Final Multiple Surnames

The Interface

A probably final form of multiple or compound surnames has now landed in the development branch. At the same time the layout of the person editor had to change somewhat to accommodate the changes. It now looks like

So, all given name fields are at the top of the editor, and surname fields under it. Also to beter indicate there is a name editor with more fields (like family nick name, date, sources, …), the edit button for the name is more prominent (More Name Details button).

Furthermore it is clear that nick name has its own field, and patronymic is no longer present. Data entry of a name should be just as fast as with the previous editor. For a patronymic, one must select the origin of the surname as ‘Patronymic’

When more than one surname must be entered, the user has now the option to use the ‘Use Multiple Surnames’ button which changes the person editor to look like it is in the picture below.

The table with multiple surnames can be edited directly. One just selects a fields, enters the value, and with an Enter press the value is saved. Using Tab or CTRL+TAB allows navigation from one field to the next.

The full complexity of a surname now becomes visible: It contains several parts, each with its own prefix, and a possible connector to the next surname. Each surname can have a different origin.

To note:

  • Sorting in the person tree view happens on primary surname. Only that! As always, this can be overridden on the Name Editor via the group as/display as/sort as fields. Note that this means that group as means grouping of the primary surname under another entry in the tree view.
  • The screenshot also shows how callname becomes red if the callname is not seen in the given names. This is to indicate clearly what Gramps uses as a definition for callname. It indicates that Gramps cannot underline the callname in the given name as the callname is not found in the given name.
  • Drag and drop of surnames is possible. So if you have the mother open, and you need a certain surname in the child, you can just drop it on the surname table.

What now?

This change is  mostly oriented to regions where inheritance from father and mother is common. It allows Gramps to preset the family name on adding a child in a family: the child has the primary surname of the father, and the primary surname of the mother. More and more countries adapt such a scheme now, where the child must choose at eg 18 years, which surnames to take (note that this name would be the preferred name, with the birth name then stored as an alternate name). The way multiple surnames works allows to nicely group surnames in families, although that the actual full surnames change greatly from child to child.

Open Questions

Some questions before release are still open.

  • Do we need more predefined surname origin types? Eg, there is now ‘Inherited’. Do we need ‘Inherited from mother’ as a distinction too?
  • Can we use multiple surnames in other ways to improve genealogical research?
  • Do we need specific changes to reports to better show the information that is known about a surname?

Tune in if you have ideas!

Update: To reduce screen estate taken up by the fields, here a suggestion for a much more compact edit person dialog:


  • Kevin Wright

    This GUI contains vast empty spaces, and an ever-decreasing amount of space to show the events.

    Please do what you can to increase the number of events shown.


  • Benny

    Ideas welcome. Gramps does remember the size of the editor window, so increasing that once, and you have lot’s of space afterward.
    The first try was more compact, but then developers complained it was too crowded/cluttered. So the bold headings where added again to make it more organized, and things where put less close to each other.
    I’d like to move tags perhaps after ID Field…
    Anyway, we are using this in development now up to release, so it will be quickly clear if in actual use it doesn’t hold up.

  • Jason Simanek

    Re: Question #1: As far as surname “origin types”, if you have the option “patronymic” for father and the option “matronymic” for mother, I think you have it covered. Frankly, I’m not sure what “inherited” means as an origin type if patronymic and matronymic are both options. “Inherited” doesn’t seem to indicate any useful information.

    As far as the efficient use of space in the editor UI, the last “compact” version seems awkward with the “Multiple Surnames” button squashed next to the “Prefix” input label. I think that button should somehow be associated with the “Surname” input. I guess if I come up with a better idea I’ll submit it.

    Otherwise, nice work on improving the management of multiple surnames. A definite improvement.

  • Jason Simanek

    Here’s my attempt at improving the Edit Person UX. It’s very similar to the “compact” version you display at the end of the post, but I think the relationship of the Surname and Origin properties need to be more clearly presented. In the compact version you display, it’s difficult to understand if Origin relates to the person or to the surname.

    I also see this problem with the Type property. Type should refer to all of the name properties displayed, correct? It relates to this particular/primary name-group, not to the person. The person can have multiple name-groups that each have their own Type.

    One other thing I added is a “preview” of the name so that you can see how adding content to the various inputs affects the name.

    Anyway, I don’t know if it GTK or whatever can actually display the UI like this, but here’s my take: Redesign-JS

    P.S. Are “Tags” used so much that they are worth dedicating so much primary space in the Edit Person dialog? I never user them . . .

  • lcc

    Jason, regarding “inherited”, there is in your text some basic lack of knowledge regarding what a patronymic and a matronymic are. These are not common surnames inherited from father or mother. It is a particular surname practice based on the father or mother given names.

  • romjerome

    what a patronymic and a matronymic are. These are not common surnames inherited from father or mother. It is a particular surname practice based on the father or mother given names.

    Oh, I need to modify example.gramps …
    Any sample ?

    Thank you.

  • Jason Simanek

    @lcc: Interesting. I just assumed it was the surname of the father, but now that you mention it I should have known since your explanation makes perfect sense with all of the Russian literature I’ve read. For example:

    The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is the father. His sons’ names are:

    – Dmitri Fyodorovich Karamazov
    – Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov
    – Aleksey Fyodorovich Karamazov

    “Fyodorovich” being their patronymic, which basically means “son of Fyodor”.

    Very cool and helpful practice for genealogical research! If only we did it here in the U.S. Thanks for waking me up on this point. romjerome, I hope this example is helpful. Meanwhile, I’ve gotta go spend a few hours updating my Gramps database…

  • lcc

    Jerome, if you look at the wikipedia articles for patronymic and matronymic you will find some examples. Hope it helps.

    Benny, for noble genealogies some kind of “name following” or “name history” would be interesting. Iberian nobility uses many names. There could be an individual report or view tracing the histories of all names the person uses. That would involve tracing the name transmission lineages through the generations.

  • romjerome

    I suppose I will not use patronymic and matronymic on example … There is an annoying exception on my country !

    In modern France the terms patronyme and nom patronymique have been used to designate the family name, meaning that it is inherited from the father. This usage is contrary to the international meaning as described in the rest of this article. A law enacted in 2002 replaced these terms with nom de famille, as in other countries, although its widespread adoption remains unrealised.

  • Artie

    I might be reading this idea wrong, but in my experience, having a lot of Welsh ancestry, I have quite a few entries in the format e.g. “Daniel ap Harry”, where “Daniel” is the given name, and “ap Harry” is the patronymic surname derived from his father Harry ap Owen.

    Now, the way I generally handle these in GRAMPS is to put “Daniel” as “Given Name”, “Harry” as “Surname”, and “ap” as “Prefix”. This has an advantage over the way GRAMPS (at least, v. 3.2.5) handles “Patronymic”, because “ap Harry, Daniel” will be handled in the People List alphabetized under the surname “Harry”, next to his brothers. Putting “ap Harry” in the “Patronymic” field alphabetizes as “, Daniel ap Harry”. The former is useful, the latter not so much. This sense of “Patronymic” might be useful for Russian names, since it formats them basically as second given names, but I’m not sure that needs a separate field any more than a “Middle Name” field would be needed, either of which could simply be appended in “Given Name”.

  • Benny

    @Artie, sort order in person list view is fully configurable. You can give Harry as patronymic in current Gramps, and in the name editor set sort order on patronymic.

    Nevertheless, the way of doing things is mainly about what works for you. If you are happy to see Harry in surname and you know it is a patronymic (you set an attribute or a note …) then that is fine. It only becomes important when one has and a surname and a patronymic

  • enbu

    Would some one help me please.

    From where I grew up, there is no such called surname, family name thing. All that matters is a person’s first name, his father name and his grandfather name.
    This means consequencially written as – Aron Peter Norich. That is Aron is the first name of the person, Peter is his father name and Norich as his grandfather name.
    So I am having problem understanding with the way how “Gramps” configure the names I write.
    Whenever I try to complete the names of children of a parent, their “grandfather” name comes at the “surname” by default. In such cases I change the auto completed surname into the “grandfather name” every time.

    Would someone help me please on what I am missing.

    Also as a comment, I think if there could have been separate entry for “first name”, “father name” “grandfather name”; “mother name” “mother father name” and “mother grandfather name” – it would be much less confusing though it might be exhaustive. OR some kind of configuration arrangement for such type I mentioned so that it can be used by those who are of different in naming systems.

    My country’s naming system looks like the link below.


  • Jason Simanek

    Hi Enbu,

    This is a very interesting problem. I am not sure that Gramps has addressed Habesha names. For starters, as discussed above, I think you could simply not use the Surname field and then use the Patronymic or Matronymic to associate the Given name of the parent with an individual. From your example:

    Given name: Aron
    Patronymic: Peter

    However, I don’t think we have multi-generational patronymics (grand-patronymic maybe?) but since you are providing a genealogical database, the given names of the ancestors beyond the father could be derived from the data you have about those ancestors from which the additional names come.

    Truthfully, this seems to be less a matter of adding new name definitions to Gramps and more about a setting for how names are displayed. If you have any suggestions about how this problem might be addressed, please send an email to the developer mailing list.

  • Gramps 3.4 Portuguese translation | Finisterra | Lisp & Unix & Dragons &c.

    […] praxis into Gramps, which is by now in my opin­ion one of the best if not the isol­ated win­ner in terms of sup­port­ing mul­tiple sur­names. The whole open nature of Gramps really shines here: it star­ted as a bug request, pro­gressed […]

  • S Colburn

    Being new to GRAMPS, I have some questions about how the MULTIPLE_SURNAMES feature could be used. Four times in my tree, I have people who married people with the same surname, however, they are not related, so the surname in their case is a false connection. In the absence of any other way of distinguishing which individuals belong to which ancestral lines, I have resorted to assigning number-suffixes to the duplicated, unrelated surname groups, i.e. SMITH1, SMITH2, SCOTT1, SCOTT2. Any suggestions about how the MULTIPLE_SURNAMES feature of GRAMPS could be used to address this dilemma? Thanks, everyone!

  • Saquib

    GRAMPS, as awesome as it is, needs to move beyond traditional western naming structures. For many of us who use it in Asia (and possibly elsewhere), it would be great to have an option to have the family name come first instead of as a last name.

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