Face it, the “box” is so cliché.
Here are some “outside the jug” strategies for utilizing common sources of information:
Now, I like a good cemetery crawl as much as the next girl, but have rarely found a married woman’s maiden name on her tombstone. So why am I prattling on about tombstones? Because of the internet. Sites like Find A Grave and BillionGraves (there may be others) not only have a picture of the tombstone and information about where the grave is located, they also have an area for information about the person’s family to be entered. Take these findings with a grain of salt. I have never seen a source citation accompany family info on one of these sites, but it doesn’t mean the information contained therein can’t put you on the right path.
I understand that Elizabeth Blank died in the 1880’s, the family buried her on the farm, and that’s part of the reason no death certificate for her exists. But I also know Elizabeth had seven children. And I know those children’s names from the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census records. Because four of them died after 1920, the chances of one of THEM having a death certificate with Elizabeth’s maiden name on it are decent to pretty good. Again, grain of salt—it depends on the informant’s knowledge.
Sometimes the deceased’s parents are mentioned, “Elizabeth was the daughter of the late George and Sally Jingleheimerschmidt.” If Elizabeth is survived by a brother named John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt, she probably was a Jingleheimerschmidt. Not really outside the jug, more of a reminder to consult the local newspapers when looking for other records to support the theory.
In the good old days, if a woman was widowed, she most often went to live with one of her children when/if she couldn’t take care of herself. While the census records that detail relationship to head of household—beginning with 1880 and moving forward—are excellent indicators, other censuses can be helpful as well. An older female listed at the end of a household, with a different last name than the head of household can indicate a mother-in-law to the husband. This older woman’s last name might be the wife’s maiden name. Likewise, a man listed at the end of a household with a different last name than the head of household can indicate the wife’s father. Look for earlier census returns with both of them together. A bread crumb perhaps...verify....
When a man named his heirs and their bequests, the married daughters were listed by their married name i.e. “Elizabeth Blank” instead of simply, “Elizabeth.” Back in the day—definitely pre-1840—if Elizabeth acquired real property, it would have been at the disposal of her husband and therefore, the next year, Mr. Blank would have been the one paying taxes on the land. This can be verified by going to the early tax lists.
As an example, let’s say Mr. Jingleheimerschmidt had been paying taxes for 280 acres lying along watercourse X for each of the 15 years prior to his death. In year 16, he is no longer paying taxes on that land, but Mr. Blank begins paying taxes on the same 280 acres lying along watercourse X. Look for a will and a deed to corroborate the supposition.
Marriage and birth records
Well, duh. Of course a woman’s maiden name would be on her marriage record and her birth certificate! Only IF they exist for her! If not, go to the marriage and birth records of her children. It varies by locale, but some asked for the maiden names of the mothers. Just remember that the accuracy of the information is dependent upon the knowledge of the informant. ALWAYS verify!
Thinking outside the jug can lead to fruitful research.