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I have seen several suggestions on ways to indicate a person's middle name was preferred over their first name:

  • Firstname "Middlename" Surname
  • Firstname Middlename "Middlename" Surname
  • Firstname Middlename Surname, aka Middlename

Is there any consensus on the best approach in an obituary?

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  • 8
    Firstname "Middlename" Surname has the disadvantage that you can't tell whether Middlename is a middle name or a nickname. Oct 16, 2023 at 1:00
  • 4
    “known as . . . “
    – Xanne
    Oct 16, 2023 at 1:14
  • 4
    Your best bet would be to ask a funeral home. They would be best versed in the expectations of your locale. Albeit, the answers provided here are likely to be equally as good.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Oct 16, 2023 at 13:02
  • 11
    Do you need to do this? It's an obituary. The first time the deceased is named, you use the full name. Subsequently, you can just reference 'Middlename' since it's unambiguous. You'd only need to disambiguate something like Firstname Middlename "Mid" Lastname.
    – MSalters
    Oct 16, 2023 at 13:25
  • 2
    I am that person. See my answer. Workarounds such as "known as", "aka" and quotation marks (appropriate for nicknames) are NOT how I would want to be remembered.
    – Wastrel
    Oct 16, 2023 at 14:27

9 Answers 9

41

You would write "Ebenezer John Doe, known as John,...".

'Ebenezer "John" Doe' would indicate that "John" was not his actual name (middle or otherwise) but one given to him instead, i.e. a nickname.

"aka" would indicate an alias or alternative name, not necessarily a preferred one.

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    This (with "known as") is certainly the style I've most commonly seen in obituaries. (There's also the alternative where you use the name they were known as and then state what the full name or birth name was.)
    – Stuart F
    Oct 16, 2023 at 8:31
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    Or just "E. John Doe," which makes it immediately apparent that you're not going to be referring to him by his first name. See also F. Scott Fitzgerald, J. Edgar Hoover, &al.
    – A. R.
    Oct 17, 2023 at 16:15
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    @A.R. That works in general use, but obituaries usually want to give the full name. Oct 17, 2023 at 16:47
31

As a person who uses his middle name, I would prefer "Middlename Lastname" in the beginning and then later in the biography give the full birthname.

This is simple. Nobody (except the government) uses my Firstname, and using it at the beginning of the obituary would be confusing. Some people would wonder if this is the person they knew.

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    I also use my middle name, and when filling out forms I most often write it as "(FirstName) MiddleName LastName". People usually get the idea. Oct 16, 2023 at 17:31
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    +1 I am named after a grandfather who split with the family. Heard all the tales. Not a nice person. Why they still decided to name me after him goes beyond my comprehension. I abhor the idea that my official first name would be used on my obituary.
    – iwarv
    Oct 18, 2023 at 9:49
21

Submit the obituary under the name Middlename Surname so that the headline will show up in the publication or on the website as one of the following, depending on the style of the publisher:

  • Middlename Surname
  • Surname, Middlename

Then, in the body of the obituary, write something like this:

Firstname Middlename Surname was born in Someplace, Biggerplace, on Month DD, YYYY, to Father and Mother Surname. Middlename grew up in Otherplace and studied Subject at University of Wherever, where he met the love of his life...

The reason for including Firstname at all is genealogical. Decades in the future, descendants and other researchers may find official documents under the name "Firstname Surname" or "Firstname M. Surname" and wonder who that is and whether that's the same person. The obituary is your chance to leave breadcrumbs for the future.

12

This might be a bit less formal than you're looking for, but I think that this format would work for most people; it's a slight modification of DJClayworth's answer:

  • Ebenezer John Doe, "John" to his friends and loved ones, ...
1
  • As someone who uses their middle name exclusively I find a small problem here: Ebenezer may well be known as John to everybody who knew him, only excluding government and police officers who don't know him from a bar of soap ;-)
    – traktor
    Oct 18, 2023 at 23:12
7

Since no-one else seems to have said it, I would suggest Firstname Middlename Surname in the first sentence but then Middlename in subsequent references. As long as your obituary is long enough to contain subsequent mentions, and isn't so formal that only the surname is used later on, this makes things clear in a respectful way without dwelling on the point unnecessarily (which I think a 'known as X to his friends' does).

Charles Michael Jones died last week aged 82 after a short illness. Born in 1941, he grew up in Amsterdam but moved with his family to Chicago aged 11. … Michael was universally loved for his sense of humour and dedication to his friends.

3

I would opt for Firstname Middlename "Middlename" Surname from your list of choices.

Finding a random obituary in my area reveals:

Charles "Chuck" H. Lake, Jr.

Which is reinforced throughout the obituary later via:

Chuck proudly served his country in the US Air Force...

Chuck was also involved in his church choir...

I would say that consistent reinforcement throughout the obituary helps to disambiguate whatever punctuation you wish to use in the initial nomenclature.

Source: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/syracuse/name/charles-lake-obituary?id=53339491

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  • 7
    "Chuck" is a nickname for "Charles", not a middle name like the question was asking about. (His real middle name started with H.)
    – Laurel
    Oct 16, 2023 at 13:10
  • @Laurel Thanks, I've updated my answer to explain how it's related.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Oct 16, 2023 at 13:16
3

My father's name was Edward Norman Flydog (well, with different family name). In both his and my mother's obituaries (in 1990 and 2023, respectively), he's referred to as "Edward Norman Flydog", but in the next sentence, he's referred to as "Norm".

2

What about Firstname Middlename Lastname ("Middlename")

John Howard Doe ("Howard")

It looks a bit more graceful than having the Middlename twice in a row.

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  • 1
    This is the format I have seen most commonly.
    – arp
    Oct 17, 2023 at 21:33
0

One way to do this would be to write "Marcus Anthony (Anthony) Roman". In my experience the name in brackets is understood to be the person's unofficial, but commonly used name.

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  • 6
    That looks ridiculous.
    – TonyK
    Oct 16, 2023 at 14:02
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    It is common in Victorian schools. I can't comment about other contexts.
    – Peter
    Oct 17, 2023 at 1:38
  • Oh, OK -- as in a list of pupils in a class. That does make sense. But not in running text.
    – TonyK
    Oct 17, 2023 at 12:29
  • 1
    I would have gone with (Marcus) Anthony Roman, for much the same effect and reasons.
    – MikeB
    Oct 17, 2023 at 13:53

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