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.


• Seeking information on Alfred M. Smith, who was born in 1825, probably in Sullivan County, Indiana. He married Nancy W. Raines in 1847 in Sullivan County. Alfred died in Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, in 1864 while with the Union Army during the Civil War. I am searching for any and all siblings of Alfred as well as the names of his parents. The 1850 census shows Alfred and Nancy living in Jackson Township in Sullivan Co. Alfred and Nancy had seven children: Telitha Ann, 1847-1848; Margret Ellen, 1850-1852; Mary Francis, 1853-1938; William M., 1855-1856; Albert T., 1857-1978; Charles F., 1860-1864; and Oliver Perry Smith, 1863-1910. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Contact Donald R. Smith, 926 Allison Drive, Hopkinsville, KY 42240, e-mail JKESmith@

• Thomas Haney, appears on the 1820 Census Union Township, Clark County, Illinois. Does anybody know anything about this Haney family? Visit my Haney family Web sites:

James Haney Story from Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin: James Haney Family, 1804- 1900:

Thank you. Randal Hanna, 513 Marengo St., Cleburne, TX 76033, e-mail randal-hanna@