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April 5, 2011
In the article Tracing Female Ancestors we left off with the words “The main thing you need to know about researching your maternal line(s) is that it comes down to following an ever-changing trail of maiden names”.
To do this we will use the easiest and most obvious records.
The best source documents and the simplest to obtain for finding your female ancestors maiden names are marriage records. These may come in the form of parish extracts for bans and proclamations or civil registrations of marriages.
Here is a transcript of a proclamation from 1849, in it we can find out some very important information about the bride.
Let’s look at it to see if it gives any clues:
Statutory Index pre 1855 marriages 1854-1849 for the marriage of William McCallum to Martha Walker & consulted OPR 586/2 Damellington. County of Ayr
Marriage (Proclamation) 1849 July, 22
"William McCallum in this parish and Martha Walker in the parish of West Calder were regularly proclaimed in this parish church on Sabbaths 22nd and 29th July 1849 in order to marriage they were married at."
What we learn here is that the bride’s maiden name was Walker. That was our main goal, however this proclamation states that the groom was from “this parish” and the bride was from West Calder, which gives us a hint on where to look.
Now we can take this information and use it to find the date and place of birth as well as the identity of Martha’s parents.
(Parish records commonly do give the maiden name of the bride although there are exceptions to the rule in which the bride is recorded under her married name; hopefully this is not the case for you).
A far richer source of information is the marriage registration or certificate on which you are likely to come up even more information.
Here is a transcript of a typical Marriage certificate:
Statutory Index 1873-1879 for the marriage of Alexander Walker McCallum to Catherine Drever Sinclair.
Marriage: 1879, December 31st.
Sanday, County of Orkney
At Cleat, Lady Parish, Sanday.
ALEXANDER WALKER MCCALLUM, 23, bachelor, Schoolmaster, Kirbister Schoolhouse, Orphir
F. William McCallum, Locomotive Super intendant
m. Martha McCallum, m.s. Walker
to: CATHERINE SINCLAIR, 20, Spinster, Farmers Daughter, Cleat, Lady Parish
F. Peter Sinclair, Farmer.
m. Catherine Sinclair, m.s. Calder
Signed David Calderwood, Minister, United Presbyterian Church.
Witnesses James Sinclair, Mary Muir.
As you can see, from the marriage registration we find three maiden names:
Mother’s Mother- . Catherine Sinclair, m.s. Calder
Bride- CATHERINE SINCLAIR
Father’s mother – Martha McCallum, m.s. Walker
In the absence of a marriage certificate, as in the case of our subject Martha McCallum m.s. Walker, your next best document is the death certificate.
Here is a transcript of a typical death certificate:
Statutory Index 1879-1913 for the death of Martha Walker/McCallum
Death: 1916 April 25th
West Calder, County of Edinburgh
at 5 Davy Street, Addiwell, West Calder.
MARTHA MCCALLUM, 85, Married to William McCallum, Traffic Mananger
F. Alexander Walker, Farmer..deceased
M. Catherine Walker, m.s. Brownlie..deceased
Cause Senile Decay, 6 months. as Cert. by John Young, L.R.C.p. &S.
Informant James McCallum Son.
Again, we have a wonderful source of information that reveals two maiden names:
Deceased – Walker
Deceased mother – Walker, m.s. Brownlie
Even though there are far fewer resources to turn to when it comes to tracing our foremothers. Our female ancestors did have records that were specific to women such as:
- family bibles
These are passed down through the family. Additionally, historical societies, libraries and universities often keep large collections of these historic documents.
One last research technique in this short tutorial that can provide some major clues to revealing maiden names is…
An analysis of your female ancestor’s middle names; the maternal line of your family may be discovered by the use of family names given to children as middle names.
More on this revealing research technique can be found in lesson six of the Genealogy Beginner lesson series. What's in a First Name? (How to use in searches as Hints and clues).
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