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5 Ways to Find Your Female Relative's Married or Maiden Name

Are lots of distant female cousins dead ends in your family tree? Here's some help.

How great is it when an elderly relative can tell you the married names of all the women in your family tree? Or the maiden names of all the in-laws? These women are in your tree, but your research on them is stuck.

You have to be more of a detective to find out who those young ladies married. Or what their maiden name was. Here are a few tools to help you find out.

Using examples from my family tree, I'll show you how these 5 resources led me to missing married or maiden names.

1. Census Sheets

Make sure you search for every possible census form for the family you're researching. Sometimes an elderly parent will come to live with the family. If that parent is the head of household's in-law, they'll have the maiden name of the head of household's wife.

I have one family in the 1940 census that has the man's mother-in-law living with him. Because of her, I now know the wife's maiden name is Abbate. When Mrs. Abbate was younger and her husband was alive, her parents lived with them. Because of that earlier census, I found out her maiden name and married name were both Abbate. (See "3 Unique, Key Facts about Every U.S. Federal Census".)

Check the census to see if her parents are living with her.
Check the census to see if her parents are living with her.

2. U.S. Social Security Indexes

Catherine Theresa Leone, born in 1917, was my mother's 2nd cousin. I found her in the U.S. and New York State Censuses for 1920, 1925, 1930, and 1940. She was only 23 in 1940, so it isn't surprising that she was still living with her parents.

Dead end, right? No! A simple search brought up her record in the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index. I know it's my Catherine Theresa Leone because the index lists both her parents' names. They match what I already knew.

It turns out Catherine Theresa died at age 76 and did not go by another other name. She never married. I found another record to support these facts. The U.S. Social Security Death Index has the exact same birth and death date for her. (See "This Expanded Resource Provided an Elusive Maiden Name".)

3. Marriage Indexes

I never knew my Aunt Sophie's maiden name. Without her maiden name, I can't find her parents or siblings.

Fortunately, almost all my recent ancestors married in New York City. I can use the Italian Genealogical Group's online database to search for my uncle's marriage to Aunt Sophie. I entered his name into the Groom's Index and found him. The listing gives me the marriage date and certificate number in Manhattan.

When I click the Bride Lookup link, there's Aunt Sophie's real name: Serafina Eufemio. With that name, I was able to find Aunt Sophie earlier in her life, living with her parents and siblings.

Search marriage indexes to find out who she married...or who he married.
Search marriage indexes to find out who she married...or who he married.

4. Family Obituaries

My aunt's sister-in-law died in 2004. I knew only a little about my uncle's family. I knew his sister's first name, that she was born in Italy, and the name of one of her sons. Her obituary, as short as it was, told me several facts about her. I learned:
  • She moved from New York to Florida in 1974, but she died in New York.
  • She married twice, and had converted to Judaism for her 2nd husband.
  • Her 2 sons' names, and their different last names.
  • The married name of her 2nd husband's daughter.
  • Her sister's married name. (That's my uncle's other sister, so this tells me the maiden names of her 2 daughters.)
  • Her 2nd husband died before her.
A more detailed obituary can tell you the names of siblings and their spouses, children and their spouses, and grandchildren, too.

Even if the woman you're researching is still alive somewhere, you might find an obituary for one of her parents or siblings.

5. DNA Matches and their Trees

Emma Leone, born in 1906, was also my mom's 2nd cousin. She was living with her parents on census forms through 1930. It was a DNA match—Emma's son—who told me who and when Emma married. With her married name, I was able to find her Social Security death records. These contained her birth date, which matches the 1906 birth index listing for Emma Leone.

Because my DNA match (my 3rd cousin) told me her married name, I found her and my new cousin in the 1940 census, too. (See "Bringing in Your Genealogy Harvest".)

One big caveat to finding facts in another person's tree: That's not proof. You must find documents to support the details you find in anyone else's tree.

An obituary tends to be more reliable, but may contain errors. My own first cousins didn't know our grandmother's maiden name. They had it wrong in their mother's obituary. When my sister-in-law wrote her father's obituary, she knew no one's names but her aunt and grandparents.

Whatever evidence you do find, take it as a clue, but don't take it for granted. All the clues I've mentioned in this article were details I was able to support with other evidence.

Don't give up on the ladies. They're the reason we're all here.

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