Re: Use of maternal surnames #general

Howard Zakai

About maternal surnames in U.S. records...

Maternal surnames constitute a frustrating area for research. Finding a
listing for the first time gives us information and we take it as a fact,
for we are given no specific reason to disagree. In the larger context, I
think that is just a natural process. We nevertheless take it - or at
least should take it - with the potential that its truth may be challenged
at some point in the future. And then one finally starts finding the
multiple records that are supposed to list the same name, and they don't.
How to "choose" which is the right one?

Death records contain the most potential for flaws. First, the
information is given, obviously, by a third person, who could make
mistakes since he/she is without the knowledge of the decedent. This
happens most notably with children being the informants. Secondly, the
information is given in a state of fresh grievance, which can hinder clear
and accurate thinking. Birth and marriage records and social security
applications lack these paricular problems, and although they are never
full proof, they do warrant better validity.

On her 1942 NY death certificate, my GG-aunt's mother's maiden name was
listed as a Kaplan. The informant was her son. This was the 1st record I
had found in regards to her mother's surname and I had basically ingrained
it as fact, especially knowing there are other Kaplans in that branch and
in the original shtetl. Then came the surprise a year later: I found the
same gg-aunt's 1893 NY marriage record and the mother's maiden name was
That name appears in the same shtetl of origin. The very same day I found
her sister's marriage record, within one month of hers. The mother's
maiden name: Lubowitz.

Though I had believed Kaplan was it, I give more credence to my latter
discoveries. But now its a toss up. Which one, if any, is it? When they
were married, both sisters were in their 20's (the 2nd one about 7 years
older) and only separated >from home for 4 years. They were both in the
presence of their father at the time. Not too much of a push either way -
although perhaps slightly to the older sister.

Such is the frustration of maiden names.

Shabbat Shalom.

Howie Zakai
Staten Island, NY

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