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
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.
Online Resources for Finding Living Relatives, Part II: The Sources,” by William Dollarhide
“The Best Internet Sites for Finding Living Relatives,” which appeared in Everton’s “Genealogical Helper,” Vol. 61, Issue No. 5 (Sep-Oct 2007). Reprinted by permission. The first part of the article appeared in last week’s issue of “Genealogy Pointers” (07-28-09).] Researchers have a number of good tools at their disposal for finding living relatives. Here are the top 25 People Finder websites from Everton Publisher’s Best Rated Genealogy Sites: FIRST PLACES TO LOOK – Google (www.google.com/advanced_search). Free site. If the surname is fairly common, use the Advanced Search option, “with at least one of the words.” Keywords might include “living,” “born,” “married,” or “resides.” – Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com). Subscription site. There are more names here from recent directories and public records databases than any other place on the Internet. Non-members may search the indexes for free. – ProGenealogists.com (www.progenealogists.com/genealogysleuthb.htm). Free site. The Genealogy Sleuth pages are portals to the “Find Living Relatives” websites most used by professional genealogists. Contains direct links to all of the websites listed below. LIBRARY RESOURCES – ReferenceUSA (www.slco.lib.ut.us/database-referenceUSA.htm). Free to library patrons only. This large database of names from current directories is found at subscribing libraries only. Check with your local library to see if they subscribe and perhaps allow home access via a library card ID. – Telephone Directories and Locators (www.slco.lib.ut.us/TELEDIRS.HTM). Free site. An
example of a portal with links to several online directories, this is a webpage sponsored by the Salt Lake County Library System. There are more of these types of sites at libraries all over the country. FREE DIRECTORY LOOKUP SITES – ZabaSearch.com (http://zabasearch.com). Free site. Free people search and much more. There are probably more names here than at any other free site. (For virtually every test name that I used at all of the free sites, ZabaSeach.com came back with five times the number of responses as the other sites.) But search the other sites as well–there will be sites where certain names appear nowhere else. – 411.Info (www.411.info/). Free site. Very complete U.S. directory lookups. See also http://www.411.ca/ for Canadian directories. – DA+ (Directory Assistance Plus) (www.daplus.us/). Free site. A service of InfoUSA, this public directory lookup service is very complete. – InfoSpace.com (www.infospace.com). Free site. The search engine for Dogpile, MetaCrawler, WebCrawler, and WebFetch, and with directory listings from SuperPages, BellSouth, and Yellow Book, this is an important stop in your directory searching. – The Ultimate White Pages (www.theultimates.com/white/). Free site. Featuring six different directory lookups on the same page, this site may save you time and effort. – SearchBug.com (www.searchbug.com/peoplefinder/). Free site. Includes White Pages, Yellow Pages, and names from the PeopleFinders.com site (for fee-based extended searches). – SuperPages.com (www.superpages.com/). Free site. White Pages and Yellow Pages are well done at this site, with a good-sized database of names. – WhitePages.com (www.whitepages.com/). Free site. Includes White Pages, Yellow Pages, and extended name lists from the USSearch.com site (for fee-based searches). U.S. PUBLIC RECORDS DATABASES (Fee-based Searches) – USSearch.com (1-800-U.S. Search) (www.ussearch.com/consumer/index.jsp). Fee-based searches. Remember their TV ads back in the 1990s, “Find anyone, call Nick.” The company has more than one billion names indexed from many public records. – PeopleFinders.com (www.peoplefinders.com/). Fee-based searches. More than one billion names from public records. The lookup of names is free, but the results list will have only the name and city/state of residence. There’s a fee if you want more information. – Intelius.com (www.intelius.com/). Fee-based searches. For over one billion names, the index search is free, but the results list will give you only the name and city/state of residence. PEOPLE & ADDRESS DATABASE FINDING TOOLS – SearchSystems.net (www.searchsystems.net/). Subscription site. The largest directory of U.S. Public Records on the Internet, this site is a resource for business information, corporate filings,
property records, deeds, mortgages, criminal and civil court filings, inmates, offenders, births, deaths, marriages, unclaimed property, professional licenses, and much more. The site is a portal to searchable databases containing billions of names. This is not a master index, but rather an identification and link to more than 46,313 public records databases where online searching for people can take place. At $9.95/month, a SearchSystem.net subscription may provide “more bang for the buck” than any other site. – NetrOnline.com (www.netronline.com/public_records.htm). Free site. This site is a portal to find any county of the U.S. with real estate records online. Not all counties have these records online, but those that do can be found here from a list of all 3,146 U.S. counties. The county Assessors, Recorders, Auditors, etc., are the official repositories for recorded deeds, tax assessments, and property histories–all excellent sources for names, addresses, and phone numbers. – VirtualGumshoe.com (www.virtualgumshoe.com/). Subscription site. Designed for private investigators, this site has the largest nationwide criminal database on the Web. Maybe your missing relative is not lost at all, just serving time. – MilissaData.com (www.melissadata.com/lookups/index.htm). Free site. Designed for direct marketers, this site has a Free Lookups page with direct links to websites relating to the nature of places in the U.S., i.e., addresses, zip codes, area codes, sub-division maps, house numbers, street names, radius searches, carrier route searches, county maps, census maps, school district maps, city maps, U.S. place name databases, world place name databases, and much more. Another name for this site might be, “A Genealogist’s Find-the-Place Toolbox.” INTERNATIONAL DIRECTORIES – Infobel.com (http://infobel.com/world/default.asp). Free site. This is a portal to directory name lists online for more than 200 countries around the world. At each country, a list of directory titles is shown, and a click on a title takes you directly to the website with that online name list. Although many of the directories are in the language of the country, virtually every country has directories in English as well. – Numberway.com (www.numberway.com). Free site. At first, Numberway.com looks like a rip-off of Infobel.com because it uses the same maps and regions and it lists the countries in the same order. But a look at the directory titles reveals that the Numberway lists are often unique and not repeats of the Infobel lists, and Numberway usually contains more directories listed for a particular country. On the other hand, Infobel.com has directory titles not listed at Numberway. Therefore, one should use both of these world directory portal sites to see what is available online. – 192.com (www.192.com). Free site (plus fee-based details). The free portion is for a directory lookup for all of Great Britain. There are some unique databases here, such as the annual British voter lists (Electoral Rolls) for 2002-2007, which are fee-based searches. Criteria for a search requires the name of the village/town/city. – The Phone Book (BT) (www.thephonebook.bt.com/). Free site. British Telecom, now just BT, is the dominate telecommunications system in the UK. Free lookups in current telephone directories for all of Great Britain are at this site. A search requires the name of the village/town/city. – UK Phonebook.com (www.ukphonebook.com). Free membership site. This is a private
directory publisher for all of Great Britain, and the enhanced name lists are very good. Searching here is also by place, but this site includes an interactive map at the search box screen, which can be very useful in finding a place name. [End of article] EDITOR’S NOTE: We should add that Mr. Dollarhide’s book, GETTING STARTED IN GENEALOGY ONLINE is another good source of links to websites with information on living forebears, including records of birth, marriage, or death. Pick up a copy and learn which websites can open the doors for you to the most important genealogy collections in libraries, archives, and genealogical societies for all 50 states. Designed as a beginner’s guide, this book’s 64 pages pack more clout than any 64 pages ever written on the subject of online genealogy. The book includes the author’s unique seven-step system for gathering facts essential for any genealogical project. At the back of the book are Master Forms the reader can use to keep track of research information. What more could you ask for in such a small package?
Our ancestors in Ireland had a very strong tradition for naming the eldest children in each family. It’s really interesting to see this naming pattern in your own family tree, but it’s especially valuable to know for family history research.
This naming pattern was most prevalent from around the late 18th century to the middle of the 20th.
Here’s the gist of it:
• The eldest son would be named after his paternal grandfather
• The second son would be named after his maternal grandfather
• The third son would be named after his father
• The fourth son would be named after his father’s oldest brother
The amazing thing about this naming pattern is how closely it was followed across levels of Irish society and in different religious denominations. It’s very likely your family followed this tradition pretty closely. Knowing this can explain recurring names throughout your family tree and can help you when trying to decide if an ancestor you found fits in.
There was also a similar naming pattern for girls, although it wasn’t followed as closely as it was for boys. As time went on, naming fashions came to be the reason for girls names, first among wealthy families and then more increasingly among everyone.
This could be motivated by the simple fact of maiden names – once a girl would marry, her original family name would be lost. Perhaps this caused families to place less emphasis on female naming traditions.
How to use this for family history research
While you might be tempted, knowing this pattern doesn’t mean you should rush to fill in missing branches of your family tree just because you have a clue to someone’s first name.
One of the main challenges of Irish genealogy is not having anything at all to begin your search. That’s where understanding this naming pattern can help. It’s not enough to give you definitive evidence of an ancestor’s name, but it’s a great place to start looking.
If you’ve hit a brick wall or are feeling totally lost, try to estimate some names based on this pattern. It will narrow your search results tremendously, and while it isn’t guaranteed to turn up evidence of your ancestors, it could be the beginning of a trail that leads to an amazing discovery.
For instance, if you’re researching a family with the last name of Murphy (the most common name found in our Irish Catholic parish registers from County Cork, you’re going to have a lot of names to search through. But if you know that your Irish immigrant ancestor’s first name was Patrick, you now have a place to start – his grandfather may have been Patrick Murphy. Still a common name, but it’s a starting place.
While this won’t give you the answer in and of itself, it could help you find their household. You may discover that someone with that name occupied a household with other family names you are certain are correct. Even knowing that, you’ll still need more direct evidence linking your ancestry to that person, but the path will be easier if you’ve got a good hunch a certain member fits.
This naming pattern can also explain when you find seemingly duplicate baptism records from the same family. Some families thought names to be so important that if a child with one died, it would be re-used on the next born child.
When you see something like this in our Catholic Parish Records, it usually indicates the death of the older child, and tells us that this name was particularly important to the family. This was both a way to honor and remember the deceased child, while still keeping the ever important family naming tradition alive.
In the Blair County Genealogical Society Newsletter, Altoona, PA, Septermber-October-November 1987 issue Vol. 8, No. 3, childrens naming patterns were listed as follows:
English in England
1st son-maternal grandfather
2nd son-paternal grandfather
1st daughter-paternal grandmother
2nd daughter-maternal grandmother