With the US Federal census which started in 1790, it was only the head of household, a male, whose name was listed. No females or even other family members’ names were used. That practice continued for the 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830 and 1840 censuses. So using that source for that time period was impossible. Even with the 1850 census when all names were used, a married woman would have her married name listed. If she was single, living with a parent or brother or uncle or other relative, then her maiden name was there. One good thing to check with the 1850 census and beyond, if the ancestor was married, and her married name was listed, carefully look at other people in the household and neighbors. Her mother might be in the household, so her married name would be the wife’s maiden name. That goes for an unmarried sister or brother in the household. Since families tended to live close to each other, do check other names on a census list.
Other places overlooked when checking for a maiden name are the marriage records, listings in the family Bible record, and sometimes the maiden name will appear in an obituary. Of course, that could be because a brother as a survivor may be listed. At least it can provide that maiden name. Also check obituaries of the ancestor’s other siblings, a family name might be there. Looking on death certificates covering any of her siblings, might show the mother or father’s name — which would be her maiden name.
When checking marriage records or certificates, check other family members’ wedding certificates. The ancestor you are looking for could have served as a signed witness to the wedding, she was unmarried at the time, and there is her name.
Using military pension records can help also. Many who received a pension for service during the American Revolution or the Civil War, had to complete a detailed pension application. Most of the time, if there was a wife, her full name, including her maiden name was placed on the form.
Many times a woman’s maiden name was continued by naming a baby with that name as a given first or middle name. Re-look at those relatives on your family tree, especially the full name, there could be the clue.
Another way was that a female many times made her middle name her maiden name after she married. Check your signature or name on documents. Either she wrote it fully out or maybe just used the first letter. That one first letter could be the important clue you needed.
Check at the family hometown cemetery. If you know of some family branches buried there, look over all the surround headstones. There might a familiar name or two, that with a little further research could yield your female ancestor’s maiden name.
Photos: Maiden name letters; marriage records; Six King sisters in 1964; Eight Gilbourne sisters of England.
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