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* * * Maiden Names, Tips for Finding Them In Your Genealogy Research  * * *

When doing Genealogical research we tend to always run into the problem of discovering the maiden names of the family we are researching at the time.  Here are some problems and suggestions with help in the area of discovering your family maiden names. Upon searching you may run into a maiden name and assume this is the maiden name you have been searching for, but it is best to search several sources before concluding this is the actual maiden name you have been looking for. Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of this page, including two books, one The Hidden Half of the Family and the other A Genealogist Guide to  Discovering Your Female Ancestor's.

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Here are some places to search for maiden names:

1. Marriage Certificates in some states such as Illinois the records from the 1877 on shows the maiden name and sometimes first name of the mother of the bride, and includes the father of the brides name also.  Every state is different though on when they began keeping good records.   Michigan did not begin keeping marriage records or birth records until 1886, and still some of the marriage records do not show the names of the parents of the bride or groom but of coarse they do show the brides maiden name. ( Even then you must check another source as my own marriage certificate spells my husband's mother's maiden last name wrong. Always check many different spellings when doing research.  As many times names are misspelled by the person creating the record. 

2. Death Certificates ( this information is only as good though as the memory of the person submitting the information after the death of the woman you are researching.) Some time's the surviving child, husband or other family member does not give the correct information because of memory.

3. The Woman you are researching children's birth certificates sometimes gives the maiden name of the mother, although my birth certificate I discovered when I was an adult and had moved out of the house that my mother's maiden name was spelled incorrectly. I have learned now to check my own home records to make sure they are correct.  My mother had to send in her birth certificate and had to have a Notary swear that the information she wanted changed on my birth certificate was correct before the state of Delaware would correct the information. 

4. Children's death certificates (again this information must be compared to that of another source as the person submitting the information could be giving the wrong information about the maiden name of the women you are researching

5. Census records sometimes shows that a mother in law was living in the house, or brother of the wife.  Again you must check this against another source.

6. Family Bible Records are another good source.

7. Unpublished Church records if you know what Church the woman was affiliated with.

8. Printed Marriage records and printed Church records.

9. Wills, she may have left something to her brother or unmarried sister.

10. Family History Books on the husbands line may show the woman's maiden last name. 

11. Obituary, she may be survived by a brother, father or unmarried sister.

12. Widows military pension-a wife may have received a pension for her husbands military service in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 or Civil War.  

13. County Histories or Genealogical Societies in the county the family resided.

14. Land records, find the woman in the index of grantees, when followed through have sometimes proven the granter to be the father of whom deeded land to his daughter.

15. Certificate of Naturalization of the husband.

16. Divorce papers.

17. Links at bottom of page

18. Happy Hunting!

Special Terms in Researching Women

From the Family Chronicle May/June 2002

administratix - A woman assigned by the court to administer an intestate case where there is no valid will.

concubine - A woman who lives with a man to whom she is not married.

consort - Companion; term for when the woman predeceased her husband

dower - A legal provision for a woman's support and that of her children after her husband's death; typically one-third of the husband's property; also known as "widow's thirds"

dowry - Property the bridge brings to her marriage

execturix - the woman named in a will to distribute the estate

grass widow - A woman whose husband had deserted her; also used to refer to a woman who has illegitimate children or a discarded common-law wife

relict - a widow

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My hobby is Genealogy and I raise dust bunnies as pets.

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Sources to Help you with Your Female Ancestor Problems

* Notable Women Ancestors

 * A Guide to Uncovering Women's History in Archival Collections.

* American Women's History (A Research Guide)

* Lost Female Ancestors Queries


* National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Special Issue on Researching

Female Ancestors, September 2000


* A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors (by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack)

Betterway Books


* Cyndi's List


* A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering...


The Hidden Half of the Family: A...



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