‘Bringing Up Bates’: What is the Story Behind Michael Bates’ Name?

Michaella or Michael Kielen is one of 19 children for Kelly Jo and Gil Bates. While she is one member of a massive family, she is the only member of the clan to have multiple names that she is regularly called. The Bates family has frequently referred to the married 29-year-old as both Michael and Michaela. Sometimes it’s spelled Micheala and other times Michaella, so what’s the story with this Bates’ kid’s ever-changing name?

Gil and Kelly didn’t do their naming research

In 1990 when Michael/Michaela was born the internet wasn’t really a thing. It wasn’t as easy to research the meaning behind a name. The Bates, being religious, picked a biblical name for their first daughter. The pair settled on Michal. That’s where the story should end, but thumbing through the bible led Kelly and Gil to second guess their choice.

The Bates Family children(Photo by James Ambler / Barcroft USA / Getty Images)

Michal appears in the Book of Samuel. She is the daughter of Saul and is given to David as a bride. According to the biblical story David marries several other women and then retreats into hiding. In the meantime, Saul then gives Michal away as a bride to Palti. Eventually, Michal is returned to David and is punished by her husband for criticizing him. Her punishment is never to bare a child.

For a family that has made their fame off of having a supersized family, there is a lot of irony in the name. Once Gil and Kelly realized the connotations associated with their eldest daughter’s name, they set out to change it, according to the family’s blog. Changing the entire name, however, was expensive, but Gil found a loophole. Instead of changing Michal’s whole name, they added a letter instead. Adding a letter was free, so Michal became Michael.

Michael didn’t appreciate having a boy’s name

As Michal/Michael grew it dawned on her that she had a boy’s name. Surrounded by sisters Erin, Alyssa, Tori, Carlin and Josie, Michael wanted to fit in with the ladies of the house. The family began calling her Michaela, although her name was never legally changed.

As of today, Michael’s name is still Michael on her birth certificate and official documents, although she goes by both Michael and Michaela in day-to-day life. It would seem she’s grown past the confusion of having a boy’s name, but her fanbase is still super confused by the entire thing.

Michael and Brandon Keilen

Michael married Brandon Keilen in 2015. The pair have been open about their fertility struggles. Most recently, Bringing Up Bates tackled the topic in an emotional episode. The couple has been working with top doctors in the field to figure out why they have been unable to conceive, according to Knox News.