Finding Your Original Maternal Surname

Updated: Apr 29, 2018

As a female did you ever wonder what your surname would be if the original name was retained as the male line retains their surname. Discover how to research back in time to the earliest possible maternal surname.

This is the second part of searching for your original maternal surname. Though it may not be possible to find what is known as mitochondrial Eve (the one woman everyone can trace their ancestry back to), as with any genealogical search, we look to go back as far as possible. In the first part, Understanding Your Maternal Lineage, we defined and discussed the details of maternal lineage. This part will focus on going on the quest and provide the opportunity to discuss your journey.

The surname will obviously differ with each generation, but the tree will reveal the maternal line which can be supported with MtDNA testing.

THE QUEST So, if you are ready to go on a maternal quest, begin with yourself (if you are female), or your mother. Make a list including all of your female siblings and your mother using birth surnames. Move from your mother to her mother and list all of her sisters, again using their birth surnames. The surname will obviously differ with each generation, but the tree will reveal the maternal line which can be supported with MtDNA testing. You may also wish to include the female offspring of extended family, but beware of getting sidetracked. The focus of this project is to discover the earliest maternal surname, which requires progressing directly from you and your mother’s birth surname, to her mother’s birth surname, and so on. YOUR HERITAGE Aside from discovering your earliest maternal surname, reaching back through the maternal line will provide you with your heritage. So far I have reached back to my great-great-grandmother’s maiden surname which originated in Mausdorf, Prussia (today Bavaria, Germany). That might not seem very far back in time - (following the male line I have reached back as far as the 15th century) but when following the maternal line the process is more time consuming and at times requires special detective work.  THE CHALLENGES You may hit some road blocks, especially when you reach the early 1800s because of the lack of legal mandate to register vital events with the county or state. But roadblocks are not inevitable. For some it will be smooth sailing through generation after generation if personal records were kept by family members, the family was mentioned in newspapers, county or town meeting minutes, church records or if the family is one of prominence. I have been able to trace my great-great grandmother’s line back to Germany in 1842 with a surname that appears to be different on several documents after immigration to the US. Many times her maiden name was butchered when listed on her children’s marriage records and her death record. There are three distinct surnames given, but each rhyme with the other so it might just be a matter of mispronunciation. These are examples of mysteries which may have to be solved along the maternal lineage hunt.

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