One of the most difficult areas in family research are a females’ maiden name. Not knowing it or the relatives in that females’ branch leaves out a huge portion of your family. This is because for generations, it has been the practice for a woman to down her maiden name and take that of her husband. There are a few methods to help discover those ‘forgotten’ family surnames of the females on the family tree.
Marriage Records first of all will have the bride and groom with both having most of the time their full legal names. For a female, it can be her maiden name, but it could be a previous married name used, if she had been a widow or divorced. Sometimes a female took back her maiden name if divorced, so that will need further checking.
A Death Certificate, Death Record or Obituary may have the woman’s maiden name. Again, be careful, most of these type of records the information is supplied by a family member or even friend, so there could be errors.
A Birth Record or Listing in the Family Bible could provide the answer to a woman’s birth family name. If there are more than one family Bible held by different family branches, check as many as possible, especially for spelling variations.
Find any Land Deeds or Property Records. Here a father or brother may have passed land to a daughter or sister. Look for a husband’s listing of land deeds to see if the wife’s full name was listed. This applies also to Wills of a father or husband, the maiden name of daughters and wives might be written in.
Examine other relatives, especially descendants in the family tree. Many children are given the mother’s or a grandmother’s maiden name as a middle name. This was quite common in the late 1800s into the first quarter of the 20th century. Even if you only know a person’s middle initial, that is a start, known the middle name began with the letter ‘L’ or ‘M’.
Reading over or searching through hometown newspapers can prove to be an excellent source. A young lady might be listed with her parents, in school events, in a town play, her engagement or wedding. The smaller the hometown, the more likely there are several write-ups over the years on individuals. If the female has an unusual given name, it makes it easier. But then it was the practice to write someone’s name as ‘Miss Jones’ rather than using the first name.
Even if you have used some of these ideas, recheck as new databases are added or possible resources you overlooked.
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