If it’s been years since you were in touch with someone, or you are building a family tree and researching a female member of your family, a strong chance exists that at some point she married and changed her name. The good news is that most states make it relatively easy to find a copy of someone’s marriage certificate. This makes it a lot easier to find the woman you’re trying to trace if you know who she married and her married name.
Contact the Department of Vital Records
To find a marriage record, visit the vital health records portion of the Centers for Disease Control’s website. Click on the name of the state where the woman you are interested in currently lives or has lived. The “marriage” tab tells how to obtain a copy of the marriage certificate. Usually, you must write to the Department of Health, but some states let you look up marriage records online. When filling out your order form, you may have to list the date range of the marriage within a reasonable time period of, say, 10 years, in addition to the woman’s maiden name.
Subscribe to Online Search Sites
Websites such as Anywho.com, Zaba search and findpeoplebymaidenname.com hold millions of birth and marriage records. Simply type all the information you have into the search bar – first name, maiden name, new last name if you have managed to find this, date of birth, city and state of residence – and see what the search returns. Some sites are subscription only. They usually offer a free trial period or a one-month subscription; you can cancel the subscription when you’ve found the information you’re looking for. Some sites claim to specialize in maiden name searches, which is why they might be worth the extra expense.
Use Social Networks
Facebook and LinkedIn encourage users to list an alternate name on their accounts if it differs from their ID, such as maiden name or nickname. If your friend or family member has added her maiden name, then a simple person search should bring up her social media profile. Another option is to search by school, university or company affiliation. Even if you don’t turn up any direct hits, you may connect with old school and work friends who’ve kept in touch with the woman you’re seeking. Don’t forget older channels like MySpace, as an abandoned profile that uses a maiden name may still be useful.
Use the Phone Book
Even though the woman’s name has changed, the name of her family has not. Search online or use a physical phone book to look up the woman’s maiden name in the region where you know she lived – this might connect you to the woman’s family members. It’s worth putting in a few phone calls to see what information you can find.
Hire a Professional
If your detective work hits a roadblock, you may consider hiring a private investigator. An investigator can access official records and background checks that aren’t available to the public. For basic tracing services, expect to pay a search firm anywhere from $40 to $200 per hour, a fee that may be worth it if it expedites finding someone important to you.
If your detective work hits a roadblock, you may consider hiring a private investigator. An investigator can access official records and background checks that aren't available to the public. For basic tracing services, expect to pay a search firm anywhere from $40 to $200 per hour, a fee that may be worth paying if it expedites finding someone important to you.
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How to Find a Relative for Free
- National Center for Health Statistics: Where to Write for Vital Records
- Washington State Department of Health: Frequently Asked Questions - Ordering Certificates
- Anywho.com: Find a Person
- Zaba Search
- Find People By Maiden Name
- LinkedIn: Former or Maiden Name
- Facebook: How Do I Add or Edit Another Name On My Profile?
- Trustify: How Much a Private Investigator Costs
A former corporate real estate lawyer, Jayne Thompson writes about law, business and personal finance, drawing on 17 years’ experience in the legal sector. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in International Law from the University of East London. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.