Friday, 20 August 2010

Searching Middle Names

Not long after I started my family history research I grew to appreciate the value of middle names. I was searching through microfilms of the index to British birth registrations for my great-grandfather, Robert Reid. There were lots of possibilities. Then I came across Robert Digby Reid. Digby is a middle name that has appeared in each succeeding generation. I had my man.
A recent item on the Sussex RootsWeb list mentioned Hugh Wallis's index to middle names in the International Genealogical Index. Find it, along with other resources he developed, at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hughwallis/index.htm.  It dates back to 2002 and I'm wondering if it, and others of his resources, will survive changes being made at FamilySearch.

What about searching middle names in other British databases? There's too much to cover in a blog post so let's look specifically at the England and Wales civil registration birth index. It's worth remembering that these indexes stopped recording full middle names, just used initials, in the early 20th century.

You can search middle names on FreeBMD. I searched for First Name(s) <* Digby> but was informed the search would take too long unless I restricted it further. It worked without specifying a surname, useful to find possible cousins descended from female relatives, by searching in three year chunks. Include a surname and the search proceeds quickly. If the middle name you seek is the third, not the second, then you need to search using the model <* * Digby>.

With the England and Wales civil registration birth index database at findmypast.co.uk you are required to specify a last name for searches. The format First Name(s) <* Digby> with last name specified works and the results include cases with second initial D.  Using two asterisks produced results but too many to be useful.

For Ancestry's pre-1915 civil registration database of births putting the middle name only in the First & Middle Name(s) search box produced hits wherever that word occurred. <* Digby> produced a notice that too many results were found.

To me the bottom line here is that searching using middle names is quite viable online, always providing they were included in the record in the first place. You may have to play a bit with the format for the search.

Thanks to Christine Jackson for the tip about the item on the Sussex list.

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