Quick Guide to Indexing Names


Personal names can look a little tricky in Spanish. But once you understand the basic difference between Anglo-American surnames and Spanish surnames it becomes pretty straightforward.


Anglo-American Names



Traditional Spanish Names


The traditional formulation consists of father’s last name (surname 1 here) and mother’s last name (surname 2 here).  The two given or Christian names are usually present, though middle names are rarely used except on baptismal certificates. Any middle names do not appear in databases or in the usual texts indexers work with, such as history, social sciences, or medicine.



(Please note that “Márquez” by itself is not an acceptable surname for this famous Colombian writer. It has to be “García Márquez” or alternatively “Gabo” for a more knowledgeable audience.)



María Cristina is a married woman. She uses her father’s last name and her husband’s last name separated by “de.” Nonetheless, many contemporary women use their maiden names although their husband’s surname will appear on the children’s birth certificates as Surname 1.


Modern Spanish Names


In the 21st century, the traditional naming practices have undergone significant changes, in the direction of 1) simplification, and 2) fitting into international databases.


1) A common simplification in the U.S. is to adopt name formats that resemble those of the dominant English-speaking culture. It is most common among descendant generations (whether recent or longtime historical, such as New Mexico Hispanics) than among first-generation immigrants to this country.



2) Database considerations—Overall, databases tend to follow Anglo-American naming practices. In order to preserve the compound surnames (Surname 1 and Surname 2), residents of Spanish-speaking nations and first-generation immigrants to the U.S. may choose to hyphenate their two surnames so that they fit in the “last name” field.



U.S. Hispanics have invented many options to accommodate forms designed for English speakers. When in doubt, always query the author.


For greater detail, see Indexing Spanish Personal Names.”


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