Posted by Crista Cowan on March 6, 2012 in Family Tree Maker, Research

Did you know that March is National Women’s History Month? This seems to fit so perfectly with what we do as genealogists. After all, half of our ancestors are women. In honor of this event, I would like to share what I plan on doing this month and invite you to join me.


Women Should Be Recorded With Their Maiden Names

I use Family Tree Maker (synced with my Ancestry Tree). In FTM there is a report called Data Errors. One of the options for that report is “wife’s surname same as husband’s surname.” This month I will run this report and check each of those to determine if the wife’s maiden name really is the same as her husband’s surname (which in some cases it should be). If it is not really the same I will remove the surname. For me, blank is better than wrong.


Find Women in My Tree Without Last Names

Using the index panel in Family Tree Maker I can quickly skim the list to find women without maiden names. These are the women I want to focus on this month – give them back their names!


Find Last Names of Women in My Tree

There are a lot of strategies for finding the maiden names of women.  First, a couple of quick tips from me about how I’ve done this in the past.

Finding the Maiden Names of Women

Second, I plan on watching Mary Penner’s webinar to refresh my memory about some research strategies and then applying them to some of the tougher challenges in my tree. You can access it by going to the Learning Center on and clicking on Webinars.  Scroll down to “Finding Females in Your Family Tree” from May 2010.


That’s my plan for Women’s History Month. Are you going to join me?

I’ll check back with you at the end of the month. I can’t wait to hear your success stories!

Until next time…

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Google Twitter


  1. Kim

    Obviously you are one of the few that can still sync your FTM tree to the website. Quite a few of us have found that we cannot do a sync since the last update.

  2. Donald Skinner

    I too use linked FTM. I always put surnames in capitals for males and for females maiden names when I know them. If I do not know the female maiden name I use Lower Case with an initial capital. I can then tell at a glance on the family list whether the surname is a female maiden name or that of a husband. Life these days is now made difficult with same sex marriages as to the surname/maiden name!

  3. Jane

    Have you tried doing a search from an online tree using first name only? Or try finding Mary Jones in your list when all you put in is Mary and you don’t remember the husband’s name. There is room for improvement here on ancestry’s side.

  4. My husband’s ancestors, and the maternal ancestors of some of my grandchildren go much farther back. As I researched these ancestors, I found many instances of slave ownership, even people of modest means, so it has been a great history lesson for me, since I always thought I was far removed from that part of our country’s history.

  5. Maria Melendez

    My comment is simple, but is about Surnames or maiden names in Ancestry. In Spanish names we usually use two last names, but when I do a search, all the surnames that come up are the second one, that is basically useless unless you get the first one. And on top of that, the searches name people with the two last names of father plus two last name of mother. The search should come up with first the father’s surname and then mother’s. And it doesn’t matter if you change name parameters, it will come out the same way. Sometimes I go through hundreds of names without finding what I’m looking for.
    In terms on using capital letters or not, some searches only look up for the exact way a name is written, so it migh say there is no match. Thanks.

  6. Didn’t Spain just recently change the way Surnames can be handled. Seems I read that now the parents get to choose which (father’s surname or mother’s surname) comes first and which comes second.

    That is going to make tracking them in the future a nightmare!

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