Maiden names on birth certificates
In the September issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, the star letter is about birth certificates showing former married names as maiden names. I have several examples of this in my own family. The two example certificates shown in your magazine are both technically incorrect. One says Miller formerly Wilkins, the other says Miller formerly White. The correct wording on each of them should have been Miller, late White, formerly Wilkins.
I think it comes down to the registrar not having asked the correct questions. “What was your wife’s name before you were married?” is not the same question as “Has your wife been married before and if so, what was her name at the time of her first marriage?”.
A maiden name is the name by which a woman was known at the time of her first marriage. It is usually, but not necessarily, the name she was born with. There are lots of reasons why an unmarried woman may have changed her surname prior to a first marriage. Brenda Paternoster, by email Editor replies: It’s interesting that this was common enough for you to have several in your family. A useful reminder for others to be wary of marriage certificate information if it doesn’t fit!