Changing surname to double last name

I am debating the decision to add my maiden name to my daughters last name with a hyphen or as a double last name. I love the diversity it would give her. And the two combined together works. If I decided to follow through with this, I will not be burdened by the stigma of a double last name as I feel being different and having something unique is a good thing in today's world. However, I am a bit concerned how my husband will react. This was brought up prior to giving birth and he seemed very uninterested and a bit offended. I put it aside, we had our daughter and I of course gave her our single last name. We have not spoken about it since. But I believe he would be more receptive to it now as we have settled into parenting and are a solid family unit. 

I have had a personal issue with adapting to my married surname and I feel by adding my maiden back into the mix is the perfect balance. My daughter is under 1 year so this change will be pain free. I personally would do a legal name change for myself. Currently I have just my married surname as my last. I am asking for opinions from anyone who can relate to this decision. Thank you!! 


July 25, 2017 9:12 PM

My married surname has a hyphen in it. (It came that way; it's all his, and all one unit, it just happens to be spelled with a hyphen.) It is a MAJOR PAIN IN THE ARSE. Yes, I did mean to shout.

Yesterday the AAA lady chose the second half to address me by (after I had clearly enunciated and spelled the whole thing). The HVAC guy chose the first half, again after full and detailed introductions. People take that d***d hyphen as license to ignore half the name, rearrange its parts, or otherwise mangle it freely. Computers are even worse, because half the time they ignore the hyphen, and the other half the time they tell me it's invalid. It's especially fun when traveling, when they tell you in red unfriendly letters that your input must match your travel documents exactly, but they don't accept a hyphen as input.

In short: Don't Go There. Especially don't inflict it on your innocent and helpless child.

July 25, 2017 9:29 PM

Note that, as much as my sister detests her hyphen, it's still better than using an unhyphenated double surname. Think about it: if you encounter John Hudson Smith and are tasked with entering it into a FirstName and LastName field, which names do you put where? Is that "Hudson" a middle name or part of the last name? Adding an actual middle name doesn't always help: how do you split up Mary Ellen Tracy Jones? Is Mary Ellen a double-barrelled first name, or is Ellen the middle name? Is Tracy a second middle name, or is it part of the last name? Do you alphabetize under T or under J? No matter what choice you make, somebody else will have made a different choice, leading to duplicate database entries, bureaucratic snafus, and great difficulties when trying to do something like pick up your prescription at the drugstore.

At least with a hyphen, Mary Ellen Tracy-Jones is clearly supposed to be alphabetized under T. It isn't always, because people are stupid, but at least there's a rule.

July 26, 2017 10:02 AM

I agree that as bad as a hyphen is, a double name is even worse.

We don't seem to have a librarian among our regulars on this site, so I can't ask someone with actual experience with this, but there's a conflicting set of standards on which name is which: at our local library in southeastern Pennsylvania, "Anglo" authors like Lois McMaster Bujold and Orson Scott Card are filed under their third names (Bujold and Card), while "Latino" authors like Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa are filed under their second names (García and Vargas). But it's not consistently cultural-positional: Jorge Luis Borges is filed under Borges.

If librarians can't agree on where to file X Y Z, we certainly can't expect pharmacists or photo lab techs to be consistent about it. If you go with a double surname, expect to deal with bureaucratic mix-ups on a daily basis.

July 26, 2017 10:46 AM

Your library is more accurate than mine, which files García Márquez under "M". Borges is correctly filed under "B" as Luis was one of his middle names. His second surname was Acevedo. I have no idea why he didn't use it professionally.

July 26, 2017 11:10 AM

I don't see your point about Hispanic names. In Spanish-speaking countries people use the surnames of both parents, father's surname first, and the father's name is what is used for alphabetizing. It's not a "second" name; it's the first surname. As for Borges, his name is Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, and so it is completely consistent to file his works under Borges, not Acevedo. BTW I actually had the privilege of meeting Borges and having a brief conversation with him about Old English. He was speaking at my university and specifically asked to be introduced to the Anglo-Saxonist--me!

I ran into this problem when I was giving a paper in the Netherlands. Professionally I style myself as Miriam Maiden Name Surname, partly because this is the correct style for divorced women, but mostly to disambiguate myself from the gazillion other people with my given name and dirt common surname. The program listed me wrongly by my maiden name, and when I complained to the conference director, she flatly told me that she knew better than I how my name should be listed. Rhymes with witch....

Elizabeth T., I don't know why Borges didn't use Acevedo, but I will venture a complete guess. He was very enamored with the English language, and he may have chosen to follow English practice...or not.

On an adjacent issue: students were constantly complaining to me that our library didn't have anything on Chretien de Troyes or Geoffrey of Monmouth or Wolfram von Eschenbach. It wasn't a great library, but it wasn't completely devoid of material. But you can't look under Troyes or Monmouth or Eschenbach. The names are simply Chretien, Geoffrey, and Wolfram. Troyes, Monmouth, and Eschenbach are descriptors that indicate which Chretien, Geoffrey, or Wolfram.


July 26, 2017 11:34 AM

I think the point is that there's no inherent difference between Lois McMaster Bujold and Mario Vargas Llosa, yet the former is filed under Bujold, and the latter under Vargas. (By "inherent", I mean that if you had to write a computer program to correctly sort these names, you'd have to add more information than what is contained in the names themselves. You'd somehow have to tell the computer to treat McMaster as a middle name, but Vargas Llosa as a double-barrelled surname.)

July 26, 2017 12:13 PM

Since language is arbitrary, there is no inherent anything. You have to configure the computer program not to file under Lois, for example. It's all a cultural comstruct. Without cultural consensus, "language" would just be a stream of sounds without inherent meaning.

July 26, 2017 3:08 PM

What an honor! I have always loved Borges's work. I laughed when I read your comment about alphabetizing Chretien as I once had a student write a paper about "Troyes" and his works. I was horrified and the next time I taught the course I explained things better.

July 26, 2017 4:13 PM

Miriam, I am so impressed that you met Borges! Big star eyes over here!

Spanish writers (and people in general) often go by only their first surname, unless they have a dirt-common name and need the second for disambiguation. Hence, Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Gael Garcia Bernal or, basically, anyone with the surname Garcia (including my partner, who is a Catalan writer). I don't know how common Borges is as a surname, but presumably he felt that he didn't need disambiguation. 

With Lois McMaster Bujold, if she is filed under the B I would assume that McMaster is her middle name. I would imagine it gets a bit headachey for librarians though...

July 26, 2017 4:58 PM

He was, alas, very much up in years and not entirely in command of his faculties, but still, it was a thrill. It was a very strange evening. The chancellor of the university was drunk as a skunk. I was sitting next to Borges as he had requested when the Chancellor came up with some woman and pushed me with both hands so I fell on the floor. Since Borges was blind he was spared the sight of me sprawled on the floor. During the presentation the Chancellor continued with his drunken antics, and an unstable junior colleague stood up in the audience, stripped off his shirt, and demanded that Borges autograph his chest. A debacle of an evening, but still Borges! Sometime later the Chancellor went to a meeting of the Board drunk out of his gourd and exposed himself, and that was the end of him.


July 26, 2017 10:06 PM

That anecdote is stellar... Thank you for sharing that! Seriously, if you wrote an autobiography, I'd be the first to buy a copy.

July 27, 2017 1:36 AM

Oh, Karyn, I have had quite an adventurous life, mainly because, as my mother repeatedly observed, I have no common sense. Not at all what one would expect from a short, plump, not all that nice Jewish girl, the antithesis of the Jewish American Princess. You are not the first to express an interest in reading my autobiography/memoir, but I have preferred just to tell an anecdote here or there. I have zero imagination, so every story I tell really happened, fiction not being my thing. Probably some of my stories are still floating around the net, but at this point I wouldn't know where to look for them. Just as well....



By EVie
July 27, 2017 12:13 PM

Maybe one of these days we can trawl through the archives here and compile them for you ;) Count me as another hypothetical-memoir reader! 

July 27, 2017 3:00 AM

Amazing story!

July 26, 2017 6:08 PM

McMaster was her maiden name, which she uses as a middle name. (Her dad was a pretty famous engineering professor and author.) Bujold is after her ex-husband, but trying to change your name after you have books published is... generally not worth the hassle.

July 26, 2017 9:01 PM

My point is that when your average bureaucrat is faced with a string of 3 or more names, he cannot be expected to know which one to pick as the "filing name". Whichever element he chooses, he will be exactly right by one rule but completely wrong by another. Even armed with some knowledge of the cultural traditions involved, he may get it wrong -- Luis could be an unmarked patronymic surname, after all.

As I said: if even librarians can't agree, then you can't expect any consistency from bank tellers etc. A double surname will always be a source of headaches.

July 27, 2017 2:57 AM

That is true. I think it comes down to culture, how it's formed and what we value. In Spain, the name rules are stricter (you must have two surnames, you must have no more than two first names separated by a hypen; in practice almost everyone just has one). There isn't much confusion.

North America is a lot more anything goes. Not absolutely anything goes, but there is a higher degree of flexibility. I like to think it's because generations of immigrants and furious women have insisted on their rights to honour their cultures, keep their identity, and so on. That is obviously going to result in higher levels of confusion, but it also does mean that you can adopt your husband´s name or not (I wish more people would choose not), give your kids both names, or a mashup. 

A double surname will be a source of some headaches, yes. It just depends on whether the feeling it gives you outweighs those headaches.

July 26, 2017 11:37 AM

I'm a librarian, but not that kind. I'll try to remember to ask our cataloging expert when he gets back from sabbatical.

July 26, 2017 12:28 PM

I hadn't thought about it in exactly this context until just now, but it seems to me that the reasoning is pure sexism. Card, Garcia, and Vargas are all the surnames of the authors' fathers; they are alphabetized by those names. McMaster is the author's father's surname, and Bujold is her ex-husband's surname. I could be extra-cynical and point out that that comes from the old custom of ownership over a woman being transferred at her wedding. 

To the OP, I fully understand wanting to see your family name passed to your daughter, and I understand if part of your discomfort comes from your husband dismissing your concern so many months ago. I definitely don't purport to be a relationship expert, but it sounds like telling him how you feel might help you sort through this decision, rather than trying to decide what outcome you want before talking to him. It sounds like you've given the potential pros and cons of this quite a bit of thought, and if the beaurocratic issues seem less important than seeing your family name represented in your daughter's name, then that seems to be an answer. How long are both surnames? Two hyphenated one-syllable names are likely to be kept as a set, but longer names might tend with time to be shortened anyway. I teach high school, and have seen students shorten their names to Firstname S-D, to take an example from your username, or to just one surname, and it seems to depend mostly on the kid's personality how they handle it. Your daughter might love or hate having two last names, and there's no way to know now. I've even seen a teen decide to add her mother's maiden name into her signature even though it wasn't in the legal name at all, and said mother had already remarried and changed her name again.

Sorry I'm no help. I sometimes miss my maiden name too, and it's super weird (even after 1.5 years) to have my students call me Mrs. Marriedname.

July 26, 2017 9:55 PM

The double name would not be too lengthy but not as simple a jones-smith either.

It would be onesyllable-twosyllable/*****-********

You mention you miss your maiden name - interesting how it feels. I think it is only natural. Do you have children? After 4 years of marriage it has intensified especially after having my daughter. 

I am hoping for some clarity soon. Thank you for your input. 

July 27, 2017 11:06 AM

I didn't expect to miss my maiden name, because I'm very close with my mother's family and not at all with my dad's (except, of course, my actual dad, who is wonderful). My legal name is now Birthname Middlename Marriedname, but I style myself professionally (and on email/social media) as Birthname Maidenname Marriedname, because I obviously worked and had a life under my maiden name. It seems so far like a good compromise, because my middle name is a family name and is very important to me (I wish it had been my first name).

The consideration was very different for me though, because I have a wife, and we decided that we definitely wanted to have the same unhyphenated surname, to emphasize that we are a family. If I were straight, I think I'd have gone for a hyphen, if only to buck expectations and assert my feminist beliefs. Or something. We started with "which surname should we choose?" instead of "should I take your name?" The biggest reason we didn't hyphenate was because it's unsustainable in the long run- what if our baby with a double-barrelled name marries another person with a double-barrelled name? How many last names would our hypothetical grandchildren have?

I do have two friends whose mothers both kept their maiden names at marriage, and both those friends took their husbands' names (no hyphens) because it had been such a hassle growing up with a mother with a different name.

I'm expecting my first in January, actually, so I guess I'll see then whether my opinion changes. My wife does remind me, when it comes up, that the last name is OURS now, not just hers, which helps.


If after four years you're not comfortable with your married name, it sounds like changing yours, at least, would be worth it. Or just start signing papers with your maiden name- no need to get the courts involved until you're sure you like it better.

July 27, 2017 11:36 AM

The expectations of your immediate community will affect confusion levels when not everybody in the family shares a surname. Where I live, you're actually not allowed to legally change your name upon marriage, so nobody blinks an eye when the mother's name doesn't match the father's or the kids'. (Kids are allowed to have either surname or a combination of the two.)

July 27, 2017 12:15 PM

That's so interesting- why is that? Have you lived elsewhere, where wives usually take husbands' names, and how is it different? 

July 27, 2017 12:43 PM

I've only ever lived here, so I don't have any other experience. We actually had a whole conversation about it quite recently and you can read the thread here.

Basically, in 1981, the Quebec government passed a law stating that marriage was not an acceptable reason for a woman to change her surname. It was push-back against the Catholic church, which had goverened every aspect of Quebec life since its founding. Other related effects were a dramatic decrease in birth rates and an increase in common-law unions rather than marriages.

July 27, 2017 3:45 PM

Thank you, that was a really interesting article! 

July 27, 2017 4:42 PM

My mother didn't change her surname at marriage and I found it absolutely no hassle (unless you count people occasionally calling her Mrs. Dad-s-Surname as a hassle.

July 27, 2017 11:03 PM

Emily.ei - was then your surname your dad's? Or your mom's? Both? It would be interesting to get perspective from someone that grew up with a double surname from birth not marriage. 

July 28, 2017 5:31 AM

I just have my dad's surname. He was against a hyphenated surname when we were born because "only posh people have double barrelled names." My mom I guess agreed at the time but now says that she disagrees and wishes she had lobbied a bit more for her name to be included.

My daughter, per Spanish naming law, has both her father's surname and mine. Everyone, (my dad included!) think this is a far more civilized way to name babies. You do still lose one of the surnames in the text generation, generally but not always the mothers (my partner chose to pass on his mother's surname, so my daughter is Name Paternal-grandmother's-surname Maternal-grandfather's-surname)

July 26, 2017 3:49 AM

I think if you feel that your married surname doesn't represent you, then there is nothing wrong with doing a hyphenated maiden-married, for you or your daughter. I absolutely believe HNG when she says she hates the hyphen, but thousands of people are currently living with hyphenated surnames and the world has not ended.

You will definitely add bureaucracy and occasional moments of panic to your life though. My daughter has, thanks to our countries naming laws crashing into my cultural preferences, a hypenated first-middle name, and two surnames with no hyphen. Bureaucracy hasn't been terrible because I have been extremely consistent about filling in forms and passport applications, writing explanatory notes in the margins where I felt it necessary, but buying flights is a nuisance (when your children are young they can share your seat, but there is a MAXIMUM CHARACTER COUNT per seat, grrrrr). 

Anyway, the only way to make hyphens the norm is for people to use them more regularly. I'm personally in the pro camp.

July 26, 2017 11:38 AM

I'm in the neutral camp.  I have noticed that unless the names are quite short, most of my HS students tend to pick one to use except in the most formal occassions.  John Smith Jones or Smith-Jones will tend to be either John Smith or John SJ.  Only their diploma and report cards will read "Smith Jones".  If either parent is on the outs with the student (usually, but not always divorce), they tend to drop that name altogether.

July 26, 2017 12:22 PM

Thanks or the input, Megan. I feel I would be fine with the optional uses and might actually prefer to go by our single family name depending on what occasion (school, etc.). I like the idea of it always coming back full circle as a double last name when there are formal or legal occurrences as you mentioned with the diploma. 

September 17, 2017 12:38 PM

I know this is rather old, but I've been out of the country. :) 

My kids have double surnames, no hyphen. let's call it Halloween Singer, where my surname is Halloween and their dad's is Singer.

It is not a hassle-free choice. My father, for instance, refuses to use Halloween and only calls them Firstname Singer. One of my son's teachers did give us a hassle when I asked why all her communication referred to him as Firstname Halloween (her excuse was that she'd had students write down their names for her on the first day of class, and he'd turned in "Firstname Hallowe" so she took that as him using Halloween instead of taking that as _him not finishing_). 

We do run out of room on forms now and then. I've had to correct things a few places. We get a lot of stuff for Firstname Halloween, and Firstname Singer, etc. Sometimes I have to ask people to look up records multiple times ("Check under Halloween Singer. No? Ok, what about just Halloween? No? Just Singer?")

Right now both kids like their surnames and use them both. This might change. 

The important thing is that we knew about and expected exactly these kinds of problems and decided we were OK with it. We also know that they might decide to stop using half the surname at some point. We had to be OK with that, too. 

July 26, 2017 11:39 AM

I do agree that a hyphen is preferable vs a double surname however there is one aspect of a double I prefer - my name and my daughters name will be the same last initial as my husband/her father. A double surname makes sense to me when considering they are in fact separate names and hyphen sort of forms the two names into one. I am fine with the last initial for bureaucratic purposes being assumed as the second surname however it is not a game changer to be under the first either. 

On the flip side I totally prefer a hyphen for the flow and completion of the name all together. I would approach my husband for his opinion however my objective is to gain a firm and clear idea of what I want before discussing to avoid confusion and stress that will ultimately result in avoiding this potential change altogether. 

Because she is a girl she will not be assumed to "carry on" her last name(s). When adulthood arrives and if she marries, she would then have the choice to keep her name the same or have a new single family name. But her maiden will always remain her hyphenated or double name.  

As you may find based on my ramble, I'm a bit undecided on what to do and if I should do anything at all. But I certainly do feel by giving her a combination of my maiden and married truly suits her well.  If she is anything like me when she gets older, I imagine she will be less concerned about the stigmas and bureaucratic issues with a double last and more appreciative of the uniqueness and diversity of having it brings.

The other part of me says.. just follow the rules of society and keep things as they are. If i decided to move forward with the change it will be effortless before her 1st birthday as an amendment to birth cert. After that it is a legal name change which I would not do. Unfortunately, I am unsure what to do exactly. Do it or don't, hypen or not, ugggh. 

July 26, 2017 12:16 PM

I should add that I really never saw this coming as I assumed when the time came to change to a married name and have children it would be an easy thing to do. It was not until I started signing without it and identifying without it that I realized how much it was truly a part of me and without it I feel a void. I feel the void for myself and my daughter.

I identify with my maiden very strongly, it has strong depth. My married surname really sort of is what it is. I'm ok with this but I do want my daughter to identify with her last name(s) and by having a double I feel it will be inevitable for her to appreciate the combo. 

I personally understand a hyphen/double last name. I get it. So much so I question why it would be any other way. A child is ultimately a result of the two family names after all. I also see the confusion this would bring through generations and why assuming the male's last name makes for a smooth transition. But with a daughter, I love the option for double last. Knowing she will have the choice to remain with her last name(s) or transition to a single gives me comfort. If she was a male I don't think this would be a thought because I would not want to be the one to grant any burden on him or his future spouse/kids. 

I feel much later in life I could regret not making this change for myself and for her.

My struggle is battling with society norm and following what I feel could be the right thing to do. 

July 26, 2017 12:36 PM

Might you have more kids? If you wouldn't hyphenate a future son's name, I would strongly discourage hyphenating your daughter's. Whatever beaurocratic issues might pop up with a single hyphenated name would be compounded by kids in the same family having different names. Perhaps hyphenating your own and just giving one name to your kids would be a good compromise, as that would look familiar to hypothetical customs agents, for example. (I didn't see this before my earlier reply.)

July 26, 2017 1:25 PM

I was with you until you said this: I identify with my maiden very strongly, it has strong depth. My married surname really sort of is what it is. I'm ok with this but I do want my daughter to identify with her last name(s) and by having a double I feel it will be inevitable for her to appreciate the combo.

Am I right in assuming that your maiden name is your father's surname? If so, then your daughter is current in the exact same situation as you are with her single paternal surname. In all likelihood, she will grow up feeling the same depth of feeling for your husband's name as you feel for your father's because it will be the only name she's ever known.

You lived much longer with your maiden name than you have with your married name, so of course it feels more like *you*. I never considered changing my surname upon marriage because that's *his* name, not mine. In my opinion, regardless of what you do about your daughter's name, you should give yourself the gift of adding the name you grew up with back into your daily identity. Given time, you may learn to identify more with your married name, but why should you have to? It takes nothing away from your husband to acknowledge the name of the family you grew up with side-by-side with the name of the family you've created.

As for your daughter, whatever name she grows up with will be the name she identifies with. She won't feel like she's your daughter less than your husband's because she only has his name. 

You feel bound by societal norms, but really, the norms regarding surnames aren't what they used to me. More and more women are not taking their husbands' names, and lots of kids are getting double surnames, hyphenates, and some even get their mother's name or some new combo name that they parents created. Each family needs to decide for itself what feels right.

If you just want your history to be noted in her name, go with a double but use her father's name as the main one. If you want her to have the ultimate decision about which name feels most like her, give her the hyphenate and let her decide when she's old enough to have an opinion. 

But either way, add your maiden name back into your own name.

July 26, 2017 2:36 PM

Karyn - I want to elaborate a bit more on what I meant by my maiden name having depth and the fact that I identify strongly with it. I can see how that may have come off a bit narcissistic. There are no men carrying on the name, all woman. I believe that is one reason why I'd love to give my daughter my maiden because I associate it to strong woman. It is a bold last name with Jewish roots. Having said all this,  I am by no means discrediting my married name, I love our family name, but by bringing my maiden name back into the mix I truly feel it represents us well. 

Yes, it was my fathers last name and it could have been my mothers. Regardless, it shaped me into the person I am and does carry a depth that some last names may not for others. 

My married name is a great last name, one that is more of a generational last name and also really only associated to men. 

Your opinion was very helpful thank you. 

July 26, 2017 10:27 PM

Narcissistic never ever came to mind! I don't even *like* my last name (I cringe in doctor's offices if they call it out) and I'm not at all close to my dad's extended family, and yet I never once considered taking my husband's name because it's my name, for better or worse. I get it. I don't think that I said anything indicating that you were being narcissistic, and if I did then I'm sorry. I do wonder if you projected that interpretation onto me because you somehow feel like wanting to keep the name you grew up with as part of your name makes you narcissistic. I want to assure that it 100% does not.

And wanting to keep your name also in no way indicates that you think poorly of your husband's name. If he feels strongly enough about using/keeping/passing on his name, how does he not understand that the attachment he feels to his name is the same as the attachment that you feel to yours? If he wouldn't want to give up his name, why should you want to give up yours just because tranditionally that's what was done?

July 26, 2017 3:01 PM

I think this is more than worth discussing with your husband. You need to explain to him all of the feelings that you're having about this, and have him brainstorm with you what would be the best solution for your family.

One thing you might want to do is write down ahead of time, as clearly as you can, the connections that you feel with your family name. Is it because you grew up in a really large extended family, and every year you would get "Surname Family Reunion" t-shirts, and now you feel disconnected from that? Does your husband's name come from a very different heritage than you do? Did you and your parents or siblings make a big deal growing up about what it is to "be a Surname"? Did you do a lot of professional work under your maiden name before you were married? and so forth. Having that really clear in your mind will help you explain to your husband in a logical, less emotional way without seeming to insult his name in any way. It will also help both of you be able to zero in on what exactly would help fix it.

I totally get the feeling of disconnect with your husband's surname. I feel a deep connection to my family surname; growing up half-Asian in an area with virtually no other Asian Americans, having a Japanese surname was a really important part of my identity (along with my Welsh-ish first name, to match my mom's heritage). Contemplating swapping it for a very common Western European name, which also happens to alliterate and almost-rhyme with my first name, was not an appealing prospect. Luckily, my husband was extremely understanding, and we were able to find a solution that works for us. It wasn't super popular with his family, and it can be confusing for some folks in the wider world, but we've never had any regrets.

There's no one-size-fits-all pattern, so be open to different variations. That may mean just you changing your name, or you and your daughter along with any future children, or your husband may also want to add your name so that the whole family "matches". I know one couple who came up with an entirely new name for their family (before they had children, though) and know of another who went with a mash-up version, rather than a hyphenate (think Willseph, instead of Williams-Joseph). I even know a family where the girls got mom's name, and any boys would get dad's name (they ended up only having girls, so I can't say how that would have worked out).

One "compromise" to consider, if your husband is particularly resistant, is to hyphenate your name, and add your surname to your daughter's name as a second middle. That would make it a definite part of her name and identity, but would leave your husband's name as the dominant surname. Having him also make a legal change to add your name as a second middle would help add to the family solidarity, without disrupting his everyday life.

One more note: Even though I kept my father's name (and my husband and children all have it, too), I've actually always been much closer to my extended family on my mother's side, and recently used my mother's maiden name for my youngest son's given name. So even if you never add your name to your daughter's legal identity, don't worry that she won't feel that connection as she grows up.


July 26, 2017 11:14 PM

Any suggested pros and cons (other than bureaucratic ones as those are endless) between double last vs hyphen last? I do like the idea of a double for initial reasons and the predictable likelihood that the second last (married name) would be used during informal situations. However I prefer the hyphen when considering the completion/fullness of the name. 

July 30, 2017 1:51 PM

I am late to this conversation, but my life experiences make me want to chime in.

First, I am no librarian, but was once in charge of data bases for a non-profit watch-dog group of 60,000 members along with state and federal law-makers.

Except for the occasional Hispanic rule talked about, the hyphenated and middle names were very clear to me.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was Senator Hutchison, not Senator Baily Hutchison.

I can't come up with a hyphenated name right now, but a Rep. Smith-Jones was definitely an S.

When I was married, I flirted with variations, but not very much, because changing my last name seemed almost as absurd as changing my first name.

My partner's sister died a few years ago and he was the sole survivor of her estate. Sadly, their half-brother had died years earlier. We obtained his death certificate since she died intestate. 

My partner never knew that his brother had a second middle (mother's maiden). I think this was the way to go. Her name was in there, and even though in this case she used her husband's name, a woman using her own last name would be able to make sure that schools et al weren't confused about parentage. And further generations studying genealogy would have that second middle for information.

Side notes:

I have talked about this before, but just because I went by fn & mn growing up and people use fn or fn mn combo - I answer to either. The term double-barrel is semi new to me.

Mary Ann Smith (not my real name, but close) is fn, mn, ln.

Mary-Ann or MaryAnn Jane Smith is double barrel fn, mn, ln to me.

If you call me Mary, you are using my first name. If you call me Mary Ann, you are simply using my first and middle; like if you say Mary Smith, you are using first and last.

I don't know why this irritates me, but it does.

Anyway, I think adding a second middle is a good solution that I would use. Hearing HNG talk about the problems hyphenated names has made me a believer.

Mary Ann Smith Jones is filed under J and Smith is an obvious family name second middle, especially if her mother's name is Jane Smith.


July 30, 2017 7:13 PM

I must admit I am not a huge fan of a name used out of context (Last name as middle). Especially because some maiden names have a very last name tone vs a last name such as "jones or smith" that could easily be used in the middle name spot. The double barrel route is preferable because the last name is in the place it belongs and the second surname is fine being assumed as the last name/initial. 

From feedback I am gathering a hyphen is combining two names into one and does assume the first of the two as the dominant/last initial while a double last name is recognizing two individual last names and the second as the dominant/last initial. 

August 10, 2017 9:57 PM

Based on my personal feelings I say add it now.  I wish I would have given my children both last names to start. it was again another discussion this this past week my daughter asked if she could have her name match mine. I chose to add my husband's name on the end no hypen.  It has never been a real issue I usually state I have two last names when asked for my name and then give both my birth name that always needs spelled and pronounced whereas my married name is top 10 everyone knows. I love my surname and have a great connection to that branch of our family we do traditional weekly dinners with the entire extended family. Thats probably why my children want that name added I am the first female born into the family in three generations so everyone else they spend family time with share a surname.

I use both names almost always occasionally I may only give my birth name in 1st responder circles as it is well known in those circles and in kids school settings I answer to Mrs.  Married name.  I don't know what it's like to grow up with a double last name and the kids have asked a few times but unless they really seem to get fixated on it I feel like its too late  as they are out of elementry school now

August 30, 2017 3:29 PM

When we got married, my husband and I decided to hyphenate our last names (both of which are short and simple). Our child will also use that same hyphenated last name. The double barrelled last name has added some important considerations in terms of choosing a first and middle (alliteration became a big issue, because our "maiden" names both start with the same letter), but all in all we are very comfortable with the name our baby will carry.

On the other hand, we had this conversation while engaged, and was very much a dialogue between two people who were both willing to consider the other person's feelings. My husband didn't have any particular attachment to his birth surname and we both share the opinion that women shouldn't be required to take their husbands' names. I think there's a huge difference between two people who are both on the same page about married surname choice and two people who are in a fundamental state of discord about the issue. I'm not sure how I feel about your real issue, which is going against your husband's wishes, and what you had previously agreed on, to change your baby's name. I don't know your husband, but based on my knowledge of how most people behave, this is not a topic that people tend to change their minds about AFTER everything has been discussed and decided multiple times already.