is just a traditional thing that families follow more than a religious thing especially nowadays