All the females on your family tree have a maiden name (their birth surname). For those who married and took their husband’s name, it can be a challenge to learn that maiden name. Once you do know the maiden name, it becomes much easier to locate additional information on that female ancestor.
So some places to assist in your quest to find a female’s maiden name. Check the following vital records. Some do have the maiden name, some do not. Check any birth records or announcements, christening records, especially for all of her children, marriage license or certificate (careful that this is a first marriage, if the female had been married before then the former married name would appear). Other records include cemetery records, a deed, a Will, hometown church records, passenger lists, or any hospital records from that hometown.
On death records, certificates or obituaries, the informant may not know the maiden name or worst – provides the wrong name! However, look at that informant’s surname closely. That person might be a sibling, aunt, father, etc. who has the same surname as the maiden name of the deceased. Sometimes the relationship of the informant to the deceased is provided giving more evidence.
If these records do not help, review over the full names of her children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Naming a baby with a family surname was very common practice. You might come up with several such surnames, and you will need to check all. Another similar idea is to see if that female ancestor may be added her maiden name as her new middle name when she married. That was another common practice and one very popular still in the 21st century.
Go back over the US Federal or state censuses you can find. Check all persons in a household, check their relationship and name. If there is a listing for an unmarried ‘sister-in-law’ to the male head of household that the female ancestor lives in … you scored a hit using the relative’s maiden name. However, also, check other households – neighbors living nearby. Cover the full census page and even go a couple pages before and after. Even if you are not sure of a name, check it out — that is research!
When searching any databases using a hometown name, try doing the search with the females’ given names only, adding their approximate birth date. Now it might work when it is small towns that the relative lived in and even more so if the female had an unusual given name.
Lastly, go through those old social articles in the hometown’s newspapers. True, ladies were written with their husband’s full names and the wife was ‘Mrs.’ But, if an article stated “Mrs. Henry Johnson visited her mother, Mrs. Frank Williamson” — you have a hit!
Photos: Lady of 1865, group of ladies from 1880s, group of ladies in 1900 and a lady in 1922.
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