Finding a Woman’s Maiden Name

89 Places for Finding a Woman’s Maiden Name: A Checklist of Sources, by William Dollarhide

  Discovering the maiden name of a female is often the biggest problem we have in genealogy. Whether you are researching your families in person, through the mail, or by searching the Internet for sources, the basic search is still the same. As in all research tasks, we need to identify the possible places where such a record exists, and in particular, to find the place where an actual document may exist that mentions the birth name of a woman. Here is a basic checklist of some places to look:

 Birth Records

– Birth certificates

– Delayed birth records

– Corrected birth records

– Affidavits for correcting birth records

– Newspaper birth announcements

Oral histories

– Published biographies

– Personal diaries & journals

Marriage Records

– Marriage applications & licenses

– Marriage certificates

– Newspaper announcements

– Family Bible

Divorce Records

– Newspaper announcements

– Court proceedings

– State or county-wide vital records indexes

Death Records

– Burial permits

– Death certificates

– Newspaper announcements

– Obituaries

– Funeral records

– VA burial database online


– Sexton’s office

– Tombstone inscriptions

– Cemetery maps and indexes

Census Records

– Name of father-in-law included in a family grouping

– Brother-in-law included in a family grouping

– 1890 Veteran’s census including widows of veterans

– 1925 Iowa State Census (only U.S. census with the question, “Maiden Name of Mother?” for

every person listed).

– Names of neighbors, as clues to sibling’s names

– Clues from parents birthplace, leading to further census work

Major Databases & Indexes

– Google searching

– searching

–, et al

– RootsWeb family name searching

– Name indexes on the Internet

Vital Records Indexes & Compilations

– Kentucky birth/death index (as an example of several states available on the Internet)

– The Barbour Collection (for Connecticut, as an example of published compilations)

– New England vital records (as an example of published town reports)

– County-wide indexes, such as the many RootsWeb county pages of the Internet

Bible records

– State-wide collections, such as those at Virginia and Louisiana state archives

– Home and relatives’ sources

– Church collections (Bibles donated to churches for Sunday School)

Probate Records

– Wills

– Administration records

– Appointments of administrators/executors

– Dispositions and judgments (naming heirs)

– Estate settlements

Church Records

– Confirmations

– Marriages

– Christenings

– Baptisms

– Burials

– Death Notices

– Church membership lists

– Vestry records

Medical Records (may be accessible to close relatives only)

– Doctor’s office

– Hospital

– Nursing Home


– Civil War soldiers & sailors online index

– Correspondence

– Miscellaneous home sources

– Oral interviews

– Patriotic society membership applications

– Funeral home records

– Hospital records

– Soldier home records

– Land ownership & deed records

– Civil court records

– Criminal court records

– Newspaper articles

– Social Security applications

– Social Security job history records

– Draft registration record

– Driver’s license

– Frakturs and needlepoints (family names)

– Fraternal club record

– Homestead record

– Immigration record

– Insurance papers

– Military personnel records

– Military medical records

– Military burial records

– Naturalization records

– Personal journals and diaries

– Professional license applications

– Passports applications

– Pensions

– Queries at mags/websites

– Voter registrations

– Who’s Who/compiled biographies

Reference Works for Finding Maiden Names

The Hidden Half of the Family

In this book, Christina Schaefer spells out the various legal categories of information relevant to women’s genealogy at both the federal and state level, and furnishes a time line of important events in each state’s history regarding women and the law. The bulk of the volume consists of a review of United States laws bearing on women’s ancestry and a state-by-state breakdown of those statutes having the greatest import for finding women ancestors. In addition to the chronology, each state chapter contains notes on the periods of coverage and location of pertinent records, and a bibliography. If you are stymied by the missing women in your past, the best place to turn for solid advice is The Hidden Half of the Family.

Female Index to James Savage’s “Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England”

Because Savage’s Dictionary was originally published one volume at a time, in alphabetical order, the author never produced an index to the work as a whole. This limitation has always made it difficult to find female ancestors. Now, however, thanks to the heroic efforts of the late Patty Barthell Myers, the difficulty of finding females in Savage’s Dictionary is a thing of the past. In her book Mrs. Myers identifies every woman/girl to be found in the Dictionary. Each female appears in the Myers Index under a maiden name and, separately, under the name of her husband.

Note to Our Readers: Have you found evidence of an ancestor’s maiden name in sources other than those listed in Mr. Dollarhide’s checklist above? If so, please let us know by sending your finding to We will gather up all the responses over the next few weeks and publish them in a future edition of “Genealogy Pointers.” There are 89 items listed in the article; perhaps your source could become the 90th.

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