Sorting Saturday — The Legend of Middle Names

Both my father and grandfather were named Gilbert McClung Gillespie.

According to my father, it was tradition for parents to give the last name of the Doctor who delivered them as a middle name.  The story was the elder Dr. McClung delivered my grandfather and the younger Dr. McClung who was the son delivered my father.

I have found nothing to support that this tradition was prevalent in the early 1900′s but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t tradition.  It made have been a family tradition.

A search of the 1940 census in Rockbridge County, Virginia finds a Hunter McClung who was a practicing physician at the age of 60 in 1940. 1 I found no other physicians in Rockbridge County, Virginia whose last name was McClung. My father was born in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital in Lexington and I believe it is reasonable to assume that his doctor resided in Rockbridge County.

1940 entry for Hunter Oscar McClung

Hunter McClung was also a practicing physician in 1910 in Lexington. He was the son of John McClung who was a retired physician in 1910 .2 Again, I found no other doctors named McClung in Rockbridge County. My grandfather was born in Lexington, Virginia and Hunter McClung may have delivered him as well.

1910 entry for Hunter Oscar McClung

I wonder if the same man delivered both my grandfather and father.   I have never found the name McClung in our family tree and I suspect that there is a bit of truth to the story of where their middle names came from, but it does appear that if it is true then they were delivered by the same man.

1. 1940 U.S. census, Rockbridge County, Virginia, population schedule, Lexington Township, enumeration district (ED) 82-7, sheet 9-B, dwelling 195, Doctor Hunter A D McClung; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : 20 Jul 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 4290.
2. 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Rockbridge County, Virginia, population schedule, Lexington, p. 167 (stamped), enumeration district (ED) 114, sheet 17-A, dwelling 246, family 252, O H McClung; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed : 20 Jul 2012 ); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1647; Dr. Oscar Hunter McClung was a physician, his father John was a retired physician living with him at the time which suggests he did not deliver my grandfather, but Hunter did if indeed a Dr. McClung delivered him.

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7 thoughts on “Sorting Saturday — The Legend of Middle Names

  1. Susan D. July 21, 2012 at 10:28 am Reply

    What an unusual “name” story. I know in Scotland and the north of England it is quite usual for the maiden name of the wife or grandmother to be used as a middle name, but I had not heard of the delivering doctor receiving this honour. – and with such a distinctive name – I have not heard of McClungs before in Scotland.

  2. Devon Lee July 21, 2012 at 3:20 pm Reply

    What an interesting story. How on earth would you really solve it? Who knows? But your documentation trail is something interesting to read.

  3. Judy G. Russell July 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm Reply

    Remember that there was also a McClung, Virginia, an unincorporated area in next-door Bath County, which may have played a role in this too!

  4. Heather Wilkinson Rojo July 27, 2012 at 8:09 am Reply

    After using up mother’s maiden name, and the grannie’s maiden names, I am often stumped by the other middle names in large families. I’ll have to check around for doctors in census records, because I have a few ancestors who might fit your theory. Especially the name GILMAN which was passed down for six generations (I even have an uncle and a cousin with this middle name) and no one knows why. No GILMAN ancestors, but perhaps there was a Dr. GILMAN in town!

    • Anne Gillespie Mitchell July 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm Reply

      I’ve got some other names in that family I need to check as well. Dold and Graham were female middle names and I’ve never seen them in the tree. It’s a mystery.

  5. [...] Sorting Saturday — The Legend of Middle Names [...]

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