Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 3, #8

How to Locate Maiden Names for your Genealogy Search

 When working on your genealogy, sometimes the most difficult obstacle to overcome is that of finding the maiden names of female ancestors. However, by finding this information you can be lead to an entirely new branch of your family tree and a whole new set of information and history to explore. To get to that point, though, you do have to find the maiden names in the first place. How do you do it? Here are eight tips on where to look for such information in your genealogy quest.

First of all, as obvious as it may seem, check with marriage records. The bride's maiden name is always listed on her marriage record. If you can't find a license, look for marriage certificates, announcements, bonds, or anything else that may have been used to mark the occasion at the time. You will be surprised at what you might find if you are creative.

Secondly, you can check out cemetery records. It may seem morbid, but especially in the past, the only proof you may find that a female ancestor even had a maiden name may be on her tombstone. Many of them will list a woman under her maiden name with her married name listed in terms of "married to" inscriptions.

Third, you can check census records. If you go back far enough you will see the maiden name of your ancestor shown by looking at the records of who lived in the household. You may see that a young couple lived with the wife's parents, or that other relatives moved into the home that may give away the maiden name.

Fourth, check land records. Land records are a great resource any time you are working in genealogy, and for seeking a maiden name they can be as well. Many times in the past, land was passed from father to daughter. If you look at your family's deeds you may find the names of females or of children of owners that can give away the maiden name to you as you search. If you see a man or couple sold land to someone for a dollar or other small amount, it is often a relative, so use that as well.

Fifth, it may seem unusual, but churches can be a great resource for maiden names. The birth and christening records in many cases will have the names of both parents on them. The mother's name, in most cases, will be listed under her maiden name. Churches may also have marriage information, including maiden names, since there were times when civil registration was not in effect in certain areas.

Sixth, try probate records and even the wills themselves. If you find that you may have found a set of parents to go with the mystery relative, check their will or probate. They often listed the surnames of female children separately from those of their spouses. This information can be valuable in tracking down a maiden name.

Seventh, check the newspaper. That's right; the newspaper can be a great resource. If you look in the area where your relative lived or was married, you may be able to find announcements or obituaries, which like the tombstones, will often times include the maiden name of the deceased.

Finally, check out death records. If the ancestor you are searching for died recently enough that there is a death certificate, it may be one of the only places her maiden name will be listed. You should also read the certificate carefully, though, since the information on old death certificates can be inaccurate. If you look you will be able to find out who the informant is. The closer the relationship between the deceased and the informant, the more accurate the information often will be.

There are a number of things you can run into with genealogy that can be frustrating. One of the most common obstacles, though, is maiden names. Often times there just were not kept track of with any sort of regularity so it becomes a real challenge to find out which way that branch of your family tree goes. However, there are some things you can do to track down maiden names. The eight tips above should get you a good start on tracking down who married whom so that you can extend that family tree to include new and exciting branches.

About the Authors

Paul Duxbury and Kevin Cook own www.amateur-genealogist.com and www.our-family-trees.co.uk two of the leading Genealogy Websites.  In addition Paul owns a wide range of exciting websites which can be viewed at www.paulduxbury.com. Article reprinted here by permission.

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Genealogy Workshop

Fact: In some religions, a dispensation was necessary, under certain circumstances, for a couple to be married in a religious ceremony. These records reveal a good bit of biographical information and very often included a female’s maiden name.
Tip: A mother’s maiden name is frequently used as a middle name for either boys or girls. Other family surnames may have been used as well.
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Genealogy News

Having trouble with nicknames? Here are three sites that feature common names and corresponding nicknames that just might help make the right connection. First, http://genealogy.about.com/library/bl_nicknames.htm; second, http://www.censusdiggins.com/nicknames.htm and, finally, http://www.usgenweb.org/research/nicknames.shtml.