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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 and two of the leading Genealogy Websites.  In addition Paul owns a wide range of exciting websites which can be viewed at 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,; second, and, finally,


Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 3, # 7

Civil War Maps: For those who have researched their Civil War ancestors and located service records, there still may be some nagging questions about their military careers. For instance, you might like to know where they marched and the battles involving their unit. Luckily, there are now several sites on the Internet that contain large collections of Civil War maps. Some of these may indicate the location of forts or artillery pieces. Possibly, a POW camp or even parts of battlefields. Other maps such as state and regional, can be full of names and locations of old towns, bridges, river landings, etc. that may have some connections to the soldier travels. Also, many of these same websites will offer pre-war and post-war maps with potentially valuable clues or pieces of information about war regions.

Civil War maps available online include hand-drawn as well as printed maps. In many cases, more than one map can be found on major battles that took place during the war years. With enough detail included on the map, where an ancestor’s unit was located will most likely be marked.

One of the first places researchers look on the Internet for Civil War maps is the Library of Congress website. Currently, there are over 2,200 maps and charts along with 76 atlases and sketchbook. A great number of these files are in MrSID, DjVU or JPEG2000 format. These three particular formats compress the images without the loss of detail. To view these files online, doesn’t require special software, usually. However, should the files be downloaded to personal computers, a special viewer will be necessary. The Library of Congress’s Wavelet Compression Technology page has useful information on viewing the downloaded files. Lizardtech offers FREE,  two separate Plug-ins. One is DjVu Browser Plug-in and the other is the ExpressView Browser Plug-in. These viewers decompress ONLY the enlarged portion of an image being viewed. It’s best to open the software first, then the file to view.

The Gilmer Civil War Maps Collection at the University of North CarolinaChapel Hill website contains the war images of 161 Confederate Army maps. This collection can be searched by keyword, such as a town, county or river.

Maps in the National Archives are held by the Cartographic and Architectural Records Section. Upon arriving at the Archival Research Catalog, click on the yellow search button. Searching “maps and charts”, select digital files only and indicate a date range (optional). To purchase maps from the National Archives, go to the “Ordering Reproductions of Maps, Plans and Aerial Photographs” page. Copies are placed to private vendors and not the Archives itself. The National Archives maintains a collection of more than 8000 Civil War maps.

The US Military Academy Digital Library online collection contains 40 viewable Union and Confederate maps, mostly Virginia locations. Again, searching by keyword is available as well as the capability to enlarge sections of maps to view fine details. ‘Colonial and Federal Era Maps’ and ‘West Point Maps’ can also be found.

Lastly, the Official Military Atlas of the Civil War is available online from two locations. The University of Alabama Map Library and on the Civil War research page at Simmons Games.

Genealogy Workshop

Fact: The US Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) has over 2 million place names in the United States within the database.

Tip: ER Mapper offers a FREE ER Viewer that will open large JPEG2000 as well as other files.

Genealogy News

From the Allen County Public Library’s genealogy newsletter, ‘Genealogy Gems’ . . .

“International Black Genealogy Summit
Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN
October 29-31, 2009

This momentous event signifies the first time that all of the black historical and genealogical societies in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean will come together to celebrate the joys and challenges of black genealogy.

The idea to host this event is the brainchild of two visionaries:  Marjorie Sholes, professional genealogist, FGS Delegate and former President of the California African American Genealogical Society; and Curt Witcher, former President of the National Genealogical Society and the Department Manager for the Historical Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library.

Frazine Taylor has a new book out entitled Researching African-American Genealogy in Alabama: A Resource Guide. Frazine is the Head of Reference for the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) and very experienced in researching African-Americans in pre-Civil War records.

From Dick Eastman’s Newsletter comes the following news: “TGN CEO promises to open to developers"

Ian Lamont reported recently in The Standard that the CEO of The Generations Network, the company that owns genealogy site, has pledged to open up the platform to outside developers.

In an interview, The Generations Network CEO Tim Sullivan said was committed to opening up the platform, which has been developed over the last 10 years. "We will absolutely open up our platform," Sullivan said. "It's on our roadmap." However, Sullivan added that that it was unlikely to happen in the next six months, owing to other unspecified priorities for the company. He also did not describe what opening up would entail, or how long it would take.

If the Application Programming Interface (API) is built and if enough developers become interested, this could become monumental news for genealogists. The only program that can interface directly with right now is Family Tree Maker which is also owned by The Generations Network. However, once the API is in place, other programs and even other web sites theoretically could access the databases stored on and use the information in many different ways. I can envision several new applications that could utilize's data. However, there are many "ifs, ands, and buts" between now and a date when all this could happen. Don't hold your breath waiting for this.

You can read a bit more about the recent interview at

Westport Historic Private Cemeteries

The town of Westport, Massachusetts now has online information from 102 local cemeteries thanks to the tremendous efforts of the genealogy and historical enthusiasts there. Information on the site includes the WSP number, cemetery name, location and access information, square footage, assessor's map and lot number, number of gravestones engraved and number of unmarked field stones, most recent and earliest dates of death, a digital photograph, GPS readings, a burial ground sketch map and historical and genealogical narratives. For those interrened, there is birth, death, age and gravestone information. Visit Westport Historic Private Cemeteries to begin searching.


Some ask, "Where can information be found on obtaining a legitimate Coat-of-Arms?" Anyone desiring to learn more about the serious study of heraldry and any rights to display a coat-of-arms will find there are a number of online websites devoted to the accurate use of a coat-of-arms. Visits to the following sites will provide a wealth of information on the subject: The American College of Heraldry, The College of Arms - the official repository of the coats-of-arms and pedigrees of English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Commonwealth families and their descentants, The Court of the Lord Lyon - Scotland, The Canadian Heraldic Authority, Heraldica and The Augustan Society.

Britain, Ireland and the Colonies

For those researchers who may be searching for records not typically found elsewhere, it may prove worthwhile to visit Original Record.Com. Ancestor searches can be performed into the approximately 1,000 years of unusual records that were previously unaccessible before and now available on-line to all. Searches are completely free; there is no subscription to use the site, the only charge is for scans of the actual pages where your entries appear should you wish to purchase. Thousands of ancestry and genealogy historical records, books and documents containing 10 million entries from Britain, Ireland and the colonies have been included in their database.

New York Digital Maps

The New York Public Library now has online a collection of digital maps from the 1800's for browsing. They're of good quality and offer the capability through the use of a 'zoom' feature to view the maps up close. These maps cover all three levels of state, county and city.

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