Finding a Female Ancestor's Maiden Name

Not an easy task sometimes … locating a female’s maiden name. It can be hard enough when a female was solely referred to by her husband’s name (Mrs. Harry E. Wilson) – not given name even provided.

So to assist in the search for a maiden name (her birth surname), here are a few suggestions:

  1. Check her death certificate, her husband’s death certificate and any of her children. Depending on the county and state requirements, the maiden name might be written. Also on the death certificate see the name of the informant – the one providing personal information. It might be a brother or uncle on her father’s side or an unmarried sister – so providing a family name. 

  2. Reviewing census records (Federal or state). Examine each person for each census in the household. The wife’s brother, unmarried sister, an uncle or parents could be living in the household.

  3. Any marriage records either issued by a county or a church record will have the maiden name. True, if the female had been married before, most likely it is the earlier married name on the record. Next, examine the names of witnesses to the marriage ceremony. Again a brother, sister, aunt, mother or father might have served as the witness, so providing a full name.

  4. Find the birth, marriage and death records for every child the female had. A very common practice was to name a baby with the middle name being the mother’s maiden name. Example: Nan Musselman Everhart – given name ‘Nan’, middle name was the baby’s mother’s maiden name and Everhart was the father’s surname.

  5. Examine the female ancestor’s full name after marriage. Many ladies dropped the birth middle name and used the maiden name as their middle name after marriage.

  6. Check the female’s family Wills, especially her uncle, grandfather, mother, aunt or sibling. Not all the time, but can happen, the father leaves something to a daughter, niece, granddaughter, they will write out her maiden name and married name.

Photos: An informant providing information on a maiden name.

Related Blogs:

Maiden Names

Get Names Correct


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