Is there a good way to find out middle names of people one is researching? From approximately 1750 to 1850 (and still thereafter) it became vogue to use a family surname as a middle name. This is purely for colonial New England people. Other cultures had different customs and those may have already included two or more given names (or Christian names if you will). However, if you see a colonial New England person whose name is Mary Elizabeth or some such combination, you can be sure you are looking at bad research. That type of naming pattern didn't happen until later.
But when you come across a middle initial, what can you do to flush it into a full name so that you can use it as a genealogical clue? In my own research I found middle names by a range of sources.
- Luther Hale Pinkham (1815-1873) and his son George Hale Pinkham (1843-1888) appear in vital records or the Runnels Genealogy that way;
- Mary Chamberlain Wallis/Wallace (1814-1866) appears that way only in her son's biographical sketch in N.F. Carter's Native Ministry of New Hampshire;
- Benjamin Wingate Hurd (18224-1904) is known only from his son's records in Kansas where he calls himself Benjamin Wingate Hurd, Jr.
- Calvin Sanger Learned (1824-1862), Abiah Russell Learned (1830-1926) and Josiah Dudley Learned (1822-1876) all appear that way in their birth records from a town record in Weld, Maine.
I've surmised some middle names. Rebecca D. Thompson (1819-1901) is undoubtedly Rebecca Denny Thompson, named after her maternal grandmother Rebecca (Denny) Spencer. Daniel R. Wallace (1823-1908) is no doubt Daniel Rogers Wallace and named after a friend/neighbor in Moultonborough. And of course more modern names such as my great-grandfather Archibald Thompson Pratt (1888-1964) appear in his vital records. However, I would love to know the middle names of several people that I can't seem to find, such as:
- Polly B. Dudley 1787-1850+, she consistently used the B. in deeds;
- Mary B. Whipple 1828-1870+, is she Mary Berry Whipple?
- Stephen S. Wallace 1810-1837, son of Nathaniel and Phebe (Whipple) Wallace.
If you don't have birth or baptismal records available and they consistently use the middle initial in other records, I'm not sure if there is a tried and true method to find this out.