When you started building your family tree, you may have known only your 4 grandparents' names. What fun it is each time you discover a relative's parents' names. You've added another generation to your tree!
Here are 6 places to look for the names of that previous generation. Some may surprise you.
1. Census Sheets
Look closely at each member of your relative's household in each census. You may find the Head of Household's mother, father, mother-in-law, or father-in-law living with the family. The best find is the male head of household's father-in-law. Now you've got the wife's maiden name!
2. Draft Registration Cards
If your male relative was single and the right age, his draft registered card may name his father or mother as his nearest relative. In this example, Tony Jr. is not his real name—it's Anton Jr. But this card is evidence that he is, in fact, named after his father.
|The draft registration card for a single man may give you his mother or father's name.|
I'd heard stories about "Uncle Anton" from my mother-in-law. When I found this card, I realized his father's name was Anton, too.
3. Ship Manifests
If your ancestor emigrated during a particular span of years, you're lucky. Their ship manifest may include a column labelled, "The name and complete address of nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came."
Your relative may give the name of their spouse. But an unmarried traveler may name their father or mother.
|Your immigrant ancestor's ship manifest can tell you their hometown—and their parent's name.|
You may not understand this scribble, but this is my grandfather Adamo naming his father Giovanni as the relative he's leaving in his town of Baselice.
4. Social Security Applications and Claims Index
A while ago I found a collection on Ancestry.com called "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1935-2007".
If your relative worked in the United States after the 1935 founding of the Social Security Administration, they should have Social Security records. Hopefully you're already familiar with the SSDI—the Social Security Death Index. That can give you dates and places of birth and death.
But the Applications and Claims Index can give you much more! With some luck, you can learn the decedent's father's name and their mother's maiden name.
Plus, if you're looking up a female relative by her birth date, you can learn her married name.
5. Passport Applications
If your relative was a U.S. citizen going to another country at a certain time, they needed a passport. These applications can be a treasure trove. And you even get a photo.
Here's some of what you might learn about your relative:
- birth date and place
- father's name, birth date or age, birthplace and address
- wife's name
If the applicant is a married woman, you'll get details about her husband rather than her father.
|A passport application provides lots of names, dates and places you need.|
This example is from a relative named Walter Smith. It provides birth dates and countries for Walter, his wife Elizabeth, and his father George. It also says when he sailed from Liverpool to the U.S., and on which ship. The next page has photos of Walter and Elizabeth.
That's some valuable info when you're researching a guy named Smith!
6. Vital Records
Of course all genealogy fans want to find their ancestor's birth, marriage and death records. Keep in mind that:
- The parents' names on a birth record should be pretty reliable. But either parent may be using a nickname rather than their true, full name.
- All information on a death record is obviously supplied by someone other than the person who died. What if the decedent is an 85-year-old who was born in another country? Will their child, who's supplying the information, know the correct spelling of their grandparents' names? What if they never even met those grandparents?
- If the couple getting married is pretty young, you can have more confidence in how they list their parents' names. (The "nickname" rule still applies.) But if the couple is older—2 widows getting remarried—the information is more likely to have an error.
- If your couple got married in the same little town where they were born and raised, the clerk writing the names is more likely to get them right.
The lesson to take away is this: Don't give up on that previous generation if you can't get your relative's vital records. You have 5 other types of records to find, each of which can help you fortify your family tree.