Friday, September 29, 2017

6 Places to Find Your Ancestor's Maiden Name

Maria Rosa Caruso and family
Without her mother's maiden name,
I couldn't build my great grandmother's family tree.
What was your biggest disappointment when you began your family tree research?

The 1890 U.S. Census went up in flames.

Yeah, that's a tough one. What else?

Tracing female ancestors is so hard without a maiden name.

For sure. But unlike the 1890 census, you can find maiden names.

Here are some of the genealogy resources that can provide your ancestor's maiden name. You may not be able to get your hands on some of these. Others may not exist for your ancestor.

Any one of these resources may hold the key to unlocking another generation in your family tree.
  1. Birth, Marriage, Death Certificates—These documents should contain your ancestor's maiden name. If you can't find them, branch out. Her maiden name may be on her children's birth, marriage, and death records. If you find different versions of her maiden name, weigh your evidence. Is the oldest-recorded document the most accurate? Do you trust the spelling you've found in 3 places more than the unique spellings?
  2. Ship Manifest—In some cultures a woman keeps her maiden name for life. If you can find your ancestor's immigration record, you may find her maiden name. If she is not from such a culture, did she emigrate before marrying? To locate her without knowing her maiden name, search with the information you have:
    • her first name and age
    • her hometown
    • her year of immigration
  3. Census Forms—Decades ago, multiple generations lived in one household. If you can find your ancestor with her husband and children, see who else is living with or near them. If there is a mother-in-law or brother-in-law in the home, you may have found your ancestor's maiden name. If there is a family next door whose first names match the known siblings of your ancestor, they may be her family.
  4. Passport Application—Your male ancestor's passport application can tell you a lot about his wife and children. This is especially true if the family was travelling together. You might discover each person's full name, date and place of birth, and the wife's maiden name. Plus, their family photo is priceless! To learn more about this resource, please see Your Family Tree Needs Your Ancestor's Passport Application.
  5. Naturalization Papers—Many of our ancestors who came to America had no intention of ever leaving. They officially declared their intention to become a citizen. They filed a petition for naturalization. If all went well, they became U.S. citizens. Each step of the naturalization process generated paperwork. If you find that paperwork, you can learn dates and places of birth, the applicant's father's name, and a woman's maiden name.
  6. U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index—Several months ago I wrote about discovering my great great grandmother's maiden name with this database. She didn't have a Social Security Number. It was her son's record that gave me the clue I needed. To learn exactly how I did it, please see This Expanded Resource Provided an Elusive Maiden Name. Now I've been able to get her birth record and more.
    Finally! Her maiden name was Girardi.
Genealogy is a treasure hunt. The more clues you can find for your ancestor, the stronger your family tree will be.

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