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maiden names

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


DM Report 30 Mar 2013 21:38

Hi all,

I'm assuming this is a pretty common question newbies have but I searched the boards and tried to read up on the few books I had without an answer I liked - read that as I wasn't getting my own way ;-)

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to identify a maiden name for someone in the late 1800s? (And I'm looking for something other than spending a fortune on the wrong GRO certificates)

For example - I have a Lucy marrying a John Merriman (both born c1954) in Kings Norton in 1879 but I have no idea how to find Lucy's maiden name.

If it was just her then I'd have posted this in the searching for ancestors board but I was looking for a more general answer for future reference.

Any thoughts would be gratefully received and the best answer will be showered with praise and adoration.

Thanks in advance



GlitterBaby Report 30 Mar 2013 21:50

Find them on a census and look at the registration district and county. Also where they were born can be useful if living away from their birth county.

Take a look at FreeBMD for a marriage and start with the county they are living in and go back 5 years before the birth of the first child as a rough estimate

Follow them through the census in case a brother, sister or parent is living with them


GlitterBaby Report 30 Mar 2013 21:54

So are you looking at this entry ?

Marriages Jun 1879 (>99%)

Merriman John King's N. 6a 547
MERRIMAN John King's N. 6c 547

There is a name missing. So using the year, qtr, district, Vol and page number you should be able to find the missing person BUT sometimes the page number or Vol might have been difficult to read and have been mistranscribed wrong

So looking at that entry there is 6a and 6c so one must be wrong

This entry also has a problem
Marriages Jun 1879 (>99%)

Middleton Lucy Helen King's N. 6a 557
MIDDLETON Lucy Helen King's N. 6c 557

You can look at the image on FreeBMD and see which entry details are correct

OR see if you can find a possible birth to match that name and what you have found on the census for when and where born.


DM Report 30 Mar 2013 22:03

Thanks for the reply but I'm not sure I follow you?

How do I search for them in a census - all I have is their married name. I've found them in both the 1901 census married. She died in 1905 so John is listed as a widower in the 1911 census and I've found that. Even if I went back, once I get beyond the year they were married in - how could I find her?

I found the most likely marriage in FreeBMD (the references you listed above) but as I understand the maiden name of the other party is only included in weddings post 1912? From your comments I'd ask if you CAN you search on year, qtr, district, Vol and page number without using a name? If so how?

Thanks in advance,


GlitterBaby Report 30 Mar 2013 22:10

Use FreeBMD and you can search without the names using year, qtr etc


GlitterBaby Report 30 Mar 2013 22:11

Just posting while having a look around

1881 ??
Name: Lucy Merriman
Age: 27
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1854
Relation: Wife
Spouse's Name: John Merriman
Gender: Female
Where born: Smethwick, Staffordshire, England

Civil parish: Birmingham
County/Island: Warwickshire
Country: England

Street Address: 158 Irving St
Condition as to marriage: Married

Employment status: View image

Registration district: Birmingham
Sub-registration district: St Thomas
ED, institution, or vessel: 12
Neighbors: View others on page
Piece: 2975
Folio: 36
Page Number: 23
Household Members: Name Age
John Merriman 27
Lucy Merriman 27
James Merriman 1

Strange this John is on 1911 census without a wife and says married


DM Report 30 Mar 2013 22:24

That's the one I'm looking at - just need to find a maiden name.

To be honest. I think I'll have to order the GRO certificate to get any further with a maiden name for Lucy.


lancashireAnn Report 30 Mar 2013 23:14

the most accurate way of finding a maiden name is to send for a birth certificate for a child of the couple. If you are confident of the names of the parents you can specify them BUT they must be exactly what is on the certificate for the GRO to match it so usually better not to give parental names.

Normally on freebmd when you click on the page number you will see 4 names ie 2 couples. Eg this is another John Merriman

Marriages Mar 1879 (>99%)
Johnson Sarah Newcastle upon Tyne 10b 1
MERRIMAN John Newcastle T. 10b 1
Scougal George Newcastle T. 10b 1
Summers Sarah Margaret Newcastle upon Tyne 10b 1

so if you know his wife's name was Sarah Margaret she is the one with maiden name Summers

In the case of the King's Norton one it is rather unusual

the correct transcription of the ones that GB quoted is p no 547 but the correct transcription for Lucy is 557 and there are 4 names on that pages which seems to indicate she is not the right one. there is a person missing on the page for John which makes her hard to find.


DM Report 30 Mar 2013 23:44


Yeah - I'd got the death index, that was the source of most of my good information. I'm struggling but enjoying the chase....


InspectorGreenPen Report 31 Mar 2013 08:21

It is sometimes helpful to check earlier census returns too.

Armed with the four names from FreeBmd, check each one on the Census return immediately BEFORE the marriage. Make a note of of the details for each name especially the age and full names and additional names or initials, if any.

Then search for each one on the census immediately AFTER the marriage. This should be slightly easier as you now have names and ages from your earlier searches. You should only need to do two searches (i.e. the two males, or the two females) to find each couple but sometimes you may need to search three or even four of the names to find them.

You should now be able to determine who married who. It is more difficult if the two given names for the wives are the same in which case look for additional signs such as their age, place of birth and occupation. It is always a good idea to cross check as much detail as you can anyway.

Married women sometimes continued with the same occupation after marriage. The groom was often in the same occupation as the brides father. Couples often set up home close to one of their parents.

With a bit of practice it is, more often than not, possible to work it out. If all else fails then you will have to order a certificate. As already suggested, it is often better to order a birth certificate for one of the children, especially if the parents names are so common that there could be several marriages to choose from.

And, I'll emphasise it again, don't include any information unless you are certain it is correct otherwise the cert won't be issued it you get any of it wrong. Most of us have fallen for that at least once....!

P.S. GB - my wife has Baggott ancestry and Michael is probably a distant cousin.....!


DM Report 31 Mar 2013 10:48

Thanks inspector. Unfortunately freeBMD has returned only 3 names for that page and Lucy appears to be missing.

Christina (Lancashire)

Christina (Lancashire) Report 31 Mar 2013 11:45

Could this be your couple with John's name misspelled?

I can't see a MerrYman couple on the 1881 census.....

This is from West Midlands BMD....

Marriage Indexes
Surname Forename(s) Spouse's Surname Spouse's Forename(s) Year Church / Register Office Registers At Region Reference Order Online
MERRYMAN John DOWNING Lucy 1877 Smethwick, Old Church Sandwell Register Office West Midlands 2/2/96 N/A

And the entry from FreeBMD...

Marriages Dec 1877 (>99%)
>>>>Downing Lucy Kings N. 6c 814
>>>>Merryman John King's N 6c 814
Roberts Thomas King's N 6c 814
Smith Sarah Anne G King's N. 6c 814

So in this instance ticking the Phonetic search surnames box on FreeBMD would have brought up the marriage, even though you had entered Merriman.

Christina (Lancashire)

Christina (Lancashire) Report 31 Mar 2013 11:48

Lucy in 1871.....

Lucy Downing in household of Edward Addenbrooke, "England and Wales Census, 1871"

Name: Lucy Downing
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1871
Gender: Female
Age: 18
Relationship to Head of Household: Servant
Birthplace: Smethwick, Staffordshire
Schedule Type: Household
Registration District: Kings Norton
Sub-District: Harborne
Parish: Harborne
County: Worcestershire

Christina (Lancashire)

Christina (Lancashire) Report 31 Mar 2013 11:53

Her baptism from the Familysearch site....

Lucy Downing, "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975"

Name: Lucy Downing
Gender: Female
Christening Date: 12 Sep 1852
Christening Place: North Harborne, Stafford, England
Birth Date:
Death Date:
Name Note:
Father's Name: John Downing
Father's Birthplace:
Father's Age:
Mother's Name: Sarah Ann Downing
Mother's Birthplace:
Mother's Age:
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: I01086-1
System Origin: England-EASy
GS Film number: 6085662
Reference ID: fiche 2 p 153

Christina (Lancashire)

Christina (Lancashire) Report 31 Mar 2013 12:05

She is with her parents John & Sarah Ann and a sister Emma June/Jane in 1861.

Sorry I don't have access to full details.


DM Report 31 Mar 2013 18:29

Thanks Christine - that one seems right.

It's consistent with a 1901 census I have for her and with her death date. In the census she is described as being born in Smethwick Staffs. The area of North Harborne is now contained within Swethwick so that adds up too.

Thanks for your help - interestingly this is the 3rd instance of the same misspelling of Merriman....