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

finding woman's maiden name

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 Googling 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, but in particular, 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 and 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