How to display two surnames (ie primary & married name)

Can I configure the names in the People view and reports to show both the surname from ‘Married Name’ AND from the ‘Preferred name’ (in my case the birth name). I have both types set up and in use.
Example: Juliet was born Smith but took her husband’s name Jones as they married. I’d like to see Juliet Jones (Smith). Ideally, a married name would only show when there is one.

The Edit->Preferences->Display Name Editor> has several parameters. What exactly are they supposed to do?
No matter how much I try, they all show only the preferred surname. ‘Rest’ is explained on the same screen as meaning non-primary surnames, the rawSurnames param, (note, which I read as a Plural, many surnames) and notPatronymic (all surnames…) - tried them all, but they show only the Preferred (sur)name. I must be doing something wrong or don’t understand the syntax…

On Windows 10

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In the US, where the couverture legal fiction has been standard for centuries and is only recently changing, it’d be nice to have a Married Name display option … with fallback to birthname if no married name exists.

I currently used a Married Name rather than birthname type (with multiple surnames) for most married women. Even though not standard, I use a ‘U.L.N.’ (unknown last name acronym) placeholder if her patrilineal surname is unknown then set the Taken name to Primary. And a ‘Sr.’ Suffix in eponymous male Birthnames, even though they were NOT born a ‘Senior’.

However, the display form I’d prefer is a ‘née’ parenthetical using the origins in a multiple surname of Married Name type. It is less confusing when there were multiple marriages. So in a ‘given surname’ order, it might look like: ‘Janet Sarah (née Smith) Jones Miller’. Where Smith was a ‘patrilineal’ origin, Jones was ‘taken’ origin in a 1st marriage and Miller ‘taken’ origin in a 2nd marriage.

I suppose that if Gramps was REALLY smart about it, the ordering of the origin types might control the parentheticals. So, if the Patrilineal was the final element in a multiple surname, it could use the trailing parenthetical rather than the leading one.

In a person’s name record, you can give them more than one surname.

In the example, note that Smith is made the Primary which sorts the person with the other Smith names. And notice the open and closed parenthesis are in the Connector fields. Leading and trailing spaces are added to the parenthesizes.

I offer up the second married name option, Juliet (Smith) Jones. Again, Smith is Primary and the leading parenthesis is placed in the Prefix field.

You could just add the parenthesis to the Smith in the surname field. In this case, I would not make it primary because the surname would now be (Smith), not Smith.

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These is a simple hack of the code that would remove the leading space before the closed parenthesis. I have not been able to find a hack to remove the trailing space.

In the same way, you might put “(nèe” as a prefix and “)” as a connector for the patrilineal name.

That would fake the “nèe” format without affecting the Grouping or Sorting. But it would be more flexible to have formatting on-the-fly instead of hard-coded and burning data storage for each individual.

Thanks, but if I understand you correctly - this is not what I’m after. Yes, of course, I can type what I want in the name field, but I already have both types set up and in use for 3000+ persons. I want to be able to change the display, as the names are already there.


Combined with the simple hack produces this.

The hack is to the program file gramps\gen\display\

At line 309 (Gramps 5.1.5) change

    if len(val) == 1 and val in [',', ';', ':',


    if len(val) == 1 and val in [',', ';', ':', ')',

The display name editor in Preferences can handle all of the existing fields to build the displayed name. For the married females, we would need to know which fields you are using to store the married and birth surnames.

Shoot, I read this as “nope, cannot be done” from authority. Strange omission from GRAMPS, as this (couverture) was the naming convention in many western countries for centuries. It is unnecessarily confusing to keep in mind that the Juliet Jones noted dead in the church book is actually Juliet Smith in Gramps. In many other ways, it would be useful to have a choice to switch display to show birth and married name (or both, or other surnames)

OK, case is settled, I guess, but would someone please take the time and explain what the parameters in the Display Name Editor actually do? How are they used?

BTW, ‘nèe’ is a fine way of expressing birth name, that much you can already do with the Display Name Editor :wink: Just not the name after it.

Birth name and Married name are the types, and the surname field under them…I probably don’t understand your question right? How do I define the correct fields?


Each person can have more than one name Record. The Type is to classify that name record.

The display name editor displays how each of the fields for each name record is displayed. The displayed name cannot pull information from any other name record.

You can set a different display name (or sort) different than the default set in Preferences. This can only be done by launching the full Name Editor window.

Most reports will only display the name record that is slotted as the Preferred Name. You can right-click an Alternative name record to move it into the preferred slot.

The Complete Individual report does display all/any other name records. The Narrative Web also includes all name records. I think the Dynamic Web report will also display all name records but it has been too long since I have used that report.

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Aah, you have to keep this simple if I’m to understand…
I click on a name in the People View. A screen opens labeled ‘preferred name’ and the person’s name. There I have, in the name list,

  • ‘Preferred Name’ Type: Birth Name, and
  • ‘Alternative names’ Type ‘Married Name’ (where surname is different from the Birth name).

How else could (should) I set up another Name Record? I tested the (rather cumbersome way) to add them with the + and then the + button, but that never occurred to me, as the types were there… ANd most records are imported through Gedcom files, so…

It took me a while to understand Name Records in Gramps. My previous program (PAF) a person only had one name with nicknames and also known as fields.

Consider that in a person’s edit window there is a tab for Names just as there is the tab for Events. A person can have more than one Name record just as the person can have more than one Event record.

Throughout a person’s life, they can take on or alter their name. Notice in the Name editor window, you can attach date information to the name as well as notes and citations.

Consider, a man is not born with the suffix Sr. He only takes on that suffix if he gives a son his name. I will add an “Also Known As” name record with the suffix Sr. Or consider George Washington. During his life he had the Rank General or the Title President. He was not Born with these titles. Likewise, a woman will often take on a Married Name. (Or several different Married Names).

You develop a set of Name records for a person. You, as the Gramps user, need to decide which of these names you will slot as the person’s Preferred Name knowing that this is the name that will display in most reports.

In Preferences, you can set a default display name option. Other display options can also be created. This controls the default display and the sort in the Grouped name list. In the Name editor window, that specific name can be set to use another display or sort name.

I think what you need is additional surnames, not additional names. The “Rest” keyword causes the display to include non-primary surnames.

To save the work you have already done for 3,000+ persons, maybe there is a way to make a script using the Isotammi add-on “SuperTool” but I don;t know enough about it to suggest how. Otherwise you could export your database, make changes in another program, and import it again.

Or maybe you could change the behavior of the “Rest” keyword (or create a new keyword) but I imagine that would be the most difficult.

Actually, the ‘authority’ isn’t there. We’re users, just like you. The community gratefully does the support in hopes that removing that burden from developers frees them up to do coding.

And the database structure in Gramps is currently flexible to structure the name data to reflect the couverture cultural bias. It just has to be done manually. Just like the Icelandic and Combination options for the Surname Guessing preference started as a manual process, then someone went to the trouble of codifying the those cultural idiosyncrasies and added them to Gramps.

Anyway, it is morelike “not until someone decides they want this recording keeping method automated instead of manually maintained”.

Gramps evolves when some sees enough reason to add the code… then shares the code with the community. Then, if our architect and ‘benevolent dictator’ decides that the patch conforms to guidelines, he’ll roll the enhancement into the core.

This one is complicated. The original Surname Guessing feature only considered the relationship between the Father and his Child for surname guessing. The Icelandic adds gender bias and parses a given name. The Combination requires 3 people for a valid guess. Adding Couveture cultural guessing makes it consider as many as 4 people with Gender bias. And, given the way trees are built, at LEAST 1 of these would be unavailable while adding the wife to a relationship. That means applying Couveture bias would necessarily be a post-process AFTER all the relationships had been put in place.

@kku was kind enough to provide some SuperTool sample code for evaluating relationships to set the Patrilineal Origin values for surnames all the way back in July of 2021. Logically, the next step would be to assess spouses to set “Taken” origins and set the Name type to Married Name.


First of all, thanks for your help and engagement - I never expected to get this many explanations and help in one evening! Many thanks!

But let me add, [a bit Grumpy] about Gramps: I don’t really see the complication here. A person already has two names in the database: a birth name and the married name, and they are exactly labeled as such from a dropdown. To show one, the other, or both in the people listing doesn’t seem like a complex feature. But granted, I’m not a coder so I must presume it goes against the very structure of the program to have the people view to display name ‘types’ instead of ‘records’. One wonders why there are several places to note the same thing - in this case, the two different surnames.

I’ll live with it -until some coder sees the Light!

Not “nèe” but “née” :wink:

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I always missed grave versus aigu in high school french tests too!

Hmmm. Using the marital name as primary is unorthodox from a data integrity view. Worse, it runs into problems with the multiple marriage-widowhood-remarriage, which get more frequent when going back in time.

IMO it would make sense to use the birth name followed when needed by “spouse”.
In some European countries, whatever name you choose as “usual name” (which can be maiden, husband’s, maiden-husband or husband-maiden), for all legal matters you remain Birthname spouse Maritalname: as in Ms Smith spouse Jones.
It has the advantage of staying applicable in our modern (MeToo/LGBT) times, with the possibility that both partners take either their own or the other’s name.

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The whole point was to display both married and birth names when they are entered into the database, not to suggest which one is primary. Through all the help I got in this thread I realized that this is indeed possible, but there are two ways (record/type) of adding the married name (both identically labeled as married name in Gramps) but only one of these is working the Display Name Editor. Not really intuitive at all…

Modern times or not, in Genealogy I believe one should follow sources, and add information as it is written in the sources. In many parts of Europe (and the USA), there was a legal requirement (couverture) for the wife to take the husband’s name for centuries. In addition to this, depending on time and a.o. social class, region etc this was also customary and in widespread use long before that. Often you do not know for sure which name a wife was buried with, or what her birth name was. It’s much easier to dig through old church books when you have both (when known) names displayed.