Genealogy: How to increase your success in finding the ancestor’s maiden name

How to increase your success in finding the ancestor’s maiden nameBy Barry J. Ewell

It’s not uncommon for immigrant ancestors to marry outside of their culture. In my case I have Great-Great Grandmother Dahle, a Norwegian, marrying into my Welsh Jones line. In these situations the key is being able to locate the maiden name of the female ancestor. In my own research I have found that female maiden names are not included in the records of our male ancestors. For example: Females were not allowed to vote until the twentieth century and seldom owned land. Even in church records, we often find the full name of the husband or father, but then only the first name is listed for the female.

When I am faced with the need to find the maiden name of an ancestor, I will search the following record types:

Marriage records. I find marriage records to be the best place to find a maiden name. Marrige records refers to a group of records that are created at the time of marriage. Types of marriage records include a marriage license, marriage certificate, marriage announcements, marriage banns and bonds. To secure a marriage certificate, you will need to know the:

  • Full name of the groom
  • First name of the bride
  • Approximate date of the marriage
  • State or county of where the marriage took place

Church records. Church records usually include recordings of church marriages, baptism or christening. You will need to know the:

  • Individual name
  • Church where ceremony or ordinance was performed
  • Name of clergy that appears on the certificate

Newspapers. The most common articles that yield maiden names are wedding announcements or obituaries. You will need to know the following:

  • Approximate date of event
  • Name of the groom for the wedding announcement
  • Full name of deceased person
  • State and city where the event occurred

When I can’t find the obituary of a female ancestor, I will look for obituaries of their siblings and other family members, which usually provides clues I can follow in the census and other records.

Land records. I have found a few land records that were transferred from father to daughter. Examine deeds for your ancestor or her husband which include the Latin phrases “et ux.” (and wife) and “et al.” (and others). Land records may include the names of family members. Make sure you check who was selling land to your ances¬tors. It was common for these persons to be related to your family. If the parents of a female ancestor are the sellers, you may be able to find her maiden name.

Bible records. If you suspect there was a family bible, but it’s no longer in the family’s possession, you can sometimes find them through message boards or database searches. Many bibles have been digitized and are searchable on the internet. You will need to know the following information:

  • Woman’s full married name
  • State and county in which she lived

Death records. If your ancestor died within the last century, chances are there is a death certificate. The certificates often list a maiden name. You will need to know the following:

  • Woman’s full name
  • State and county in which she lived
  • Approximate date of death

Death certificates can often include inaccurate information. Make sure you review who provided the information and the relationship to assess the potential for accuracy.

Military pension records. If the husband of the ancestor I am researching was in the military, there is a good chance there is a pension record. You will need to know the following:

  • Veteran’s name
  • Branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps)
  • State where the veteran enlisted
  • War in which the veteran served. (Note: If service was after 1916, you must also know entry and release dates, military ID number, Social Security number, whether an officer or enlisted, and date of birth.)

Cemetery records. Tombstones may reveal female’s maiden name through

  • The inscription: “wife of so and so”
  • The inscription: Maiden name as a middle name or initial
  • Checking nearby plots for possible family members
  • Census records. Follow your ancestors through the census. Consider the following:
  • Young couples may be found living with the wife’s parents
  • Elderly parent may have been added to the household
  • Brothers, sisters, or other family members may be found living with the ancestors’ family
  • Clues may also be found in the names of families living nearby

Probate records and wills. If I have an idea of who the parents might be, I will check the probate records and wills for the name of children. To find the maiden name in probate records, you will need to know:

  • Woman’s full name at time of death
  • Approximate date of her death
  • County or town in which she lived at the time of her death

Related posts

Join Genealogy by Barry Newsletter