Friday, January 2, 2015

What Can a Surname Used as a Middle Name Tell Us?

In my research, I've found three situations when a surname is used as a middle name.

1. HONORING A FAMOUS PERSON (usually political)

Examples from my tree:
George Washington Young, Thomas Jefferson Decker, Ulysess Grant Burton & James Madison Randolph


Examples from my tree:
My father's middle name is his great, great grandmother's last name. My brother was given the same middle name. My sister-in-law gave her son our beloved grandparent's last name (though in this instance it's his first, not middle, name)


Examples of mothers' surnames from my tree:
James Eastwood Merrill's mother was Sarah Jane Eastwood
Andrew McClintock Stewart's mother was Catharine Jane McClintock
John Quiggle Stewart's mother was Frances Quigley
Josiah Randolph Coppenbarger's mother was Mary "Polly" Randolph

Examples of grandmothers' surnames from my tree:
Bessie Waldron Merrill's paternal grandmother was Nancy Waldron
Charles Close McClintock's paternal grandmother was Julia Ann "July" Close

And, this leads me to my current research challenge. I've struggled to determine my great, great grandfather's middle name for more than 10 years. He usually goes by Augustus L Merrill (1848-1920 in PA). I only had one document, his Social Security application, that actually showed his name. But, I wasn't sure what it said. The best I could come up with was Lippendst.. which isn't even a name!

Augustus' full name from Social Security application which for years I'd read as Lippensdt
But, when I went to my aunt & uncle's house in October, I saw my father's baby book. In it, my grandmother had filled in a family tree! And, there is his middle name! Once again I'm having some trouble with it. It looks like Lippencott or Lippensott.

Augustus full name from my father's baby book - probably written by his mother
Looking in Pennsylvania, where this family lived, I see that there is a surname of Lippencott! I already have Augustus' paternal grandmother, Eleanor Smith. And, his mother was Nancy Waldron. But, I don't have any information on her parents. Was her mother a Lippencott? I think I need to seriously consider this possibility.

One other question... when you are looking at these older generations (at least before the 1900's), have you ever found a surname as a middle name and there was not a connection? Could it just have been a family friend's name? I'm hoping this is truly  another surname in my family, but for now I'll just use it as a clue.

Another tip: This is a good reason to track the siblings of your ancestor, too! You never know where you might find a middle name that turns out to be the clue you need!

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

1 comment:

  1. This is a great article, Dana. My 5th-great-grandparents James PORTER and Catherine HARLEY (in England) gave their sons only one name, but the girls all had unusual middle names - Elizabeth Harley PORTER, Martha Bradshaw PORTER, Rebecca Goddard PORTER and Catherine Heythorne PORTER. Elizabeth Harley PORTER's middle name is her mother's maiden name. Catherine Heythorne PORTER was baptised on 16 Apr 1775, six months after the death of her maternal grandmother Elizabeth HAYTHORNE (that being the surname of her second husband). I have yet to find an explanation for Bradshaw and Goddard as middle names. Incidentally, I have seen many cases where the middle name of a child born on a voyage to Australia is the name of the ship or its captain.


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