I saw this on MyHeritage today – Spanish Naming Conventions: Everything You Need to Know: https://blog.myheritage.com/2020/09/spanish-names-conventions-everything-you-need-to-know/. The article is over 1,300 words so made it shorter. Worth a read if you have Spanish family members.
by Legacy Tree Genealogists September 8, 2020
Spanish culture has had an immeasurable impact on our world. As such, you may very well have Spanish roots somewhere in your family tree. However, finding your ancestors may prove a little challenging if you are unfamiliar with Spanish naming conventions — which may be quite different from the naming conventions you’re used to. For one thing, you may have noticed that Spanish names contain more words. Understanding the way these names work is crucial if you wish to find your ancestors in historical records.
Spanish given names
In Spanish cultures, people either have one or two given names — and frequently more than two.
In Anglophone countries like the United States, most people have a middle name which is seldom used. People with middle names typically go by their first given name (or perhaps a nickname based on that first given name). For example, a Robert John Smith would probably go by Robert or Bob, but usually not John or Johnny. There are always exceptions, of course, but this is the typical practice.
In contrast, your ancestors in Spain and Latin America may have had multiple names, and they may have used one or more interchangeably — and not necessarily the first name. First names were often given to honor a saint or other religious figure. A woman named María Belén del Cármen Islas might go by María, but more likely, she would choose to go by Belén or Cármen. Some records might list her full name, but others might only call her Belén Islas. Therefore, it’s important to be flexible when you search.
There are many instances in genealogical research where you will find a family where the parents named all of their sons José or Juan and all of their daughters María. But each will also have a second or third name that is distinct, and the child will often go by that name. There may be 3 brothers called Juan Antonio, Juan José, and Juan Eduardo, but likely none of them will go by Juan in day-to-day life. Instead, they’ll likely go by Antonio, José, and Eduardo.
Some people, like former Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, use their two names as one compound name: José Luis, not just José or just Luis. In this particular case, Luis is not the Prime Minister’s middle name but part of a full, single, given name: José Luis.