For people who are known by a name which isn't their first name, it is common to write that name in quotes preceding the surname, such as Thomas "Tom" Fudd, or Guy Thomas "Toddy" Nichols.

What is the convention when a person goes by their middle name?

Walter Peter Nobb (AKA Peter Nobb)

Would it be correct to say Walter Peter "Peter" Nobb? That seems redundant. And yet to say Walter "Peter" Nobb gives no indication that Peter is the middle name in addition to being the name the person is known by.

5 Answers 5


So far as I can see, neither the GEDCOM 5.5 nor 5.5.1 specifications have an item that enables one to record which given name is actually used in normal life. That suggests that, with no target to aim for, each program may very well have its own conventions. The software I use, for instance (Family Historian from Calico Pie), has an item "Given Name used" so that where the given name is "Charles Edward", then I can enter "Edward" into "Given Name used". I then print that GNU in brackets (after the full name) in charts. The "Edward" goes into an extension tag on the GEDCOM file, thus:

2 _USED Edward

But that's just what they (and I) do.

I'm sure that I've seen Tony Proctor's underlining used elsewhere but this may tend to be a hand-written thing.

The only other thing is to point out that this is also a real life problem - I think that for English & Welsh probate purposes the request is that this sort of thing is done by supplying multiple names - so if "Charles Edward XXXX" were known as "Edward XXXX" in daily life, then both (full) names should be supplied and the calendar would refer to

"Charles Edward XXXX" also known as "Edward XXXX"

Or similar...

Another thing is to remember that each software displays stuff differently so that what works in one, may not work well in another - Ancestry's on-line trees have alternate names but it's not easy to see that they exist, never mind what the values are.

So - you pays your money and you takes your choice....

  • If I read your response correctly, you would end up with Walter Peter Nobb [Peter]. Is that right? Dec 22, 2018 at 13:13
  • Yes but that's only in the charts and that's entirely my concoction, though no doubt motivated by what I've seen elsewhere. And the Given Name Used is on a separate line below the full name, which somehow seems to make it clearer.
    – AdrianB38
    Dec 22, 2018 at 13:17

It is largely a matter of personal preference, but the convention I have sometimes seen used is to include the "unused" first name in parentheses.

For example, for Walter Peter Nobb who was known as Peter:

(Walter) Peter NOBB

My preference for the purposes of maintaining my family tree database is to record all individuals by their birth names and include such details as to nicknames and preferred names in the notes.

  • 1
    I like the form, but a concern would be the rather standard form of using Walter (Mary) Nobb in obituaries to indicate that Mary is the spouse of Walter. Dec 22, 2018 at 17:19

Whereas a nickname or abbreviated name, might be enclosed in quotes (e.g. Anthony "Tony" Proctor), using a middle name (there may be several to pick from) already has a precedent in Germany. Their "rufname" (or "call name") is the one they choose to be called by. It is often underlined on official documents as it could be the second or third name in the sequence of their given names.


I agree with the answer of @HarryVervet that how you do this:

is largely a matter of personal preference

For example, the way I do it in Ancestry.com where there are fields for:

  • First and Middle Name;
  • Last Name; and
  • Suffix

and for my ancestors, who all seem to have British ancestry, is that I:

  • only place their surname in the Last Name field;
  • place all remaining names from their baptism/birth records in the First and Middle Name field;
  • use the Suffix field for not only suffixes but also their preferred name.

If your Peter Nobb appeared in my tree, he would be recorded as:

  • First and Middle Name: Walter Peter
  • Last Name: Nobb
  • Suffix: "Peter"

If he had been commonly known as "Walt", "Pete" or perhaps "Pedro" then the first two fields would contain the same values (from his baptism/birth record) but the Suffix field would contain those double-quoted preferred names, or nicknames, instead.

If there is no "overriding" preferred name in the Suffix field then my convention is that the first of the names in the First and Middle Name field is how they are believed to have been generally known.

In my tree my great-grandmother Mary Ellen Nettell was known as Nellie Nettell so in my tree she is recorded as:

  • First and Middle Name: Mary Ellen
  • Last Name: Nettell
  • Suffix: "Nellie"

and when I search for her using her nickname of Nellie, she can be found:

enter image description here

  • As the suffix is printed after the full name, I think you would end up with Walter Peter Nobb, "Peter". Is that right? Dec 22, 2018 at 13:15
  • It depends how you or the software chooses to display the fields. For my purposes I never see the comma that you have inserted.
    – PolyGeo
    Dec 22, 2018 at 13:33

I agree with not liking the redundancy of Walter Peter "Peter" Nobb. I've seen people do Walter (Peter) Nobb, but as somebody pointed out above, I think putting the name not used in parenthesis makes more sense. My favorite is the middle name in all caps to indicate that's the name they go by. So it would be Walter PETER Nobb.

  • The question asks for the convention, not personal preference. Do you have a source that suggests your preference is also the convention? Mar 29, 2022 at 20:10

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