Resources for Living People
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 certificates
– Delayed birth records
– Corrected birth records
– Affidavits for correcting birth records
– Newspaper birth announcements
– Oral histories
– Published biographies
– Personal diaries & journals
– Marriage applications & licenses
– Marriage certificates
– Newspaper announcements
– Family Bible
– Newspaper announcements
– Court proceedings
– State or county-wide vital records indexes
– Burial permits
– Death certificates
– Newspaper announcements
– Funeral records
– VA burial database online
– Sexton’s office
– Tombstone inscriptions
– Cemetery maps and indexes
– 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
– FamilySearch.org searching
– Ancestry.com, 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
– 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)
– Administration records
– Appointments of administrators/executors
– Dispositions and judgments (naming heirs)
– Estate settlements
– Death Notices
– Church membership lists
– Vestry records
Medical Records (may be accessible to close relatives only)
– Doctor’s office
– Nursing Home
– Civil War soldiers & sailors online index
– 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
– Queries at mags/websites
– Voter registrations
– Who’s Who/compiled biographies
Reference Works for Finding Maiden Names
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Inserted from Genealogical.com email@example.com
Clues in Names
For generations, given names have come from surnames, such as Allen, Cameron, Clyde, Davis, Dudley, Elliot, Glenn, Keith, Lloyd, Spencer, and many others. This practice gave these nineteenth-century Southerners interesting name combinations: Green Cash, Ransom Cash, Pleasant Pigg, Wiley Crook, Hardy Flowers, Eaton Cotton, Green P. Rice, and DeForest Menace. When an ancestor has a surname as a given name, think clue. Was it the mother’s maiden name? A grandmother’s maiden name? Another relative’s given name? Only research can answer these questions.
For example, Benjamin Allen Phillips (1801) was named for his grandfather Benjamin Allen. Emily Cooper (1882) was named for her father’s deceased first wife, Emily (Blalock) Cooper. Emily Cooper Blalock (1874) was named for the same deceased lady, in this case, her father’s sister. On the other hand, Pitser Miller Blaloc (1848) was named for a neighbor not thought to be a relative.
Various genealogists have suggested a pattern to naming practices of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in England and Wales, which may give clues for studying families of the American colonies and the United States.
Eldest son-often named for the father’s father
Second son-for the mother’s father
Third son-for the father
Fourth son-for the father’s eldest brother
Eldest daughter-for the mother’s mother
Second daughter for the father’s mother
Third daughter-for the mother
Fourth daughter-for the mother’s eldest sister
In the United States, this pattern may be considered a possibility but not a rule. Some families did name eldest sons for paternal grandfathers, but the naming of children for relatives generally followed no particular pattern or order. Families also named eldest sons for relatives on both sides of the family or for no one in particular.
Each of the following was an eldest child. Hunter Orgain Metcalfe (1887) was given his maternal grandmother’s maiden name, Orgain. Samuel Black Brelsford (1829) was named for his maternal grandfather, Samuel Black. Edward Philpot Blalock (1837) was named for his father’s foster brother, Edward Philpot. Mary Eliza Catherine Coleman (1848) received a name from each.grandmother.
Be alert to recurring given names or middle names in a family, especially over several generations. The middle name Steele in the Isaac McFadden family of Chester County, South Carolina, was used for one of his children and several of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The name turned out to be the maiden name of Isaac’s first wife, Elizabeth Steele. The other recurring middle name in that family was Ewing, the middle name of two of Isaac’s children and several descendants. Perhaps it is a clue to someone else’s maiden name. Studying the extended family cluster helps you identify such repetition of names and may identify the reason.
The genealogist becomes aware of other naming practices. Of course, a daughter was, and still is, sometimes given a feminine form of her father’s name: Josephine (Joseph), Georgianna (George), Pauline (Paul), or Philippa (Philip). Almanzon Huston had a daughter named Almazona.
Some children were, and are, indeed named for relatives. However, others carry the names of famous Americans or prominent local personalities. In the early years of the republic, some families showed their patriotic feelings by naming daughters or sons Liberty, Justice, or America. Other nineteenth-century families gave daughters the same names as states and cities: Arizona, Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Philadelphia, Tennessee, and Virginia. Nineteenth-century census records revealed these interesting names. Florida Ferry, Arkansas Neighbors, French Fort, Egypt Land, Vienna Wood, and Australia Shepherd.
These people from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had a title for a given name: Major Topping, Admiral Croom, Squire Blalock, Pharaoh Lee, Doctor Godwin, Lieutenant Campbell, and Patsy Empress Jones.
Every culture and era seem to have names whose origins are obscure. They may be nicknames, made-up names, combinations of other names, names of characters in literature of the period, or place names. Parents may have simply liked the sound of a name or wanted to choose something different. Sometimes the names researchers find in records are the result of phonetic spelling. Some may be corruptions of other names or attempts to keep names in a family within a particular pattern, such as names in alphabetical order or names beginning with the same initials. These are some of the numerous such names found in this country from 1750 to the present: Benoba, Bivy, Bozilla, Callie, Dicy, Dovie, Fena, Floice, Hattie, Jincey, Kitsey, Laney, Levicy, Lottie, Lovie, Luvenia, Mittie, Nicey, Olan, Olean, Ora, Ottie, Ozora, Parilee, Parizade, Periby, (Pheribah, PheribyY, Fereby), Perlissa, Rebia, and Sinah.
Spelling and Your Ancestors
(The following article is excerpted from Val Greenwood’s acclaimed textbook, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. 3rd Edition, pp. 32-35, which is described at the end of this excerpt.)
The lack of standardized spellings and the use of phonetic spellings can be very sticky problems. If you go back just 100 years you will find that a large percentage of the population could not read, more still could not write (and many people were able to write only their own names), and even more could not spell. Most persons who did write did not concern themselves particularly with so-called standard spellings, but rather spelled words just as they sounded–phonetically–with local accents. Also realize that the early settlers of America were emigrants from many foreign lands. There were many accents, and when records were made the scribe wrote what he heard, accent and all.
What is the significance of these facts? It means that you will oftentimes be called upon to decipher scripts in which you will puzzle over simple words just because they are misspelled and written in an unfamiliar hand.
However, the main problem is in the spellings of names (especially surnames) and places. In the will which he made in 1754 in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, Jeremiah Wilcox’s surname is spelled two different ways–Willcox and Willcocks. In other documents it is spelled still other ways–Wilcox, Wilcocks, Welcox, Wellcocks, Welcocks, etc.–but Jeremiah could not write himself (he made a mark for his signature) so he probably had no idea as to what the correct spelling was or if it was ever being spelled correctly. The name and its spelling were entirely at the mercy of the person who chanced to make the record.
This highlights the fallacy of a practice common in many modern families–that of assuming that if the name is not spelled in a certain way it cannot belong to the same family. Persons with such ideas will pass over important genealogical records because the name happens to be spelled with an “a” rather than an “e,” with an “ie” rather than a “y,” or with one “n” rather than with two. Be especially careful of this when the two related spellings of a name are found in the same geographic area. The connection, of course, is not guaranteed, as it is not guaranteed even when the spellings are exactly the same, but it is worth investigating the possibility.
Also, because of this spelling problem, we must be extremely careful in our use of indexes. We must consider every possible spelling of the name sought. It is very easy to overlook some of the less logical (to us) possibilities and thus many valuable records. Local dialects and foreign accents often make a significant difference. The pronunciation of a name may be quite different in Massachusetts than it is in Georgia, and so might its spelling.
In law this is called the Rule of “Idem Sonans.” This means that in order to establish legal proof of relationship from documentary evidence it is not necessary for the name to be spelled absolutely accurately if, as spelled, it conveys to the ear, when pronounced in the accepted ways, a sound practically identical to the correctly spelled name as properly pronounced.
A few years ago I worked for some time on a problem where the same surname was found spelled twenty-four different ways in the very same locality, some of them even beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. The correct spelling of the name (supposedly) was “Ingold,” but the following variations were found: Ingle, Ingell, Ingles, Ingells, Ingel, Ingels, Ingeld, Inkle, Inkles, Inkell, Ingolde, Engold, Engolde, Engle, Engell, Engles, Engells, Engel, Engels, Engeld, Angold, Angle, and Ankold. These several variations were all found in the same family at the same time. Would you have considered all of them, or would you have stopped with those that began with “I”?
Other less likely possibilities for this name are Jugold and Jugle. Such errors could easily occur in an index because of the similarities between the capital I’s and J’s and the small n’s and u’s.
Another family changed the spelling of its name from Beatty to Baitey when moving from one location to another. In still another instance the surname Kerr was found interchanged with Carr. Whether these spelling changes were intentional is unknown, but the intention makes little difference. In one family three brothers deliberately spelled their surname in different ways–Matlock, Matlack, and Matlick. In his history of the Zabriskie family, George 0. Zabriskie reports having dealt with 123 variations of that name, though certainly not all in the same locality or the same time period. [END of excerpt]
If you found this excerpt fascinating–and helpful–you might want to take a closer look at Val Greenwood’s handy textbook, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. 3rd Edition. Among other things, The Researcher’s Guide contains an in-depth discussion of death and other vital records in the U.S., including where and how to find them. This third edition incorporates the latest thinking on genealogy and computers, specifically the relationship between computer technology (the Internet and CD-ROM) and the timeless principles of good genealogical research. It also includes a new chapter on the property rights of women, a revised chapter on the evaluation of genealogical evidence, and updated information on the 1920 census. Arguably the best book ever written on American genealogy, it is the text of choice in colleges and universities or wherever courses in American genealogy are taught.
For more information or to order, visit the following URL:
Of Related Interest . . .
Reading Early American Handwriting
This book is designed to teach you how to read and understand the handwriting found in documents commonly used in genealogical research. It explains techniques for reading early American documents; provides samples of alphabets and letter forms; defines terms and abbreviations commonly used in early American documents such as wills, deeds, and church records; and, furthermore, presents numerous examples of early American records for the reader to work with. Each document–nearly 100 of them at various stages of complexity–appears with the author’s transcription on a facing page, enabling the reader to check his/her own transcription. Also covered in the book, with particular emphasis on handwriting, are numbers and roman numerals, dates and the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, abbreviations and contractions, and standard terms found in early American records.
What’s in a Name? Everything You Wanted to Know
This charming book by Leonard Ashley will tell you the facts behind the names of persons, places, and things; about how names are chosen for business and for success; how they are used for everything from tracing settlement patterns to telling fortunes; how given names have their fashions; where surnames had their origins–everything you wanted to know about names in the U.S. and around the globe.
This classic from etymologist Elsdon Smith begins with a discussion of the development of hereditary surnames and then concentrates on six broad categories: classification of surnames, surnames from father’s name (patronymics), surnames from occupation or office, surnames from description or action (nicknames), surnames from places, and surnames not properly included elsewhere.
School blackboards from 1917 found in Oklahoma. One board had the following written on it:
“I give my head, my heart and my life to my God and One nation indivisible with justice for all.”
The video of this amazing story here:
A great article and photos posted by Cassandra Lewis: