News From Terre Haute, Indiana


June 24, 2007

Genealogy: To help your research, here are 10 things you may not know about women’s maiden names

This week’s column could be called “the top ten things you don’t know about women’s maiden names.” These are taken from The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy by Christina Kassabian Schaefer, published by the Genealogical Publishing Company.

1. French women often used their maiden names on official records and legal documents.

2. Married women from Scandinavian countries customarily kept their maiden names, but should also be looked for under their husband’s surname.

3. In the American colonial period, Dutch marriage contracts allowed women to preserve their maiden names and their individual legal status. But, after 1690, the Dutch colonists began adopting the English tradition of using the husband’s surname.

4. In Europe, German and Polish Catholic women’s deaths were recorded using only their maiden names, not their married names.

5. Spanish surnames are often dual names taken from the paternal name combined with the maternal name. Married Hispanic women always used their maiden names on legal documents. In other records, they should be searched for under both their maiden name and their husband’s legal name. The word “de” (for “spouse of”) may precede their husband’s surname when added to their own.

6. Italian women used their maiden names on legal documents and in official records.

7. Jewish family names ending with -s or -es are matronymic-derived from the name of a mother or wife.

8. Quaker women often used their maiden name as a middle name after marriage.

9. Scottish widows went back to using their maiden names after the death of their husbands.

10. In parts of Wales, up to present times, it was a custom for some women to retain their maiden names after marriage.

Using this information when looking for female ancestors can assist family researchers in finding the “hidden half” of their families.

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