UPDATE to Searching Maiden Names. Nearly ten years on from this post, the number of online resources for vintage and old newspapers has grown exponentially. At the same time, my tip for searching maiden names remains the same. It works in genealogybank.com, newspapers.com, or other online newspaper resources. And for those of us searching in major U.S. cities, newspapers.com’s Publisher Extra is a close equivalent to Proquest Obituaries and therefore invaluable. (No affiliation with any databases mentioned here, btw.)

Today’s tip – Searching Maiden Names – is going to be quick, since I have the feeling most of us are making holiday lists and planning gatherings instead of searching obituaries.

I’m continuing to mine the Proquest Obituaries database for paid death notices in the Chicago Tribune and it’s paying off handsomely: I now have 342 death notices corralled.

In fact, I’m discovering that searching this database (or other newspaper databases like Chronicling America or NewspaperArchive.com) is kind of like eating potato chips because I can’t search for just one.

Searching Maiden Names in Obituaries

searching maiden names

Proquest Obituaries search results

Lately I’ve hit a streak of large families with mostly daughters and I have no idea what their married names became. And when the surnames are common ones, it leads to search results in the thousands and that’s just not helpful.

Some death notices or obits use the term “née,” the French feminine past participle of naître, meaning to be born. So I structured a limited search on “nee Benson” and to my surprise Proquest loves the search term and returned wonderful results.The first search returned 144 results. From there, it was easy to search within the results window for the first names of sibling sisters. Instead of hundreds of Esther Bensons, I had three and Ruttingh, Esther née Benson was the one I was looking for.

In the same set of search results for searching maiden names, I found Esther’s sister May. So give a “nee (maiden surname)” search a try – you may get some excellent results!