Maiden names on birth cer­tifi­cates

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - WRITE IN -

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!

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