The Rise of the Middle Name

The use of two given names – a first name and a middle name – was essentially unknown in Europe until the late Middle Ages, and even then the practice was limited to a few distinct cultural groups.   

In the American colonies middle names began to find favor among wealthy extended families in the late 1700s.  Aristocratic families increasingly began giving their children two names to indicate their place in society. A study of the births and baptisms recorded in the register of Virginia’s Albemarle Parish shows that about 3% of children born between 1750 and 1775 were given middle names.

Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, only three had middle names— two of whom were brothers. By the end of the 18th century middle names were still unusual among typical Americans.   Only three of our first seventeen presidents — all them born by 1809 — carried middle names.

Although only a small percentage of children born around 1800 were given a middle name, it had become almost customary by the time of the Civil War. By 1900 nearly every child born had a middle name.  In fact, the enlistment form used in World War I was the first government form to provide space to write a middle name – a reflection of the assumption that nearly every man had one.

First Ladies of the United States

Martha Dandridge
Abigail Smith
Martha Wayles Skelton
Dolly Payne Todd
Elizabeth "Eliza" Kortright
Louisa Catherine Johnson
Rachel Donelson Robards
Hannah Hoes
Anna Tuthill Symmes
Julia Gardiner
Sarah Childress
Margaret Mackall Smith
Abigail Powers
Jane Means Appleton

Mary Todd
Eliza McCardle
Julia Boggs Dent
Lucy Ware Webb
Lucretia Rudolph
Ellen Lewis Herndon
Frances Fulsom
Caroline Lavinia Scott
Frances Fulsom
Ida Saxton
Edith Kermit Carow
Helen Herron
Edith Bolling Galt
Florence Kling DeWolf
Anna Grace Goodhew
Lou Henry
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
Elizabeth "Bess" Virginia Wallace

Mary "Mamie" Geneva Doud
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
Claudia "Lady Bird" Alta Taylor
Thelma Patricia "Pat" Catherine Ryan
Elizabeth "Betty" Bloomer Warren
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith
Nancy Davis
Barbara Pierce
Hillary Rodham
Laura Welch
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama
Melania Trump

Presidents of the United States

George Washington
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
James Madison
James Monroe
John Quincy Adams
Andrew Jackson
Martin Van Buren
William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
James Knox Polk
Zachary Taylor
Millard Fillmore
Franklin Pierce
James Buchanan
Abraham Lincoln
Andrew Johnson
Ulysses Simpson Grant
Rutherford Birchard Hayes
James Abram Garfield
Chester Alan Arthur
Grover Cleveland
Benjamin Harrison
Grover Cleveland
William McKinley
Theodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft
Woodrow Wilson
Warren Gamaliel Harding
Calvin Coolidge
Herbert Clark Hoover
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Harry S.Truman (For his two grandfathers Shippe and Solomon)
Dwight David Eisenhower
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Richard Milhous Nixon
Gerald Rudolph Ford
James Earl Carter
Ronald Wilson Reagan
George Herbert Walker Bush
William Jefferson Clinton
George Walker Bush
Barack Hussein Obama II
Donald John Trump

Taken from The Use of Middle Names, an article on the website

Bob's Genealogy Filing Cabinet --- Southern and Colonial Genealogies

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