How to Find Maiden Names of Women in Your Family Tree

A maiden name lookup of women in your family can be tricky. Sadly, the world of officialdom has a solid paternal bias. Here we will rectify the imbalance and provide a list of helpful tips on how to go about tracing the female members of your family tree.

Scroll through lists of people you may know on Facebook, and there will be more than a couple of names of women who list both their maiden and married names. This can make your search for ancestors maiden names a little easier, but it's quite likely that you'll need to do some digging.

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In some cultures, like Spanish, children carry both the mother’s maiden name and the father’s surname, making things much easier. As an example, the full name of Picasso is Pablo Ruiz Picasso. (Ruiz from the father and Picasso from the mother). Be careful though sometimes the father’s name is listed last.

If that were a universal trend, it would have made things more straightforward, but here are a couple of ways to search for missing maiden names in your family tree.

Talk to Your Relatives

What better way to begin your search than talking to relatives? Each member of your family tree brings a wealth of information about their own immediate family members. That’s the great thing about people; they know other people.

Listening to stories from relatives will often deliver names of missing relatives. Cousins, nephews, and nieces often have insights into more distant branches of the family tree.

A distant aunt will remember her favorite niece, and pretty soon, you will not only have the maiden name but a list of contacts to help you gather information about your ancestry.

Remember that your family tree is one of many in the generation forest, and often branches of adjoining trees are intertwined.

Social media makes reaching out so much easier and quicker. We live in a world of connectivity, and sometimes all that is needed is a common thread. Perhaps knowing which school, parish, or even a sports club the person attended will set off a chain of contacts that producers the missing maiden name.

Somewhere down the line, we are all related, and exploring the world of distant relatives is a great maiden name lookup strategy. As a bonus, you will learn many exciting things about your family history.

Check the Middle Names of Children

It is not only the Spanish that incorporated the names of both parents into children’s names. Often children were given second or third names in honor of their mother’s maiden name.

Pay particular attention to names that seem to crop up at regular intervals or are common to a few children.

Another good indicator is the names that occur in successive generations, so pay close attention to those. They may be the cue to lead you to the maiden name you are searching for.

The Marriage Certificate

One of the richest sources of information is the Marriage Certificate. This is probably the single most helpful document to lead you to discover your ancestors positively.

Another avenue to explore is the marriage certificates of sisters of your ancestor. That may provide a strong hint of the maiden name but do take care. It is not as infallible as it would seem.

There is still hope if you can’t locate the actual marriage certificate. Churches announced marriage banns, and the social columns in Newspapers carried announcements from proud parents regarding the impending marriage of their daughters. Strange how it always seemed to be the delight of the daughters’ parents.

Newspapers not only carried marriage announcements in their social columns but also engagements, so don’t restrict your search to the marriages section.

Many newspapers also ran ‘Bride of the Month’ competitions, and you may be lucky scrolling through those pages.

Finding Maiden Names in Newspapers

If there are no clues in the celebratory section of the newspaper, perhaps it could be helpful to scroll through the more somber obituary columns. Local newspapers where your ancestor lived typically had columns listing deaths in their classified sections.

In some countries (like Germany), announcing the death using an advert-type copy with thick black borders is customary. So, you may need to scan different pages of the newspaper.

While scanning the newspapers, you may want to cast your eye over the births section. In many instances, the maiden name of the new mother may be included, and often the parents of the mother will be messengers of the happy new arrival.

If the newspaper trail leads to a dead-end, there is still hope by searching through Census Reports. Sadly, they won’t mention maiden names, but there are other clues to follow.

Official Documents

Have a look at the entries before and after your ancestor. These entries will be the neighbors of your ancestor and could be the link to connect you with the missing maiden name.

If your ancestor moved back to her family home in her later years, then the census may include her name together with other members of the family.

Several other official documents may bear fruit. The deeds office could be a rich source of information. Not only is the information at the Deeds Office comprehensive, but it lacks paternal bias. There is every chance that if your ancestor owned property, her details would be fully listed.

Military records may contain relevant information if family members served in the military.

You may be lucky if your ancestors’ local cemetery kept records of deaths and burials, but perhaps a visit to the local cemetery may reveal some hints on the gravestones.

Old Photographs

If all these investigations fail to deliver the relevant information, explore one more avenue. Go through old family photographs. Posting them on social media may provide leads that could get you the information. Look at the back of old family photos, especially old family photo albums. Often names and dates were penciled in on the backs of photographs. You may be lucky.


Finding a mother’s maiden name can be both frustrating and hugely entertaining. It is the opportunity to delve into the past adventures of your family. Make connections to distant relatives and hear the stories that bind and build families.

I hope these hints and suggestions will successfully guide you in your search. It is a road filled with many diversions and deviations, but they all hold little gems of information about your ancestors. Good luck: I hope you enjoy the journey.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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