SQL: parse the first, middle and last name from a fullname field

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How do I parse the first, middle, and last name out of a fullname field with SQL?

I need to try to match up on names that are not a direct match on full name. I'd like to be able to take the full name field and break it up into first, middle and last name.

The data does not include any prefixes or suffixes. The middle name is optional. The data is formatted 'First Middle Last'.

I'm interested in some practical solutions to get me 90% of the way there. As it has been stated, this is a complex problem, so I'll handle special cases individually.

Best Solution

Here is a self-contained example, with easily manipulated test data.

With this example, if you have a name with more than three parts, then all the "extra" stuff will get put in the LAST_NAME field. An exception is made for specific strings that are identified as "titles", such as "DR", "MRS", and "MR".

If the middle name is missing, then you just get FIRST_NAME and LAST_NAME (MIDDLE_NAME will be NULL).

You could smash it into a giant nested blob of SUBSTRINGs, but readability is hard enough as it is when you do this in SQL.

Edit-- Handle the following special cases:

1 - The NAME field is NULL

2 - The NAME field contains leading / trailing spaces

3 - The NAME field has > 1 consecutive space within the name

4 - The NAME field contains ONLY the first name

5 - Include the original full name in the final output as a separate column, for readability

6 - Handle a specific list of prefixes as a separate "title" column

SELECT
  FIRST_NAME.ORIGINAL_INPUT_DATA
 ,FIRST_NAME.TITLE
 ,FIRST_NAME.FIRST_NAME
 ,CASE WHEN 0 = CHARINDEX(' ',FIRST_NAME.REST_OF_NAME)
       THEN NULL  --no more spaces?  assume rest is the last name
       ELSE SUBSTRING(
                       FIRST_NAME.REST_OF_NAME
                      ,1
                      ,CHARINDEX(' ',FIRST_NAME.REST_OF_NAME)-1
                     )
       END AS MIDDLE_NAME
 ,SUBSTRING(
             FIRST_NAME.REST_OF_NAME
            ,1 + CHARINDEX(' ',FIRST_NAME.REST_OF_NAME)
            ,LEN(FIRST_NAME.REST_OF_NAME)
           ) AS LAST_NAME
FROM
  (  
  SELECT
    TITLE.TITLE
   ,CASE WHEN 0 = CHARINDEX(' ',TITLE.REST_OF_NAME)
         THEN TITLE.REST_OF_NAME --No space? return the whole thing
         ELSE SUBSTRING(
                         TITLE.REST_OF_NAME
                        ,1
                        ,CHARINDEX(' ',TITLE.REST_OF_NAME)-1
                       )
    END AS FIRST_NAME
   ,CASE WHEN 0 = CHARINDEX(' ',TITLE.REST_OF_NAME)  
         THEN NULL  --no spaces @ all?  then 1st name is all we have
         ELSE SUBSTRING(
                         TITLE.REST_OF_NAME
                        ,CHARINDEX(' ',TITLE.REST_OF_NAME)+1
                        ,LEN(TITLE.REST_OF_NAME)
                       )
    END AS REST_OF_NAME
   ,TITLE.ORIGINAL_INPUT_DATA
  FROM
    (   
    SELECT
      --if the first three characters are in this list,
      --then pull it as a "title".  otherwise return NULL for title.
      CASE WHEN SUBSTRING(TEST_DATA.FULL_NAME,1,3) IN ('MR ','MS ','DR ','MRS')
           THEN LTRIM(RTRIM(SUBSTRING(TEST_DATA.FULL_NAME,1,3)))
           ELSE NULL
           END AS TITLE
      --if you change the list, don't forget to change it here, too.
      --so much for the DRY prinicple...
     ,CASE WHEN SUBSTRING(TEST_DATA.FULL_NAME,1,3) IN ('MR ','MS ','DR ','MRS')
           THEN LTRIM(RTRIM(SUBSTRING(TEST_DATA.FULL_NAME,4,LEN(TEST_DATA.FULL_NAME))))
           ELSE LTRIM(RTRIM(TEST_DATA.FULL_NAME))
           END AS REST_OF_NAME
     ,TEST_DATA.ORIGINAL_INPUT_DATA
    FROM
      (
      SELECT
        --trim leading & trailing spaces before trying to process
        --disallow extra spaces *within* the name
        REPLACE(REPLACE(LTRIM(RTRIM(FULL_NAME)),'  ',' '),'  ',' ') AS FULL_NAME
       ,FULL_NAME AS ORIGINAL_INPUT_DATA
      FROM
        (
        --if you use this, then replace the following
        --block with your actual table
              SELECT 'GEORGE W BUSH' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT 'SUSAN B ANTHONY' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT 'ALEXANDER HAMILTON' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT 'OSAMA BIN LADEN JR' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT 'MARTIN J VAN BUREN SENIOR III' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT 'TOMMY' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT 'BILLY' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT NULL AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT ' ' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT '    JOHN  JACOB     SMITH' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT ' DR  SANJAY       GUPTA' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT 'DR JOHN S HOPKINS' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT ' MRS  SUSAN ADAMS' AS FULL_NAME
        UNION SELECT ' MS AUGUSTA  ADA   KING ' AS FULL_NAME      
        ) RAW_DATA
      ) TEST_DATA
    ) TITLE
  ) FIRST_NAME
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