How to Find Women



  • Marriage license or certificate

  • Death Certificate for her and her spouse 

  • Each child's marriage license and birth and death certificates

  • Census records 

  • Cemetery records

  • Published family trees 

  • Social Security Records

  • Probate records


  • Obituaries

  • Land Records

  • Military records

  • Local and county histories
  • City directories 
  • Watch for naming patterns 

  • Court records

  • Newspapers for birth or marriage

  • Church marriage or christening records

  • Bible records

  • Google search

  • Extended Family, Associates & Neighbors




In the early history of the United States, women came under the legal status of their husbands so they are not always listed in the records. It is important to understand which records were created about women. Then the focus needs to shift to records of the men they were related to: husbands, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, sons, and even uncles or cousins.


Records are listed in general order, starting with the records most likely to be successful due to record content and ease of access.


  • Vital Records - General Principles

    • Check availability in the FamilySearch Wiki by searching for the [name of state] and “birth” or “marriage” or “death”.

    • In most states, marriage records start when the county began (or the town in New England.)

    • Birth and death certificates usually began in the early 1900s. If the family was born in the 1800s then search first for the death certificates for those children who might have died in the 1900s.

    • Always note the names of the witnesses or informants because they are often close relatives, but remember that the informant might not always know/provide all the correct information.

    • Check the “Atlas of Historical County Boundaries” to understand the county boundaries at the time of the event. Your ancestor might have lived in two different counties, but never moved.

    • If not found, then extend the search years on each side of the event and check surrounding counties.

    • Find Vital Records:

    • Vital records to search:

      • Their marriage license or certificate

        • Check the county where 1) the couple was first listed in the census, 2) where their first child was born, or 3) where the individuals lived before marriage.

        • Check several census records after 1850 to determine her state of birth and check there.

        • Look for marriage banns and bonds in earlier time periods.

      • Her Death certificate and her spouse’s – especially for those deaths after early 1900s.

      • Find the birth, marriage and death certificates/license for each of her children.

        •  These will often include the maiden name of the mother.

  • Census Records - Find your female ancestor in each census record she was alive.

    • In 1850 and later, the U.S. Census lists each person by name, and from 1880 on they listed the person’s relationship to the head of household.

      • Don’t assume you found the right person just because the woman is the right age

    • Sometimes a young couple might be living with her parents, or an aging parent or one of her siblings might live with the couple.

    • After 1850, find the husband in a census just before he was married. Search for women with the same first name and of the right age who lived in the same or nearby towns or counties.

      • See if she disappears from the census about the time of marriage.​

    • Prior to 1850, look for possible surnames in families who lived nearby who had a female who was age 15-29.

    • Remember to look for state censuses as well. Check the FamilySearch Wiki for availability.

    • Always view the original record for additional details that might provide evidence.

    • Find Census Records:

  • Cemetery Records

  • Published family trees –  use these trees only as a suggestion to confirm with further research.

  • Social Security Records

  • Probate/Estate Records: wills, inventories, guardianships, etc. 

    • If you have a possible surname, check for probate records in the area because daughters are often listed under their married name.

    • Search for a daughter's married name in online probate indexes.

    • Find probate records:


  • Obituaries – Check for an obituary of the person, a spouse, or a child.

  • Land Records

    • Especially check Grantee records - when the husband sold land, the wife often had to give consent to release her dower right (inheritance).

    • When a man died, often his real estate was divided among his children and the daughters were listed under their married name. Search for them in the grantor-grantee indexes.

    • Especially watch for a deed of land to your ancestor for a small amount of money.

    • Find land records:

  • Military Records 

    • Pension records typically provide the most genealogical information and can include the name of the wife or daughter.

    • If the female ancestor you are looking for was born around the time of a war and up to 20 years after, then check for a pension record for the father.

    • Bounty land warrants can also list the name of the spouse

    • Find military records:

  • City Directories –have been published usually yearly since the early 1800's.

  • Local and County histories

    • Also check histories for siblings, children or grandchildren.

    • Find Histories:

      • WorldCat Library is an online catalog for many libraries around the world. It will also reference online sources for some books. If not available online, you can often do interlibrary loan through your local library.

      • FamilySearch Catalog lists books available at the Family History and it also has a link to the book if they have digitized it.

      • Google search: [county, state] and “history”

  • Watch for Naming Patterns - Especially watch for unusual first or middle names

    • A name could be given the name of a grandparent or the mother’s surname

  • Church Marriage or Christening Records

  • Bible Records

  • Newspapers for birth or marriage announcements

  • Court records

    • If a female was widowed, she might use a male relative as a witness or to give a surety in a bond.

  • Immigration or Naturalization records

  • Perform a Google Search

  • Research her Extended Family, Associates, and Neighbors (FAN Club)