Archive for July, 2011

Most often you will find a woman listed with the surname of her husband. Maiden names can be more difficult to find. There were some countries, such as in Scotland, where women, after they married, continued to use their maiden names on some occasions. Generally, this is not the case, and finding a maiden name takes some sleuthing.

Some places that may give a maiden name are:

  • Death Certificates almost always list the name of the parents of the deceased. Look for these after 1900.
  • Obituaries may not list a maiden name, however, it may list a sibling such as a brother. [not proof of course but a possibility].
  • Newspapers, especially in a small area, will give the daily accounts of the town folk. It may mention visitors, or at the guests at a wedding – ‘guests include the grandparents of the bride, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Stout of Rockville’.
  • Headstones may list a female with her maiden name, ‘Lydia Clisbee’, and then add ‘wife of Edward Partridge’.
  • Marriage records are probably the best source for maiden names as they not only give a brides maiden name, but the witnesses are often related, sometimes even parents of the happy couple.
  • Church records, which include marriage and birth or christening, usually include the names of both parents, often including the maiden name of the mother. This is especially true in England.
  • Census records can sometimes help. An elderly person in the household may be identified as the mother-in-law of the head of household.
  • Land records can give clues. Watch for land being sold for $1.00 or another small amount This may mean the land is being sold by a family member.
  • Look at the names of the children. A name like James Patton Hammons, or Prior Adams may mean that the Patton or the Adams names are surnames from mother’s side.

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The death certificate of Eva Sophia Johnson listed her father as Leonard Johnson and her mother as Sophia Kinney. However, I could not find any Kinney family in the area that I believed they lived. I suspected Sophia’s maiden name was Kinner. Eva Sophia Johnson was born in 1853 and family tradition said that her mother died shortly after, and then Leonard married Sophia’s best friend.

Snap Shot: On the 1850 census for Whitehall, Washington County, New York I found Leonard and Sophia Johnson  living near both a Wm. Kinner, and  a John Kinner.  Wm. had living with him a widow named Mary Kinner, who is possibly his mother. Both Wm and John Kinner are too young to be the father of Sophia. I found a marriage record for Leonard Johnson and Sophia Kinner, but no witnesses that proved to be family. The clues to Sophia’s parents lie with the neighbors. It was time to locate some local records.

  • Sophia Johnson died in 1854 and was buried in the Wood Creek/Kinner Cemetery. Her headstone reads ‘Sophia Johnson wife of Leonard’
  • Anthony Kinner is also buried there, having died in 1843.
  • Mary Kinner is buried there as ‘Mary Kinner wife of Anthony’

At this point we have connected Mary and Anthony Kinner.

  • A local history of the early people of Whitehall New York lists William and John Kinner as sons of Anthony.

So we now have William and John as the sons of Anthony and Mary Kinner – but how do we place Sophia in the family. She is the correct age to be their daughter, and there are no other Kinner’s in the area, but we still don’t have enough information. There are no land records or probate that have yet been found for Anthony, however there are some more clues in the 1855 Whitehall, New York Census.

  • Sophia is deceased by 1855 but her daughter, Eva Sophia Johnson, is living with Wm Kinner and is listed as his niece, Mary  Kinner is also living with Wm. and is identified as his mother.

If William is son of Anthony and Mary Kinner, and Eva Sophia Johnson is his niece then her mother must be Sophia Kinney/Kinner deceased wife of Leonard Johnson.

  • Next door to Wm Kinner is Leonard Johnson and his new wife Mary Jane.
  • The 1860 census finds the Leonard Johnson family consisting of both Mary Jane and Eva Sophia Johnson living in Adair County, Missouri.

Conclusion: You often need to look at the neighbors, and research them in order to put your family tree together. I actually used land records, family stories, newspaper interviews, church minutes and tax records before I felt good about my conclusion. Each area you research in will have various records that can help you identify your family. If you find your ‘lost grandmother’ difficult to locate, just keep looking at the neighbors [who are often family] and keep refining your searches.

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If your missing ‘grandmother’ was from the United States, and passed away after 1900 you may be lucky enough to find a death certificate for her. After locating your person on a census, then narrowing the search to a probable time period of death, you should look for an actual death record.

These records are generally housed at the State level, and some are even posted online, such as in Arizona where you can view the actual certificate image of deaths that occurred before 1954.

  • A death certificate may give you the deceased woman’s maiden name, by naming her father.
  • It will often the name of her mother with maiden name.
  • It can include a birth date or the age of death.
  •  It will name the informant, often family member, who is giving the information.

While the death date itself is usually accurate and comes from a Dr. or Coroner, some other information by be suspect. Remember, that the person giving the information is probably a family member, who may or may not know everything about the deceased, and who is also giving that information at a time of distress.

Snap Shot – Eva Sophia Johnson was born in 1853 in Dunkirk, New York, according to the family tradition. She died in 1925 in Arnett, Ellis County, Oklahoma and is buried in the Debolt Cemetery. Armed with this knowledge I sent for her Death Certificate. It told me the following:

  1. Her birth was Dunkirk New York in 1853 –
  2. Her father was Leonard Johnson
  3. Her mother was Sophia Kinney

Strategy 1– I decided that since Eva was born in 1853 her parents may have been married by the 1850 census so I began looking in Dunkirk. There was not a Leonard Johnson, or a Kinney family in the Dunkirk area. A family tradition said that Eva might have also lived in Schenectady NY, so I search there – again not even a Leonard Johnson, or a Kinney.

Strategy 2 –I next took on the entire State of New York looking for a Leonard Johnson [before census records were on the internet] After eliminating the Leonards who I thought were too old, or not the right ethnic group, I found a Leonard and Sophia Johnson in Whitehall, Washington County, New York. They had no children, but were living between a Kinner family, and a Johnson family. This looked promising and  after more research they proved to be the parents of Eva Sophia.

The Death Certificate proved to be correct about the death, the year of birth and the name of the deceased and her father. The other information was not as accurate

  1. Her birth was in 1853 -but not in Dunkirk NY, but in Whitehall NY
  2. Her father was Leonard Johnson
  3. Her mother was Sophia Kinner not  Kinney though the names are close
I now had her parents and the maiden name of her mother – one more step back. [Only a genealogist views a step back as progress].
Always get a death certificate if you can. The witness who gave the information is generally family and that knowledge can give you additional people to look to for help. Always double check the birth dates and places, parents names and other information that isn’t directly related to the death itself.
HINT: If you can’t find your ancestor’s death certificate – look for the death records of their siblings. They probably had the same parents.

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Back Blogging

After breaking my wrist, having surgery, and keeping very busy with a local genealogy newsletter and teaching classes – I have decided my life is not going to give me time to blog – I’m going to have to carve out the time.

I feeling that researching females in the family is often the hardest task, and if my experiences can help someone else, then I will have succeeded. If this ends up being only for myself, then that is alright too, because it helps me focus my thoughts, which in turn focuses my actions.

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