Do your ancestors have middle names? Are those middle names clues to be used in your research? Sure they are, but watch out for false clues!
Wait a minute ... There was an attorney and businessman named Chester C. Cole who lived in Crittenden County before moving to Iowa in 1857. Could Chester C. Bebout have been named for this prominent citizen? Maybe .. or maybe not, but the Bebout family did have business dealings with Chester C. Cole. Still not enough proof. This ancestor will have to continue as Chester C. Bebout in my records until other information is found. Hearsay isn't good enough; there must be a record showing his entire middle name.
Then there is my great-grandfather, David Vaughn. This situation is similar to that of Chester C. Bebout ... well, sort of. Many researchers have his full name as David Marshall Vaughn. The only problem is no record gives his middle name as Marshall. The 1850 Livingston County census shows a Gustavus Vaughn, age three, the right age in the right family to be my David Vaughn. The 1860 Livingston County census lists him as David A. Vaughn. He is listed as David Vaughn on his own death certificate and as David or Dave Vaughn on the death certificates of several of his children. His name was given as David Vaughn when he married Sarah E. Myers in 1872 and Margaret C. Riley in 1875. It was still David Vaughn in a court case in 1876, in court minutes of the 1890s and finally, in his will dated 1917.
So, was his name David Gustavus, David A. or just David Vaughn. Could it have been David Gustavus A. Vaughn, after a prominent doctor, Gustavus A. Brown, who lived and died in Smithland? There is no proof and without proof, I will have to be satisfied with calling him just David Vaughn.
Middle names can provide clues to ties with family and friends, but they can also cause us to follow false leads, especially when only an initial is used.