I believe that middle names are an invaluable resource for finding clues to family relationships. Strangely I have seen very little written about their use as research pointers in any of the literature, nor have I seen this issue discussed much on the mailing lists. I have not seen any middle name indexes or search tools available anywhere either. BUT - often a person's middle name is the same as the maiden name of their mother or a grandmother or reflects some other familial connection (maybe the name of a patron or benefactor). It may also be the father's surname for births occurring out of wedlock. It seems obvious to me, therefore, that they have significant value in genealogical and family history research.
One of the most extensive online searchable databases is the International Genealogical Index (the "IGI") which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as the LDS) has made available on the internet at http://www.familysearch.org. Unfortunately the IGI does not have a middle name index and so does not provide the ability to search for them. So, to overcome this limitation, I first of all created a middle name index to the online IGI for all of Devon (where this naming pattern seems very noticeable). This proved so successful, with numerous people writing to me to tell me that they had broken down brick walls as a result, that I am now extending it to Suffolk. Indeed, on more than one occasion I have found that Middle Names have been the clinching piece of evidence that I needed to tie things together in my own research and, in fact, it was my curiosity about my grandfather's comparatively unusual middle name (VOSPER) that was part of what got me started on this research in the first place.
I have found over 7,750 different middle names (some of which are obvious transcription errors for each other) appearing in over 27,000 of the christening/birth/adult baptism and marriage records on the IGI for this region. This is out of a total of over 575,000 christening/birth/adult baptism and nearly 230,000 marriage records (representing half that number of marriages, of course, since there are two records in the IGI for each marriage) for these churches/chapels. I have not yet checked the parents' names on the baptism records for additional middle names - that is a much longer task which I may or may not be able to do soon.
I have restricted my search to the batches that are part of this controlled extraction program - these are typically those batches beginning with the letters C, J, K, P (for Christenings etc.) and M or E (for Marriages). A complete list of batches for this region may be found at my IGI Batch number site. I have done my best to eliminate the most obvious entries that are clearly Christian names (such as Willm., Ann, etc.) but I'm sure I didn't catch them all - and some (like Andrew/Andrews) could be either. So, this is a potentially huge untapped source of information and there is a good chance that one of your families' surnames is amongst the middle names I have found!! Who knows - it might even provide that missing link or clue to knocking down that brick wall.
As always a warning about using the IGI is necessary. It is ONLY an index and is full of transcription errors. However it has been a mammoth undertaking on the part of the LDS and is an invaluable aid to research. Nevertheless, it bears repeating that there is no substitute for viewing the original records (or at least fiche or film of them). The IGI does assist you in locating those records and so narrowing down your area of search.
To access the index click below on the first letter of the name in which you are interested and a list of middle names starting with that letter will display in a new browser window. Then click on the name of interest and you will obtain more detail including links to the detailed records on the LDS site at familysearch.org.
Click here to go to my main index page with links to my Middle Name Indexes for other counties and other useful pages.
Do you have any constructive comments, helpful suggestions etc.? If so please e-mail me.
This page was last updated 20th April, 2002
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