Last month we looked at some of the ways that you can find the maiden name of your female ancestors. We discussed the obvious sources of marriage records, church records, will and estates.
Census records can yield clues. Look at the neighbors living around your ancestors. Our ancestors didn't travel far to find their "better half." Beginning in 1850, the relationship between the people in the house to the head of household is recorded. Sometimes the relationship is explicitly stated, such as in the 1870 census when Drusilla Belford is identified as the mother-in-law of Adam Henthorn. In a puzzling situation on my family tree, Daniel and Mary Stewart are listed in the 1850 census with their children. At the bottom of the household listing is Rachel Stewart aged 26. In 1860, Mary is gone and Rachel is the wife. A granddaughter of Rachel and Daniel said Mary and Rachel were sisters. Rachel came to help Mary with the children, and after Mary died, Rachel married Daniel. Rachel's maiden name is listed as Belford on the death records of two of her children. Why was she identified as a Stewart in the 1850 census? Was it just an error on the part of the enumerator? To add to the confusion, Mary Ackley is living with the family in later census. She is listed as a servant in 1860, "living with daughter" in 1870, and a domestic in 1880. If she was Rachel's mother, why was her name Ackley?' Why was she identified as a servant in two of the three census records rather than as Rachel's mother? If anyone can solve this mystery, let me know!
Death records are a wonderful source for maiden names. The bad news is few counties/states used informative death records until the 1900s. In Ohio detailed death records began being used in 1909 when the recording of births and deaths were moved from the Probate Office to the newly-formed Health Department and Bureau of Vital Statistics.