M for Mother’s Maiden Name

15 April 2016

A fairly crucial part of our research…. the mother’s maiden name…. particularly when we are trying to make connections back up the tree. John Waterhouse with mother’s maiden name Jenkins sets him apart from other John Waterhouse births. However, sometimes (frequently) the General Register Office (GRO) index lets us down. For example, when John Waterhouse’s birth is registered with mother’s maiden name Glover and no marriage can be located for a male Waterhouse to a female Glover in the appropriate time frame and registration district. What next? [You might consider at this point that the GRO is not at fault …. hold fire….]

Ordering said birth certificate of John Waterhouse (as there is no other way of finding out his parent’s names), imagine our amazement when the certificate states his father as Richard Waterhouse and mother as Georgina Browning! So, where in the heck does the Glover bit come from? Oh yes…. Richard Waterhouse, labourer and Georgina Browning, glover. Not married. Glover is her occupation! Heavens above…. how does that help when the GRO index states her maiden name as Glover? Well, they never married so I guess we are no worse off! [Grrrr….]

But, in the intestacy situation, how do you track the lineage of a spinster daughter of Richard and Georgina? How do you know that you have the right Richard (or indeed, the right Georgina)? With difficulty…. The proof is the tough part!

Mostly though, the mother’s maiden name is very helpful, but it is only listed on the indexes after 1911 in England and Wales…. Find the birth record for your ancestor and then, armed with the mother’s maiden name, you can narrow down the potential marriages to identify the parents. If the two surnames are not a common combination, you could find that there may only be a few options for likely marriages and hence, the obvious one leaps out either by date, or location or both.

In present times, the births of children may be challenging to track with both double-barrelled surnames and/or dual registration. I don’t relish the tracing game in 20-30 years time! Do you have people in your tree who would be difficult to trace in years to come? What did they do and more importantly, why?!

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