Our resident expert Stephen Rigden, pictured below, answers your queries.
From Linda Jones:
‘How can I trace a maiden name? I know my ancestor was called Mary Ann, born in Liverpool in 1838. She married a John Jones, born in Liverpool in 1842 and their first child was born in Crewe in 1868. Mary Ann and John Jones are very common names in Liverpool.
John was an engine tuner who eventually ended up in Swindon with his family. John’s mother was Mary and we think his father was another John. Any tips would be helpful.’
Thanks for your email. This is an example of when it may be best to use ‘old school’ family history methods. We’re all spoilt nowadays by the proliferation of vital records available online; however, not all answers can be found with ease online and without resort to paper!
In this case, where you have a marriage between two people with very common names – John Jones and Mary Ann with an unknown maiden surname – the easiest and surest answer is to purchase a birth certificate to ascertain the maiden name. Of course, it could be Smith or Jones or Williams, but on the other hand it may be more unusual and, in any event, you would then be able to conduct a more focused two-surname online search for John marrying Mary Ann.
I suggest that you buy the birth certificate of whichever of their children either most interests you, or means the most to you; or (given that there will be so many Joneses each quarter of the registration calendar) the one who has the most distinctive name. You can order the birth certificate online from the General Register Office, which will post it out to you (usually with three to five days if you’re in UK) for the statutory fee of £9.25.
I had hoped that you might be able to avoid buying the birth certificate, if the baptism of their first child (in Crewe, in 1868) was included in findmypast.co.uk’s Cheshire parish registers collection. I should emphasise that these are Anglican registers. There are 17 baptisms entries for Jones in Crewe in 1868 +/- 1 year. From spot-checking these, however, it appears that they do not usually record the mother’s maiden surname. So back to paper certificates…
When the certificate arrives, it should show the maiden surname of Mary Ann, as well as others details such as exact place of birth, informant at registration of the child, etc. You can then search for and purchase a copy of the marriage certificate online in the same way, and from that you should get confirmation of the name and occupation of Mary Ann’s father.
With luck she was indeed born in 1838 and, therefore, her birth will (or should) appear in the civil registration indexes (there is known to be a degree of under-registration of events in the early days of civil registration). If, however, she was a little older than you currently expect, and her birth was registered before July 1837, she won’t be in the birth indexes, and you would need to consider Anglican parish registers (or appropriate Non-Conformist or Roman Catholic registers, if applicable). You can cross that bridge when you come to it.
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