How to track Indian naming conventions (Tamil)

Hello, thank you for this software. I am wondering how to most effectively track Indian names using GRAMPS, or if this functionality exists. Here is the situation.

My ancestry is from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Tamils historically did not use surnames since many people lived in small villages. They used the name of the ancestral village, the patronym, and then their given name. All focus is placed on the given name and the other names are initialized or not mentioned.

Indian name - Wikipedia

Tamil names usually follow this pattern: Village name, Patronym, Given Name. (Example: E.V. Ramasamy, where E stands for Erode city, and V stands for Venkatappa, the father’s name. There is a widespread usage of a patronym (use of the father’s first name as the second name). This means that the first name of one generation becomes the second name of the next.

People in Tamil Nadu view the practice of adding the full family name to an individual’s name to be a heretic practice, as according to their beliefs, the individual’s heritage does not trump his or her own identity. And hence they are known to only use initials besides their name.

My grandparents’ generation followed this convention. My parents’ generation also followed this convention. My parents immigrated to the US from India, and my father maintained his name order. Therefore, my father’s given name is listed as his legal surname in America, and his patronym is his legal first name. My father’s given name is also my mother’s legal surname.

For myself, I follow American naming order. Therefore, my given name is first, and I inherited my father’s given name as my surname. Example (names are changed, given name bolded):

Grandfather = NYC Johnson Albert (village name, patronym, given name)
Father = Albert Thomas (patronym, given name)
Mother = Mary Thomas (given name, husband’s given name)
Me = stylo Thomas (given name, patronym)

My question is, how do I effectively track this in the name editor? If I input my father’s given name in the box for “given”, it assumes this name comes first. If I input his given name in the Surname box, there is no space to indicate his patronym, and an empty comma before. There is no option for indicating a Village Name, which should come before any other name.

Can custom name fields be created for things like Village Name? Is there an option to define a custom name order? Do other Indians have thoughts on using this software with our naming conventions?

Please let me know if this topic should be moved to another forum like feature requests.

(AIO64-5.1.4-1 on Windows 10)


There are two functions at play in Gramps. I will start with the easiest.

In Preferences (menu >> Edit >> Preferences) on the Display tab you can select how you want names displayed in the Name Display editor. If an option does not exist, you can create it. The option you set here will become both the default Display and Sort option.

You can create a display putting the Gramps given name as the last display entry. Additionally, in Preferences on the Display tab is a Surname guessing which you may want to set different than the default.

The other function you will become more familiar with is the Name Editor. The basic name options display in the person editor but there are more options in the editor. To open the editor, there is an activation icon to the right of the Suffix field in the person editor. Or select the Names tab and its Edit icon or by double-clicking the name. Note, a person can have multiple names.

In the name editor, you can add multiple surname components and in the origin field tell what it is; i.e. Location, Patronymic, etc. The first surname does not have to be Primary. If the Patronymic is the third surname entry, that can be made the Primary.

Also in the name editor, if the default name display or sort does not apply to the person’s name, other options can be set for that entry. So if you use the American name convention you can alter your display.

As I do not come from this type of naming culture, I will leave you to explore the options. Maybe another user can give you more specific Tamil guidance.

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Thank you for your help. I see in the Display Preferences there is an option to “use single pa/matronymic as surname.” I will experiment with this.

Another question. As a transgender person, I have chosen my own first name and last name. Is there a way to indicate this in the software? “Chosen” as opposed to “Given,” e.g.

Well, you could tweak the translation file for Gramps with Weblate and change the language mapping for “Given” and “Given Name(s)” to something generic like “Personal” and “Personal Name(s)”.

Then use the alternative names feature to have a “Birth” name and an alternative where you type in a custom Type of “Chosen Name”. You might want to use the built-in Surname Origin of “Taken” with it.

Finally, use the “Set as default name” for whichever name you’d like Gramps to display in the Tree.

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I just learned something new. Never knew it was one of the right-click options. I always just drag-and-dropped a name into the Preferred name slot.


The easiest will be to change the name’s Type. Gramps has the Type “Also Known As”. but in any of the drop-down list fields, you can add your own; “Chosen”. Another to consider is “Legal Name” if you have made the change through the courts.

Notes and Citations can be attached to name records as well as Dates.

Note: Any custom entry as described above will not translate if this is a consideration. Only the set Gramps options will translate.

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