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07 March 2013

Initials Matter

Sometimes middle initials are correct and sometimes they are not, but they should always be transcribed and analyzed for potential clues. If your ancestor consistently used his middle initial, it might have been to distinguish himself from someone else of the similar name as in this document from 1913.

There was James E. and James--two different individuals.


  1. I have had several relatives that I needed to watch for that all-important middle initial!

  2. Be careful when reading old newspapers! Initials often were often incorrect.

  3. This is a good tip! You see this in the entertainment industry, like Michael W. Smith, Michael J. Fox... but it's true that people often did this because there was someone else with a similiar name in the same town and they felt it was important to try to seperate themselves. One of my wife's ancestors had the same name as another gentleman in town who would rack up all sorts of debt from bars and shops and other creditors... her relative tried using his middle initial all the time but was still having problems being associated with the other man and he ended up changing the spelling of his last name from ****ich to ****ick