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  • Horton Foote (1916 - 2009)
    Albert Horton Foote, Jr. (March 14, 1916 – March 4, 2009) was an American playwright and screenwriter, perhaps best known for his screenplays for the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird and the 1983 film...

This project highlights famous/notable people who use their middle names instead of their first names.

About middle names

Used with permission from the Geni Blog.

While the concept of a "middle name" has been around since the Middle Ages, it was not until 1835 that the phrase "middle name" first appeared in the Harvard University periodical Harvadiana. The three-name structure commonly found today consists of a given, middle and last name. Though the practice had been around for years, it wasn’t until World War I that middle names became "official" when the U.S. enlistment form included a separate space for them.

Middle name traditions

Middle names can offer clues into your family's history and even family traditions. Some families may choose to pass on the same name over multiple generations. For example, music producer Quincy Jones’s middle name is "Delightt." The name was passed down by his father, Quincy Delightt Jones, Sr., and in turn, passed down to his son Quincy Delight Jones, III.

Others choose to pass down the names of other relatives or the maiden names of female relatives. This is the case for actress Reese Witherspoon, whose middle name "Reese" is also her mother's maiden name.

The stories behind middle names may also offer insight into the personal lives of your ancestors. For example, famous author Rudyard Kipling was born Joseph Rudyard Kipling. His parents had given him the middle name "Rudyard" after Rudyard Lake, which held significant meaning to them. They had met in 1863 and courted at Rudyard Lake in England, where they fell in love with the beauty of the area.

Researching with middle names

When researching your ancestors, be sure to look for middle names as a first name and vice versa. If someone used their middle name rather than their first name, it's not uncommon to see the first name drop from documented records, such as in census records. Also, don't be surprised to also see siblings with the same first names and different middle names!