Patronyms or second first names

Started by George J. Homs on Thursday, June 23, 2011


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6/23/2011 at 7:31 AM

Hello all! In the course of working through New Amsterdam trees, I have a tendance to move patronyms and second first names to the first name box. I hope that doesn't offend anyone?
My primary reason for doing so is that things look so much clearer when you're in 'tree view' (which normally masks the second names).
Additional arguments that might justify are this: 1) in many cases, we only have a patronym to go by and, in case we're not sure whether the patronym became family name or not, it's safer to have it with the first name; and 2) we're not always certain whether a second name actually belongs with a first name or not (like 'Anna Maria', 'Jean Pierre', etc).
If you find this is not good practice and you have a reason for me not to do this, please tell!

6/23/2011 at 7:40 AM

I do this in other cultures where this is the case with both patronyms and second first names. For exactly the reasons you stated. To me it would be misleading to put second first names in the middle name field and patronyms in the last name field, when there are no true last names. And the defining name of the person is not complete with just the "first" name.

6/23/2011 at 7:47 AM

If every user put the first and the second name in the first box the system should be easier working. Look for a John Smith and there is never an end. But Look for John Frederick Smith, then you have clear sight. Problem is that not everybody uses this in the same way. The John Frederick Smith with Frederick in the second box is not easy to find, because the search engine doesn't llo in the second box.
Best should be tot combine the first and the second box !

6/23/2011 at 7:49 AM

I tend to place allways the patronyme in the secondbox and then surname: unknown, but don't do it, because the search engine doesn't look in the second box !

6/23/2011 at 7:51 AM

I saw that a lot of stillborn and died young childs are merged with later born childs, because the system doesn't show (YOB-YOD) to the names, only in the relation edits !

6/23/2011 at 8:29 AM

Fred - I MP both the died young child and the later born child when they have the same name. Otherwise they ALWAYS get merged. I also write a Curator note on each with a warning not to merge, that there are two children with identical names in the family.

6/23/2011 at 8:51 AM

It is possible to MP a profile without adding a curator but I don't know how, do you ? I changed sometimes the text above a curated profile and discovered that I became doing that the curator and now I don't know to whom I've to apologise because that name disappeared !

6/23/2011 at 8:58 AM

Fred - that's an on-going issue, that when you edit the Curator Note, you replace the existing curator. When that happens, I send the PID to the curator - if I know who it is - and apologize. If I don't know who the curator was, I often use curator discussions to post the PID and tell the curator to take back curatorship.

When you MP you become the curator. You can deMaster a profile and leave a Note on it however.

6/23/2011 at 9:08 AM

We seem to agree totally on this first and middle name issue! HIstorically, middle names have been introduced at different times in different cultures - and in some never at all. Then again, you have aristocrats that have 20 middle names just to keep everyone in the family happy - so I guess that the middle name box can have its benefits. But that applies probably to much less than 1% of people. I prefer putting as much as possible in the first name box.

6/23/2011 at 10:01 AM

As an Anglo American with a middle name and ancestors going back to the 1700s with legal middle names, I beg you all to be careful about "rules" on second names.

It would be incorrect (and illegal!) to put American middle names in the first name box.

The real solutions, perhaps, are --

- build out the "naming conventions" per language (and gain consensus from the language users) using this project:

And eventually the country / language portals

-- consider enhancement requests to geni

Also, to me?

Don't worry overmuch about "search." The nicknames field works well.

BTW Welcome aboard George!

6/23/2011 at 10:03 AM


I'm not as polite as Hatte. :)

I tend to make Master Profiles in my own family lines so don't worry so much about my "right" to become the curator.

But of course I stick with English:)

6/23/2011 at 10:07 AM

n.b. George

We need to look up the "naming convention" rules for Nieuw Amsterdam I guess! But so far my assumption has been that as a Dutch Colony, names followed the laws and conventions of the Netherlands.

Once it became legally a British Colony (and name that year George!) I presume the "rules" of the English Common Law applied.

That is kind of a joke, because to my best understanding, the English Common Law was never really written down ... which didn't stop anyone from suing based on it!

The other question is baptismal / christening names. Again, I assume the "rules" of the churches were followed in the days before municipal record keeping? But hmmm ... Nieuw Amsterdam and New York surely had good records, at least by comparison with the American South?

So many questions already ...

6/23/2011 at 10:11 AM

I'm lucky to have both the American perspective on middle names and the Yiddish perspective. Judah Leib is a name and goes in the first name field for my Eastern European 3rd great grandfather. Like Judah Leo sort of. Leib means "lion" and in Eastern European Yiddish they had a double or triple first name - Hebrew + secular "equivalent". Lion was the symbol for the tribe of Judah, hence the common first name Judah Leib, where Leib is the Yiddish for "lion".

Whereas my name "Hatte Anne" is "Hatte" with that often forgotten middle name "Anne". The funny thing is that in St. Louis, where my parents are from, they use the middle name as part of the call out name, so there I am known as "Hatte Anne" -- and in that sense the South has two first names like Catholic Canadians, etc.

6/23/2011 at 11:14 AM

Hmmm, Hatte, from now on, I consider you a special case :-P
Thanks for your perspective, Erica. And indeed many questions.
I think you're totally right: the New Amsterdam immigrants lived by the rules of the Dutch church - with Hugenot and Reformed influences. I bet nobody will sue us over that.
Actually, I just mailed with Justin Swanstrom about a 'classification' question. I suggested to him that we would create a 'master project' about US immigration - basically allowing for grouping immigrants in a logical manner. That is... (prior to Independence), New Amsterdam, New France, New Sweden, the English...
By adopting such a classification, we might actually also include elements of law and common practice (like this naming issue). Simpluy because the territorial possessions were ruled by the laws of the colonizer (even if unwritten Common Law ;-) ).
What do you think?
I just checked, there is no project called 'American Immigration' (US immigration would only refer to post-Independence).
So, anyone who wants to set up the project, and we use it as a matter of classification only? (Including dates about the colonies, elements of law etc).
I think this could be most interesting, as we'd be putting a whole framework around American history.

6/23/2011 at 11:15 AM

I realize I tend to be "legalistic" but I have it drummed into me from looking for "primary sources" for my ancestors. So when I'm lucky enough to find a birth record (hah!) and it actually has a "middle name," I really need to have the "middle name" field available for it ... and not a "work around."

6/23/2011 at 11:23 AM

Just so that you know why I'm interested in all this :-)
I've read the US constitution many times over, and graduated on the history of American foreign policy. No bragging ;-)
I'm just adding this because you might be wondering about my credentials :-)
Guess what, I have the US constitution on my iPhone - and I think it's one of the greatest texts ever written (given the timeframe), together with the original French constitution (derived from the US) and the respective Bill of Rights and Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme.
I'm just saying, putting a 'framework around American history' is just my kind of challenge :-)

6/23/2011 at 11:24 AM

Oh George

Indeed we've been thinking about a United States of America Portal project where we can more precisely define these issues. But there's a lot of research to be done to "prove it" with documents.

I've found, for instance, that things I take as a matter of course from growing up here are not so obvious to others.

What we've done so far is less a "master portal" project than building it up by location, immigration ship, and family name.

The very first projects on geni were:

- "Mayflower" passengers (1621)
- Coffin / Starbuck family ("first settlers" of Nantucket, Massachusetts)
- Ancient Planters of Virginia (1608)

So I'm thinking the scope of Nieuw Amsterdam could be similar? That is, families / towns / ships.

Soon enough we will be to weave together these first immigrant groups into a master portal for the United States.

Hopefully in the meantime Geni users familiar with American genealogy can do the "correctives" needed for naming conventions. I think I'm pretty good on English origin and early American use, not so much on from other countries.

6/23/2011 at 11:26 AM

Have you read about how the Mayflower Compact was considered the basis for the US Constitution? I didn't know that until I started looking into it!

I was taught that Jefferson, the Patrician, learned it all from those wild French philosophers of the Enlightenment. So it was a bit shocking to me to find out that Puritans were in fact so democratic.

6/23/2011 at 11:30 AM

And don't forget the Magna Carta.

My mother-in-law taught high school civics in Cordoba, Argentina and she agrees with you George about the United States Constitution. I wish we American citizens could appreciate our Constitution as much as others sometimes do :)

I like the framework around American history. Names do have to do with social migration AND with legal structures. Surnames in Europe were mandated at different times by different entities. It surprised Erica that my early 1800s Eastern European ancestors had no or variable surnames. The Russian Empire was making surnames required at that point. Within 30 or so years, records show surnames. But people didn't have the same attitude about their surname and when they immigrated to the U.S. often changed them easily for convenience.

6/23/2011 at 11:34 AM

OK OK, despite all we learned at school, there's so much mor eto learn, isn't there?
Now, don't talk about Jefferson, I love the man. And, I don't think that Jefferson learned from the French. He was an ambassador to France, before becoming President. But, I think he may have influenced Lafayette more than the other way around. Can you imagine, both men entertained a friendship for 50 years, without email nor cell phones! Just ships to carry letters and people.

6/23/2011 at 11:35 AM

Now one of the nice things about a Nieuw Amsterdam project is this:

Founded in 1950, the Municipal Archives preserves and makes available the historical records of New York City municipal government. Dating from the early seventeenth century to the present, the Municipal Archives holdings total approximately 160,000 cubic feet. Accessioned from more than one hundred city agencies, the collections comprise office records, manuscript material, still and moving images, ledger volumes, vital records, maps, blueprints, and sound recordings.

Collection highlights include vital records, census, and city directories that are an essential resource for patrons conducting family history research, the number one hobby in America. ....

Documentation! 160,000 cubic feet of it! Be still my archivist wanna-be heart!

What's the bet there's no consensus on naming conventions *anywhere* there? :>>

6/23/2011 at 11:36 AM

Yes Hatte, it's one of the challenges with American immigration, isn't it? So many people came to America, and som many just simply adopted an 'identity of their own'. For so many, we might just never find their European anxcestors.

6/23/2011 at 11:40 AM


When you wander into world history a bit this idea about isolation? Not so much.

In researching the Ancient Planters of Virginia, archeologists have recently uncovered beads they can trace to the Silk Road.

So imagine -- in 1620, in the Americas, beads all the way from China?

6/23/2011 at 11:42 AM

There's always DNA George!

I was able to figure out from a DNA project on one of my lines -- I'm 1/6 Anglo Saxon.

That was truly shocking news. :> :>

6/23/2011 at 12:01 PM

Private User
Today at 8:36 AM

You're welcome! Another link, maybe you know it allready but send it just in case about black people in new amsterdam

6/23/2011 at 12:05 PM

I haven't been able to find my great grandparents' ancestry or even any relatives who also came to the U.S., although I always heard that we did have relatives in the U.S. I found in their case that the Passport application and ship manifests can help pinpoint a point of origin, which is about the best you can get. So I believe they came from a little town just outside of Kiev and from there there is hope. Add to that some regular correspondences between the Hebrew/Yiddish name and the chosen "American" name. They were Max Reib Rubenstein and Fanny Rubenstein. Probably Moshe or Mordechai and Feige :) But what was his real surname? The story is that Rubenstein was hers and Reib was his. I love the mysteries that genealogy is made up of, even the ones that can't be solved.

Private User
6/24/2011 at 4:07 AM

Allright this discussion started with an whole other topic but I want to bring in something that's spinning in my head and turning in my heart.
It's absolutely wonderfull what's been created her on Geni and with the New Amsterdam project and going into a majore project of putting a framework aroubd American History, But what;s going through my mind is this: how about the history of the native Indians and the history of the african americans? The history of the "white" emigrants, the native Indian people and the begining of the history of African Americans are in m opinon not seperate histories but are merged with each other. How to make sure this project does n't to become a "white" project, where the Indian and the African Americans get a somewhat place but not the place it should be. Well it's not easy for me to say what I have to say in English so George if you can add someting to what I'm trying to say, please do! :-)

6/24/2011 at 4:24 AM

There is only one American history: the history of the people who lived/lives in America, no matter what colour or origine they had/have.

6/24/2011 at 4:31 AM

Fred says it :-) In fact, from a genealogy perspective, I think we just wish we can trace EVERYONE. Unfortunately, because of the cultural differences, wars and discrimination, the sources we can find are more abundant for some groups than for others :-( But, it's for the latter that every new find is an even more joyful accomplishment, isn't it?

Private User
6/24/2011 at 4:45 AM

Yes you're right Fred, but that's an easy statement. Because who should say otherwise? That;s not a dis agreement, for no one I think.
But's about the efforts we make.

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